By Martin E. Hansen
By now many of you may have read that the Oregon Historical Society has selected Oregon Rail Heritage Foundation to be the new owner of the Mount Emily Shay #1. This concludes a nearly two-year process of deaccessioning the Shay by OHS and introduces the next chapter for this 99-year-old product of Lima Locomotive Works.
ORHF will work with the City of Prineville to arrange moving her up to the Center within the next several months. After required maintenance, it will be recertified and readied to pull excursion runs, including the Holiday Express, in 2023. With the Shay at the Enginehouse, interpretive exhibits will enable ORHF to tell the all-important logging railroad story that is so integral to Oregon’s timber history.
The Mount Emily Lumber Company donated the Shay in 1955 to the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry. The original intent was to donate the Mount Emily Willamette Geared Locomotive #4, since that locomotive had been built in Portland. OMSI seemed like the right recipient for the Willamette. Unfortunately, while the paperwork was being processed, no one thought to tell the scrapper of Mount Emily Lumber Company Logging Railroad to save the Willamette. When the scrapper arrived, they began cutting up the Willamette. Fortunately, they did not start carving on Mount Emily Shay #1.
The Shay was stored at the Union Pacific Roundhouse in La Grande, Oregon, until 1957, when that roundhouse was torn down. The locomotive was then towed to the Northern Pacific Terminal Yards in Portland. OMSI’s original intent was to move the Shay up to their facility, which was then located near the Portland Zoo. However, it was determined that the Shay was too big to fit through the tunnel and that alternate routes were not practical. OMSI then turned to the Oregon Historical Society and asked them if they would accept a transfer of the Shay. OHS has owned the Shay ever since.
Mount Emily Shay #1 kicked around the yards in Portland for a number of years. She was periodically painted and put on display at a few rail conventions that took place during the 1960s. In 1979, when another rail convention was held, the Mount Emily Shay #1 was “discovered” by the folks at Cass Scenic Railway, and through the efforts of rail fan Jack Holst, a long-term lease of the Shay was entered into between OHS and Cass.
Shay #1 was restored to operation at Cass in 1972 and put into service as a helper engine on the steep grades of the Cass Railroad. Unfortunately, only a few months into her operation, a fire destroyed the old Cass Engine House and badly damaged Shay #1.
Over the next year, Cass rebuilt the Shay and made certain modifications to the cab windows and other minor items. A second long-term lease was eventually entered into and the Shay would remain at Cass until 1992.
In 1992, Oregon Historical Society reached out and to me and asked me to locate a new home for the Shay somewhere in the west. Over a period of months, I interviewed a number of railroads that made proposals to give the Shay a home and turned that paperwork over to the Oregon Historical Society Board. They selected the City of Prineville Railway, since it was located in the center of Oregon. The Shay was finally moved to Prineville in 1994 and immediately put into operation. In the years since, I have always been one of the two operating crewmen on the Shay each time it has left the enginehouse at Prineville.
Approximately three years ago, the City of Prineville notified OHS that, while Prineville was glad to store the engine, they no longer wished to operate it. They agree that if OHS wanted to operate the engine and pay for that operation, they would accommodate that. However, OHS has never had an interest in operating the Shay themselves. Thus, OHS began to analyze what the future looked like for Mount Emily Shay #1.
Finally, on April 1, 2022, the Oregon Historical Society issued a request for proposals to find a new owner and new home for the Shay. OHS had decided to deaccession the Shay and formed a committee of railroad personnel to analyze and select a new owner and home for the Shay.
ORHF was one of three proponents offering to take the Shay and become its new owner. ORHF turned in its proposal to the committee and responded to written questions that the committee provided to each of the proponents. After all this material was received and digested, a final committee meeting was held on Wednesday, August 24, 2022. At that meeting, each of the proposals from the three proponents was analyzed. Members of the Oregon Historical Society had made visits to each of the railroads proposing to become the Shay’s new owner. Those site visits proved very important in the committee’s decision as to which proponent offered the best permanent home for the Mount Emily Shay
At the August 24 meeting, ORHF was selected as the new owner and home for the Mount Emily Shay. That selection was formally announced on September 1, 2022. The final paperwork has now been drawn up for the transfer of title from OHS to ORHF.
Under ORHF’s proposal, the Mount Emily Shay will be moved to Portland later in 2022. The intention is to have the Shay retubed and recertified under a new 1,472-day inspection so she will be ready to operate in later 2023. The Mount Emily Shay is intended to be one of the modes of power in future years for the Holiday Express trains. The 90-ton Shay with her light axle load will be much more forgiving on the Oregon Pacific Railroad trackage than the big 4-8-4 locomotives have been in prior years. The Shay has 35,500 pounds of tractive effort, which will provide more than enough power to pull the Holiday Express train.
ORHF is delighted to have been selected as the permanent home and owner of this wonderful artifact of Oregon’s railroad logging history. ORHF wishes to thank the Oregon Historical Society and the City of Prineville for being such good custodians of the locomotive for over the years and for entrusting ORHF as the Shay’s new permanent home.