EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- The City of Eau Claire and the Lake Superior Railroad Museum in Duluth, MN are working on negotiating the future of the Soo Line Steam Locomotive 2719.
The 2719 was donated to the City of Eau Claire in 1960 and in 2006 the city sold the train to the Lake Superior Railroad Museum for $1.
In July 2018, the city repurchased the train for $4 but it has remained in storage at the museum. Eau Claire City Council, which originally wanted to bring the train back to Eau Claire, decided in April 2019 that it would not be feasible.
Now the museum wants ownership of the train but the City of Eau Claire does not want to sell.
“We want to retain ownership but see if we can work something out with the museum or another owner that would allow them long term use or operation of the engine,” says Steve Nick, Eau Claire City Attorney, who has been working on the negotiations.
Nick says retaining ownership for the city is important because of the work and resources put into the train by members of the Chippewa Valley Railroad for more than 40 years.
However, one of those members, David Peterson, says, “The city should sell the locomotive back to museum so it can begins its next 15 year certification to operation.” Peterson says he had been consulted about the negotiations between the city and the museum.
“As owners of a steam locomotive, the City of Eau Claire would be obligated
to meet certain requirements detailed by the Federal Railroad Administration
(FRA Reg. Part 230) should the locomotive be in service by the [museum] under
any agreement with the city based on the resolution passed by the council.
Under the rule, the owners are ultimately responsible,” Peterson says.
Ken Buehler of the Lake Superior Railroad Museum says that though the city wants ownership, that comes with responsibility.
“The owner of a steam locomotive is responsible for it no matter who operates it,” Beuhler says. “It is the owner who is liable should anything go wrong with the locomotive.”
Nick says the city is offering a lease of up to 20 years, but under the lease, the museum would be financially responsible, not the city, for its operation as well as the recertification the engine needs to run.
“Not unlike a car lease… you don't own it but you exercise the day to day responsibilities of ownership,” Nick says.
If the city and the museum can work out an agreement, the plan is for the 2719 to run on the North Shore Scenic Railroad along Lake Superior.
Both the Nick and Buehler agree the best place for the train is a museum.
As of June 2019, the museum has billed the city of Eau Claire $35,000 for storage of the train and other maintenance but the city is hoping to resolve those fees in their negotiations.
The two parties hope to have a resolution by the second city council meeting in July.