- Jamestown, ND
- Site Type:
- Infrastructure and Utilities, Mass Transportation
- New Deal Agencies:
- Public Works Funding, Public Works Administration (PWA)
- Quality of Information:
- Very Good
- Site Survival:
On May 2, 1934, Public Works Administration (PWA) director and Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes, “announced today he had signed a contract covering a loan of $36,000 to the Midland Continental Railroad company in North Dakota for the purchase of a new Diesel-electric locomotive” (Argus-Leader, 1934).
This PWA-funded locomotive would become No. 310 in Midland Continental Railroad’s (MCR) small roster of equipment. It would also be the first Diesel-electric engine assigned to road service in the western United States. Prior to this, diesel locomotives were relegated to “switcher” service (i.e., moving train cars short distances, usually within the confines of a company’s rail yard).
No. 310 was built by the Westinghouse Electric & Manufacturing Company (Bethlehem Steel may have constructed the main body or shell). On its way to the MCR, the engine was put on display at Milwaukee, Wisconsin on September 21, 1934: “The locomotive… weighs 140,000 pounds, is equipped with two engines of 265 horsepower each and at normal speed will pull 50 loaded boxcars. It runs either forward or backward… One engine can be turned off on level tracks or down grades, while both can be shut off while idle, permitting economy in operation as compared with steam locomotives” (Star Tribune, 1934).
The MCR was a very small railroad headquartered in Jamestown, North Dakota, and was initially created with the goal of connecting Mexico to Canada through the middle of the United States. Unfortunately for MCR, it only completed about 70 – 80 miles, from Edgeley to Wimbledon, North Dakota. Still, the scrappy little railroad lasted half a century, from about 1916 to 1966, and No. 310 ran freight on its tracks from 1934 to 1953.
Sometime after that, No. 310 was sold to the Cooperative Farm Chemical Association near Lawrence, Kansas for grain elevator service. Whether this historically important locomotive still exists today is a mystery. On November 4, 2019, the Midland Continental Railroad Historical Society wrote on its Facebook page, “Efforts are underway to determine the final disposition of the locomotive.” As of June 12, 2022, there do not appear to be any updates on the search.
No. 310 is one of a series of railway innovations facilitated by New Deal loans to over 30 railroads, bringing increased efficiency, more power, different types of power, better acceleration, less pollution, etc. These New Deal-funded trains and locomotives won the hearts of railroad employees, railroad enthusiasts, model train hobbyists, and—most importantly—the traveling public.
48th Annual Report of the Interstate Commerce Commission, December 1, 1934, Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1934, p. 139.
Untitled Associated Press article, in the Argus-Leader (Sioux Falls, South Dakota), May 2, 1934, p. 1 (column 2).
“Diesel Locomotive Will Be On Display,” Star Tribune (Minneapolis, Minnesota), September 21, 1934, p. 3.
“Those people made a good locomotive,” Trains: The Magazine of Railroading (Kalmbach Publishing), December 1969, pp. 28-43.
“Westinghouse Industrial Locomotives,” North East Rails (accessed June 2, 2022).
“Midland Continental Railroad Historical Society,” Facebook (accessed June 12, 2022).
“Midland Continental Depot Transportation Museum Featuring Peggy Lee,” North Dakota Tourism Division (accessed June 2, 2022).
“Midland Continental Railroad,” Wikipedia (accessed June 12, 2022).
Site originally submitted by Brent McKee on June 14, 2022.
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