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Oregon & Northwestern Railroad- Saving the Baldwins

Oregon & Northwestern Railroad
Saving the Baldwin Diesels

The rising waters of Malheur and Harney Lakes forced Union Pacific to close the branchline to Burns in early March 1984, which cut the Oregon & Northwestern off from the outside world. The railroad promptly closed forever. All of the freight cars that the lakes stranded in Burns were either scrapped or trucked out to Crane, which became the new railhead in the area. The O&NW's four Baldwin diesels and the aging caboose #300 remained in Hines, available for sale but with the prospects of finding a buyer bleak at best. The equipment rested for a while in the old shop building until plans to build the new Tecton Laminates facility on top of the railroad's former yards forced them to be moved to one of the large drying sheds, where they slumbered on.

Interest in the old units increased after the new Oregon Eastern Division of the Wyoming/Colorado Railroad resumed rail service to Burns in 1990. Title to the locomotives had passed to Snow Mountain Pine when they purchased the Hines mill from Edward Hines; there was some rumors and discussions that the Oregon Eastern might lease the locomotives for use on their lines, but nothing ever came of that. Snow Mountain Pine initially inked a deal to sell the four locomotives to a scrapper, but the scrapper backed out. In the meantime the Feather River Rail Society had become interested in seeing the locomotives preserved, and after the scrapper backed out the organization launched a massive effort to save them. In the end FRRS purchased #3 and #4 and found buyers for the #1 and #2. A private individual associated with FRRS purchased the caboose #300. The deals came with a stipulation, however; all rail equipment must be removed from the drying shed by 1 November 1990.

Due to the large number of photographs, this story has been spread out over three pages. All photos are by Wayne Monger unless noted.

Part 1: Removal from the shed

Part 2: #3 and #4 leave Harney County

Part 3: Epilogue

Prelude to the adventure...Locomotive #1 peaks out of the drying shed it and the others called home on 31 May 1990. Vic Neves photo, courtesy of Wayne Monger.