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The Milwaukee Road 261 through the years!


by Chris Guenzler

My association with Milwaukee Road 4-8-4 261 started as a part of a goal to ride a train in all of the 50 States of the United States of America. The state which would be the hardest to ride a train in would be South Dakota. Imagine my surprise when I was looking at my Railfan & Railroad Magazine back in early summer of 1998 and saw an ad about a Camerail Club three day trip from North Kansas City to Minneapolis. I looked at my rail atlas and saw the only BN route that would get the train back to the Twin Cities was through a small southeast corner of South Dakota. I called the phone number and was told not only was it going to South Dakota but it would also spend a night in Sioux Falls. The check was quickly mailed and I planned a double Amtrak circle trip around the western United States that put me into Kansas City the day before that first trip aboard Milwaukee Road 261.

Milwaukee Road 261 in Falls City, Nebraska on 9/10/1998, on the first day I ever rode behind this unique coal fire burning steam engine.

The next day at Hills siding in Minnesota, Milwaukee Road 261 preformed its first photo runby for me. I was very impressed seeing it move from the ground.

Right outside of Sioux Falls, South Dakota at Corson we did the last photo runby of the trip. I detrained at Minneapolis Jct a big fan of the Milwaukee Road 261. I wondered when I would next be riding it as I left Minneapolis Jct. We now jump ahead to May 2002 and a Minneapolis to Duluth Trip.

Milwaukee Road 261 at Minneapolis Jct on 5/17/2002 the day before the first Duluth Trip that I would make.

On the way to Duluth outside of Hinkley, Minnesota, the Milwaukee Road preformed this photo runby on 5/18/2002. On that trip I learned of a trip down the old CB&Q tracks to Chicago. As this would be another new route for me how could I say no!

Milwaukee Road 261 out in the morning sun on 6/18/2002.

On the first day of the two day trip to Chicago, Milwaukee Road 261 did a photo runby at Nelson, Wisconsin on 6/19/2008.

The Friends of the 261 did a Farewell to the Erie Mining Railroad Trip on 9/21/2002. My next encounter would be in 2004 when the steam engine would take part in the Grand Excursion of 2004 Celebration along the Mississippi River. By this time I had joined the Friends of the 261. I caught the train in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and would ride most of the Grand Excursion.

Milwaukee Road 261 is being prepared for the trip to Chicago on 6/22/2004.

Milwaukee Road 261 coming into the Milwaukee Amtrak Station on 6/22/2004.

Milwaukee Road 261 arrived in Chicago on 6/22/2004.

After the arrival into Chicago, Milwaukee Road 261 went to the layover servicing area during its stay in the Windy City on 6/22/2004.

Milwaukee Road 261 ran from Chicago to Rock Island. Here the Milwaukee Road 261 is passing through Mendota, Illinois on 6/25/2004.

Later on that same day, Milwaukee Road 261 is steaming north through Orion, Illinois on the way to Rock Island.

Milwaukee Road 261 ran from Davenport, Iowa to Savanna, Illinois. Here it is coming into Davenport to pick us up on 6/26/2004.

Milwaukee Road 261 at Sabula, Iowa before it backed across the Mississippi River into Savanna.

Milwaukee Road 261 ran from Rock Island to Bureau on 6/27/2004. Here it is before it picked us up in Rock Island.

Milwaukee Road 261 leaves Bureau for Rock Island on 6/27/2004.

Milwaukee Road 261 ran from Davenport to Dubuque on 6/28/2004. Here is the pre-trip picture at Davenport.

Milwaukee Road 261 crossed the Union Pacific Railroad, former Chicago and North Western, in Clinton, Iowa.

Milwaukee Road 261 has reached Dubuque, Iowa on 6/28/2004.

Milwaukee Road 261 ran from Dubuque to La Crosse, Wisconsin on 6/29/2004 and we started our morning with the train backing to the Dubuque pick-up point.

Milwaukee Road 261 steamed out of Dubuque on 6/29/2004.

Just after we had arrived into La Crosse, Wisconsin on 6/29/2004.

Milwaukee Road 261 did a Circle Trip from St Paul down the BNSF to La Crosse and back up the Canadian Pacific tracks on 7/2/2004. After that trip we went to Westminster Hill to view not one but two steam trains.

First Canadian Pacific 4-6-2 2816 stormed up Westminster Hill on 7/2/2004.

A few minutes later, Milwaukee Road 261 stormed up Westminster Hill on 7/2/2004. These two engines would double head together tomorrow from St. Paul to La Crescent and return.

The two engines leave Minneapolis Jct on 7/3/2004.

The engines pass below Mound Park in St Paul on 7/3/2004.

The engines ran through Pig Eye Yard on 7/3/2004.

The engines at speed at Homer on 7/3/2004.

The engines speed north along the Mississippi River south of Weaver on 7/3/2004.

In the pouring rain, the engines ran by Lock and Dam 1 on 7/3/2004.

Milwaukee Road prepares for a trip to St Paul and Short Line Hill at Minneapolis Jct on 7/4/2004 .

Arriving into St Paul.

The Mississippi Queen was part of the boat part of the Grand Excursion 2004 at St Paul on 7/4/2004.

Milwaukee Road 261 steamed up Short Line Hill on 7/4/2004.

The inside of the Cedar Rapids on 7/4/2004.

