Apr 1, 2016

261 heading to Duluth in June

On Saturday, June 4, Milwaukee Road 261 will kick off the 2016 excursion season when its steams north from Minneapolis to Duluth, Minn. over BNSF Railway. The Duluth trip has become a tradition for Friends of the 261 excursion riders, and one of the most popular trips pulled by No. 261. The train will layover in Duluth at the Lake Superior Railroad Museum.

No. 261 will pull the excursion train from Minneapolis to Duluth traveling via BNSF Railway’s Hinckley and Lakes Subdivisions to the Museum. This scenic ex-Great Northern Railway route includes several high trestles and the long Grassy Point Drawbridge between Superior, Wis. and Duluth.

HEADING NORTH – Milwaukee Road No. 261 is traveling to Duluth, Minn. this June. Photo by Steve Glischinski.

The Friends have negotiated special hotel prices for the overnight stay in the Zenith City. Ticket prices include admission to the Lake Superior Railroad Museum. After overnighting at the museum, the excursion train will return to Minneapolis June 5 over the same route as the day before. For tickets and more information go to www.261.com


25th Anniversary Banquet set for April 29

It was 25 years ago that the first agreements were signed that led to Milwaukee Road 4-8-4 returning to service. To mark the occasion, the Friends of the 261 are holding a 25th Anniversary Banquet April 29 at Christos Restaurant at the Union Depot in St. Paul, Minn. Former Trains Magazine Editor Kevin P. Keefe will headline the banquet.

The banquet will help raise funds for the continuing maintenance and restoration of 261 and the passenger car fleet. Attendees will be able to see 261 steamed up on the depot tracks and walk through the passenger cars prior to the dinner. No. 261 will be at the depot to participate in Union Depot Train Days April 30 – May 1. Trains Magazine is a cosponsor of the event.

During the pre-banquet cash bar hour the Friends will be holding a Silent Auction to help support the continued operation of the 261. Items for auction will include cab rides, Lionel and Broadway Limited scale models of the 261, and other 261 memorabilia.

Keefe retired in March from his position as vice president-editorial for Kalmbach Publishing Co. and general manager for Trains Magazine. Keefe was the editor of Trains from 1992 until 2000, when he took on corporate responsibilities for Kalmbach.

Keefe will speak about the close ties between Trains Magazine, which was founded in 1940, and the Milwaukee Road – in particular No. 261. Keefe will show rare photos of Milwaukee Road steam and No. 261 from Kalmbach Publishing’s extensive David P. Morgan Library photo archives – some never before seen by the public.
Tickets for the banquet are $50 per person. The pre-banquet cash bar begins at 6 p.m.; with the banquet starting at 7 p.m. To purchase tickets go to www.261.com.

261 to headline Union Depot Train Days St. Paul Union Depot to celebrate 90th Anniversary

It was 1926 when construction was completed on the new Union Depot in St. Paul. Now, 90 years later, the Ramsey County Regional Railroad Authority is marking the occasion with “Union Depot Train Days” April 30 and May 1. Milwaukee Road 4-8-4 No. 261 will be the prime attraction at the event, offering cab tours and walk throughs of Friends of the 261 passenger equipment. The concession car will be open and selling souvenirs during the two-day event. On the evening of April 29, 261 and other equipment will be the subject of a night photo session at Union Depot. That same evening the Friends will hold a 25th Anniversary Banquet (see page 1).

Along with No. 261 will be two concession cars, Business Car Lamberts Point, and Skytop lounge observation Cedar Rapids. Along the depot boarding platforms, Amtrak will have its Exhibit Train open to tour. This multi-car train showcases Amtrak’s 45-year history and includes several interactive exhibits. It is the train’s first visit to Minnesota.

The Lake Superior Railroad Museum of Duluth is sending Soo Line FP7 No. 2500A to Train Days. Like No. 261, the 2500A once pulled passenger trains out of the depot. Nearby the Minnesota Transportation Museum will display ex-Great Northern SDP40 No. 325, which pulled the Empire Builder and Western Star out of the depot in the 1960s and early 1970s.

Along with No. 325 will be Northern Pacific Railway Post Office/Baggage/Coach No. 1102, available for visitors to walk through. The car represents the Railway Mail Service, which had a large presence at the depot. St. Paul Union Depot was once the third largest railway mail handling facility in the nation, second only to Chicago and New York.

Events inside the Waiting Room will include a special photography exhibit highlighting the depot’s history, a diesel locomotive simulator, model railroads and railroad vendors.

On April 30 a special multi-media railroad photography show, “Laker Rail” will feature photographs from rail photographers from across the country. Admission is $27 with funds going to help pay for 261’s visit to the Union Depot. A night photo session with 261 and Soo Line 2500A will also be held on the evening of April 29. For tickets to the photo session and Laker Rail go to Lakerrail.com.

261 getting mechanical work

PISTON WORK – Milwaukee Road No. 261 is getting new piston rings this spring. Photo by Robert M. Ball.

Over the winter and spring the Friends of the 261 are readying No. 261 for the 2016 excursion season at the shop in Minneapolis. One of the larger jobs is installing new piston rings on the locomotive. The 4-8-4 has 12 rings, six on each side. The rings date from the 261’s days of regular service on the Milwaukee Road.

