City of Eau Claire buys back Soo Line No. 2719

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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. – The city of Eau Claire has exercised its option to repurchase Soo Line 4-6-2 No. 2719 from the Lake Superior Railroad Museum, paving the way for the eventual move of the Pacific back to the city for display. The purchase price is $4.

The locomotive has been in Duluth since 2006, and operated on the museum’s North Shore Scenic Railroad from 2007 to 2013 when it came due for its mandatory federal inspection and overhaul.

Under terms of a contract with the city reached in 2015, the locomotive was sold to the museum for $2, but with the stipulation that the city could repurchase the engine within three years. That three-year term is up Aug. 3. In June the city council passed a resolution calling for the city to buy back the engine.

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 began restoration work. It was returned to service in 1998. With no railroads available to operate the engine in the Eau Claire area, in 2006 the Pacific was moved to Duluth.

Now the city must remove the engine from the museum and transport it to Eau Claire. The city has estimated the cost of the move at around $35,000, but the museum has gotten quotes that put the cost to load and move it by flatcar at close to $120,000. Then the city will have to build a structure for the engine and get it from the railhead to the display area.

The clock is already ticking on the move. The museum intends to charge the city $100 a day for storing No. 2719, and also asked Eau Claire to insure the locomotive since it is no longer owned by the museum.

When No. 2719 returns to Eau Claire, it is unlikely it will ever run again. The Lake Superior Railroad Museum 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 came due for its federal inspection and overhaul.

The Soo purchased No. 2719 from American Locomotive Co. in May 1923, at a cost of $47,091.64. No. 2719 and its sister No. 2718 (now on display at the National Railroad Museum in Green Bay, Wis.) gained a measure of fame pulling excursion trips in the late 1950s. The Minnesota Railfans’ Association chartered the two engines for several trips from Minneapolis into western Wisconsin. On June 21, 1959, No. 2719 pulled the last steam-powered train on the Soo Line, a round trip excursion from Minneapolis to Ladysmith, Wis. In 1960 it was donated to Eau Claire, which was located on a Soo Line branch from Chippewa Falls, Wis.
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