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Saginaw Timber Company #2 Turns 100
Baldwin Locomotive Works 2-8-2, December 1912-2012

Saginaw Timber Company #2 builder photo
Saginaw Timber Co. #2 at Mid-Continent Railway Museum.


In the Beginning...

As we celebrate the 100th birthday of Saginaw Timber Co. #2, one of the stars of Mid-Continent Railway Museum’s stable of locomotives, it is appropriate to look back on her rich history. While she may be most well-known now for carrying countless museum visitors from the Mid-Continent Railway Museum grounds to the end of track at Quartzite Lake and back between 1984 and 2000, her roots lie in the logging industry. Therefore, let us begin this story from the beginning.

To understand Saginaw Timber Company #2’s story, we must go back to the year 1848, 64 years before the locomotive was built. Gold was discovered in California and the California Gold Rush was on! This created a huge demand for timber as settlers poured into California. San Francisco area investors responded by investing in lumber mills throughout the Pacific Northwest. However, the difficulty in transporting the logs meant most logging was confined to areas within a few miles of the waterways large enough to support the shipping of logs. As a result, logging was mostly concentrated immediatly along Puget Sound and other easily accessible waterways during those early years. With the advent of logging railroads and locomotives like the #2, the inland regions were suddenly within reach. Industrious individuals did not hesitate to move forward.

Historical railroad maps of Washington can be viewed online at the Washington Secretary of State's Washington History webpage.

 

Saginaw Timber Company

Incorporated on March 18, 1908 and organized in 1909, the company took its name from an area on the Chehalis River located three miles southeast of Elma, Washington in southeast Grays Harbor County. In the following years, Saginaw Timber Company would build and operate 40 miles of railroad. In December of 1912 the Saginaw Timber Company received its newest locomotive to help bring timber down from the steep hills, our star from Baldwin Locomotive Works, Saginaw Timber Company #2.

Saginaw Timber Company #2 builder photo
Baldwin Locomotive Works builder's photo. December 1912.

map of location of Grays Harbor County in Washington State
Grays Harbor County (shown in red) and immediate surround area in Washington State is home territory for Saginaw Timber Company #2.

While geared locomotives (such as Mid-Continent’s Goodman Lumber Co. Shay #9) were extensively used on the Saginaw Timber Company lines and were excellent on the tight curves and steep grades found on the hill and mountain sides where Saginaw Timber Company logged, their low top-end speed made them somewhat one-dimensional in terms of use. Having a locomotive that offered a compromise between pulling power, turning radius and top-end speed were also useful – locomotives like Saginaw Timber Company #2. The 2-8-2 wheel configuration with 44-inch diameter drivers produced great pulling power. The use of flangeless, or “blind”, center drivers allowed the locomotive to negotiate 30-degree curves. (Meaning it can turn with a radius as tight as 193.2 feet. For comparison, Dodge, Ford and Chevy full-size pickup trucks all have turning radii of about 40 feet.) Last but not least, as an oil burner, the risk of trackside fires were greatly reduced compared to coal or wood-fired locomotives which produce hot cinders. A forest fire caused by a locomotive could be catastrophic to a logging railroad.

The #2 wears her original Saginaw Timber Company lettering once again after being restored to operation at Mid-Continent Railway Museum. Photo taken in 1985. Bill Raia photo.

The Saginaw Timber Company would go on to absorb several other logging companies and change names to Saginaw Logging Company and later to Saginaw Lumber Company before finally dissolving on February 14, 1947. However, the Baldwin 2-8-2 would leave Saginaw Timber Company well before. Some of the company’s abandoned railroad lines would be paved over and are used as roadways to this day.

View photos of the Saginaw Timber Company on the University of Washington's Digital Collections website.

 

The North Western Lumber Company

The North Western Lumber Company had begun logging in Grays Harbor County in 1882, although it was originally known as Simpson Lumber Company. The company was a joint venture by A.M. Simpson, a San Francisco lumber baron, and his agent, George Emerson. The company opened a mill in Hoquiam, WA on 300 acres of land which was simply known as Hoquiam Mill. Emerson's influence in the development of the town was substantial enough to earn him the title of “the Father of Hoquiam.”

In November of 1924, the North Western Lumber Company would purchase an American Locomotive Company 2-8-2T tank engine to work their line. Although an exact year is unknown, North Western Lumber Company and the Saginaw Timber Company would decide to make a locomotive swap. Historic photographs indicate this swap had taken place by the early 1930s. The 2-8-2T from North Western Lumber Co. became the new Saginaw Timber Co. #2, while the Baldwin 2-8-2 went to the North Western Lumber Company where it retained its #2 designation. The locomotive would continue to call North Western Lumber Co. home until 1939.

