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Their task was formidable — the engine not only had to look good, it had to operate. (Ed- ward Hungerford had requested that it par- ticipate in his “Wings of a Century” pageant, which required it to be under steam.) Fortu- nately, Minnetonka was in good mechanical condition despite its age and the fact that it still had the original boiler and running gear. Still, much work was required to pre- pare it for operation. All 70 flues were changed out, the rod brasses were renewed, and much piping was replaced. Because it would not be pulling trains, for safety pur- poses its boiler was downgraded to 50 p.s.i. By the 1930s Minnetonka didn’t look

much as it did in 1870, so NP backdated it by removing the modern features that had been added over the years and replacing them with replica parts. A wooden cab resembling the original was fabricated, along with a new riveted saddle tank and a home-built oil headlight (which matches none that the en- gine ever wore on NP). An authentic water pump was found and installed, although a small, well-hidden injector was retained. Because the job needed to be completed quickly, some corners were cut. The balloon stack added by Polson was kept, even though it does not match the original stack and a replacement would have been rela- tively simple to construct. Since no photos exist of the Minnetonka

as an NP construction engine, a photo fabri- cated by Porter’s art department in 1921 was used as a guide when it came to paint- ing and lettering (At NP’s request, Porter had taken an existing photo of an identical engine and lettered it Minnetonka, claiming it was “practically an exact likeness of the first engine shipped.”) However, even the photo wasn’t rigidly followed, as the fonts and striping applied during the restoration bore little resemblance to the original ornate striping and lettering. The 1933 paint scheme basically represents what the NP public relations department thought that an engine of the 1870s should look like. It ap- pears that little effort was made to research how Minnetonka had actually been painted. In another departure from historical accura- cy, the 0-4-0T was given the number 1 to in- dicate its status as Northern Pacific’s first locomotive, despite the fact that records in- dicate that it had only a name when it was delivered. Back under steam for the first time in

many years, Minnetonka proved a popular exhibit at the fair, and it would later make appearances at both the 1939-’40 New York World’s Fair and the 1948-’49 Chicago Rail- road Fair. When not on public display it was often on tour, traveling on its own specially- built flatcar to community functions. It was also frequently photographed alongside newly-delivered locomotives to depict the advancements being made in the industry. In the late 1950s age finally caught up

with Minnetonka, and it last steamed for the filming of a television spot in Seattle, Wash., in 1959. But it continued to tour the NP, showing up whenever an event required the railroad’s presence. By the time Burlington Northern came along in 1970, Minnetonka was 100 years old and the railroad became alarmed by the damage that occurred to the locomotive when it was in transit, mostly from excessive vibration. In 1975 the deci- sion was made to end its travels. Rather than risk further damage, BN chose to loan Min- netonka to a museum for permanent display.

Tom Lamphier, President of BN’s trans- portation division, was a board member of the Lake Superior Museum of Transporta- tion and suggested that the museum would make an excellent home for the 0-4-0T. Management agreed, and in 1975 Minneton- ka was sent to Duluth and placed in the mu- seum’s main exhibit hall; a dedication cere- mony was held on June 9, 1975. Minnetonka now had an indoor home, but it was not a perfect situation; it was apparent to visitors that the 0-4-0T had seen better days. Patch- es of rust dotted the saddle tank, stack, cylinders, and tender; the pilot beam was rotted and sagging; brass parts were tar- nished, and the paint was dirty and faded. So in November 1975, Burlington Northern shipped Minnetonka to Como Shops in St. Paul, where it received an extensive cosmet- ic restoration. The 0-4-0T became the subject of national

interest in 1995 when Burlington Northern Santa Fe informed the museum that it wanted to move Minnetonka to Texas for display at the railroad’s new headquarters building in Fort Worth. Amid a media fren- zy, the 0-4-0T was loaded onto a truck and left Minnesota in January 1996. Articles about the “robbery” began to appear in newspapers and magazines, and BNSF re- ceived so much negative publicity that it made an about-face and declared that it was no longer practical to include Minnetonka in its plans. In June 1996, BNSF offered to re- turn Minnetonka to Duluth, a gesture which was unanimously accepted by the museum’s board of directors. Today the engine is on long-term loan, but is still BNSF property. Another aspect of the Minnetonka story

needs to be told. There is a rumor that the preserved Minnetonka is actually Itaska, which originated in a report from B.P. John- son which was written shortly after he in- spected the locomotive for the first time in 1932. “[I] visited the Polson Logging Co. camp west of Hoquiam and inspected their saddle tank Smith and Porter Locomotive MFRS. [sic] No. 84 built at Pittsburgh in 1870. A fire at their camp 3 or 4 years past scorched the paint and disclosed the old name Northern Pacific on the tender and No. 2 on dome or cab. Also engine name on cab Itasca [sic].” One issue with Johnson’s account is that early photos of Itaska show the name painted on the saddle tank, not the cab. Additionally, Old Betsy was known to have been involved in a 1902 fire that re- quired replacement of the cab, and thus a fire that had occurred “3 or 4 years past” that supposedly scorched the paint and re- vealed the name simply does not make sense, since the original cab was supposedly replaced some 20 years earlier. But the final disposition of Itaska is not well documented; after being sold to a Minnesota lumber com- pany, it vanished around 1896. Did Polson acquire Itaska after the 1902 fire and use some of its parts on Minnetonka? After reviewing the facts — the chief one

being that Johnson found C/N 84 on the lo- comotive’s builder’s plate —I believe the lo- comotive in Duluth is the genuine artifact. That the engine may or may not be the Northern Pacific’s first locomotive does not detract from the fact that it definitely is one of the first four NP construction engines, and it should be celebrated as such. It’s tru- ly a unique locomotive. — THANKS TO RICHARD E. THOMPSON, TIM SCHANDEL, AND THE LAKE SUPERIOR RAILROADMUSEUM



RAILROAD VIDEO QUARTERLY - ISSUE #77 Photo: George Gabritsch

Fall 2011 Two Hours “Cr ipple Effect”: Challenges to Regional Railroads The Big Engine that Almost Didn’t

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Erie-Lackawanna Revisited E-L Legacy Upate #2, October 2011

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JUNE 3-5, 2011: FEATHER RIVER CANYON - INSIDE GATEWAY - SHASTA ROUTE Photos: Chris Skow, Trains & Travel International

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JUNE 3-5, 2011: FEATHER RIVER CANYON - INSIDE GATEWAY - SHASTA ROUTE. This was the first scheduled passenger train in over 50 years to ply the “Highline”(Inside Gateway). See the entire three day


Art: Dean Martz

Courtesy Central Coast Railway Club

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