By Justin Franz
PORTLAND, Ore. — The group restoring the “Northwest’s own” Spokane, Portland & Seattle 4-8-4 700 has received a $35,000 grant from the John H. Emery Railroad Heritage Trust that they say will get it back on the main line in 2021.
The Pacific Railroad Preservation Association has been working on the locomotive since 2015 when it last ran prior to its federally-mandated 15-year overhaul. While the group had hoped to have the locomotive under steam this fall, the COVID-19 pandemic slowed the progress they were making this year. Despite the delays, PRPA President Steve Sedaker and Vice President Randy Woehl say they believe the locomotive will be running by next summer.
“This donation is really exciting for us,” Sedaker says. “This donation is going to help us get over the finish line.”
The John H. Emery Trust normally only makes one round of donations every year, but this year it decided to do a second round of grants. In July, it gave $50,000 to the Western Maryland Scenic for their ongoing restoration of Chesapeake & Ohio 2-6-6-2 1309.
Locomotive 700 was one of three Baldwin Locomotive Works 4-8-4s purchased by the SP&S in 1938. The locomotives were identical to the Northern Pacific’s 4-8-4s (the SP&S was owned by both the NP and Great Northern). The 700 ran until 1956 and two years later it was donated to the City of Portland, where the locomotive was displayed along with Oregon Railroad & Navigation Co. 4-6-2 197 and Southern Pacific “Daylight” 4-8-4 4449. All three locomotives are still owned by Portland and are now housed at the Oregon Rail Heritage Center. SP&S 700 was restored to operation in 1990.
SP&S 700 under restoration in Portland. Photo Courtesy of Pacific Railroad Preservation Association.
Along with the standard work that goes along with a 15-year rebuild, PRPA has opted to refurbish a number of other items like the air pumps, high-pressure steam lines, and superheaters. Earlier this year, the locomotive’s tubes were put back into the boiler and the group plans on doing a hydro test in the next few months before installing the refurbished superheaters.
Once the locomotive is back under steam it will be used on the annual Holiday Express excursions. Sedaker says the group is optimistic that the locomotive will be available for photo charters and other events.
For more information about the locomotive and to donate to the effort, visit sps700.org.