Mt. Rainier Railroad and Logging Museum coach car and hard-working No. 70 locomotive get a little TLC

Share story

The railroad industry is in Steven Butler’s blood. Butler, Mt. Rainier Railroad’s new Chief Mechanical Officer and Assistant General Manager, was formerly the General Manager and Chief Mechanical Officer at the Texas State Railroad.

Butler has 25 years of experience in the railroad industry. “I grew up around it,” he says. His family owned the Kettle Moraine Railroad in North Lake, Wisconsin. “I decided to try and make a living out of it,” Butler says. “I ran [Kettle Moraine Railroad] from 1994-2001 and closed it down in 2001.”

Prior to the Texas State Railroad, Butler was chief mechanical officer for the San Luis & Rio Grande Railroad and prior to that, owned a contracting business doing restoration work on steam locomotives.

His typical day at the Mt. Rainier Railroad and Logging Museum gets started early and currently is focused primarily on restoring the interiors of the train coaches.

“We’re putting in new interior in the Milwaukee Road Car No. 545,” Butler says. Car No. 545 is a 545-passenger car built in the late 1940s for the city of Prineville.

“We stripped the interior out of it and put in new interior, new tables and chairs. We’re making it a first-class car for first-class service. We’re trying to go through all the coaches and make their presentation better mechanically and aesthetically,” Butler says.

Butler joins the Mt. Rainier Railroad as the organization undergoes its own set of changes and refurbishment. Railroad pioneer and founder of the Mt. Rainier Scenic Railroad, Tom Murray, has handed the baton to industry entrepreneur Al Harper and entertainment expert Wayne Rankin. The Mt. Rainier Scenic Railroad and Museum is now Mt. Rainier Railroad.

Al and Carol Harper, rail transportation experts and owners of two of the nation’s most scenic and historic railroads, bring their expertise to Mt. Rainier Railroad. Harper will help rebrand and make major improvements.

“Our next big project is getting the No. 70 back up in service. We need to assemble all the pieces for the new lead truck. It needs annual inspections, and a list of other inspections and general maintenance work, Butler says. “I would like it running by the end of this summer, if all goes well.”

Polson 70 on trestle (Photo courtesy of Jeremy Echols)
Polson 70 on trestle (Photo courtesy of Jeremy Echols)

The No. 70 Butler refers to is Polson Logging No. 70, a steam locomotive. The “70” refers to the tonnage of the locomotive. It was built for the Polson Logging Company by the Baldwin Locomotive Works of Philadelphia. Polson used No. 70 for about 20 years as one of their prime locomotives.

In the 1940s Polson sold their logging operation to Rayonier, Inc. As Rayonier expanded they needed even larger locomotives than No. 70, but since the 70-ton train was in good condition, it was used as a work train until 1963 when Rayonier sold it.

No. 70 was bought by railroad fan Maynard Lang for the Puget Sound and Snoqualmie Falls Railroad Museum. It was used at Snoqualmie on and off until Lang died in 1992. No. 70 was purchased at an estate sale by Tom Murray. Murray donated the train to the Mt. Rainier Scenic Railroad and shipped it to Mineral for restoration.

No. 70 was rebuilt in 2001 – a project that took about 10 years including substantial boiler work. The locomotive went back to work in February 2011, restored to its original 1938 “Polson Logging Company” appearance.

The Mt. Rainier Railroad is a steam-powered railway operating in Washington State. The museum is a nonprofit organization operating under the direction of Western Forest Industries Museum. For more information visit MtRainierRailroad.com or call 888-STEAM-11.