After a series of fantastic trips on the Grand Excursion 2004, now it would rest at Minneapolis Jct. The Friends of 261 then did a four-day trip with Candian Pacific 2816 from Shoreham Yard to Portal.

Canadian Pacific 2816 at Glenwood on 7/7/2004.

Canadian Pacific 2816 did a photo runby at Moselle, North Dakota on 7/7/2004. My next trip with Milwaukee Road 261 would wait for three years to ride behind the engine but the cars would be used on the Trains Unlimited NRHS Express and NRHS Steam Trip behind Southern Pacific 4449 and Spokane, Portland and Seattle 700.

On the NRHS Express our own Steve Sandberg used a broom handle to keep the damper open on the SD38 as the Second Section with the Great Dome and Cedar Rapids climbed the steep grade on 7/2/2005.

A look at our cars used on the Second Section of the NRHS Express climbing the grade on 7/2/2005.

The Cedar Rapids brings up the rear of the NRHS Express at Black Butte, California on 7/3/2005.

The NRHS Express on the Siuslaw River Drawbridge east of Florence, Oregon on 7/4/2005.

Western Star Steam Excursion with Spokane, Portland & Seattle 4-8-4 700 and Southern Pacific 4-8-4 4449 which included cars from the Friends of the 261 which are seen at Wishram, Washington on 7/6/2005. A special thank you to the Friends of the 261 for the use of their cars at the NRHS 2005 Convention in Portland, Oregon. I would now have to wait for next opportunity to ride behind the Milwaukee Road 261.

Milwaukee Road 261 took me back to Duluth on 6/2/2007.

Milwaukee Road 261 took the tight curve in Superior, Wisconsin on 6/2/2007.

Milwaukee Road 261 on the wye at Duluth, Minnesota on 6/2/2007.

The Cedar Rapids at rest at Duluth on 6/2/2007.

Milwaukee Road 261 ready to head home to Minneapolis Jct on 6/3/2007.

Friends of the 261 sponsored the CP 2816 Steamarama on the Soo Line Glenwood Turn on 9/8/2007.

Friends of the 261 sponsored the CP 2816 Steamarama on the Soo Line Dresser Turn on 9/9/2007.

Steam Doubleheader Trip with Milwaukee Road 261 and Canadian Pacific 2816 on 9/15/2007.

The train has reached La Crosse for lunch and servicing as a Canadian Pacific freight train passes the Cedar Rapids on 9/15/2007. The next day the Canadian Pacific would head home to Calgary as a Friends of the 261 Excursion. I would ride the first two days from Shoreham Yard to Thief River Falls then onto Winnipeg the day after.

Canadian Pacific 2816 at Glenwood on the way to Thief River Falls on 9/16/2007.

Canadian Pacific 2816 at Thief River Falls ready to back up to pick up the passengers for the trip to Winnipeg on 9/17/2007. My next encounter with Milwaukee Road 261 was in 2008 with the pre-15 year rebuilding to commence soon after the last two trips. One was a trip to La Crescent that I would chase and the other was a reverse Circle Trip I rode.

Milwaukee Road 261 and train at Dakota on 9/13/2008.

My next picture was south of Lake City on 9/13/2008. The next morning I would board the final Milwaukee Road 261 excursion before rebuilding.

The Circle Trip with Milwaukee Road 261 ready to go to La Crosse down the former Milwaukee Road mainline at Minneapolis Junction on 9/14/2008.

Later Milwaukee Road 261 at La Crosse before we headed back to Minneapolis via the old Chicago, Burlington and Quincy mainline. The next day 261 entered the shop. The lease arrangements for continued use of Milwaukee Road 261 is in question so rebuilding has stopped.

The Milwaukee Road 261 cars were used at Train Festival 2009 in Owosso, Michigan. Later in 2009, as I was in the Twin Cities prior to the NRHS Convention in Duluth, I arranged with Steve Sandberg to come to the Milwaukee Road 261 Shop and visit my good old friend.

Views of the steam engine in the shop. There was one other 4-8-4 in the shop laying over after Train Festival 2009 and returning home.

Southern Pacific 4449 in the home of Milwaukee Road 261.

A joke for the SP 4449 crew when they return to prepare the engine for two days of Fall Colors excursions to La Crescent on October 11th or 12th 2009.

Friends of the 261 cars Super Dome 800862 and Cedar Rapids 800040 were used by the NRHS for the 2009 Convention in Duluth.

The Friends of the 261 cars were used by Train Festival 2011 in Rock Island.

The Friends of the 261 cars were used by the NRHS 2013 Convention in Cedar Rapids.

I rode Milwaukee Road 261 from Davenport to Lisbon and back then south on the ferry move down to Breckenridge on 6/2/2017.

I rode Milwaukee Road 261 from Breckenridge to Kindred on 6/3/2017.

I did a Milwaukee Road 261 chase from Breckenridge to Wilmar on 6/3/2019.

I rode Milwaukee Road 261 from Minneapolis Jct to Glencoe on 10/1/2017.

With Elizabeth, I rode Milwaukee Road 261 to Glencoe and beyond to Brownton on 6/22/2019.

We both rode Milwaukee Road 261 to Winthrop on 6/23/2019.

And now it is back to the present, awaiting the next Milwaukee Road 261 trip.