The Oregon Historical Society (OHS) and the Oregon Rail Heritage Foundation (ORHF) announced on September 2 the permanent transfer of the Mount Emily Shay No. 1 locomotive to the ORHF.
The Mount Emily Shay was manufactured at the Lima Locomotive Works in Ohio in the 1920s. Shays are gear-driven steam locomotives, specially adapted for the mining and logging industries. While nearly three thousand Shays were made, only about 115 still exist today; even fewer are still operational.
The Mount Emily Shay was originally purchased by Hofus Steel & Equipment Company of Seattle and later sold to the Independence Logging Company of Independence, Washington. It was eventually sold and named after the Mount Emily Lumber Company, located in the town of La Grande in eastern Oregon. The Mount Emily Shay was owned and operated by the company until it was retired in 1957 and given to the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) for use at its Washington Park facility. When it could not be transported safely to Washington Park, ownership was transferred to OHS in 1958.
The Mount Emily Shay was 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 a 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 used to educate and delight voters across the country. ‘Oregon. Of several choices, the Prineville City Railroad was chosen as the new borrower/custodian/operator of Mount Emily Shay. From its return from West Virginia in 1994 to the present day, the City of Prineville has hosted and operated the Mount Emily Shay for field trips and fundraising programs.
The Town of Prineville requested an end to the loan agreement, and since OHS is not equipped to house or operate a locomotive, the organization sought a new steward. A request for proposals was issued in April, and the Oregon Rail Heritage Foundation was selected to be the new owner of Mount Emily Shay on September 1.
Once physically transferred, the locomotive requires a federally mandated inspection before it can be used again. ORHF plans to use the Mount Emily Shay to organize weekend vacations and excursions between their museum location near OMSI and Oaks Amusement Park and back.
OHS Museum Deputy Director Nicole Yasuhara said of the transfer, “The Oregon Historical Society sincerely appreciates the support of the City of Prineville in the stewardship and operation of Mount Emily Shay for decades. We are thrilled that Mount Emily Shay has a new permanent home at the Oregon Rail Heritage Center, where it will be viewable and used for tours, balancing preservation and access to this important piece of Oregon history. .
“Mount Emily Shay will allow the Oregon Rail Heritage Center to show the public the important role logging railroads played in the development of the lumber industry in Oregon,” said Roy Hemmingway, president of the Oregon Rail Heritage Center. ORHF. “Specialized locomotives like the Shay, which could run on steep, rough tracks, could access timber not available by other means. Shays played a key role in getting logs to sawmills and in developing Oregon’s lumber economy.