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Steam locomotive stops in GF

A steam locomotive traveling from Oregon to Michigan churned into Grand Forks for a brief respite at the Amtrak depot Wednesday afternoon. "We stopped here just to grease things up, and then we'll be on our way down to Fargo," said Doyle McCormac...

Steam locomotive
SP 4449, a restored steam locomotive built in 1941, pulls out of Grand Forks on Wednesday afternoon bound for Train Festival 2009 in Owosso, Michigan. Operated now by Friends of SP 4449 in Portland Oregon. she used to pull Southern Pacific coaches from Los Angles to San Francisco and then on to Portland. Herald photo by John Stennes.

A steam locomotive traveling from Oregon to Michigan churned into Grand Forks for a brief respite at the Amtrak depot Wednesday afternoon.

"We stopped here just to grease things up, and then we'll be on our way down to Fargo," said Doyle McCormack, the train's chief mechanical officer and engineer.

McCormack said the locomotive, which is hauling vintage coaches with passengers on board, has to make a service stop every 100 to 150 miles.

Dressed in denim overalls and protective glasses, workers used a pneumatic grease gun to lubricate the engine's side rods -- levers that make wheels go.

The locomotive can reach speeds of 100 mph, but has been cruising at about 60 mph during this trek. "There's no reason to run any faster than that," McCormack said.

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The locomotive, also known as the Southern Pacific 4449, is headed to Owosso, Mich., for Train Festival 2009, which starts July 23.

Jim Walker and his three kids were among a couple dozen people who came to see the train as it idled and released at least one deafening blast of steam in Grand Forks. Walker held his 4-year-old daughter, Emily, as she covered her ears.

"This so loud," she said.

The Art Deco-era locomotive, with an orange streak across its flank, was built in 1941 and retired in 1958. It sat in a Portland park until 1974 when it was rehabilitated to pull the American Freedom Train that toured the U.S. to celebrate the nation's bicentennial.

McCormack's organization, Friends of SP 4449, has kept the engine running since then.

"We're an all volunteer organization. We make the money to keep this thing going by selling hats and T-shirts," he said.

McCormack said the 110-foot-long, 10-foot-wide and 16-foot-tall locomotive can be a joy, but also a "real bear."

"They're like women: You don't treat 'em right, they'll make you the sorriest guy on the face of the earth."

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More online at www.sp4449.com .

Reach Ingersoll at (701) 780-1269; (800) 477-6572, ext. 269; or send e-mail to aingersoll@gfherald.com .

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