Famous Milwaukee Road 261
For something that spent its original work life as merely another utilitarian tool, Milwaukee Road 261 has experienced an amazing second life. In 1992, Steve Sandberg, grandson of a Milwaukee Road engineer, was searching for a steam locomotive to lease to pull trains in a newly formed company, North Star Rail. After a long search, he inspected No. 261 in Green Bay and immediately recognized a winner. After a yearlong restoration, the engine returned to service pulling excursion trains in September 1993. North Star Rail transferred responsibility for 261 over to the not-for-profit ‘Friends of the 261’ in 1995, handling the operations thereafter.
Because of its construction late in the ‘steam era’ and during WWII, the locomotive is relatively light and powerful compared to previous 4-8-4’s on the Milwaukee Road, allowing it to integrate seamlessly into today’s freight and passenger rail networks.
Operating a mainline steam engine in the 21st Century has been possible only through the understanding and auspices of partner railroads, such as, Amtrak, BNSF, Canadian Pacific, Iowa Interstate, Twin Cities & Western and many more. Were it not for their understanding and appreciation of railroad history, the locomotive and its cars would not have turned a wheel.
After 55,000 miles and 15 more years of service, it is time for a complete overhaul of No. 261. Having the unexpected opportunity to purchase the locomotive from the National Railroad Museum in early 2010, the “Friends” restoration budget has been cut nearly in half. Only through the generosity of those who dream of seeing steam locomotives in operation will the Friends be able to return this thoroughbred to service again. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation to our organization. The future of No. 261 depends on it!
We are still accepting donations over the phone or through the mail as well. To call in your donation please call: 651-765-9812, between 9am and 4 pm. To mail in a donation, send a check or money order to:
Railroading Heritage of Midwest America 4322 Lake Point Court Shoreview, MN 55126