A lucky sighting, combined with a personal appreciation of antique trains, and a quick response by a Hamilton Branch resident, who quickly alerted a Chester Progressive reporter that the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway was transporting a historic Grand Canyon Railway steam locomotive and water tender through Plumas County on Feb. 29, resulted in a photographic opportunity of a lifetime.
After the reporter gave chase into the nearby town of Westwood in Lassen County, the cosmetically restored and newly repainted Spokane, Portland, and Seattle (SP&S) 539 locomotive, a heritage railroad that once carried passengers between Williams, Arizona, and the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park, roared past the railroad crossing gate at Mooney Road where it was photographed en route to its final destination at the Port of Kalama in the Pacific Northwest, according to a Jan. 28 article in the Williams-Grand Canyon News by Wendy Howell.
Trains Magazine wrote that the American Locomotive Company, with service hubs in Rhode Island and the state of Washington, built the steam-powered locomotive in September 1917.
It originally cost $36,631, weighed 266 tons and used 41 tons (10,250 gallons) of water to produce steam.
The SP&S 539 was retired in 1957 after logging some 174,378 miles without a major accident or derailment, according to The Columbian news archives.
The locomotive had been a fixture in front of the Grand Canyon Railway Depot since 2007 and was recently sold to the Port of Kalama in Washington for $100,000 (plus an estimated cost of $163,000 to move it from Arizona), where it will be on permanent display at the Port of Kalama’s Transportation Interpretive Center.