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.