Museum near OMSI gets a new historic steam engine
The Oregon Rail Heritage Foundation's museum — the public rail museum just east of the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry — has acquired a 102-year-old steam engine owned by the Oregon Historical Society. ORHF hopes to use it for future train rides between its museum near OMSI and Oaks Amusement Park in Sellwood.
The museum's President, Roy Hemmingway, announced at the beginning of September that the locomotive — named the "Mount Emily Shay" — will be transferred to the foundation's rail yard after nearly 30 years of service on the City of Prineville rails.
"The Mount Emily Shay will allow the Oregon Rail Heritage Center to show the public the important role that logging railroads played in the development of the timber industry in Oregon," Hemmingway said. "Specialty locomotives like the Shay, which could operate on steep and rough track, were able to access timber not available by other means. These Shays were key to bringing logs to the mills, and developing Oregon's timber economy."
The locomotive was a celebrated local asset in Prineville, where it was used for school field trips, as the Crooked River Dinner Train, and for annual rides on the Fourth of July, as reported by THE BEE's sister newspaper, the Central Oregonian. However, after several years of declining use, the City of Prineville decided to end its loan agreement with the Oregon Historical Society, leaving OHS needing a new home for it. That home has now been found.
The "Mount Emily Shay" locomotive has changed hands many times in its rich history. Built at the Lima Locomotive Works in Ohio in the 1920s, the geared steam locomotive was originally purchased by the Hofus Steel & Equipment Company in Seattle. The train engine was then sold to the Independence Logging Company in Independence, Washington, before it was sold again to the Mount Emily Lumber Company, in La Grande, Oregon, which ultimately gave the engine its current name.
The engine was owned and operated by the company until it was retired in 1957, at which time it was donated to the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry when it was co-located with the zoo, for use on the newly-built Washington Park & Zoo Railway. However, the train couldn't be transported up to Washington Park safely, so finally its ownership was transferred to OHS in 1958.
In the 1970s, the train was loaned to the State of West Virginia, which restored the engine to working order on two separate occasions for use on the Cass Scenic Railroad. Twenty years later, train enthusiast Martin E. Hansen helped OHS return Mount Emily Shay to Oregon, where it's been used for joyrides and educational purposes at Prineville ever since.
Of the 3,000 "Shay" locomotives that were originally manufactured, only 115 still exist in the world today. Even fewer are considered operational.
Once the train is physically transferred to Portland, the engine will undergo a federally-mandated inspection to be proven operational. If it gets that approval, ORHF plans to use the Mount Emily Shay for weekend and holiday excursions from the rail museum south to Oaks Park and back.
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