What is the 1246? It is a steam locomotive built by the Baldwin Locomotive Works in 1907 featuring a 2-8-0 wheel arrangement commonly known as a Consolidation.
People of a certain age who grew up in the Seattle area may fondly remember the Woodland Park Zoo steam locomotive that was on display at the south entrance. Donated to the City of Seattle in June 1953 by the Great Northern Railway, the 1246 was placed on a plinth for children of all ages to enjoy. Check out this promotional video from 1953:
In the late 1970s, the Woodland Park Zoo evolved into a wildlife conservation organization and soon it was apparent that an iron horse did not fit in their collection. A plan was developed to move the locomotive to the Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI), but the more than $100,000 cost exceeding the available funding.
In 1980 the City of Seattle held a locomotive auction. Collectors from across the region expressed interest – as did the Northwest Railway Museum – but the successful bid was submitted by Fred Kepner of Klamath Falls, Oregon who planned to build a railway museum. Mr. Kepner moved the locomotive to the much drier climate of eastern Oregon where it has aged much better than in a coastal climate. Unfortunately, his plans to build a museum did not materialize.
After his passing in 2021, the locomotive and several others were acquired by the Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad in Tillamook, Oregon. In the fall of 2022, the Northwest Railway Museum and the Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad penned a deal to exchange locomotives. The Northwest Railway Museum transferred the Union Pacific (Oregon Short Line) locomotive 529 (also a consolidation) to the Oregon Coast group and acquired ownership of the Great Northern 1246 in exchange.
Locomotive 1246 moved to the Northwest Railway Museum in late April 2023; please consider a contribution to help defray the costs, which exceed $88,000.
Thank you to Mr. Martin Hansen of Bend, Oregon for the use of photos from his collection, and for his recollections on the history of the 1246.
Thank you to the leadership at the Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad for seeing the merits in the exchange of artifacts that strengthens the collection of both institutions.