Northern Pacific RR locomotive #2650 in 1934
In 1933, the Public Works Administration (PWA) authorized a loan to the Northern Pacific Railway for $1,250,000 to purchase new locomotives. The Interstate Commerce Commission then issued a certificate of approval for the loan, although for a slightly lesser amount – $1,220,000.
The loan allowed the Pacific Railway to purchase ten A-2 class locomotives from the Baldwin Locomotive Works. They were delivered in 1934, numbers 2650 to 2659. These engines would carry passenger trains between Jamestown, North Dakota and Missoula, Montana – a 906 mile-long route, one of the longest in the U.S. at the time.
On October 13, 1934, The Missoulian newspaper announced the beginning of 2650’s running history: “First of the new giant locomotives of the Northern Pacific, engine No. 2650, left St. Paul Friday morning for Montana [on a test run]… The new type A-2 engine is 110 feet long and weighs 855,000 pounds. Its tender carries 27 tons of coal and 20,000 gallons of water. The engine has roller bearing equipment, eliminating friction and providing for smoother starts and stops.”
The New Deal-financed A-2’s were among the largest locomotives of the day, and their great size no doubt played a role in one of them being displayed at the Century of Progress International Exposition (also known as the Chicago World’s Fair) from September 15 to October 5, 1934 (we don’t know if this was engine 2650 or one of its siblings).
The complete life history of 2650 is elusive, but according to Steam Locomotive.com, no A-2’s (or similar 4-8-4 “Northern Pacific Northerns”) still exist.
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“Railroads Get $36,307,500 For Equipment,” The Baltimore Sun, December 10, 1933, p. 2.
“Rail Loan Authorized: Northern Pacific To Buy Ten New Locomotives,” The Commercial Appeal (Memphis, Tennessee), February 1, 1934, p. 1.
“N.P. To Put Six New Engines In Service,” The Independent-Record (Helena, Montana), July 29, 1934, p. 11.
“New Northern Pacific Locomotive to Make Debut Soon,” The Bismarck Tribune (Bismarck, North Dakota), November 2, 1934, p. 3.
“Giant Locomotive Going on Display: Northern Pacific Has New Equipment,” Detroit Free Press, August 5, 1934, p. 16.
48th Annual Report of the Interstate Commerce Commission, December 1, 1934, Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1934, pp. 25-26 and 138-139. (Available for viewing at Google Books.)
“Northern Pacific 4-8-4 ‘Northern’ Locomotives in the USA,” Steam Locomotive dot Com (accessed April 17, 2022).
“Northern Pacific Railroad, Minnesota Division, Labor Records,” Kheel Center for Labor-Management Documentation and Archives, Cornell University Library (accessed April 17, 2022).
“Railroad and Bank Building,” Saint Paul Historical (accessed April 17, 2022).
“Lowertown Historic District,” National Register of Historic Places, National Park Service (accessed April 17, 2022).
“Northern Pacific Railway,” Wikipedia (accessed April 17, 2022).
Project originally submitted by Brent McKee on April 20, 2022.
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