Minnesota steam locomotive operation delayed again

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Duluth & Northeastern 28, shown temporarily re-lettered Duluth, Missabe & Iron Range 332 in 2017 for a photo charter, will not operate this weekend as planned.
Steve Glischinski
DULUTH, Minn. – The Lake Superior Railroad Museum has announced that operations of Duluth & Northeastern 2-8-0 No. 28 planned for June 14-15 are cancelled. It’s the latest cancellation in what has become a hard luck story for the locomotive, which this spring was repainted and renumbered to its original configuration as Duluth, Missabe & Iron Range No. 332.

According Executive Director Ken Buehler, over the last year the museum’s steam crew rebuilt the pony truck pedestal jaw and journal boxes, and re-tired drive wheel set No. 3. This required dropping the wheels from the engine and doing extensive work on the timing of the value gear mechanisms.

Last week a hydrostatic test on the boiler was completed under the supervision of a Federal Railroad Administration inspector. According to the museum, due to personnel issues on the part of the FRA, only one inspector was on property and did not have an air quality monitor. A second inspector and the air quality monitoring device are both necessary for the internal inspection of the boiler as required by part 230 of FRA regulations.

On June 10 the museum was informed that the FRA inspector had not received the air quality monitoring device nor had the additional personnel to do the interior inspection of the boiler as was planned that day. Neither of these will be available until June 12.

That does not leave sufficient time to reinstall the throttle, fire up the engine for a test, and set the safety valves the museum says. This work had planned been planned for today and Wednesday, leaving time to run the engine this weekend.

Buehler says that because the hydro test was successful and the FRA signed off on it, the further tests are “routine.” He says the museum is planning on a full steam schedule in July, August, and September. In conjunction with the arrival and display of Union Pacific Big Boy No. 4014, the museum will add an additional steam weekend with No. 28/332 on July 20-21.

The delay is the latest setback for the engine, which was restored to service in 2017, but did not operate in 2018. Following the 2017 season the locomotive needed repairs to its driver tires and new bearings before operating again. While museum crews, mainly volunteers, worked to make the repairs, they ran out of time for it to run last year (partially due to delays in receiving necessary parts), and instead focused on getting the engine ready for 2019.

American Locomotive Co.’s Pittsburgh Works built No. 28 in 1906 for the Duluth, Missabe & Northern as No. 332. It was operated by successor Duluth, Missabe & Iron Range until 1955, when it was sold to short line Duluth & Northeastern based in Cloquet, which renumbered it 28. The locomotive remained in service on D&NE until 1964. It was donated to the museum in 1974.

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