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Vintage Steam Engine Is In Demand

Plans are in the works to move a vintage steam locomotive from Railtown 1897 to the Sierra Railroad in Oakdale.

Number 34, the big Baldwin locomotive, built in 1925 for the Sierra Railway and used in freight service between Oakdale and Tuolumne was retired in 1955 by the Sierra R.R. The locomotive was used in excursion work in the 1970´s, but it has been sitting in storage at the Railtown 1897 roundhouse since 1980.

Sierra Railroad spokesperson Patrick Karnahan said the 2-8-2 locomotive is wanted for display this weekend in Oakdale at the Sierra Railroad’s Iron Horse Round-up.

The old steamer hasn’t been moved in many years, said Railtown Park Superintendent Jim Stillwell.

Railtown crews had been working Wednesday to prepare for the move from Jamestown to Oakdale by Railtown 1897 State Park staff and docents. The old iron horse would be towed by another locomotive via the Sierra Railroad tracks west to Oakdale.

Because the massive steamer has no working brakes or airlines, the Federal Railroad Administration explained they didn’t want to see the engine deadheaded in that condition, Stilwell said.

“We´re responsible if anything should happen while en route to and from Oakdale,” Stilwell said, adding that the Sierra Railroad has said they would cover the move with their insurance. “It´s also our responsibility to take care of the engine and make sure the engine is protected.”

Kathy Taylor, director of the California Railroad Museum, the governing agency over the Jamestown historic park, says the move has also been held up by paperwork.

“I can’t just open the doors and have the locomotive moved out,” she said.

Stilwell said the park has a agreement with the two families that own the locomotive that states it would not be moved from Railtown without permission of both parties.

“They’re still working on it,” Taylor said by phone from her office in Sacramento this afternoon. Taylor said a letter has been sent to the concerned parties regarding the process and steps that still need to be completed. “We´re just doing what we´re supposed to do,” she said.

“Ownership of the vintage railroad engine has always been a clouded issue,” said John Zach of Twain Hart, a Sierra Railroad enthusiast, modeler and history buff. He believes the engine has been owned by Fred Knepper, who had also acquired Sierra Railway locomotive Number 36.

“Unlike a car, there´s no pink slip to prove ownership of a locomotive,” Zach said.

Exact details are not known, but Sierra Railroad owner Mike Hart is rumored to be interested in purchasing the 87-ton steam engine and restoring it back to operating condition.

The Sierra Railroad’s Iron Horse Round-up event will go on as planned with or without the No. 34.