Ongoing effort to restore the steam engine | News, Sports, Jobs
GLADSTONE – Fundraising has begun to help restore a reserve Soo Line Steam Engine #730, a treasured piece of Gladstone history that rests along the southbound lane of US-2. Engine No. 730, dedicated to the town of Gladstone in September 1960, has apparently been neglected since its last overhaul over 20 years ago. With lights burned out and pigeons slowly invading the engine shelter, John Pickard, project coordinator for the restoration of the Soo Line steam engine, felt it was time to act.
“I accepted the project because I kept seeing it get worse and worse” said Pickard. “It was really nice 20 years ago when they fixed it with the lighting and everything. But now the lights are out and the pigeons have moved in, so that’s where we are.
In 1911, engine #730 was built by the American Locomotive Company in Schenectady, NY. Marie at Gladstone on 28 June 1960. Engine No. 730 was dedicated to the town of Gladstone as it was a large rail “center” in the Soo line.
“It was a big deal,” said Pickard. “Gladstone started with the railroad. It was one of the main ports of the Soo Line.
The #730 engine holds a special place in the hearts of many retired Soo Liners. Hired by the Soo Line in 1954, Jack Soderman has spent his entire life working on steam engines. Upon retirement, Soderman and 13 other Soo Line employees would help with the annual maintenance of engine No. 730, washing and painting the relic each summer. Among these volunteers, Soderman is the only one still alive.
“[Engine #730] means everything to me because I was brought up working on it,” Soderman said. “I’ve worked on a lot of engines, but on this one I’m sure I worked.”
One of the 13 Soo Liners who died was Pickard’s father, Kenneth. Ken had worked on the Soo Line for 42 years, engine #730 being the first engine he had ever worked on. Engine maintenance was never an issue for these retirees, with the annual gathering of old friends acting as a social event they could attend.
“Everybody said [my father] looking forward to meeting each summer. It was more fun to get together and go clean and paint the engine,” said Pickard. “So we would like to see it protected for many generations.”
With Soderman the only surviving retiree, annual engine maintenance eventually stopped. It was not until July 1999 that the engine was serviced again by John Larkin, president of the Escanaba Lake Superior Railroad. After pledging $50,000 to paint the engine and remove the asbestos, engine #730 was taken to the Escanaba Railroad Shop for its makeover. Upon returning to its Gladstone home in the autumn of 2000, engine No. 730 was welcomed into a new canopy shed fitted with light fittings.
The new shelter, however, was home to a creature that would contribute to the most recent decline in the condition of engine No. 730 – pigeons.
“20 years ago, if they had put a bird net around it, it wouldn’t be like today. So that’s what we’re looking at.” said Pickard. “We need to put this bird netting around him so we can start painting and cleaning.”
Past efforts to address the pigeon problem include investments in a sound card that reproduces the sounds of birds that feed on pigeons, such as peregrine falcons. Rather than scaring off the birds, however, the soundboards provided a nice space for the pigeons to roost and build their homes.
More recent efforts to restore the condition of engine #730 began in the summer and fall of 2021, with Pickard approaching the town of Gladstone to see if he could clean and paint the engine again. engine. The first item on the agenda for those involved in the restoration project is the bird netting. Pickard collected donations to help defray the expenses of the net and the accompanying parts to assemble it. The grand total comes to just over $3,000.
“We haven’t secured the funding for the bird netting yet and that’s what we need to do,” said Pickard. “We have to raise $3,500 just to order the tenderloin. Once we get that, we can start painting and cleaning again. »
Members of the community, including local businesses, have already contributed to Pickard’s cause. Apprentices from the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades Upper Peninsula Local 10-11 have agreed to undertake the cleaning and painting of the engine as part of a public service project. Pickard also received generous donations from Wayne Johnson, president of Great Lakes First Federal Credit Union, and the Gladstone Lions Club.
“We are not trying to restart the engine, or even move it at this time,” said Pickard. “We just want to protect him.”
New lights for the engine were donated by WPPI, Gladstone’s utility provider, and Gladstone Public Works were involved in the recent washing and weeding around the engine. Additionally, the Gladstone Town Center Development Committee donated new panels for all sides of the Engine Shelter, which read “Gladstone” and “Soo line.”
“We buy everything locally for the project, and that’s been really nice,” said Pickard. “The paint is from Sherwin Williams in Escanaba…the bird netting itself will come from Iverson in Gladstone…and the UP Building Trades Union has said they will donate the timber .”
Although Engine No. 730 is owned by the Town of Gladstone, its current location is on Canadian National Railway property. Pickard hopes to coordinate with the railroad to help preserve the engine’s current home.
“It’s a funny situation. I talk to people at the railroad and they don’t know what they want to do with it. I call Canadian National Railways in Canada and they don’t even know it’s ‘is on their property’, said Pickard. “The locals don’t know about it. We feel like we’ve been forgotten. »
Once the engine restoration and cleaning is complete, Pickard hopes to turn engine #730 into a historical marker. Complete with a parking area and historic bandstand, the engine would be included in local brochures as a tourist attraction for those passing through the Gladstone area.
“People stop every day and take pictures, but some people drive by and don’t even notice.” said Pickard. “But with this new awareness, people are going to start caring now.”
Fundraising ideas, from a golf outing to selling t-shirts, are currently being considered by Pickard. Those looking to help preserve Engine No. 730 can direct donations to the City of Gladstone c/o Soo Steam Engine No. 730, 1100 Delta Ave., Gladstone, MI 49837.
“You don’t see steam locomotives like this coming down the rails anymore. It’s a whole other world with diesels of course. Soderman said. “The engine is just something the railroad was born with.”