Montana museum aims to restore oldest surviving Willamette steam locomotive

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Anaconda Co. No. 7
Heritage Museum at Fort Missoula
MISSOULA, Mont. – A small museum in Montana is raising money to restore the oldest surviving Willamette locomotive in existence.

Anaconda Co. No. 7, a three-truck Willamette built-in 1923, has been on display outside of the Historical Museum at Fort Missoula since the 1980s. Plans call for cosmetic restoration and the construction of a shed before the 100th anniversary of the locomotive’s construction. However, the man leading the restoration says the big geared locomotive is in surprisingly good shape and, with time and money, could be an ideal candidate for a complete operating restoration in the future.

After key patents for Lima’s Shay locomotives expired in the 1920s, the Willamette Iron and Steel Works in Portland, Ore., began building geared locomotives. The locomotives were almost identical to Shays, except for a few additions like superheaters and welded boilers. The locomotive in Missoula was built for the Western Lumber Co. as its No. 3 and bounced around to different logging operations in western Montana through the 1920s. In 1928, Western Lumber was purchased by the Anaconda Co. and No. 3 became No. 7. The locomotive worked for another 20 years, primarily in the Blackfoot River Valley northeast of Missoula.

After the locomotive was sidelined by trucks in 1948, it sat at Anaconda’s mill in Bonner. In 1954, it briefly returned to service to be used in the film “Timberjack,” about two rival logging camps. The locomotive was later put on display outside of Anaconda’s mill in Bonner until it was donated to museum in the mid-1980s.

Jessie Rogers, communications director for the museum, says the locomotive is a Missoula “icon” that deserves a fresh coat of paint. “We want to preserve it for the next 100 years,” Rogers tells Trains News Wire.

Larry Ingold is heading up the effort and retired five years ago as vice president and general manager of the Sierra Railroad. He now lives south of Missoula. Ingold and a team of volunteers have been working every-other Saturday to dismantle and clean the locomotive. Earlier this year, they even got the locomotive’s gears to turn over on compressed air, the first time that has happened since the 1950s.

“I was really surprised that it’s in such good shape,” he says.

The museum is hoping to raise $100,000 to pay for the shelter and keep the restoration moving forward. As of this week, they have risen more than $15,000.

For more information, or to donate, go to

NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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