Soo Line engine will remain with the Lake Superior Railroad Museum

The Eau Claire City Council voted to sell the historic locomotive to the museum for $8.

Soo Line Engine 2719 puffs out black smoke as it travels along Duluth’s Lakewalk on the way to Two Harbors in 2007. The Lake Superior Railroad Museum stopped running the engine in 2013 when the boiler license expired. File / News Tribune

After more than a year of trying to regain ownership of the Soo Line Locomotive No. 2719, the Eau Claire City Council voted Tuesday night to keep the engine in Duluth.

The locomotive, which has been in the care of the Lake Superior Railroad Museum since 2006, has changed ownership three times in just the last five years.

As the city of Eau Claire sought to find affordable ways to bring the locomotive home beginning in 2018, estimated costs to move and store the engine rose to much higher than anticipated at almost a million dollars. This led the city to sell the locomotive back to the museum for $8 in Tuesday night's vote.

The steam engine, which ran as a freight train for about 40 years, began its retirement in Eau Claire after the Soo Line Railroad donated it to the city in 1960. A nonprofit group restored the engine to working condition in the early 1990s until the group could no longer operate it.

That was when the Duluth museum intervened, said Ken Buehler, executive director with the museum.


"The building they were storing it in was tore down so the engine was outside, exposed to the elements and rapidly deteriorating and it didn’t seem right," Buehler said. "There are only 150 steam locomotives running in all of North America. To see one outside deteriorating while it still had time on its boiler didn't make any sense."

The museum ran the engine between Duluth and Two Harbors from 2006 until 2013 when the boiler license expired.

At that point, the museum became aware that the nonprofit that owned the locomotive had dissolved.

A clause in the contract with the nonprofit said the city of Eau Claire could buy the engine back for $1. The city did so before immediately selling it to the museum for $2. The city had the right to purchase the engine back within three years for $4, which they did in 2018 before voting Tuesday night to sell it back to the Duluth museum.

Buehler said the plan going forward is to have the locomotive running with a renewed boiler license as soon as the license for the historic engine No. 332 expires in 12 years.

In the meantime, the museum plans to place a monument explaining the history of the locomotive where the engine is on display in the Duluth Depot. The museum erected a similar monument in 2017 at the site of the engine's previous home in Eau Claire.

"One of the things they were concerned about in Eau Claire is that people would come back for class reunions or to visit relatives and they'd say, 'Hey, let's go see that steam engine in Carson Park,'' Buehler said. "Well it's not in Carson Park anymore so we thought a monument saying where it was, that it was being preserved and not scrapped was important."

Only about four designs similar to No. 2719 have been preserved.


"None of them are in as good of condition as this one and none of them are running," Buehler said.

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