Concerns Over Lease Sideline Saginaw #2

The Board of Directors released the following update on Saginaw Timber Company #2:

At Mid‑Continent’s Board of Directors meeting held on December 10, 2016, after a long discussion, a majority of the Board voted, pursuant to the terms of the lease, not to run the Saginaw #2 as a part of its steam program. The Board of Directors’ primary concern is the potential large financial liability in running the Saginaw #2 as the Museum is immediately responsible for all repairs to the engine during the term of the lease. The lease does not require the Lessor to give any warranties on the workmanship of repairs made to the engine. In addition the Board of Directors is committed to running Museum owned engines, not privately owned engines, and at the present time does not believe, with the high cost of maintaining and running steam locomotives, that two engines can be run at the same time.

One director explains, “This was not an easy decision to make. It was not a black-and-white situation and there are several issues that had to be considered. All options were looked at. In the best interest of the museum, the financial liabilities had to take priority. Lease costs with the obligation of fifteen years for maintenance and with no warranties whatsoever was the main reason that made the decision necessary.”

Arbitration regarding the #2’s lease is ongoing.

Saginaw Timber 2 Stretches Her Legs

Written by Ken Hojnacki

On May 8th, the final FRA inspection was done on the Saginaw Timber #2.  The internal boiler inspection found the boiler and the mudring very clean.  With inspections completed to the satisfaction of the inspector, final FRA authorization will be complete upon submission of the final Form 4 boiler specification report which should happen shortly.

While the 2 was in the enginehouse over the inspection pit, Skip Lichter checked over the running gear and made minor adjustments to the driving box cellars.  With the internal inspection out of the way, the throttle valve could be reinstalled and the new steam dome cover put into place.

On May 14, Saginaw Timber 2 project leader Ken Ristow gathered a group of volunteers including Kyle Gherke, Richard Potthast, Ed Ripp, Kevin Pickar and Ken Hojnacki to complete the reassembly from winter storage, fill the boiler and tender with water, and light the first fire of 2016.  A long day saw steam finally reached by mid-afternoon and before the end of a long day, all three safety valves were set and tested.  The 2 was ready to stretch her legs.

On May 18th, the engine was fired up and early in the afternoon, she left the shop track for the mainline under her own power since 2000.  Two runs were made from the crossing at the depot (MP 0.46) to the Yard Limit and back to see how everything performed.  Each time, temperatures of axles and bearings were made and recorded to monitor performance.  The locomotive then proceeded to Devil’s Chair (MP 2.04) where again, temperature checks were made.  Finally, a trip was made to LaRue (MP 2.97) and back, stopping for temp checks periodically.  The locomotive was then put in the enginehouse with a short list of items for attention the next day.

On Thursday, May 19, final adjustments were made, lubrication completed and the locomotive was once more pulled outside the enginehouse and fired up around noon.  While the volunteers enjoyed lunch, pressure was raised for another round of test runs.  Around 2:30, the 2 whistled off for LaRue.  Again, stops were made at Devil’s Chair and LaRue to check temperatures on the trip out and back to North Freedom.  The adjustments that were made that morning addressed the previous day’s issues and the next trip saw the locomotive run from North Freedom all the way to Quartzite Lake (MP 3.72) and return.  While at Quartzite, previous clearance measurements at the west switch were verified, confirming over ten feet of clearance to the end of track for run around movements.  The 2 returned to North Freedom at track speed, at which time, everything was running cool.

Saginaw Timber #2 at Devil's Chair

Still lettered for later owner Polson Logging Co., the Saginaw Timber Company #2 pauses at Devil’s Chair during a test run. May 19, 2016. Ken Hojnacki photo.

A small number of visitors were on hand to witness our movements in the yard and some followed us down the track.  The whistle in the wind brought a number of local residents who were thrilled to see steam back on the line.

Saginaw Timber #2 performed well.  She was free steaming at the new pressure of 180psi, 30lbs more than her previous pressure.  The additional pressure will ensure the 2 will be able to pull any train required of her with ease.  Ken Ristow said the locomotive ran freely and easier with each run and that the exhaust was square, meaning the valves permitting steam into and out of the cylinders were set properly with no lengthy adjustments needed.  Only a few minor tweaks are anticipated at this point.  No cars were pulled during these test runs as the crew wanted to ensure there were no problems with the running gear before a load was applied.  There may be the possibility of another day of testing prior to the start of the regular operating season and those tests may involve cars behind her.

In all, Skip was pleased the test runs were so successful and no major problems were encountered.  In addition to Skip as Chief Mechanical Officer of the Saginaw Timber #2, the train crew of Ken Ristow, Ken Hojnacki, Kevin Pickar and Richard Colby, were assisted with a lot of elbow grease by Jim Connor, Dave Wantz, Chuck Ham, Rick Peters and John Risley.

