Locomotive No. 111

111 Switcher

Engine No. 111 at its new home at the Oregon Coast Historical Railway display area in Coos Bay.

     Diesel locomotive No. 111 was built in July, 1949 in Schenectady, NY, by the American Locomotive Co., (ALCO), a division of General Electric. Called a switcher engine, it's a bit smaller than a conventional diesel locomotive, and was built to shuttle individual cars or small groups of cars around rail yards and other industrial areas. Nevertheless, the turbocharged 1000-horsepower engine developed plenty of power, and it could handle a substantial string of cars. But according to its Operation and Service Manual, running it was "simple"

     It was built for approximately $101,000 for the Longview, Portland & Northern railway (LP&N), which operated shortline railroads serving Long-Bell Lumber Co. sawmills around the Pacific Northwest. Long-Bell was later sold to International Paper Co.

    Among those operations was a sawmill in Gardiner, Ore., about 25 miles north of Coos Bay. When a 3.7-mile rail link from the Gardiner mill to the main Southern Pacific line was built in about 1952, engine No. 111 became part of LP&N's Gardiner division. In addition to serving the sawmill, No. 111 also was used in an adjacent paper plant.

    There were at least two other locomotives in the Gardiner division, but as operations wound down in the late 1980s and early 1990s, it was one of only two engines in use at the paper plant and mill.

    Citing reasons ranging from diminishing domestic timber supplies to an economic downturn in Asia, IP first shut down the sawmill, then closed the paper plant in 1998. There was some hope the paper plant might open again, but as the first few years of the 21st century passed, it became clear IP would no longer be part of the local scene. Both the sprawling sawmill and the labyrinthine paper plant were gradually dismantled, leaving few traces today of the once-bustling operation.

    Meantime, IP graciously donated engine No. 111 to our group, and allowed us to store the engine in its original shed on the former mill site. Members and volunteers took on the task of performing routine maintenance, as well as cleaning and preparing the locomotive for a new coat of paint.

   Engine No. 111 in its later years of service wore LP&N's yellow and black colors, but a decision was made to repaint the locomotive with OCHR's orange and blue color motif. In addition, new lettering proclaimed its new ownership, "Oregon Coast Historical Railway." The engine retains its original No. 111 designation, and additional lettering identifies its former status as part of International Paper's LP&N fleet.

    Sporting its new look, the engine still needed to be moved from Gardiner to Coos Bay. Officials from Central Oregon and Pacific Railway (CORP) offered to move it, but while awaiting their action, IP decided the engine must be moved from its shed at the former mill site. It was towed by backhoe about 3 miles south to a temporary outdoor location behind the American Bridge Corp. plant on Bolon Island, just north of Reedsport.

    Unfortunately, the exposed location drew metal thieves, who broke into the cab and removed parts of the electrical system. No. 111 was subsequently moved back to its shed, still awaiting CORP's promised move. The day finally came in November 2006. With a couple of our members aboard for the ride, the locomotive was linked to a CORP switcher in an unusual two-engine consit, and towed to Coos Bay without incident.

     It sits on a siding adjacent to our display area, awaiting a move "inside the fence" where it will join other pieces of vintage equipment. In the meantime, members salvaged parts from an ALCO locomotive similar to No. 111 owned by the Pacific Northwest chapter of the National Railway Historical Society in Portland. Some of the parts were used to repair vandalized components, and restoration work continues.

Members of the Oregon Coast Historical Railway team up on prep work on No. 111, the 1949 Alco S-2 switcher that was used at the International Paper lumber mill and paper plant in Gardiner, Ore. The locomotive was subsequently painted in Oregon Coast Historical Railway colors of blue and orange, and new lettering was applied to reflect its new ownership.


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