The Mount Emily Shay #1 Arrives at the Oregon Rail Heritage Center

By on Tuesday, February 20th, 2024 in More Top Stories Northeastern Oregon News

LA GRANDE – (Release from the Oregon Rail Heritage Center) The historic steam logging locomotive Mount Emily Shay #1 traveled by BNSF Railroad on a flatcar to its new home at the Oregon Rail Heritage Center, arriving in the early hours of February 15, 2024.

The hundred-year-old locomotive had been in the care of the Oregon Historical Society (OHS) for more than six decades when, in 2022, OHS chose to transfer the Shay to the Oregon Rail Heritage Foundation to be its permanent owner.

“We are grateful to OHS and thrilled to be the new operators of the Mount Emily Shay #1,” said Rick Franklin, president of the Oregon Rail Heritage Foundation. “We look forward to entertaining and educating Oregonians of all ages on excursions powered by this grand old lady of Oregon railroading history.”

The Mount Emily Shay #1 was built 100 years ago by the Lima Locomotive Works in Ohio from a design by Ephraim Shay. Shays were geared workhorses of the timber and mining industries. After five years with the Independence Logging Company in Aberdeen, Washington, the Shay was sold to the new Mount Emily Lumber Company in LaGrande, Oregon. 

In 1955, the lumber company shut its rail operations and donated the Mount Emily Shay #1 to the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, then located in Washington Park. OMSI concluded the locomotive was too big for the Vista Ridge tunnel and, in 1958, donated the engine to the Oregon Historical Society. 

The Mount Emily Shay went on long-term loan to the state of West Virginia beginning in the 1970s. The borrower restored the engine to working order (twice — it was damaged once due to fire), and the locomotive was operated on the Cass Scenic Railroad. In the mid-1990s, OHS, with the guidance, expertise, and help of train enthusiast Martin E. Hansen, recalled the locomotive from West Virginia to be of service educating and thrilling Oregon constituents. From several choices, the City of Prineville Railway was chosen as the new borrower/caretaker/operator of the Mount Emily Shay. 

Since its return from West Virginia in 1994, the City of Prineville has housed and operated the Mount Emily Shay. 

In 2021 Prineville Railway requested an end to the loan agreement, and since OHS is not equipped to house nor operate a locomotive, the organization sought a new steward. A request for proposals was released in April 2022, and the Oregon Rail Heritage Foundation was selected to be the new owner of the Mount Emily Shay on September 1, 2022.

OHS Deputy Museum Director Nicole Yasuhara says of the transfer, “The Oregon Historical Society sincerely appreciates the support of the City of Prineville in stewarding and operating the Mount Emily Shay for decades. We are thrilled that the Mount Emily Shay will have a new, permanent home at the Oregon Rail Heritage Center, where it will be on view and used for excursions, balancing preservation and access to this important piece of Oregon history.”

 “The City of Prineville Railway is pleased that the Mount Emily Shay #1 will have the best care and find new fans at the Oregon Rail Heritage Center,” said Matt Wiederholt, Prineville Railway operations manager.

Before entering service in Portland, the locomotive will undergo a boiler inspection. When ready, the Mount Emily Shay #1 will pull excursions along the Willamette River. It will be the centerpiece of a new exhibit focused on railroading and the logging industry in Oregon and the Northwest.

About the Oregon Rail Heritage Center

The Oregon Rail Heritage Center is a working rail museum in Portland, Oregon, that opened to the public on September 22, 2012. The museum houses three steam locomotives owned by the City of Portland, among other rolling stock. Visitors are welcome to explore the Center and meet the volunteers who maintain these engines. General admission is free to the public during open hours, Thursday-Sunday 1-5 pm. Train excursions along the Willamette River in Portland are offered on many Saturdays year-round and more frequently during the year-end holidays. The Center is directed by the nonprofit Oregon Rail Heritage Foundation. 

About the Oregon Historical Society

For more than a century, the Oregon Historical Society has served as the state’s collective memory, preserving a vast collection of objects, photographs, maps, manuscript materials, books, films, and oral histories. Our research library, museum, digital platforms, educational programming, and historical journal make Oregon’s history open and accessible to all. We exist because history is powerful, and because a history as deep and rich as Oregon’s cannot be contained within a single story or point of view.