Soo Line 2719
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|Soo Line 2719|
Soo Line 2719 on display in 2015
Soo Line 2719 is a restored 4-6-2 steam locomotive originally operated by the Minneapolis, St. Paul and Sault Ste. Marie Railway ("Soo Line"). The 2719 was used to haul the Soo Line's last steam-powered train, a June 21, 1959, round-trip excursion between Minneapolis, Minnesota, and Ladysmith, Wisconsin. It was then displayed in Eau Claire, Wisconsin until 1996. It was restored and operated excursions from 1998 until 2013 when its boiler certificate expired. In 2015 it was sold to the Lake Superior Railroad Museum, where it is displayed.
The 2719 was built in May, 1923 in Schenectady, New York. It was one of 6 H-23 Pacific class steam locomotives built for the Soo Line. It operated until the mid-1950s when it was overhauled and put into storage. It was brought out of retirement to haul the last steam trains on Soo Line's tracks in 1959. It is estimated that the 2719 traveled more than 3 million miles during its time on the Soo Line.
2719 was then given to the City of Eau Claire, Wisconsin and displayed in Carson Park until 1996.
On May 23, 1996, a fundraising dinner, entitled "An Evening in the Club Car", was held at the Holiday Inn Convention Center in Eau Claire to benefit the restoration of 2719. The restoration was undertaken by the Locomotive and Tower Preservation Fund, Ltd. After a very aggressive restoration schedule, the inaugural running was on September 19, 1998, running a "triple-headed excursion" with Northern Pacific 328 and Soo Line 1003. 2719 did not have a museum and excursions occurred over different tracks belonging to different railroads.
In June 2000, 2719 was moved to the Wisconsin Great Northern Railroad in Spooner. It operated during the summers in Spooner until the purchase of the Wisconsin Central by Canadian National Railway in 2001. It returned to the roundhouse in Altoona, Wisconsin, for the winter.
With the last excursion run in 2003 and with the Altoona, Wisconsin, roundhouse being razed on June 1, 2004, 2719 was facing a bleak future. 2719 was stored outside, exposed to the elements until the end of 2006.
On December 17, 2006, 2719 was moved to the Lake Superior Railroad Museum. The museum operates the North Shore Scenic Railroad. After extensive work during the summer of 2007, the engine was test fired on August 24, 2007, and made a successful round trip test run from Duluth to Two Harbors, Minnesota, on August 25, 2007. Soo Line 2719 ran a regular excursion schedule from 2007 to 2013.
In May 2013, it met Milwaukee Road 261 for the first time. Soo 2719 pulled special excursions for that weekend (National Train Day).
2719's FRA boiler flue time was to expire on July 31, 2013, but its flue time was extended so that it could operate into late summer of 2013. It pulled its final excursion on September 14, 2013, afterward, Soo Line 2719 was to have gotten its 15-year rebuild, but because of ownership disputes, it was drained to the Lake Superior Railroad Museum for display instead. In June 2015 the 2719 was purchased by the LSRM.
Historical significance and preservation
2719 was also able to have the distinction of being the last steam-powered engine to operate out of Ladysmith, Wisconsin on former Soo Line trackage in 2001. The locomotive was stored again in 2003, but in 2005 discussions were held to move the locomotive to the Lake Superior Railroad Museum in Duluth, Minnesota. With assistance from the L&TPF, Ltd., the museum relocated the locomotive in December 2006. The museum leased the locomotive and operated #2719 through its affiliate, the North Shore Scenic Railroad.
Since 2013, with 2719 no longer in operation, it is displayed at the Lake Superior Railroad Museum.
After deciding to restore the D&NE #28 back to operation the museum abandoned plans to restore the 2719 back to operation. This sparked the L&TPF to seek other options for the 2719. On February 21, 2015, the Locomotive & Tower Preservation Fund approached the city of Eau Claire, WI, and offered to sell 2719 back to the city for $1, with the city also covering the cost of the $135,000 shelter to house the locomotive. It came at great surprise to the Lake Superior Railroad Museum, as they were unaware of the talk to move the engine back to permanent outdoor display. The L&TPF weren't interested in renewing the lease with the LSRM, which expired in 2015.
