Work progress on an Alaska narrow-gauge locomotive — in Colorado

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The boiler for White Pass & Yukon 2-8-0 No. 61.
Stockton Locomotive Works
Stathi Pappas works on White Pass & Yukon 2-8-0 No. 61 at his shop in Antonito, Colo.
Stockton Locomotive Works
ANTONITO, Colo. — Stathi Pappas is a busy guy.

As assistant general manager at the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic, Pappas has the task of helping manage one of the longest tourist railroads in the country while simultaneously heading up the restoration of the road’s newest acquisition: Denver & Rio Grande Western 4-6-0 No. 168, a three-foot gauge locomotive built by the Baldwin Locomotive Works in 1883.

So you would think that after a long day working at the shops in Antonito, the last thing Pappas would want to do would be to go home and start working on another locomotive. But that is exactly what he is doing. This month, Pappas’ Stockton Locomotive Works began work on White Pass & Yukon 2-8-0 No. 61.

Locomotive No. 61 was built by Baldwin in 1900 and worked for the White Pass for nearly 50 years. In 1949, the locomotive’s service on the railroad came to an unceremonious end when it was shoved off the rails and used as riprap in the Skagway River where the 2-8-0 would spend the next four decades under water. In the 1980s, the locomotive was dragged out of the river and sat near the railroad shops in Skagway. The locomotive was eventually purchased by Steven Butler of Morton Locomotive and Machine and moved to Wisconsin and later Texas.

In February 2017, Pappas, who was previously curator at the Northwest Railway Museum in Snoqualmie, Wash., took a position at the C&TS and decided that he needed an appropriate locomotive for the “land of narrow gauge.” At the time, Pappas owned two locomotives: the restored Santa Cruz Portland Cement Co. 0-4-0 No. 2 (currently stored serviceable in Washington) and a 2-6-2. Pappas and Butler started talking and eventually agreed to trade one “basketcase” for another; Butler got the 2-6-2 and Pappas acquired the WP&Y No. 61.

Over the summer, the Stockton Locomotive Works set up shop in Colorado and this fall Pappas started moving No. 61 north from Texas. The trucks and drivers recently arrived in Antonito and the boiler and frame will follow in the spring. Despite spending 40 years as riprap, Pappas says initial tests show that the boiler is usable. The biggest challenge will be restoring the cracked cylinders.

“It’s a challenging restoration, but it’s not impossible,” Pappas tells Trains News Wire.

Pappas says he’s working on No. 61 in his free time between work at the C&TS and contract work through Stockton Locomotive Works (Pappas’ business has been involved in a number of steam projects and just recently produced the staybolts for Chesapeake & Ohio No. 1309). There is no timeline for the locomotive’s completion. It’s unclear where the locomotive will run when it’s complete, but Pappas has a few ideas.

“It sure would be neat seeing White Pass & Yukon No. 61 storming up Cumbres Pass,” Pappas says.
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