A passenger steam locomotive will visit North Dakota | Montana News

ROBIN HUEBNER Forum News Service

FARGO, ND – A vintage steam locomotive will soon be rolling through southeastern North Dakota, pulling tour cars and giving people a rare opportunity to see train travel like it was more than 70 years ago.

The arrival of the famous Milwaukee Road No. 261 in the Fargo/Davenport, Lisbon, Wahpeton and Kindred areas marks the 30th anniversary of Red River Valley & Western, a regional railroad operating in North Dakota.

The three-hour, 70-mile evening trips take place June 1-3.

Steve Sandberg, a volunteer locomotive operator, said the old engine weighed nearly a million pounds, or about the weight of a 747 plane.

Older people remember traveling in passenger cars and seeing the huge locomotives, but the younger generation is often stunned by the sights.

“The kids are having a blast. Most have never seen a steam engine in their life,” Sandberg said.

The motor is capable of going 80 mph but won’t go as fast on its North Dakota jaunts. Sandberg said that although the tracks he will use are well maintained, they are designed for transporting agricultural products.

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“We’ll have a nice quiet evening cruise,” he said.

No. 261 is the largest coal-fired steam engine and was built in 1944 during World War II specifically for the war effort.

The engine and 14 historic coaches that will be part of the North Dakota tour have all been restored and are being maintained by the nonprofit Twin Cities, Friends of the 261. Sandberg is part of this group and is Chief Operating Officer of the Railroading Heritage of Organization of the American Midwest.

He said No. 261 is mostly in storage, but they take out the engine and the cars a few times a year for special events.

“This year, we’re excited to be able to stretch our legs a bit and head to North Dakota,” Sandberg said.

The last time the locomotive was in North Dakota was in 1998, for a BNSF event.

It turns out that BNSF will be playing a role in the RRV&W’s anniversary celebration. He brings the steam locomotive and passenger cars from the Twin Cities to North Dakota and back again.

On Thursday, June 1 and Friday, June 2, the engine departs Fargo/Davenport at 6 p.m. for a trip to Lisbon and back, taking riders through the Sheyenne River Valley National Scenic Byway.

On Saturday June 3, it leaves Wahpeton for Kindred and back, on the only former Great Northern route operated by RRV&W.

Sandberg said a few tickets are still available at https://261.com/.

Non-riders are also welcome to come and see the train on these days.

“They should be able to get pretty close,” Sandberg said.

Jose P. Rogers