Spokane, Portland and Seattle 700
SP&S 700 standing idle waiting to start Christmas excursion December 2005
Spokane, Portland & Seattle 700 is the only surviving example of the E-1 class 4-8-4 Northern type steam locomotive. Nearly identical to the A-3 class Northerns built for Northern Pacific Railway, it burns oil instead of coal.
After years of running second-hand equipment, the Spokane, Portland and Seattle Railway (SP&S) was allowed by its parent companies, Great Northern Railway and Northern Pacific Railway, to purchase its first new locomotives. These included three Northern E-1 class locomotives (700, 701 and 702) for passenger service and 6 Z-6 class Challengers (4-6-6-4s) for freight service.
After retirement from service in 1956, the SP&S 700 was donated to the City of Portland, Oregon, in 1958. It was on static public display at Oaks Amusement Park until 1987, then moved to private quarters for the continuation of work to restore it to operating condition. It began making occasional excursion runs in 1990. In 2012, the 700 was moved to a new facility where it can again be viewed by the public, the Oregon Rail Heritage Center.
Revenue service years
700 was delivered on June 21, 1938, joining the 702 pulling overnight passenger trains between Spokane and Vancouver, Washington, along the north shore of the Columbia River, with the 701 providing backup and pulling freight. Owing to an undersized turntable, the Northerns didn't reach Portland, Oregon, until 1943.
By 1947, the Great Northern Railway had begun to streamline its premier passenger train, The Empire Builder, and had started adding diesels to the locomotive mix. SP&S also started purchasing diesels at this time, but they arrived after the streamlined cars were brought into service and for a few months, the 700s pulled the Portland section of Great Northern's Empire Builder and Northern Pacific's North Coast Limited.
Through the late 1940s and early 1950s, the E-1s continued to pull secondary passenger trains, but by 1954, the diesels had completely replaced steam for passenger service and the E-1s were relegated to pulling freight trains until 1955.
Finally, on May 20, 1956, a spruced-up 700, with its normally grey smokebox painted silver, pulled its last passenger train. The Farewell To Steam run had a total of 21 cars carrying 1,400 passengers from Portland, Oregon, to Wishram, Washington, in the heart of the Columbia Gorge, and back again.
After the trip, the 700, 701, 702, Challengers and other SP&S locomotives were sent to the scrap line. At the same time, however, Union Pacific Railroad was offering to donate a steam locomotive to the city of Portland, Oregon, and not to be outdone, the SP&S offered the 700. The two locomotives (SP&S 700 and OR&N 197) were moved into Oaks Park along the Willamette River in 1958 and were soon joined by SP 4449 where they sat for nearly 20 years.
Display at Oaks Park
For nearly 20 years the 700, along with the other two locomotives, sat behind chain link fences, slowly fading and rusting away. Only the attention of a single Southern Pacific Railroad employee, Jack Holst, saved the locomotives from complete uselessness. Mr. Holst regularly visited the locomotives and kept the bearings and rods well greased and oiled. Unfortunately, Mr. Holst died in 1972, before the first locomotive (SP 4449) was removed from Oaks Park and restored. In 1975, 15-year-old Chris McLarney started working on the 700, cleaning and oiling various parts. He founded the PRPA (Pacific Railroad Preservation Association) in 1977 to provide support for the preservation work.
In November 1987, the SP&S 700 was moved from Oaks Park to the Southern Pacific's Brooklyn Roundhouse, in southeast Portland, for the continuation of restoration work. With the support of many individuals and Burlington Northern Railroad, the 700 returned to operation in 1990.
1990 to present
Although it's the third largest steam locomotive still in operation and expensive to run and insure, the 700 has managed a number of excursions since its restoration in 1990, including an historic double header with SP 4449 from Portland, Oregon, to Wishram, Washington, and back during the 2005 National Railway Historical Society national convention, and a 2002 "Steam across Montana" from Sandpoint, Idaho, to Billings, Montana, and back.
Disposition and maintenance
Until June 2012, the 700 and its two companions resided at the Brooklyn Roundhouse. The City of Portland was leasing the roundhouse from its owner, Union Pacific Railroad (UP), but after the railroad announced plans to demolish the roundhouse to allow expansion of the yard, the engines needed to find a new home. The Oregon Rail Heritage Foundation, with significant support from the City of Portland, raised funds for a new restoration and visitor center adjacent to the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, to provide the city's steam locomotives with a permanent and publicly accessible home before the closure of the roundhouse.
Construction of the new Oregon Rail Heritage Center began in October 2011 and the 700 and the other two locomotives were moved to the site of the new enginehouse and heritage center on June 26, 2012. They were moved indoors on July 28, once the enginehouse was enclosed. The ORHC opened to the public on September 22, 2012. Maintenance of the 700 continues to be carried out by the Pacific Railroad Preservation Association and a team of volunteers.
- "Spokane, Portland & Seattle Northerns". 2006-01-09. Retrieved 2007-05-21.
- "The SP&S 700". Pacific Railroad Preservation Association. Retrieved September 29, 2012.
- Redden, Jim (July 12, 2012). "Rail history center: full steam ahead". Portland Tribune. p. A10. Retrieved September 29, 2012.
- "History of the SP&S 700". Pacific Railroad Preservation Association. Archived from the original on 2007-04-28. Retrieved November 28, 2013.
- Pacific Railroad Preservation Association. "NRHS Western Star Excursion, an SP&S 700 and SP 4449 doubleheader, July 6, 2005".
- Pacific Railroad Preservation Association. "Montana By Steam 2002".
- "Oregon National Register List" (PDF). Oregon Parks and Recreation Department. June 6, 2011. p. 40. Retrieved September 29, 2012.
- Pacific Railroad Preservation Association. "Locomotive SP&S 700 Added to the National Register of Historic Places".
- Redden, Jim (July 28, 2011). "City land deal fuels new locomotive museum". Portland Tribune. Retrieved November 28, 2013.
- Beaven, Steve (October 21, 2011). "Commissioner Nick Fish breaks ground for Enginehouse & Rail Heritage Center in Southeast Portland". The Oregonian. Retrieved August 9, 2012.
- Tims, Dana (September 21, 2012). "Oregon Rail Heritage Center ready for grand opening Saturday, Sunday". The Oregonian. p. B1. Retrieved September 29, 2012.
- Oregon Rail Heritage Foundation. "Our Mission". Archived from the original on 2007-05-05. Retrieved 2007-05-24.
- Oregon Rail Heritage Foundation. "Brooklyn Roundhouse". Archived from the original on 2007-06-23. Retrieved 2007-07-03.
- Wood, Charles & Dorothy (1974). Spokane, Portland and Seattle Ry. Superior Publishing Company. ISBN 0-87564-703-0.
- Prager, Kenny (1999). That Reminds Me of Another Story: Stories of the SP&S Railway. Self Published.
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