View photos of the North Western Lumber Company on the University of Washington's Digital Collections website.

Polson Logging #2 in 1938
The #2 out of service and being stored in Aberdeen, Washington toward the end of its ownership on the North Western Lumber Co. Photo taken in 1938. Harold A. Hill photo. Martin E. Hansen Collection.

 

Polson Logging Company

The locomotive’s next stop would be Polson Logging Company, also located in Hoquiam. Alex Polson had settled in Hoquiam in 1882 and established a logging interest. He would later be joined by Robert, his brother, in 1891 to form Polson Brothers Logging Company. In 1903 the company name would be shortened to just Polson Logging Company. The Polson brothers would go on to become the best established logging barons in the area, ultimately boasting ownership of two saw mills, a shingle mill, two mansions, 12 logging camps and 100 miles of logging railroad lines.

Polson Logging was no stranger to the #2’s design. In 1922, the company had been seeking to replace aging locomotives with a new one. The company’s master mechanic was familiar with the #2 from its time at nearby Saginaw Timber Company and knew it was exactly what the company needed at the time. He ordered Baldwin Locomotive Works to dust off the decade-old blueprints and build a new locomotive as a near-exact duplicate of the #2. This younger sibling to the #2 became known as Polson #70 which is restored and recently completed an overhaul to become operational at Mt. Rainier Scenic Railroad as Rayonier #70. The two Baldwin Locomotive Works siblings would come to be united under one banner with the #2’s arrival on the line in 1939 where it would be able to retain its #2 designation.

View photos of the Polson Brothers Lumber Company on the University of Washington's Digital Collections website.

Polson Logging #2. Photo taken at "Railroad Camp," the Polson Logging company headquarters near Hoquiam, WA April 13, 1947. Al Farrow Photo. Martin E. Hansen Collection.

 

Rayonier

In 1948 Polson Logging was bought out by Rayonier and along with it came ownership of #2 (and #70). Rayonier had first begun operations with a mill located in Shelton, WA in 1926 and was then known as Rainier Pulp and Paper Company, until its name change in 1937. Although the company’s beginnings were in Washington, most of its land holdings were in the southeastern United States. Not until after World War II did Rayonier begin rapidly expanding its holdings in Washington, including its purchase of the Polson Logging properties. The Rayonier name survived a later merger and exists still today as one of the largest land owners in the United States with 2.7 million total acres, 136,932 of those acres being in Grays Harbor County.

#2 on Rayonier
The #2 under Rayonier ownership. Martin E. Hansen Collection.

Rayonier #2 with Rayonier #90
The #2 (at right) with fellow Baldwin 2-8-2 Rayonier #90 built in 1926 (at left). The #90 is on display at Lumberman's Park in Garibaldi, Oregon. Martin E. Hansen Collection.

The #2 was kept busy hauling timber until Rayonier began the process of dieselization. Replaced by modern technologies, the #2 was sold yet again in 1962. After nearly a half century of dutifully shuttling logs throughout the Grays Harbor region of Washington, #2 would leave Hoquiam and the state behind for the last time.

Polson Logging #2 in 1938
Rayonier #2 under steam. Martin E. Hansen Collection.

 

Grand Traverse Northern Corp.

Number 2’s next assignment would require a nearly 2,300 mile journey from Grays Harbor. The new owner would be Grand Traverse Northern Corporation, although it was planned from the beginning to lease the locomotive to the Cadillac & Lake City Railway. The real story of the #2's time in the care of the Grand Traverse Northern Corp. was just getting it there.

The month-long journey of the #2 from Rayonier rails in Hoquiam, Washington to a facility in Marquette, Michigan would be documented in the November 1965 issue of Railroad Magazine in an article titled "Engine Messenger" by James I. Gertz. Gertz was a Rayonier employee sent to accompany the locomotive while in transit over the Northern Pacific and Soo Line railroads to maintain it and prevent vandalism. The journey began March 3, 1962 and entailed Gertz maintaining watch over the locomotive day and night, including sleeping on a mattress right in the cab next to cans of oil, grease, some spare parts and a few wrenches. Limited to tagging along on local freight trains and with a maximum allowed speed of 25 miles-per-hour, it proved to be a trying task more for the sake of duration than mechanical or vandalism issues. Gertz's problems along the way were mostly limited to rods running warm and curious railfans and railroad workers climbing aboard at all hours, interrupting his sleep. The #2 finally arrived at Marquette, MI on April 3, 1962.

