Oct 1, 1998

Information about the rebuilding of Milwaukee Road “Northern” steam locomotive #261 from the”Friends of the 261″ Inc.

5,200 Miles!

261 travels ten states on BNSF, TC&W, WC

A tired but happy steam crew pulled into Minneapolis on September 13, 1998 as Milwaukee Road 4-8-4 #261 returned from a 5,200-mile journey over the Burlington Northern & Santa Fe Railway. 261 had been employed by BNSF to pull its 1998 “Employee Appreciation Special” (EAS) which offers rides over the railway for employees and their families. 1998 was the second year for the special, which travels to a different part of the system each summer. In 1998, BNSF chose the northern part of its system for the special, and requested 261 for power. This years’ trip employed 14 cars from the BNSF executive train fleet plus 261’s tool and concession cars.

The train operated between August 8 and September 7, beginning in Minneapolis and ending in Topeka, Kan. at the arumal Topeka Railroad Days. Over 15,000 passengers were carried over the month of EAS operation. Among the highlights of the lengthy trip was journeying into North Dakota and eastern Montana, trip on 261 ‘s “home” Milwaukee Road rails from Appleton, Minn. to Aberdeen, S.D. and hauling hundreds of employees down the former Burlington Route’s famed “triple track” speedway out of Chicago. The EAS also operated on former Santa Fe lines between Chicago, Kansas City and Topeka.

At the conclusion of the EAS, 261 pulled excursions out of Topeka for Railroad Days, then returned home with a public trip co-sponsored by the Camerail Club of Omaha from Kansas City to Minneapolis, with overnight stops in Lincoln, Neb. and Sioux Falls, S.D. Operationally, the EAS trips
went off without a hitch, with 261 performing flawlessly. To show off the new BNSF paint scheme and to backup 261, the railway inserted a diesel into the EAS course of the EAS.


Trips for BNSF employees weren’t the only excursions pulled by 261 this season. On May 16-1 7 the locomotive pulled trips over the Twin Cities & Western between Chanhassen and Olivia, Minn. a 146-mile round trip . In June, the locomotive traveled Wisconsin Central rails from the Twin Cities to Chicago, then was scheduled to pull round trips from Chicago to Galesburg, Ill. on June 27-28. Things went well on the morning of June 27 with 261 blasting out consist.

However, the original diesel had some mechanical problems, and eventually four different diesels were used over the of Chicago Union Station, but one of 261 ‘s side rod bearings soon began running hot. Even though 261 itself was running well, as a precaution the locomotive was operated at reduced speed into Galesburg, with a diesel taking the train back to Chicago. An inspection revealed some scoring on the bearing and the steam crew worked all night at BNSF’s Galesburg shop to turn and smooth it. The work was completed in time for 261 to pull the excursion train back to Chicago on June 28. The quick recovery and professionalism of the steam crew impressed many officials.

After the Galesburg trips 261 ferried north over WC rails to Green Bay, Wis. where it handled shuttle excursions between Green Bay and Wrightstown for the National Railroad Museum. The steam locomotive then ferried back to Minneapolis. “We could never have accomplished all we did without the cooperation of the railroads, our steam crews, the Camerail Club, and all the “Friends of the 261″ volunteers,” said Steve Sandberg, chief operating officer. Special thanks must go to Jim Schwinkendorf of BNSF, who set up and managed the EAS trips, Jeff Schmid and Warren Schells, who served as BNSF train directors for the trips, Steve Sandberg, who coordinated the operation, and
the Camerail Club.

261 steam team profile

Ed Selinsky has been with the 261 steam team almost since the beginning of the project. He met Steve Sandberg in February, 1992 on the day 261 was being pulled from the National Railroad Museum in Green Bay. Ed volunteered to assist the Minneapolis-based steam team while they were in town. The six-week stay in Green Bay grew into six months. As Ed recalls, “Once I was really involved in the project I knew I had to see it through to completion.” Regular trips to Minneapolis continued after the locomotive was moved there for the final year of rebuilding.

Ed’s railroading heritage goes back a long way. Both his father and grandfather worked for the Chicago and North Western Railroad. “My dad started on the North Western in 1926 and began a lifelong hobby of railroad photography at the same time. My earliest recollections of life while growing up in the early 1950’s are of running around with my father in his ’37 Pontiac to get roster shots of steam motive power before it was scrapped.” Ed’s first cab ride on C&NW # 490 left an indelible impression. “I clearly recall, like it was yesterday, the friendliness of the crew and the blast of heat from the firebox when the doors were swung open.”

