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Preserved Early Steam Locomotives Part 4: Northern Pacific’s Minnetonka


Beyond the


This 1988 Carstens Classic documents the first 25 years of railroading after the

demise of Vermont’s famed Rutland Railway!

Northern Pacific’s first locomotive, 0-4-0T Minnetonka, is displayed under cover at the Lake Superior Museum of Transportation in Duluth, Minn.

IN 1870, NORTHERN PACIFIC TOOK delivery of a tiny 0-4-0T named Minnetonka that was used during the construction of its line from Minnesota to the Pacific North- west. After being sold and used by several logging railroads, it was reacquired by the NP in 1933 and restored. Since the mid- 1970s it’s been on display in Duluth, Minn., at the Lake Superior Railroad Museum as a monument to NP’s pioneer days. Minnetonka was the first of four identical 13.8-ton, diamond-stacked 0-4-0T’s, the oth- ers being Itaska, St. Cloud, and Otter Tail. Designed for light duty, Minnetonka was built by the Smith & Porter Co. of Pitts- burgh, Penn., in July 1870 (C/N 84) at a cost of $6700. The four locomotives were very simple, with 33″ drivers, 10″×16″ cylinders, and link-and-pin couplers. They carried a maximum boiler pressure of 125 lbs. and were rated at 3090 lbs. tractive effort. Five hundred gallons of water were carried in a saddle tank, and wood for fuel was carried inside the cab. They had no injectors, only a simple feedwater pump that was actuated by a crank. Since they were designed for con- struction duties and would be used only dur- ing daylight hours, they were not equipped with headlights. As was customary in the 1870s, they were afforded elaborate paint jobs with pinstriping on the water tanks, cabs, and cylinders, in addition to polished brass cylinder head covers, brass handrails, and brass-rimmed splash guards. Minnetonka was loaded aboard a flatcar

and shipped from Smith & Porter on July 11, 1870. At Cleveland it was placed aboard the steamer Meteor on July 18 for the trip to Minnesota and it was offloaded at Rice’s Point in Duluth ten days later.

At Carlton, 23 miles west of Duluth, the Northern Pacific main line branched off from the existing Lake Superior & Missis- sippi Railroad. Within a few days Minneton- ka was hard at work hauling track materials and supplies as track gangs pushed the rails west. It was joined by Itaska in August 1870, and St. Cloud and Otter Tail arrived in late September. The crews learned that the Porter 0-4-0T’s were prone to poor steaming due to the use of “green” wood. “The difficul- ty with the engines is that the firebox is not of sufficient capacity to burn wood and sup- ply steam for the purposes for which the en- gines are now needed, and the question is whether the capacity can be enlarged at a moderate cost and without very great delay so as to render the engines more service- able,” NP president J. Gregory Smith wrote Smith & Porter in October 1870. Of course, their fireboxes could not be enlarged with- out major modification and expense, and at Porter’s recommendation Smith ordered four-wheel tenders for each locomotive at $800 apiece, which were delivered in Febru- ary 1871. This allowed the locomotives to carry an extra half-cord of wood and an ad- ditional 600 gallons of water. Minnetonka, assigned to the eastern end

of the Northern Pacific main line, followed the end of track as it moved west across Min- nesota. When the rails reached Brainerd in the fall of 1870, NP transferred two of the construction engines — Minnetonka and Ot- ter Tail — to the western end of the transcontinental main, the Pacific Division. In early 1871 both locomotives were shipped east from Brainerd to Prairie du Chein, Wis., and then west to Council Bluffs, Iowa, where they were forwarded via the Union

Now operated under the Vermont Rail System banner, you’ll see the early operations of the Vermont Railway, Clarendon & Pittford,

and the Green Mountain Railroad! From the marble quarry pits

to piggyback trailers, from steam excursions to heavy freight!

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