Historic Polson Logging Locomotive to Return to Harbor

grays harbor history
The Polson Logging Company #45 locomotive is set to return to Hoquiam in June 2015.

 

Submitted by Polson Museum

grays harbor history
The Polson Logging Company #45 locomotive is set to return to Hoquiam in June 2015.

The Polson Museum is pleased to announce the upcoming return to Grays Harbor of Polson Logging Company’s #45 locomotive. The 1906 Baldwin 2-6-2 “Prairie” style engine is arguably the most historically significant surviving locomotive to have worked on Grays Harbor as the first purchased-new, purpose-built logging engine bought by the Polson Logging Company. At a time when the Polson’s logging operations were expanding farther and farther away from their Hoquiam River log dump, the 45-ton wood-burning Baldwin provided the speed and power needed to move logs quickly to market.

After Rayonier purchased the Polson operations in 1948, #45 continued in service, finally in a stationary capacity at Railroad Camp to provide steam to the camp shops. In the early 1960s, the engine was painted one last time and then moved to Hoquiam where it was a fixture for nearly 40 years at the Last Spur Park on Lincoln Street. Regretfully, the locomotive was given away to the Mt. Rainier Scenic Railway in 1998 in a deal orchestrated by then Hoquiam councilman Rob Carrigan.

Initially, the staff at Mt. Rainier had plans to completely restore the #45 for use on their tourist railroad at Mineral, Washington but after the death of the project’s champion Jack Anderson, the organization lost interest and decided to sell the locomotive to California businessman Chris Baldo, an avid collector of steam locomotives and President of the Roots of Motive Power in Willits.

The Polson Museum learned of the #45’s status during talks with Mr. Baldo following his 2011 purchase of all of the artifacts exhibited at the shuttered Camp 6 Logging Museum in Tacoma’s Point Defiance Park. Mr. Baldo donated one of the former Polson Logging Co. cars from Camp 14 to the Polson Museum along with a small railroad speeder and a cast iron water heater from the same camp. Those items were moved to the Harbor that same year and restoration of the camp car began in 2013.

In July, 2012, members of the Polson Museum’s board along with local businessman and historian George Donovan traveled to Mt. Rainier to inspect the #45 with an eye towards approaching Mr. Baldo about the possibility of returning the engine to Hoquiam through a donation. Though Baldo acknowledged the importance of the engine’s Harbor roots, he decided in late 2012 to move the #45 to the shops at the Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad near Tillamook, Oregon. Baldo was to retain ownership yet have the OCSR crews restore the engine for future use on their railroad.

Though the Polson’s board was saddened that the engine would not return to Hoquiam as they had hoped, the group agreed that they should always maintain the long term goal of acquiring one of the few surviving Polson Logging Company engines for exhibition in the Railroad Camp Locomotive Shop built on the museum grounds.

Achieving that long term goal proved much shorter than anyone at the museum ever dreamed. In early 2014, Harbor native Tim Quigg approached the museum board with his cousin George Donovan about their mutual interest in seeing an engine return to the Harbor. With a pledge of $100,000, Quigg put forth a challenge to Director John Larson and the Polson board to locate and negotiate for the purchase of a locomotive. Quigg left the question of which locomotive to buy open ended but Larson, Donovan, and the board all agreed that the #45 was the engine at the top of their list. Donovan then approached Mr. Baldo with a letter of inquiry and for the next nine months, Larson made regular calls to Baldo with the goal of orchestrating a purchase. Finally in November, Baldo agreed to sell the engine and has made arrangements with the OCSR to find a suitable replacement locomotive to take the place of the soon-to-be-leaving #45.

In addition to the extraordinarily-relevant history of the #45 to the Polson’s mission as a museum devoted to Grays Harbor history generally, the engine was especially appealing because of its size. With 50 feet of available floor space in the Railroad Camp Locomotive Shop, the 30 foot long Baldwin would fit with room to spare (minus its tender, which will be acquired with the engine but stored off site to await future restoration).

As the key people responsible for the #45’s upcoming return to the Harbor, Tim and his wife Lisa have noted their personal connections to the engine’s Polson Logging Company roots. Lisa Holmlund Quigg’s grandfather, Carl Holmlund, worked as a choker setter for the Polsons at Camp 6. Likewise, Tim’s grandparents were contemporaries of Alex and Robert Polson who through their Grays Harbor Construction Company had many personal and business dealings with the venerable logging firm. Notably, Tim’s grandfather James T. Quigg and Robert Polson were longtime personal friends who both lived at the Hoquiam Elks Club. As champions of Grays Harbor’s history, the Quiggs are hopeful that their generous gift will inspire others to financially support the completion of the Polson Museum Railroad Camp.

Now that the engine’s sale has been finalized, museum staff, board and volunteers are actively working to prepare Railroad Camp for the engine’s arrival by lowboy. Extensive moving of existing artifacts is in progress and soon they will be removing a section of the Locomotive Shop’s wood floor to make room for a second set of railroad tracks.

The engine is slated to arrive prior to June of this year and the timing of this major move is especially significant given the museum’s plans to complete the overall Railroad Camp project. Extensive concrete work, a re-contouring of the museum parking lot, boardwalks, and a second building to house the Dolbeer steam donkey are among the major components yet to be finished. Additional major fundraising is in progress and monies donated at this time can be matched with $143,000 awarded to the museum through a competitive grant from the State of Washington’s Heritage Capital Projects Fund.

For more information on this project and to learn how you can help the Polson with their Railroad Camp project, please call 533-5862 or e-mail Director John Larson at jbl@polsonmuseum.org.

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