Mount Rainier Scenic Railroad
|Mt. Rainier Scenic Railroad|
|Locale||Lewis / Pierce counties, Washington, USA|
|Dates of operation||1980–present|
1,435 mm (4 ft 8 1⁄2 in)
|Length||7 miles (14 roundtrip)|
The Mt. Rainier Scenic Railroad (MRSR) is a steam-powered heritage railroad operating in Washington State between Elbe and Mineral. The railroad travels on tracks that pass through thick forest just south of Mount Rainier. The depot, gift shop and ticket office are located in Elbe. The Mineral stop is on the shore of Mineral Lake, close to picnic grounds, trails, and the railroad's maintenance shops. The MRSR, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, runs its collection of vintage rail equipment over seven miles of track owned by Tacoma Rail, an entity distinct from the MRSR.
The railroad has four steam locomotives in regular service, as well as several diesel engines. Most of the railroad's engines are geared steam locomotives. These specialized types of steam engines—Shay locomotives, Heisler locomotives, Climax locomotives, and a Willamette locomotive were used in the early 20th century for logging. Compared to traditional side-rod steam locomotives, geared locomotives were better-suited for steep grades and hastily-laid track. Thus, the MRSR seeks to preserve and operate historic geared locomotives and related logging technology in order to present visitors with a sense of a bygone logging era critical to the development of the Pacific Northwest.
The steam engines are run based on availability of volunteer operators, who comprise the great majority of railroad personnel. Steam engine operation requires more volunteer assistance than diesel operation, due to the extraordinary amount of skill and expertise required to operate steam locomotives. The MRSR's regular schedule runs from Memorial Day to the last weekend of September, with diesel operation Thursday / Friday and steam operation Saturday / Sunday.
|Mount Rainier Scenic Railroad|
The MRSR operates over track originating in Tacoma, on a route founded there over a century ago. In 1887, the Hart brothers constructed a short three-foot narrow gauge railway originating at 46th Street in Tacoma, Washington. In 1890, the railroad was reorganized by another interest as the Tacoma Eastern Railroad, at which time the tracks were converted to standard gauge and extended a distance of six miles. The railroad was acquired in 1900 by yet another group of investors who had financial interests east of Elbe, the Nisqually Coal Fields, thus providing the impetus to extend the Tacoma Eastern from Tacoma to the area where the MRSR runs today. The route was also extended to access stands of virgin timber south of Mount Rainier, eventually reaching Morton.
Despite formal organization under the name Tacoma Eastern, the railroad was controlled by investors far from the Pacific Northwest. The Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad, also known as the Milwaukee Road, reputedly had control of the Tacoma Eastern as early as 1901. In the 1890s, the Milwaukee Road's directors desired a connection from the Midwest to the Pacific coast. The Tacoma Eastern was an appealing investment for the Milwaukee Road. The Tacoma Eastern remained a subsidiary of the Milwaukee Road, owned through stock interest only, until 1918 when the United States Railroad Administration coordinated the Milwaukee Road's absorption of all its subsidiaries into one unified system.
The Tacoma Eastern, though, continued to exist as an independent entity within the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad system, where it was known as the National Park branch. This segment of the system was one of the Milwaukee Road's most profitable lines. As such, it was preserved amidst the Milwaukee Road's bankruptcy in 1980. The Tacoma Eastern was a viable carrier of lumber from stands of timber owned by the Weyerhaeuser Corporation, whose tracts of land still surround the MRSR today and provide commercial traffic on the line.
In the wake of the Milwaukee Road's 1980 bankruptcy, Tacoma lumberman Tom Murray, Jr., sought to open a portion of the scenic line to tourists. At this point, the MRSR was created to operate historic equipment stored in Tacoma by Tom Murray. The Weyerhaeuser Corporation allowed the MRSR to operate its equipment on a seven-mile segment of the line from Elbe to Mineral. Weyerhaeuser maintained control of the track until 1998 when the corporation transferred control of all of its rail interests to the City of Tacoma, into what is now known as Tacoma Rail. This transfer of ownership did not affect the MRSR and its tourist operations, nor the availability of the route to commercial shipment.
|No. 2||Willamette Iron and Steel Works||3-truck geared steam locomotive||#34||1929||2002||Built for the J. Neils Lumber Co. in Klickitat, WA; sold to Rayonier, Inc., in 1949 for operation in Sekiu, WA until 1962; design closely resembles a Shay locomotive currently operational, the only operational Willamette in the world.|
|No. 10||Climax Locomotive Works||3-truck Climax||#1693||1928||1979||Built for Hillcrest Lumber Co. in Vancouver Island, British Columbia.; second to last Climax ever built; first operating steamer on MRSR; currently operable|
|No. 11||Lima Locomotive Works||3-truck "Pacific Coast" Shay||#3327||1929||1981||Built for Forest Lumber Co. of Pine Ridge, OR; sold to Pickering Lumber Corp. of Standard, CA, in 1940; one of only five surviving "Pacific Coast" Shays Slated for restoration to operation beginning in mid-2012|
|No. 102||Heisler Locomotive Works||3-truck "West Coast Special" Heisler||#1595||1930||1980||Built for Whitney Engineering Co. of Tacoma, WA, which was a locomotive dealer at the time; sold to Kinzua Pine Mills of Kinzua, OR in 1930; donated to the museum by Tom Murray in the late 1970s; currently operable Has been re-numbered by the Mount Rainier Scenic Railroad to No. 91 in honor of another 3-truck Heisler than formerly ran out of Mineral.|
|No. 70||Baldwin Locomotive Works||2-8-2||#55355||1922||1992||Built for Polson Brothers Logging Company of Hoquiam, WA; purchased by Rayonier Corp. in 1945; currently operable|
|No. 45||Baldwin Locomotive Works||2-6-2||#27311||1906||1998||Built for Polson Logging Company of Hoquiam, WA; purchased by Rayonier Corp. in 1945; the locomotive has been sold to a private owner.|
|No. 5||H. K. Porter, Inc||2-8-2||#6860||1924||Early 1980s||Built for the Carlton & Coast Railroad of Carlton, Oregon; one of the largest Porter locomotives ever built Stored inoperable|
|No. 17||American Locomotive Company||2-8-2T||#68057||1929||1980||Built for the Crosset Western Co. in Wauna, OR; sold to Hammond Lumber Co. of Samoa, CA in 1942; the primary summer motive power for the MRSR; currently out of service for 1472 day boiler rebuild|
|No. 481||General Motors Electro-Motive Division||EMD NW2 diesel-electric||#5336||1942||2001||Built for the Great Northern Railway; currently operable|
|No. 7012A||General Motors Electro-Motive Division||EMD F9 diesel-electric||#21108||1956||1982||Built for the Northern Pacific Railway; currently operable|
|No. 41||American Locomotive Company||ALCO RSD-1 diesel-electric||Currently inoperable due to grease fire in electrical cabinet and traction motor, slated for repairs and return to service|
|No. 42||American Locomotive Company||ALCO S-1 diesel-electric||Under restoration|
- All of the railroad's locomotives are serviced out of the locomotive shops in Mineral.
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