 

Cadillac & Lake City Railway

The Cadillac & Lake City operated between its namesake cities in the northern half of Michigan’s lower peninsula. Although far from its Washington roots, the Cadillac & Lake City Railroad would have had an oddly familiar feel for the #2. The rail line had originally existed as a branch of the Grand Rapids & Indiana Railway. The railroad had stretched northward from Grand Rapids to the Mackinaw City and the Straits of Mackinac, ca. 1870-1873, in order to serve the area’s booming logging industry, harvesting the rich forests of white pines, oaks, maples and beech. Despite moving over halfway across the country, the then C&LC #2 was once again on a rail line originally built to serve the logging industry.

Aside from the logging industry connection, there is yet another “small world” connection. The Shay locomotive, which would be instrumental in opening up formerly inaccessible forests to rail lines, was invented in 1878 by a man named Ephraim Shay, a general store and sawmill owner in Haring, MI, located less than four miles from Cadillac. Shay’s early locomotives would be built at the Michigan Iron Works Company in Cadillac for a short time in the 1880s before production moved to the Lima Machine Works in Lima, Ohio. Many Shay-designed locomotives would go on to work side-by-side with the #2 at its various homes in Washington. The #2 would cross paths with a Shay yet again at Mid-Continent, sharing the museum with Goodman Lumber Company #9.

Despite the many historical connections to logging, the #2’s new task on the C&LC was far removed from its previous duties. The height of logging in the area had already passed by the early twentieth century and the original Grand Rapids & Indiana Railway was bought by the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1918. With much of the prime timber gone, the logging industry was not enough to sustain the economy and the railroad. Tourism became an important business and the area railroads began also catering to tourist, especially fishermen escaping the highly industrialized cities to the south for some outdoor rest and relaxation.

The C&LC Railway took over control of the Cadillac to Lake City line ca. 1963. The shortline was largely a tourist operation but also served local industries, which offered to slowly transition the locomotive to her emerging new role. The now-Cadillac & Lake City #2 would make her debut trip on the line May 22, 1965. While the #2 and the steam locomotives on the C&LC roster were used for limited amounts of freight service on occasion, most such work was left to the diesels, leaving the steamers for the tourist trains.

During this period, the #2 also was used in the filming of the 1969 film Gaily, Gaily starring Beau Bridges. Filming took place in the Chicago and Galena, Illinois areas in 1968. During the filming, the locomotive would be introduced to several cars from Mid-Continent’s collection that it would later join, including: Wisconsin Central #63 coach; Wisconsin Central “Oak Park” business car; Soo Line #957 first class coach; and Chicago, Burlington & Quincy #1900 (a.k.a. #1490) baggage car.

Cadillac & Lake City #2 hauling tourists
Postcard image of the #2 on the Cadillac & Lake City Railroad operating just east of North Cadillac, Michigan. Leon Foster photo. Eddie Gross Collection.
Cadillac & Lake City #2 with passengers posing
In a scene that would be repeated many times in the decades to come, a family poses for a picture next to the #2 while it is was on the Cadillac & Lake City Railroad on August 13, 1966. Note the modified position of the light on the tender. Esther Oberlin Photo. Eddie Gross Collection.
C&LC Postcard
Postcard scene from C&LC. Penrod Studios photo. Jeffrey Lentz collection.

Additional information and photographs of the Cadillac & Lake City Railroad are available at RailroadMichigan.com.

 

Private Ownership

The C&LC operation was discontinued in 1976, but by 1973 the #2 would begin another round of ownership changes. After the tenure on the C&LC, the #2 was purchased by Carl Ulrich. The locomotive was then shipped across Lake Michigan by ferry and transported to North Lake, WI where it would be repaired and later operate on the now-defunct Kettle Moraine Scenic Railway. This continued until Ulrich and Richard Hinebaugh, Kettle Moraine Scenic Railway's owner, had a disagreement and use of the #2 came to an end.

Ulrich then sold the #2 to Stewart Kuyper, president of Pella Windows corporation in July 1979. It is worth brief mention that Ulrich would immediately regret his decision to sell his locomotive and within a matter of weeks purchased Warren & Ouachita Valley Railroad #1 from two members of Mid-Continent. Kuyper’s plans included operating #2 from Pella to Des Moines, Iowa. The locomotive was moved to the Illinois Railway Museum (IRM) in Union, Illinois for re-working under the supervision of Dave Conrad. Instead of repairs taking place, Conrad instead advised Kuyper to find a different engine altogether. Kuyper would not have a chance to follow through on Conrad's suggestion. In all the ownership changes to date, this would be the shortest as Stewart Kuyper tragically passed away in 1980. Upon his death, Kuyper's family donated the #2 to IRM.

