PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The Oregon Rail Heritage Foundation has acquired a 102-year-old steam engine from the Oregon Historical Society, which it hopes to use for future train rides between its museum in Southeast Portland and Oaks Amusement Park.
ORHF President Roy Hemmingway announced Friday that “Mount Emily Shay” will be transferred to the foundation’s rail yard after nearly 30 years of service on the City of Prineville Railway.
“The Mount Emily Shay will allow the Oregon Rail Heritage Center to show the public the important role logging railroads played in the development of the timber industry in Oregon,” Hemmingway said. “Specialty locomotives like the Shay, which could operate on steep and rough track, were able to access timber not available by other means Shays were key to bringing logs to the mills and developing Oregon’s timber economy.”
The locomotive was a celebrated local asset in Prineville, where it was used for class field trips, the Crooked River Dinner Train and annual rides on the Fourth of July, the Central Oregonian reports. However, after several years of declining use, the City of Prineville decided to end its loan agreement with the Oregon Historical Society.
Mount Emily Shay has changed hands many times in its rich history. Built at the Lima Locomotive Works in Ohio in the 1920s, the geared steam locomotive was originally purchased by the Hofus Steel & Equipment Company in Seattle, Washington. The train engine was then sold to the Independence Logging Company in Independence, Washington, before it was sold again to the Mount Emily Lumber Company, in La Grande, Oregon, which ultimately gave the engine its name.
The engine was owned and operated by the company until it was retired in 1957, when it was donated to the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry for use on the newly built Washington Park & Zoo Railway. However, the train couldn’t be transported to Washington Park safely, and ownership was transferred to OHS in 1958.
In the 1970s, the train was loaned to the state of West Virginia, which restored the engine to working order on two separate occasions for use on the Cass Scenic Railroad. Twenty years later, train enthusiast Martin E. Hansen helped OHS return Mount Emily Shay to its home state, where it’s been used for joy rides and educational purposes ever since.
Once the train is physically transferred to Portland, the engine will undergo a federally mandated inspection to be deemed operational. If approved, ORHF plans to use Mount Emily Shay for weekend and holiday excursions from the museum to Oaks Park and back.
Of the 3,000 Shay engines that were originally manufactured, roughly 115 still exist today. Even fewer are considered operational.