Editor’s Note: No timetable is in place for when the #2 may operate in passenger service. Any such announcements will be made at


FRA Test Successful, Fine Tuning Still Ahead

Saginaw Timber Company #2 (a.k.a. Polson Logging Company #2) has provisionally passed its important Federal Railroad Administration test. The test took place on Thursday, August 13th. Along with an overall passing grade from the inspector was a list of several mechanical items still in need of tweaking before #2 will be legally allowed to haul passengers. Project volunteer Ken Hojnacki elaborates:

“The Saginaw Timber Co. #2 successfully completed the important inspection phase of its return to service on August 13th. The inspector reviewed specific safety and mechanical items and approved the 2 to proceed with break-in runs and fine tuning of the locomotive to complete the next phase of the FRA compliance requirements. There are still minor items that need to be addressed. There has been no discussion of when the 2 will pull its first revenue train as this will depend on a number of factors including final FRA approval and any adjustments needed after road testing.”

Having the #2 this close to being mechanically complete is exciting, but there are still important infrastructure and administrative hurdles to overcome before #2 pulls any passengers. These too will take some time – whether a lot or a little not clear. As a privately owned locomotive operated under lease, some of the upcoming steps involve discussions between the locomotive’s private owners and a museum committee. These discussions are private matters between the two parties and, as such, details of those matters will not be discussed on this website. Unfortunately this may result in a relative lack of publishable information for a while regarding overall progress, although mechanical progress updates are still planned.

While it may be impossible at this time to give an accurate estimate of when #2 will again pull revenue passenger trains, with the 2015 operating season now down to less than two months remaining (excluding the one-weekend Santa Express event later in the year), the odds of catching a ride behind #2 in 2015 is becoming increasingly slim. Although steam train rides at Mid-Continent might not be in the cards for the 2015 season, museum visitors and webcam viewers may still be able to catch glimpses of #2 under steam during occasional break-in runs as mechanical fine tuning work is carried out during the coming weeks.

Saginaw Timber #2 in steam.

Saginaw Timber Co. #2 (a.k.a. Polson Logging #2) outside Mid-Continent’s engine house, steamed up for the FRA test. Aug. 13, 2015. Ken Hojnacki photo.

Smokebox closeup

Saginaw Timber Co. #2 during FRA steam test. Aug. 13, 2015. John Risley photo.

No. 2 Readied for FRA Test

The FRA (Federal Railroad Administration) test scheduled for tomorrow, Thursday, August 13 has led to a big push to get the Saginaw Timber Company #2 (a.k.a. Polson Logging Co. #2) ready for its big day. This test is what all the previous tests have been building to – getting an FRA-approved steam locomotive capable of operating.

Project Volunteer John Risley related the progress as of late Sunday evening, August 9th:

Very productive week as work continues on the #2. Dave Wantz has been down at Mid-Continent for the last two weeks or so, Jim Eng has been down multiple times in last two weeks or so. During the week I think on Friday Jim E., Dave W., Kyle G., sorry can’t remember the other fellow who helped install pistons. Pistons made an emergency trip to machine shop for a few .001 to be removed. Brought back a few hours later and installed. Saturday crew was Dave W., Chuck Ham, Stephen Lentz, Ed Ripp, Skip [Lichter] and myself. This day’s project was setting up a pump to pump oil from tank car into the #2s oil tank. While not the best it worked well and will do in a pinch. The tank was almost empty so it took 2+ hours to fill, if the tank had been filled as it has been in the past it would of taken an hour or so. This is not a permanent system, but it took us a few hours to put this temporary system together. We still have no permanent system for water, coal or oil for steam engines. In this picture [below] Chuck is manning the oil line that is transferring from tank car to tender. The line needs to be manned at all times in case of any kind of malfunction. The new hose reel was plumbed up on top of tender. Oil burners seldom start fires like coal burners do, but this will allow us to fight minor fires along the tracks.

The second picture is from today [Sunday 8/9/15]. Skip is adjusting the safety (pops) valves, while most things went very well today we still have one safety valve that did not cooperate, even after a couple of attempts to correct its sassy nature. This will be replaced all together. Tomorrow if all goes well. Today’s crew consisted mostly of Ed Ripp who tended to the boiler most of the day and did a super job of helping. Dave, Chuck, Richard Colby and I were pretty much gophers and we did odd jobs and tried to look important. All tools and unnecessary parts, junk, water bottles, chords and hoses were removed from the locomotive. Including the coal firing rakes. Even with the pistons installed we could not go anywhere except where we were on the engine house lead. Air compressor, hydrostatic lubricater, dynamo and lights were run and tested, column bolts on tender trucks were snugged up. Engine brakes were adjusted. We tested the pistons and valves to see if they were adjusted correctly and they were. We cannot begin extensive testing until the FRA gives permission to do so. Had a few visitors from town that came down to see the commotion and a number of patrons came back and were awed by what they discovered happening down by the engine house. One very little boy knew it was Skip’s engine making the noise so he got grandma to take him down to Mid-Continent to see for himself. Grandma and the little boy were about as excited as we were.