Illinois Railway Museum would not hold on to the locomotive very long. IRM approached Mid-Continent Railway Museum soon after, seeking to trade the #2 in return for Chicago Burlington & Quincy #4960 (now owned by Grand Canyon Railway), but no deal was reached. Later, seeking funds to build a car barn to move additional displays indoors, IRM placed the #2 up for auction on October 23, 1982.

A group of Mid-Continent members consisting of Skip Lichter, John Hucksdorf, John Berman, Frank Bartusek, Phil Hastings, and Harley Vodak pooled their resources to buy the locomotive, bringing it to North Freedom where it has remained since arriving a month later on November 22, 1982. After repairs were made to make the #2 operational it began being leased to Mid-Continent where it was frequently found in train service in its original Saginaw Timber Company #2 appearance. To honor its 1939-1948 era, the locomotive was relettered to Polson Logging #2 in 1999.

The #2 continued operating up until Snow Train weekend in February 2000 after which the locomotive was removed from service until it could be brought into compliance with the new Part 230 Federal Railroad Administration regulations. With the exception of a brief nine-day visit by Flagg Coal Company #75 in August 2011, Saginaw Timber Company #2 was the last steam locomotive to operate at Mid-Continent. Museum trains have since only been operated by diesel locomotives. It is expected that the #2 will also be the first steamer to return to active duty at Mid-Continent when repairs are completed.

Page of November-December 1982 Mid-Continent Railway Gazette announcing arrival of #2
Announcement of the arrival of the #2 at Mid-Continent in the Nov.-Dec. 1982 Mid-Continent Railway Gazette.

Since acquiring the #2 in 1982, Skip Lichter has slowly bought out his fellow partners. Today only Frank Bartusek remains as a co-owner. Lichter can usually be found working on the engine or in the machine shop on a near-daily basis. The locomotive is currently spread over two tracks just south of the Mid-Continent engine house with its frame occupying one track and boiler propped up on the other. Each passing train offers museum visitors the chance to inspect the latest progress made by Skip and the volunteers that assist him. Seeing a locomotive in kit form has drawn the attention of many museum visitors. If the hard-working Saginaw Timber Company #2 can garner this much interest while in pieces, it will indeed be quite the sight to behold when it is again under steam at Mid-Continent.

Saginaw Timber Company #2 at Mid-Continent
Restored to its original Saginaw Timber Company lettering, #2 is seen at Mid-Continent in this undated photo. Chuck Burnam photo.

A major revamp of Mid-Continent’s Steam Status page is underway which will include updates on the #2's restoration progress. In the meantime, you may find the latest updates on Facebook (HERE and HERE), while older updates are still available on the Steam Status page.

While the locomotive is privately owned, under lease arrangements Mid-Continent Railway Museum is responsible for the first $200,000 in restoration costs. If you wish to help Mid-Continent cover the expense of restoring the #2, please consider making a donation using our printable donation form. (Make sure to indicate Saginaw Timber #2 in the “Other” box). Mid-Continent Railway Museum is a non-profit educational corporation under 501(c)(3) IRS rules. All donations are tax-deductbile. An acknowledgement letter will be mailed to confirm your donation.

 

Written by Jeffrey Lentz ( )

Acknowledgements

In the process of creating this article, several inaccuracies were revealed in the existing Mid-Continent equipment roster website and Mid-Continent Compendium. Special thanks to Martin E. Hansen for his invaluable assistance with historical research and sharing his fine collection of photographs of photos from the #2's logging days. These errors would not have been able to be corrected without his assistance. Also thanks to Eddie Gross for offering to share his excellent collection of photos of the C&LC. Last, but not least, thanks to Skip Lichter and Linda Rowe for not only their assistance with the locomotive's ownership history, but also for all the work they have put in to help operate steam at Mid-Continent in the past and in the future.

Select References:

Evergreen State: Exploring the History of Washington's Forests

Saginaw Timber 2-8-2 "Mikado" Type Locomotives

Mid-Continent Compendium

Hoquim -- Thumbnail History

Rayonier.com

Lake City Chamber of Commerce - Lake City Area History

Cadillac & Lake City Railway - RailroadMichigan.com

Personal Account: Alex Huff (on Railway Preservation Network forum)

Personal Account: Skip Lichter (personal interview)

Mid-Continent Railway Gazette, November-December, 1982

Martin E. Hansen Personal Photo and Roster Collection

 

Related Reading:

Mid-Continent Railway Gazette: Logging Railroads of Wisconsin During the Golden Age

Rayonier by James Spencer