Tom Murray Jr., Mt. Rainier Scenic founder, dies at 91

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From left are Martin Hansen, Jim Gertz, and Tom Murray Jr., standing in front of one of Murray's favorite locomotives, Willamette No. 2.
Submitted photo
ELBE, Wash. — Tom Murray Jr., one of the earliest advocates for preserving logging railroad heritage in the Pacific Northwest died July 5. He was 91.

Tom was the son of Tom Murray Sr., who had founded the West Fork Timber Co. in the 1920s. West Fork Timber Co. logged the forests around Mineral, Wash., for several decades before finally selling out to St. Regis Paper Co. After Murray Jr. graduated from Yale he joined his father’s timber business that eventually evolved into Murray Pacific Corp. After Tom’s father had a serious heart attack, Murray Jr. assumed the role of president of Murray Pacific Corp.

In growing up, Murray witnessed the Highball Days of steam logging in the West. The West Fork Timber Co. had its own steam-powered logging railroad that always fascinated the younger man. Murray was not content to see this part of Northwest history pass into oblivion.

In April 1964 Murray learned that the Klickitat Logging & Lumber Co. of Klickitat, Wash., was shutting down its logging railroad and the last active Shay locomotive in the U.S. Murray immediately saw this as the opportunity he was looking for to realize his dream of developing a steam logging museum.

In June 1964 Murray formed the Western Washington Forest Industries museum and he arranged the donation of KL&L Shay No. 7 to his project. At the same time, Murray arranged with city leaders in Tacoma, Wash., to lease of a portion of the heavily timbered Point Defiance Park in the northern part of Tacoma. Here he would build his logging museum that came to be named Camp 6.

Over the next few years, Murray had track laid at Camp 6 and Shay No. 7 was put in service. He also arranged the donation of many pieces of steam logging equipment and logging camp buildings. The largest of these was a 250-ton steam powered Lidgerwood Tower Skidder.

Camp 6 continued in operation for the next several decades as an example of a steam logging camp. However, there was no chance of any real expansion of the facility at that site. By the late-1970s Murray had begun to start acquiring additional steam logging locomotives and logging rolling stock. Murray started looking for a place to begin an even bigger logging museum.

When the Milwaukee Railroad went out of business in the late 1970s, Weyerhaeuser purchased the Milwaukee track that ran south out of Tacoma to Chehalis, Wash., and the line from Eatonville to Morton, Wash. Weyerhaeuser immediately began operating the line to Chehalis but had no immediate plans for the line to Morton. That is where Murray stepped in.

Murray had many friends on the Weyerhaeuser board of directors and he knew he could sell them on his plan. In short order, Murray had been given the right to operate the Morton Branch as part of a new logging museum. This is when the Mt. Rainier Scenic Railroad was born.

Over the next 35 years, Murray invested literally millions of dollars of his own money to build and expand Mt. Rainier Scenic. He amassed the largest collection of steam logging engine ever assembled and with the capable supervision of Chief Mechanical Officer Jack Anderson, most of these “lokies” (as the loggers called steam logging engines) were returned to operation. On one occasion in the 1990s Mt. Rainier was able to operate a five-engine train in one excursion weekend.

In 2012, Murray decided to close Camp 6 and focus all his attention on Mt. Rainier. Some of the buildings and logging pieces from Camp 6 were moved up to the other tourist line at Mineral where Murray expanded his logging museum as part of the operating railroad.

In 2014, Murray sold Mt. Rainier to American Heritage Railroads based in Durango, Colo., shortly before his 90th birthday.

NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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