One more pre-FRA inspection update has just come in from Chuck Ham, project volunteer:

It’s almost a LOCOMOTIVE!! Monday and Tuesday, August 10th and 11th, were spent working on all of the items on the punch list. It seemed like for every two we completed there was one more to add. But the list is getting shorter as the items critical to the FRA Inspection are completed and checked off. The locomotive was steamed up both days to check all of the valves and plumbing for leaks and needed adjustments. The most critical items were the safety, or “POP” valves. We had one that simply refused to work correctly. After much study of the literature and some hard work, the final “pop” valve was adjusted and checked off the list. Also, after much fussing, the hydrostatic lubricator was finally operational, feeding a steady stream of steam oil to the air compressor and the cylinders. Monday’s crew included myself, Dave Wantz, Robert Doench, Jim Eng, Richard Colby, Ken Ristow and Skip. On Tuesday steam guru Gary Bensman joined the group. His extensive expertise and experience helped greatly, especially for prioritizing the items to be worked on. Also present was the water chemist who was testing the water in the boiler and tender to develop the treatment program. Late Tuesday the last major item was completed and the loco was ready to move. With Ken Ristow at the throttle, Skip as fireman and Robert Doench on the ground as brakeman, the Locomotive was carefully moved back and forth several times on the Engine House lead. No major problems were noted, but several more items were put on the to-do list. Skip is confident that all of the remaining items on the list necessary for the FRA inspection will be completed by noon on Thursday [August 13th] when the inspector was expected to arrive.

Below photos taken August 10, 2015 by Brian Allen.

The locomotive’s return date to museum passenger train service is not yet determined.

Second Steam Test of 2015 Brings More Adjustments

As the Saginaw Timber Company #2’s (a.k.a. Saginaw Timber Co. #2) Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) test date draws near, volunteers have pressed onward in an effort to make sure the locomotive is ready. Once again, volunteers John Risley and Ken Hojnacki provide updates from the Engine House. John provides the first update:

“Was down at Mid-Continent on Thursday 7/30/15. Had a great crew working this day. Skip, former CMO Jim Eng, Dave Wantz, Kyle Gehrke and myself. Skip tried to keep us in tools and supplies and applied USMC Drill Instructor techniques to keep us working and on task. He also finished a few things off our To-Do list. Jim worked on pistons, bracket for blow off pipe, jig for installing pistons and a host of other things. The new safety pop was installed and is ready to be tested. Dave worked doing lathe work and other odd jobs, I did some misc welding, Kyle did a little brazing on injector pipe and worked where needed… None of this is real exciting stuff other than we keep getting closer every day. I left at 7:00 PM and Skip and Dave were just finishing up, though Dave may have worked into the wee hours after that. He has been known to do that. My camera is in the car yet and don’t think any of the pics are worth posting… What I really liked about this day was the crew we had. Everybody working together but on separate components, until a second set of hands was needed. Working with a good bunch of guys is really a reward in itself. Was talk of another steam up this weekend to test leak repairs and the new pop?

“There were a few people coming around the shop on Thursday asking “Where’s the #2″? [They] were allowed to walk in the shop and see some of the work being done that day. A few people just tried to see inside but they were looking for the #2. We are not out of the woods yet, but this is downright exciting after all these years to see the fruits of our labor about to come alive. As a kid and later a somewhat confused young man I got to witness a number of locomotives and cranes come to life for the first time since coming to MC. The excitement of a steam locomotive fired up is awesome, but to see one come out of the shop for the first time in 15 years after such major repairs and a lot of blood, sweat and tears is truly experiential. To those who are watching from the sidelines I invite you to come and witness this coming events of testing and break in periods that will follow.”

Ken Hojnacki picks up the action that occurred during the weekend that followed:

“Saturday August 1 found Skip Lichter, Ken Ristow, Bob Doench, Jim Eng, Kyle Gehrke and me doing another steam up on the 2. The target was finalizing adjustments to the pop valves. Unfortunately, we will have to change one out as it just wouldn’t behave. The air compressor was again tested and governor settings were made. Bob Doench did the unenviable job of cleaning off the top of the tender and scraping years of paint and goo off the end boards. He and Skip also installed the fire hose reel on the tender and we tried the water pump with Bob manning the hose. While we shouldn’t have any lineside fires with an oil burner, we want to know if works. Such hoses were important with railroads running through the woods to provide assistance should a lineside fire start by any means. Jim Eng worked on the pistons in preparation of installation this coming week. There are lots of nuts to still attached and tighten and cotter pins to install, so if you’re around most any weekday or next weekend, see Skip. As Pete Deets [C&NW 1385 Task Force member] is fond of saying, ‘We can do this.'”