Old 261 – A Train Ride Opportunity Missed

Davenport, North Dakota.

On this Independence Day, let’s go back to the last century when Rail was King and a train trip was a daily occurrence for the traveler. Awhile back, a post on Facebook clued me in to the arrival of Engine number 261 from Minneapolis. I found there would be three days of excursions in early June and I immediately went online to order tickets. Of course, with the reaching power of Facebook, the tickets were all sold by the time I got there. At least I could visit the community of Davenport and see the old steam train as passengers loaded. I was pleased to find that we could climb into the cab and get a look at the belly of the beast.

After a short wait in line, Lynn and I climbed the steep stairway/ladder into the cab and met the fireman. We got a quick tour of the controls and a look at the coal fire blazing under the boiler. As I am writing this, I realize now that I missed an opportunity to visit a bit with the fireman to find out more about him. Truth is, our visit was brief as there were many in line who wanted a “looksee” before Old 261 started on her 3-hour journey from Davenport to Lisbon, North Dakota and back.

Reaching down, he opened the firebox so that we could get a photo. This engine is a true coal burner. It’s the fireman’s job to shovel coal into the firebox and to tend the fire for efficient operation. More views of the cab are in the gallery at the end of this post.

This is the line that I wish I was on. Those lucky passengers with tickets were being loaded into the brightly painted and beautifully restored cars. The occasion that brought the train to Davenport was a 30th Anniversary celebration of a successful freight company that bought unused tracks and put them to use in rural North Dakota. Find out more about this and other trains at the Friends of the 261 website here. The gallery of images below features views of Old 261 captured that afternoon in Davenport, North Dakota. In most browsers, click on an image to enlarge it and to scroll through the gallery.

John Steiner


8 thoughts on “Old 261 – A Train Ride Opportunity Missed

  1. A small glimpse into yesteryear! I’m surprised this thread hasn’t exploded with millennial anger over the burning of coal. While they unceremoniously throw kindling on the climate change fire, they simultaneously shoot clouds of poisonous CO2 into the air which makes unicorns cry. Hope y’all had a happy fourth!

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