The Empire Builder departs Portland. With a loud hiss of steam from her cylinder cocks, the Portland to Spokane segment of Great Northern's Empire Builder gets underway in the Portland Yard.
As I was researching the history of the SP&S 700, I was pretty amazed to find that for a short period of time in the late 1940s, this locomotive and her two sisters from the E-1 Class were actually used to power such legendary trains as the Empire Builder and the North Coast Limited. Like all of the "ultimate steam locomotives" of that era, her career was a short one....just 18 years from the day she rolled out of the Baldwin Factory until she was retired and sent to the scrappers. Fortunately, unlike her two sisters, this beauty was saved at the last minute when the SP&S elected to donate the locomotive to the City of Portland, Oregon, for use in a display. It would be 34 years before she would run again, but at least the seeds were planted for her return. She spent 20 years outside in a park, alongside SP 4449 and OR&N 197 before the Pacific Railroad Preservation Association was formed in the mid 1970s and plans were made for her restoration. The restoration took 15 years, but the 700 returned to the rails in 1990. She currently sits indoors at the new Oregon Rail Heritage Center in Portland. Her FRA Form 4 from the original restoration expired in 2015 and the PRPA is currently starting another 1,472-day inspection and raising funds to cover it. There is no set schedule for her return. If you'd like to follow the progress or contribute to the cause, you can do so at www.sps700.org/.