Washington tourist line to operate without steam this season

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SEATTLE — The address for the website of the Chehalis-Centralia Railroad tourist excursion service in southwestern Washington is “steamtrainride.com.”

Unfortunately for the Chehalis-Centralia, there’s no steam locomotive at the moment to pull its trains.

The Chehalis-Centralia had been relying on a 1916 Baldwin 2-8-2 Mikado.

“Our engine was getting ready for annual inspection and testing when we found major issues with the firebox,” says the organization’s treasurer Rick Burchett, who is also a locomotive engineer with the tourist line. “Much of it is now gone. The entire door sheet and three stay bolts up from the bottom of the side sheets are out.”

Replacements are being manufactured using the old parts as patterns.

The locomotive, No. 15 (built originally for the Cowlitz, Chehalis & Cascade), won’t be back in operation this season.

“The latest estimate is next spring, although we are pushing the contractor and our folks to do better,” Burchett says. “We are doing what we can ourselves,” under the supervision of Steven Butler of Morton Locomotive Works.

Repair work could cost $120,000, Burchett adds, “half of which we have.” The organization is seeking donations and plans a fundraising event later this year. Other options including grant applications are also being studying.

In the meantime, the Chehalis-Centralia is continuing with its regular schedule of excursions and special events including murder-mystery dinner trains. An effort to lease a steam locomotive fell through.

The Chehalis-Centralia is currently using a backup diesel, a General Electric 65-ton locomotive that originally operated at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton.

With no steam locomotive to draw visitors, “Ridership is down but not significantly,” Burchett says. “We know of some that leave before they buy tickets, but surprisingly not that many. We encourage folks to ride to see the [Chehalis] valley which also helps generate funds” for work on No. 15.

The Chehalis-Centralia began in 1986 to restore to operating condition a logging locomotive that had been on stats display in a Chehalis park. Passenger operations began in 1989. Trains now operate over a 10 miles of former Milwaukee Road line now owed by the Port of Chehalis.

The organization also has in its collection a 1917 Baldwin 2-8-0 No. 25, which was donated to it after being on static display in a Centralia park for years.

“The restoration is proving to be a long and expensive project,” the Chehalis-Centralia says on its website. “Many missing parts need to be made and replaced. The locomotive is in extremely poor condition.”

NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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