Employees and volunteers are also conducting a small amount of work on 261’s firebox. The firebox was extensively overhauled during 261’s last rebuild between 2008 and 2013.

261’s first move this year will be a trip to the Union Depot in St. Paul for Train Days April 30-May 1. On June 4-5 the engine will pull a round trip over BNSF Railway from Minneapolis to Duluth.

Friends of the 261 rebuilding dome car for Lake Superior Railroad Museum

In an example of railroad historical groups cooperating for the common good, the Friends of the 261 is assisting in the overhaul of a dome car for the Lake Superior Railroad Museum. The car, former California Zephyr dome buffet/lounge dormitory “Silver Club” arrived at the Friends Minneapolis Junction shop in mid-December 2015. Friends of the 261 Chief Operating Officer Steve Sandberg said work began immediately after BNSF Railway delivered the car to the shop.

The Museum has contracted with the Friends to install new mechanical systems, a heating/air conditioning system, mount new windows in the dome, and put new wheels beneath the car.

The Budd Co. built Burlington No. 250, the “Silver Club,” in 1948 for the famous California Zephyr as a dormitory-buffet-lounge. As built, No. 250 had two dormitory rooms, one for the food steward, and one for the “Zephyrette,” who functioned as social directors, tour guides, baby sitters, and nurses on the train.

No. 250 was sold to Amtrak in 1971 and renumbered 9810; it was retired in October 1981. After passing through several owners, it was purchased by Dirk Lenthe of Fargo, N.D., who donated it to the Museum in 2011.

IN THE DOME – Justin Young works inside LSRM dome car Silver Club at the Minneapolis shop. Photo by Robert M. Ball.

Lake Superior Railroad Museum Executive Director Ken Buehler says the Friends will be working on new wiring for heating, and a two-system air conditioning unit (one for the dome, the other for the rest of the car) with dehumidifiers to keep the air conditioning from fogging up the dome. The wheels will be replaced and all new dome windows have been cut and molded and will be installed by the Friends.

After the Friends complete electrical, wheel and other work, the car will be returned to Duluth for interior work. The car has essentially been gutted, so the Museum will have to design and install an all-new interior. When complete, the car will be used on the museum’s 26-mile North Shore Scenic Railroad between Duluth and Two Harbors.

Passenger cars heading east this spring

Two Friends of the 261 passenger cars headed east this spring to be used on excursion trains pulled by Norfolk & Western J Class 4-8-4 No. 611. The cars will be traveling with 611 on trips out of Spencer and Greensboro, N.C., and Manassas and Roanoke, Va. in April, May and June.

Parlor car “Wisconsin Valley” and Super Dome 53 made the trip. The Friends sold space on the cars during the moves via Amtrak’s Empire Builder and Carolinian. They traveled behind the Empire Builder from St. Paul to Chicago on April 1. On April 4 they moved from Washington, D.C. to Charlotte, N.C. on the Carolinian.

No. 611, built by N&W in 1950, was restored to service in 2015 after 21 years of inactivity. It is owned by the Virginia Museum of Transportation in Roanoke.

The trips will operate over Norfolk Southern Railway including several former Norfolk & Western lines.

Support our North Pole Express sponsors!

Each December the Friends of the 261 operate the North Pole Express at the Union Depot in St. Paul. These trips require a great deal of coordination and expense, and would not be possible without our sponsors: Bell Mortgage, Re/Max Advantage Plus, and Trademark Title Services, Inc.


Bell Mortgage is a division of Bell State Bank & Trust, and has helped its customers purchase homes for more than 130 years. Bell is the largest independently owned bank in the upper Midwest, and one of the largest in the nation, with assets of more than $3.5 billion and business in 50 states.


Re/Max Advantage Plus is one of the preeminent real estate brokerages in central Minnesota. Founded by Eric Malmberg over 10 years ago, it has grown and flourished from one office location in Lakeville to more than 13 offices across the Twin Cities area.


Trademark Title Services, Inc. helps its clients through the complexity of real estate title and closing processes. The company has an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau and has 13 offices in the Twin Cities metro area.If you are purchasing or selling a home or real estate, please consider using one of these fine companies that are supporting the continuing operation of No. 261!

Recent Posts

2023 Northern Lines

Things may have seemed quiet over the summer for the Friends of the 261, but they have been quite far from that. Many things have been progressing in the shop of the 261.Friends contracted by MTM for A18Back in 2021, MTM (Minnesota Transportation Museum) contracted...

2023 Train Day

RRHMA participates in Midwest events Equipment makes appearances at Union Depot Train Days, Franklin Park Railroad DazeRailroading Heritage of Midwest America participated in two Midwest railroad events in June, part of fulfilling our mission to promote public...

RRHMA awarded $31,000 by the Emery Rail Heritage Trust

Railroading Heritage of Midwest America would like to announce the award of $31,000 by the Emery Rail Heritage Trust to go towards the return to service of the Sleeping Car/Lounge Caritas. We would like to thank the Emery Rail Heritage Trust for its continued support...

RRHMA to Expand operations to Silvis, IL

Railroading Heritage of Midwest America to expand operations to Silvis Illinois shop & rail complexThe rail complex will be developed as a multiuse commercial development, historic preservation, restoration and future transportation museum. SILVIS, Ill. (Jan 10,...