Dec 19, 2017

It’s dues time again for the Friends of the 261, but before I speak briefly about our activities and goals, I want to say thank you to all our members and friends for your generous support over the years. Thanks to your dues and donations, we’ve been able to keep 261 in operation, update our car fleet, and buy new cars such as the recently acquired buffet/diner Henry Hudson.

I also have exciting news for you: we have purchased two dome cars from Canadian National! The cars are former Western Pacific California Zephyr dome coach Spirit of Superior and Algoma Central dome coach observation 901. The cars were last used on CN’s Algoma Central Railway. The WP car was named Silver Palace and was delivered to Western Pacific by the Budd Co. in 1948. It is Amtrak compatible and will enter service in 2018. The ACR car is a blunt end dome observation built for Union Pacific by American Car & Foundry in 1955. It will need some work before entering service.

In addition to the dome car purchase, there were several other exciting developments for your organization in 2017. Among the highlights were:

  • Operating No. 261 on the Red River Valley & Western Railroad to celebrate their 30th Anniversary, the first time 261 has run on RRVW
  • Fall Colors excursions with No. 261 on Twin Cities & Western and Minnesota Prairie Line
  • Operated our annual North Pole Express trips at St. Paul Union Depot carrying over 10,000 passengers
  • Acquired buffet-diner Henry Hudson
  • Completed the rebuilding of dome car Silver Club for the Lake Superior Railroad Museum
  • Ran three “Windy City” charters on Amtrak from St. Paul to Chicago
  • Continued our successful international tours with a visit to Ireland. Two more tours, to Germany and the Czech Republicand to Russia are planned in 2018
  • Overhauled sleeper Minnesota River with new sheet metal, partial repainting, updated the air brake system and performed the mandatory Amtrak truck roll out inspection
  • Sent several passenger cars to West Virginia to operate on New River Train excursions
  • Completed roof repairs to Milwaukee Road business car “Milwaukee” with new metal topped with a rubber truck bend liner coating
  • Performed required Amtrak repairs including new wheels under privately owned dome car Northern Sky.
  • Installed firebox grates from Union Pacific Big Boy No. 4014 in No. 261 to replace older grates that had worn out or were damaged by heat.

These are just a few of the activities the Friends of the 261 undertook in 2017. As you can imagine, keeping 261 under steam and maintaining our expanding car fleet to meet Amtrak standards is very expensive. For example, the new rubber truck bend liner coating for business car Milwaukee cost $5000! In light of this we are increasing our yearly regular dues from $25 to $30. This is the first time since the Friends was founded in 1992 that we’ve increased our dues, but rising costs have forced us to do so.

Thanks to your support, we are able to keep moving ahead. In 2018 we are planning more trips with 261, more car charters, and international tours. For the first time, 261 equipment will be traveling west in winter, heading to a private event in Seattle on January 27, and we will be selling tickets to members and friends. By renewing your membership, and making an additional donation, we will continue our progress.

Remember, your dues and donations are fully deductible under both federal and state income tax law, so if you act before the end of the year you can deduct the amount on your 2017 income tax return. You can renew and donate by sending the notice back by mail, or simply going to

Thanks again for your continuing support. I hope to see you on a Friends of the 261 excursion or charter in 2018!

Steve Sandberg
Friends of the 261
Chief Operating Officer

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