The LSRM was originally seeking $305,000 in 2011 to restore it back to operation after its 15-year limited expired in 2013. However, after 2719's last run, the museum announced it was restoring a different steam locomotive (that the museum owned) to operation in time for the 2016 season, postponing hopes of 2719 return to steam.
The city of Eau Claire attempted to raise funds to return the locomotive but was highly unsuccessful. The L&TPF announced that if the city didn't want the locomotive back, it would look for offers elsewhere.
On February 24, 2015, the city decided it wanted up to two months to make its decision on 2719. It was likely that the city would buy 2719 for $1 then sell it back to the Lake Superior Railroad Museum for $2, as the city council seemed to agree they'd rather have 2719 be restored to operation in the future than sitting on permanent display.
The city, however, wanted this time extension to explore all options available. Representatives from the Lake Superior Railroad Museum were present at the meeting and promised if 2719 stayed in Duluth, it could possibly run again.
On May 11, 2015, the city of Eau Claire held a community meeting to debate what the city's intentions for the locomotive would be. Some community members argued the locomotive should be returned to its home in Eau Claire, while others suggested that the Lake Superior Railroad Museum would make a better home for 2719.
The city council discussed 2719's fate on May 12. The council could not reach a majority, and another debate was planned for June. The council wanted the first right of refusal should 2719 be sold by the Lake Superior Railroad Museum sometime in the future.
On Tuesday, June 9, the city of Eau Claire, WI, the Locomotive & Tower Preservation Fund, and the Lake Superior Railroad Museum agreed to an immediate sale of the locomotive from the city to the LSRM. The city of Eau Claire was given repurchase rights of the locomotive for 3 years if the city decides they want the locomotive back. The Lake Superior Railroad Museum, as part of the deal, would pay for and design signage for the city where the locomotive was once displayed.
Eau Claire's "buy-back agreement" lasted three years for the city to find any way to restore and return the locomotive to the city.  However, that time period expired and 2719 is officially and undisputedly owned by LSRM.
The museum purchased the locomotive in a manner that allowed them to operate their own locomotive (D&NE #28 once completed) without having to provide a future for the 2719. Until 2018, the city of Eau Claire, WI could have repurchased the locomotive and moved it to permanent display in the city's Carson Park. This move would have required dismantling the locomotive somewhere off museum property and cost the City of Eau Claire several hundreds of thousands of dollars. Because of this, the museum had done little to the locomotive other than a power-wash. The museum did remove the L&TPF lettering on its tender shortly after receiving ownership. It is unclear if 2719 will be restored to operation again. At the time the boiler certificate expired the 2719 only required it's 1472 and minimal work to bring back to operation. The majority of the money for the work was raised through ticket sales and available for the museum to complete the work.
Other H-23 class locomotives
There were six H-23 class locomotives built in May 1923. Two of them are preserved.
- 2718 - On display at the National Railroad Museum in Green Bay, Wisconsin
- 2720 - Scrapped at United States Steel, July 19, 1951
- 2721 - Scrapped at Purdy Company, November 13, 1950
- 2722 - Scrapped at American Iron & Supply, December 28, 1954
- 2723 - Scrapped at Purdy Company, November 13, 1950
- National Park Service (2010-07-09). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service.
- "Soo Line Locomotive 2719". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 93001453.
- "Historic Eau Claire steam engine could be coming home". WQOW. February 20, 2015.
- "Lake Superior Railroad Museum seeking funds to rebuild Soo Line 2719". Trains. Kalmbach Publishing. November 29, 2011.
- "Eau Claire City Council postpones vote on bringing historic steam engine home". WQOW. February 24, 2015.
- "NEW INFORMATION: Future of historic train discussed at city council". WEAU. May 12, 2015.
- Glischinski, Steve (June 10, 2015). "City agrees to sell Soo Line 4-6-2 to Lake Superior Railroad Museum". Trains. Kalmbach Publishing.
- Glischinski, Steve (February 1997). "Soo Line 2-8-2 back in steam". Trains magazine. 57 (2): 24–25.
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