Mount Rainier Scenic Railroad

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Mt. Rainier Scenic Railroad
Mt. Rainier Scenic Railroad logo.jpg
Locale Lewis & Pierce counties, Washington, U.S.
Dates of operation 1980–present
Track gauge Standard
1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in)
Length 7 miles (14 miles round-trip)
Headquarters Elbe, Washington

The Mt. Rainier Railroad and Logging Museum, formerly the Mt. Rainier Scenic Railroad, is a steam-powered heritage railroad operating in the U.S. state of Washington 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 train travels to the new Mt. Rainier Scenic Railroad & Museum exhibits located in Mineral. 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 the steep grades, sharp curves and uneven profiles of hastily laid track typical of logging operations. 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 weekends from Memorial Day to late October, with special event Santa Express trains November through December.

Mount Rainier Scenic Railroad
A view of Mount Rainier from the railroad line
A view of Mount Rainier from the railroad line 
Hammond Lumber Company No. 17 under steam in the summer of 2004
Hammond Lumber Company No. 17 under steam in the summer of 2004 


Rayonier Willamette No. 2, leaving Eatonville, June 23, 2011.

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, 3 ft (914 mm) narrow gauge railroad originating at 46th Street in Tacoma, Washington.[1] 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.[2] 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.[3] In the 1890s, the Milwaukee Road's directors desired a connection from the Midwest to the Pacific coast.[4] 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.[5] 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 line to tourists.[6] MRSR was then created by Tom Murray to operate historic equipment stored in Tacoma.[7] 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.


Number Builder Type Works Number Built Acquired Image Description
No. 2 Willamette Iron and Steel Works 3-truck geared steam locomotive #34 1929 2002
June 23 Mineral 153xRP - Flickr - drewj1946.jpg
Built for the J. Neils Lumber Co. in Klickitat, Washington; sold to Rayonier, Inc., in 1949 for operation in Sekiu, Washington until 1962; design closely resembles a Shay locomotive[8] the only operational Willamette in the world.

also the final locomotive built by Willamette.

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; last Climax built to standard gauge; first operating steamer on MRSR;[9] currently operable
No. 11 Lima Locomotive Works 3-truck "Pacific Coast" Shay #3327 1929 1981 Built for Forest Lumber Co. of Pine Ridge, Oregon; sold to Pickering Lumber Corp. of Standard, California, in 1940; one of only five surviving "Pacific Coast" Shays[10] Slated for restoration to operation beginning in mid-2012
No. 102 Heisler Locomotive Works 3-truck "West Coast Special" Heisler[11] #1595 1930 1980 Built for Whitney Engineering Co. of Tacoma, Washington, which was a locomotive dealer at the time; sold to Kinzua Pine Mills of Kinzua, Oregon, in 1930; donated to the museum by Tom Murray in the late 1970s;[12] 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.
? Heisler Locomotive Works ? #1252 1912 ?
Mount Rainier Scenic Railroad - Heisler locomotive 01.jpg
More images
No longer operational, on display by the rail station at Elbe, Washington. It was operated by the Pickering Lumber Company and was known as "PLC #10"; MRSC has renamed it 'R.J. "Bud" Kelly'.
No. 70 Baldwin Locomotive Works 2-8-2 #55355 1922 1992
MRSR Engine 70 in Tacoma 04.jpg
More images
Built for Polson Brothers Logging Company of Hoquiam, Washington; purchased by Rayonier Corp. in 1945;[13] currently operable
No. 45 Baldwin Locomotive Works 2-6-2 #27311 1906 1998 Built for Polson Logging Company of Hoquiam, Washington; purchased by Rayonier Corp. in 1945; the locomotive has been sold to a private owner. Polson Museum is the owner as of 2015.[14] Stored Inoperable
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[15] Stored inoperable
No. 17 American Locomotive Company 2-8-2T #68057 1929 1980
More images
Built for the Crosset Western Co. in Wauna, Oregon; sold to Hammond Lumber Co. of Samoa, California, in 1942; the primary summer motive power for the MRSR;[16] currently operable
No. 481[17] General Motors Electro-Motive Division EMD NW2 Diesel-electric #5336 1942 2001 Built for the Great Northern Railway; currently operable
No. 7012A[18] 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 69570 1941 Currently inoperable due to grease fire in electrical cabinet and traction motor, slated for repairs and return to service
No. 42 ALCO S-1 American Locomotive Company ALCO S-1 Diesel-electric Under restoration
  • All of the railroad's locomotives are serviced at the maintenance shops in Mineral.

See also[edit]


External links[edit]

Coordinates: 46°45′55″N 122°11′40″W / 46.76528°N 122.19444°W / 46.76528; -122.19444