Mainline Steam Seen Returning Later This Year

Mainline steam excursions may return in the second half of this year, although it is too soon to know an analysis published on the Trains magazine website concluded.

The analysis said it is unlikely that any mainline steam excursions will run in the first half of this year due to lingering COVID-19 pandemic restrictions and concerns.

The onset of the pandemic in spring 2020 wiped out most steam excursion plans last year.

The analysis noted that steam locomotives are people magnets and none of the operators of those engines wanted to be associated with a COVID-19 superspreader event.

Many fans will be watching for an announcement that Union Pacific 4-8-8-4 No. 4014 will resume its travels.

The Big Boy was the star of the Golden Spike Sesquicentennial tours in 2019 along with 4-8-4 No. 844.

Neither locomotive toured last year. “Confidence is high that if the pandemic is brought under control, expect to see UP steam burnish the rails,” Trains reported.

Another mainline steam locomotives that could be out and running late this year is Reading & Northern 4-8-4 No. 2102, which was test fired in January.

It hasn’t operated in 29 years and its owner has been able to offer some excursions during the latter half of the pandemic.

Santa Fe 4-8-4 No. 2926 was ready to roll last year but those plans were thwarted by the pandemic.

The locomotive’s operator is reported to be ready for the engine to move once the pandemic rules are relaxed. It would be the first excursion of an  AT&SF 2900-class locomotive in steam in the preservation era.

Southern Railway 2-8-2 No. 4501 is expected to pull trips from the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum in Chattanooga to northern Georgia but no schedule has yet been posted for this year.

The much anticipated debut of restored Chesapeake & Ohio 2-6-6-2 No. 1309 is expected to be sometime this year, perhaps in mid-summer.

The last Baldwin-built steamer made a test run on New Year’s weekend and the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad must complete track work before the 1309 can take Helmstetter’s Curve.

Operations may begin with an engineer-for-an-hour program.

Norfolk & Western 4-8-4 Class J No. 611 was getting tender axle work at the North Carolina Transportation Museum and it is possible it might operate near that base this year.

The Trains analysis predicted Soo Line 2-8-2 No. 1003 will be back in the fall pulling a photo charter sponsored by the magazine.

It made a similar prediction for Milwaukee Road 4-8-4 No. 261, saying it might pull trips in Minnesota.

Southern Pacific 4-8-4 Daylight No. 4449 might pull some holiday trains in Portland, Oregon, late this year as might Canadian Pacific 4-6-4 Hudson No. 2816.

The latter was fired up late last year and made moves in Calgary, Alberta, for a virtual holiday train special sponsored by CP.

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One Response to “Mainline Steam Seen Returning Later This Year”

  1. pwwoodring Says:

    Although it hasn’t been officially announced yet, my sources tell me that NKP 765 is once again planned to be on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic RR in September for “Steam in the Valley”, which is planning to start operating again in May.

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