Locked and loaded: Polson Logging No. 2 heads west this week

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NORTH FREEDOM, Wis. — Skip Lichter’s Polson Lumber No. 2 is loaded, chained, and ready for a new home in Oregon.

A volunteer crew of friends who wish the locomotive could have stayed in Wisconsin helped Lichter prepare the locomotive for loading along with a four-person team from the Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad, where No. 2 will be going later this week.

The group of mostly men and a few women began work on Monday, shoving the locomotive in a move up a purpose-made tapered-rail ramp. They finished the work Tuesday morning and chained the locomotive to the flatbed and moved it to a nearby gravel parking lot until Wisconsin authorities issue the necessary oversize-load permits to move on Interstate highways. It could be moving as soon as today.

Scott Wickert, Oregon Coast’s founder, says Polson No. 2 is the 16th locomotive he’s loaded and says the rail ramp is critical to loading the locomotive properly, as is hiring a trucking company used to “special” moves, not just high and wide loads. Wickert says it took a total of 8 or 10 hours between Monday and Tuesday to load the engine, and much less time to load the tender on a smaller trailer on Tuesday. A third flatbed hauling spare wheels, parts, and tools will move separately at a later time.

The 2-8-2 standard gauge steamer has become famous lately as the center of a long-running legal dispute between Lichter and the board of directors at the Mid-Continent Railway Museum in North Freedom, which No. 2 has called home since 1982.

The museum is also where Lichter restored the locomotive to operating condition, piece-by-piece, for the past 10 years — and where his children grew up riding trains and watching their father repair them. Lichter lives only a few miles away from the museum now, but plans to follow the locomotive to Oregon this winter and sell his Wisconsin home.

For Lichter, the move is the final act of his efforts to get the locomotive certified by the Federal Railroad Administration and in operation at the Wisconsin tourist railroad and museum. He’s says he’s glad to move on.

“They agreed to everything I felt is important: A garage. A simple garage to park it in,” Lichter says about Oregon Coast Scenic. “They have an excellent 17 miles right along the (Pacific Ocean) coast. The other thing I like about it, is the potential for growth is there.”

Lichter says he wants the public to enjoy the steam locomotive and has already heard of talk about using it on dinner trains and photo excursions — once the 1912 Baldwin-built locomotive completes about 100 miles of running time on its re-done boiler, pipes, and running gear.

“I want to be able to run it. I want it to perform. To do what it’s supposed to do to. Let the people enjoy it. Let the public enjoy it. I feel like I’m the caretaker for it,” Lichter says. “When I pass away, my family will take care of it.”

Trains News Wire will post updates on No. 2’s progress as it moves west across the U.S. this week.


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