Wisconsin city approves Soo Line 2719 resolution

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Soo Line No. 2719 pull a photo charter on the North Shore Scenic Railroad on Sept. 8, 2011.
Steve Glischinski
EAU CLAIRE, Wis. – With only one “no” vote, the Eau Claire City Council has approved a resolution that would return Soo Line 4-6-2 No. 2719 to the city from the Lake Superior Railroad Museum in Duluth, Minn. The resolution, passed Tuesday evening, states that the city will seek an extension of the right to purchase the locomotive until Feb. 1, 2019, with an additional 120 days to move the locomotive from the museum. If the museum will not agree to the extension, the city would purchase the locomotive immediately.

The Pacific was on display in Carson Park in Eau Claire from 1960 until 1996, when it was removed and the nonprofit Locomotive & Tower Preservation Fund, which purchased the engine from the city, began restoration work. It was returned to service in 1998. The engine moved to Duluth in 2006, and operated on the museum’s North Shore Scenic Railroad from 2007 until it came due for its mandatory federal inspection and overhaul in September 2013.

In 2015, Eau Claire regained title to the engine and considered moving it back to Wisconsin. Due to the cost of the move and erecting a shelter for it, the city instead elected to sell it to the Lake Superior Railroad Museum for $2, but with a stipulation it could repurchase the engine within three years. That three-year term is up Aug. 3.

The original resolution was amended to specify that there would be no conditions that would allow reopening of the contract to provide for curatorial standards as a consideration for bringing back the engine. The museum’s legal counsel believes that if the contract were extended it could be reopened and changes made. Concerned about the future of No. 2719, the Museum had hoped the city would consider curatorial standards in the contract extension. A memo to councilors listed the following:
  • Four sided/indoor environmental protection
  • Security and Safety concerns for the artifact and the public
  • Monitoring of the artifact
  • Insurance and Legacy Preservation (Review of the National Register Designation)
  • Presentation and Interpretation of the artifact
The proposals were unanimously rejected.

During the discussion of the proposal, the sponsor of the resolution, Dave Strobel, commented that once the city buys the engine back from the Museum, then they could do anything they wanted with it. Strobel said the city could sell it for what it is worth (a million dollars was referenced), find other parties who would then run the engine out of Eau Claire or elsewhere or even scrap it, although scrapping is highly unlikely. He further mocked the original purchase price paid by the Museum ($2) saying he wouldn’t sell his toy train for that amount.

The ball is now in the Lake Superior Railroad Museum’s court. The museum’s board of directors will meet next week to discuss the issue. If the board decides not to grant the contract extension and the city buys 2719 back Aug. 3, costs for the city could escalate. Since it would no longer be museum property, storage fees could be charged. When the engine is moved, the museum would incur costs in moving equipment, switching out the steam locomotive, and wages for employees involved in preparing the engine for the move that would have to be covered by the city.

If No. 2719 is returned to Eau Claire, it is unlikely it would ever run again. The Lake Superior Railroad Museum currently operates Duluth & Northeastern 2-8-0 No. 28, which was restored to service in 2017. Lake Superior Railroad Museum Executive Director Ken Buehler says that the museum’s plan was to restore No. 2719 to service when No. 28 is due for its federally mandated inspection and overhaul.

NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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