Ed’s work history includes stints at the National Railroad Museum in Green Bay, maintenance worker on a private railroad car, and five summers working on the Chicago and North Western while he was in college. One of those summers included a stint on the “RIP” track which proved to be a valuable experience that translated when rebuilding 261 ‘s tender trucks and locomotive running gear. Other summers working as a yard clerk and servicing passenger trains gave him a good working knowledge of railroading. As the 261 was being rebuilt, Ed read everything he could get his hands on about the mechanics of steam power and applied this knowledge to the project. He also studied firing manuals and was trained as one of the regular firemen for the 261. Ed is well known by photographers as one of firemen who can really put on a show during photo runs.

Ed continues to be a regular and teacher of apprentice firemen.He was on the core crew who successfully operated 261 pulling the BNSF Employee Appreciation Special in August and September. In his “other life,” Ed lives in Green Bay with his wife, Mary Jane, and their children, the oldest of whom recently made them proud grandparents for the first time. He is a musician and music director for St. Elizabeth Seton Parish in Green Bay, and a founding member and bass player of the band Charisma.

New 261 videos from Goodheart Productions

Two new videos have been produced by Goodheart Productions, featuring Milwaukee Road 261. “Steam On The Wisconsin Central” features highlights of steam operations over the nation’s largest regional railroad. Locomotives featured include 261, Frisco 1522, Northern Pacific 328, and Soo Line 1003.

“If It’s Tuesday, It Must Be Punxsutawney”is a look at what it takes to get a large steam locomotive over the road in today’s all-diesel environment. The video features 261’s special moves between Scranton, Pa. and Chicago in 1996.

The WC video runs 46 minutes; “Punxsutawney” 56 minutes. Each costs $29.95 plus $3.00 shipping and handling; the “Punxsutawney” video will not be available until November 1. 1998. The videos can be ordered from the “Friends” at 4322 Lakepoint Court, Shoreview, MN 55126. Remember to order your Goodheart 261 videos from the “Friends” since all proceeds go toward the continuing maintenance and operation of Milwaukee Road 261. And with the Holidays coming, 261 videos make great gifts.

 “Friends” acquires two more coaches

“Friends of the 261” has purchased two more coaches for use on 261 excursions. The coaches, numbers 442 and 443, were built in 1947 by American Car & Foundry for the Central of Georgia Railway as 541 and 542. The cars were purchased by the Algoma Central Railway in 1973, and used on the famous Agawa Canyon Tour Train operating out of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.

It is expected the pair will enter service in 1999 after both are equipped with new air conditioner units. One car will receive a new diesel generator, which will be used to power both. If funds are available plans call for both coaches, along with two already in the 261 fleet, to be painted in Milwaukee Road’s famous orange and maroon colors, making a matching “Hiawatha” excursion consist for 261 to pull. Bids are now being accepted from contractors to paint the cars.

New membership brochure

A new, full color, “Friends of the 261” brochure has been produced to encourage membership in the “Friends.” Three thousand copies of the new brochure were printed at no charge by A to Z Printing and Publishing, Inc. of Skokie, ID. The brochure was designed and pre-pressed by Graphic Composition Inc. of Skokie, also at no charge.

The “Friends” would like to express their gratitude to these organizations for their generosity, without which the new brochure could not have been produced. This new membership tool was assembled in time for the BNSF trips, and it is hoped it will result in many new members coming on board. Currently, “Friends” membership currently stands at 500.

1999 membership dues are due!

The “Friends of the 261” operate on a calendar year, which means 1999 dues are owing. You won’t want to miss a single update of our 1999 operations or

any issues of “Northern Lines.” To save postage, we do not send individual dues notices so remember to send in your check now. Individual membership is only $25 .00 per year, however all donations above and beyond that amount will go toward the continued operation of the 261.

Dues are as follows:
Individual Membership $25.00
Corporate Membership $100.00
Lifetime Individual $261.00
Lifetime Corporate $500.00

Send your check or money order to:
SHOREVIEW, MN 55126-3118





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