Locomotive for sale: $4

Eau Claire, Wis., has a tough decision to make. Should it dig into the community couch cushions for the $4 it’ll take to buy Soo Line 2719, currently at the Lake Superior Railroad Museum in Duluth.

There’s a catch; there’s always a catch when you buy a locomotive. It’ll cost somewhere between $30,000 and $100,000 to move the thing.

Old 2719 ran between Minneapolis and Ladysmith, Wis., sat on display in an Eau Claire until 1996, It was sold to the museum in Duluth which ran excursions between Duluth and Two Harbors.

For years, Eau Claire has tried to get the locomotive back in fits and starts but fundraising lagged. The museum in Duluth gave the city three years to come up with the money to move it back home. Time’s up in January.

“We need to preserve our artifacts of history,” Council Member David Strobel tells the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram. “We’re trying to gauge if the city wants to see it come home.”

Would it be worth it? Would people visit Eau Claire to see an old locomotive? Moreover, should it sit in a static display? Or should it be a working machine? That’s what many people attending a forum to consider the idea want, apparently.

Eau Claire has until January to decide whether to exercise its option to buy the engine.

“It just needs the equivalent of a very expensive oil change,” Eau Claire architect Bill Anderson said.

Leaving it stuck in a display “is something that just should not happen,” he said. “People want to see smoke.”

Fans have set up a site to raise the money here.

  • MrE85

    “People want to see smoke.”

    Say whaaaaat?

    • Rob

      Seeing, not inhaling. : )

    • Lung goes to DEFCON 1

      • Jack

        He must have a feed for any post that mentions smoking…

    • jon

      Seeing it smoke is easy…
      It’s seeing the steam and motion that are the more challenging parts.

  • ec99

    Just out of curiosity, what ever happened to the William Crooks which graced the St. Paul Union Depot during my youth?

    • Guest

      Wasn’t that the very first locomotive in MN?

    • Apparently, it, too, is at the museum in Duluth.

      • kevins

        It is, and nicely done.

  • Rob

    If it ain’t running, fuhgedaboudit.

  • Gary F

    I asked the Mrs., see said no. Now if I can find a way to get in the garage without her knowing.

  • Guest

    Steam engine SHOULD run, it will actually keep it from rusting into uselessness.

    Sudan, Africa had diesel locomotives and they went back to steam because of the sheer cost of mtce of very fine parts in the fine sand.

    It can be restored and kept. A steam locomotive was the last thing a young boy could look at, study, and learn exactly how it all worked. After, that it all became very small parts with unknown purpose.

    Also it is bullet-proof enough to let kids climb all over it.

  • John

    Why is the museum dumping it? (That museum, known as “The Depot” to those of us who grew up around those parts) was amazing. The giant garage full of train cars and locomotives (a lot of which you can go inside of) is/was fantastic. I particularly remember how impressive the snowblower, formerly used for clearing mountain passes, is.

    They still run the tour to Two Harbors and back, though from the pics on their website, it looks like they use a Diesel locomotive now. I’m pretty sure one of the first times I took that ride, it was pulled by the locomotive that Eau Claire is considering.

    It was cool, but not so cool that I’m interested in donating to the cause to get it back up and running. There are several other historic railroads around the midwest, and it seems like every time we go anywhere on vacation, we find one (in addition to Duluth, I’v ridden historic trains in the Black Hills, SD; Rockaway Beach OR; and even Boone, IA has one – everywhere but IA, I just stumbled across them and bought a ticket – wasn’t even looking for it). So, would it be a draw for tourists to have another? I suspect it might not.

    • davidz

      I don’t believe the museum is dumping it. Eau Claire has a right of repurchase, but the museum in Duluth would like to keep it there and restore it to running operation over time. Steam engines require a boiler rebuild every so many hours of operation, and 2719 is in need of that. That’s an expensive proposition ($500K +, with the + not known until the operation starts and disassembly is begun). Duluth also has another engine recently rebuilt, and they’d like to keep 2719 and work on it slowly so that 2719 is ready when the engine currently running requires its rebuilt. One in working condition, the other being rebuilt.

      Pulling the locomotive out of a museum to place it on display in a town park would be the worst thing you could do if you want to actually preserve the engine. City displays are not known for the careful upkeep. This is a machine that’s in running condition and should be kept that way.

      Disclosure: I’m an unapologetic railfan. I’ve donated to LSRM in Duluth to keep their steam engines running. I helped (slightly) to restore the 328 to running in St Paul. I’ll be out photographing another steam locomotive this weekend.

  • Barton

    I’ve always wanted to own a train car…. but not the locomotive. One of those amazing art deco jobbies from the ’30s with the observation decks.

    I don’t have the money for it nor the land to keep it. But wouldn’t that make the coolest “she shed” ever?

    • jon

      We took the amtrak out to portland a year or two back… when we boarded the staff said we were in the second to last car, there is a “private car” that was the last car…

      Did some research after that, and found that people spend big money to travel in their own private car.


      • Jack

        Thanks for the link. It was a very interesting read. I’ve seen a few private cars in museums (on loan).

        Would be on Amtrak right now if not for the fires in the west. Guess we will be riding next year before we lose our credit voucher.

        (Beats the stress of the car trip I’m on instead – I’m not the driver. )

  • RBHolb

    I don’t suppose Metro Transit would consider buying it and putting it into service on the Blue Line.

  • chlost

    Isn’t there a railroad museum in St. Paul? When we were there a few years back, they had several trains in the process of renovation. The kids loved them. Why not there?

    • boB from WA

      There is the The Minnesota Transportation Museum’s (MTM) on Jackson St in St Paul. They already have quite the collection. In addition “The friends of 261” run excursions from near the Beltrami neighborhood in Minneapolis. As Bob mentioned typically it is the cost of moving that becomes prohibitive. If you throw in a full restoration it could reach 1/2 million dollars. Given that it sounds like there isn’t much work that needs to be done, then it is possible to return it to steam.

  • Brian

    I remember it being in Carson Park in Eau Claire as a kid. I don’t remember it being in working condition though, although I may just not have seen it running.

  • boB from WA

    Eau Claire could always do what Mason City did: http://www.friendsofthe457.org