Friends of the 261 offer steam excursion to fund PTC equipment

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No. 261 crosses the Kettle River at Sandstone, Minn., on a June 2016 excursion.
Steve Glischinski
MINNEAPOLIS – The Friends of the 261 will operate a steam excursion from Minneapolis to Duluth over BNSF Railway June 9-10, 2018, to raise funds for the installation of the positive train control system on Milwaukee Road steam locomotive No. 261. The 4-8-4 was built by Alco in 1944 and, if funds can be raised, would be the first mainline steam locomotive to be PTC-equipped.

PTC is a computerized system utilizing a GPS tracking system that can automatically stop a train in certain safety situations. Without funding to purchase, install and train crews for PTC use on No. 261, the group is concerned it may not be able to continue operating mainline excursions over Class I railroads.

The Friends estimates it will cost between $100,000 and $150,000 to equip the historic locomotive for PTC. Amtrak has also increased the amount it charges the Friends to operate excursions. This decreases the amount of revenue the group can earn from trips, which causes PTC installation to be an even larger financial burden. A portion of the cost of each ticket along with additional donations can make the installation and operation of PTC with No. 261 possible, the organization tells Trains News Wire.

The steam excursion will depart Minneapolis at 9 a.m. June 9 traveling via BNSF’s Railway’s Hinckley Subdivision at speeds up to 60 mph. The train will arrive that afternoon at the Lake Superior Railroad Museum in Duluth. After an overnight stop the excursion train will return depart Duluth at noon for the trip back to Minneapolis on June 10.

“By contributing to the installation and operation of PTC on No. 261, you will also give the Friends the ability to develop the necessary systems to help other mainline steam operators such as Nickel Plate Road No. 765, Norfolk & Western No. 611, and Southern Pacific No. 4449 continue to operate,” Erik Hoofnagle of the Friends of the 261 says.

Premium, First Class, and Coach tickets will be offered on the fundraising excursion. To purchase tickets and contribute to the 261 PTC Installation Fund, go to
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