Sunday, August 24, 2003The former Lake Superior & Ishpeming No. 21 steam locomotive seen recently at an obscure siding in the Lake Superior & Ishpeming west yards in Marquette. (Journal photo by Bud Sargent)
Historic engine about to move on down the line
By BUD SARGENT
Senior Staff Writer
MARQUETTE — A small piece of Upper Peninsula history is about to, well, pass into history.
No. 21, a 100-ton steam locomotive and coal tender that has been sitting on an obscure siding in the Lake Superior & Ishpeming Railroad’s west yard in Marquette for more than four decades, has been sold and will soon leave the area, LS&I President John Marshall said.
The new owner, a real estate developer and property manager from northern Wisconsin, is preparing to move the old locomotive to his home for restoration, Marshall said.
“These old engines, there aren’t a lot of them around anymore,” said Marshall, pointing to a black and white photo of No. 21 under full steam. “A lot of times these people like to buy them and renovate them. But it takes time and it takes money. A lot of money.”
No. 21 was among several dozen steam locomotives that operated in and around the central Upper Peninsula for more than half of the last century.
Michael Goodell of Augusta, Wis. purchased No. 21 in June, not from the LS&I, but from a John Slack of Park Falls, Wis., for about $30,000.
The purchase price was roughly equal to the scrap value of the engine and her accompanying coal tender, Goodell said. A passionate railroad buff, Goodell said he and his father will work on the renovation together.
Slack bought the engine from a scrap dealer at auction in 1984, Goodell said. The scrap dealer had obtained No. 21 from a Marquette-based tourist railroad which purchased it, and several other steam locomotives, from the LS&I in the late 1960s.
LS&I and a lot of railroads transitioned from steam to diesel power in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. As it was phased out, the LS&I steam locomotive fleet was sold.
In the case of No. 21, it was placed on the west yards siding and left there in about 1959.
Many of the other LS&I locomotives were used on a Marquette to Big Bay tourist run in the late 1960s to early 1980s.
The Marquette and Huron Mountain Railroad was a short line outfit that sought to cash in on the area’s rich railroad history.
T- shirts and other memorabilia were hawked in the old depot off Lakeshore Boulevard; the train ride included an opportunity for passengers to put coins down on the track which were flattened by the passing locomotive and cars.
From the late 1960s to about 1984, the line used several of the former LS&I steam locomotives to haul carloads of tourists back and forth between the depot and Big Bay. No. 21, however, was not used and remain parked in the west yards.
After 1984, the locomotives including No. 21 were sold to various vendors across the country via the scrap auction.
Slack, who could not be reached for comment, purchased No. 21 and several other locomotives. However, it remained on the siding until Goodell purchased it about two months ago.
Renovation will take eight to 10 years and cost upwards of $100,000 to complete.
Local railroad historian Charles York of Marquette was pleased to learn that something was going to be done with No. 21, even if that meant it was leaving the area.
“It’s a good idea to try to fix it up. It is a part of the history of the area,” he said.
With boiler inspections and certifications, York cautioned that getting the locomotive back in operation will be expensive.
“All of that costs money,” he said. “It’s possible to do it.”
The engine will likely be moved on three flat-bed trucks in the next several months, Goodell said.
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