Oct 1, 1992

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


Under the Guiding hand of the Wisconsin Central Ltd. and the expertise of the North Star Rail crew, the 261 began its journey from Green Bay, Wisconsin to Minneapolis, Minnesota on September 20, 1992.

Yes! Mark your calendar again to mark yet another milestone in the 261 rebuilding project!

Early morning, the sun was not yet up, and the crew of the 261 was getting ready for the departure from Green Bay. Sunday September 20th dawned bright and cool, this was a good omen. Everyone was ready to bring 261 to Minneapolis for the final round of the rebuilding process. At precisely 7:00 a.m. Wisconsin Central GP-40 #3004 backed onto the coupler of 261, and the consist including the locomotive, tender, and newly refurbished tool car began to roll cautiously westward.

After an hour or so of 10-20 MPH running it became apparent that operating at the track speed of 40-45 MPH was in order. 261 Moved easily without any hesitation as if she was restless to see Minneapolis again. The ride through Neenah to Stevens Point was uneventful with several stops being ma.de to check running gear and to make sure nothing was running hot.

Stevens Point was the mid afternoon stopping point on September 20th. Curiosity was high and the North Star Rail crew spent most of rest of the day answering questions from the crowd of onlookers. 261 Remained at Stevens Point on Monday, September 21st and was readied for the last leg of its 300+ mile journey to Minneapolis.

The departure from Stevens Point on Tuesday September 22 was again precisely at 7:00 a.m. with GP-40 #3004 in the lead. The balance of the trip to Minneapolis was again flawless. A service stop was ma.de at Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin right on schedule at 1:00 p.m. with a late afternoon arrival at the Soo Lines Humboldt Yard facility in North Minneapolis.

A veteran Milwaukee Road Engineer, Frank Sandberg Sr. who retired in 1971 after 51 years of service, was heard to remark upon seeing the locomotive, “She looks just like she used to when I ran her last.”

On Thursday, September 24th the locomotive was moved by the Soo Line from Humboldt yard and into the General Electric rebuild facility in North Minneapolis where the balance of the work will be conducted by North Star Rail, Inc. At this point we are expecting a “Steam Up” in the Spring of 1993.

General Electric has asked that interested individuals do not stop by their facility on an unannounced basis. If you are planning a visit to Minneapolis, please coordinate your plans to see the locomotive with North Star Rail, Inc. at (612)858-8859.


Thanks to Ed Burkhardt and the Wisconsin Central Ltd., North Star Rail now has an appropriate tool car to carry equipment for the 261. The car was originally built in 1938 as the Beavertail Observation Car, “Earling” named after an early 20th Century Milwaukee road President. After many years of service on the “Twin Cities” and “Midwest Hiawathas” the “Earling” was converted to storage-baggage car #1959 and survived in maintenance of way service in Green Bay until being acquired and refurbished by north Star Rail, Inc. in 1992. The refurbishment of the car included, the replacement of damaged coupler pockets, new draft gear, brake system renewal and update, much body panel repair or replacement, and the complete repainting and authentic 1938 lettering. the car has been appropriately renumbered as #1938 and has been fittingly given its original name, “Earling”.


We have enclosed a photograph showing 261 and tool car nearing Chippewa Falls during the move with white flags fluttering, at track speed of 40 M.P.H. The white banner on the side of the locomotive was donated by the Friends of the 261. It says “Moving from Green Bay WI. to Minneapolis/St. Paul for a complete rebuild by North Star Rail Inc. Watch for us in 1993.


FRIENDS OF THE 261 INC. 11686 Azure Lane, Inver Grove Hgts, MN 55077


© Friends of the 261. Archived Northern Lines Newsletters are copied from original wordings of letters sent out on the date in header. Format maybe different from original letter but the articles remain the same. All addresses, contact info, promotions, discounts, rewards and pricing in archived letters are no longer valid.

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