Engine 557 Restoration Company
Progress Report August 2017


The evening of August 1, 2017 557 Secretary/Treasurer, Dick Morris and I were invited to make a brief presentation and join members of the LORAM and GREX Board of Directors and other guests in the Quarter Deck of the Captain Cook Hotel for dinner. President and CEO of the AARC, Bill O’Leary and several staff members of the Alaska Railroad were in attendance. We thank Chris Aadnesen of GREX for the invitation and Sabine Accuntius of his office, for all the preparation that made for a great social evening. Dick and I waved the 557 flag with the premier showing of “Engine 557-Restoring Alaskan History”. Several personal contributions to 557 were made in addition to the corporate donations presented the day before as noted in the July Progress Report. Thank you fellow railroaders!

Love this video! My Dad (Monte Holm) was so proud to own the 557 for 45 years! It brought him so much joy!! Our family has so many wonderful memories of the 557!!!” From: Karen Holm Rimple

The Three Amigos

Governor Bill Sheffield, was the fifth Governor of Alaska from 1982 to 1986. He served as Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Alaska Railroad from 1985 to 1997 when he was promoted to President and CEO of the railroad, where he served until 2001. He continues to serve on the Railroad's board of directors.

Chris Aadnesen, was President and CEO of the Alaska Railroad from 2010 until late 2013. Chris retired from a railroad management career which literally took him around the world. Chris worked with Jim and Vic Jansen to secure the return of 557 to Alaska. He continues to promote 557 Restoration from his position as Chairman of the Board for GREX corporation in Georgetown Texas.

James Blasingame hired on at the Alaska Railroad in 1968 when they installed the first IBM computer system in Alaska to handle payroll. He retired after 41 years as the Executive Vice President for Corporate Affairs. Jim worked in administration supporting many leaders of the Alaska Railroad including Governor Sheffield. He left the ARRC shortly before Chris Aadnesen arrived but developed a friendship with Chris during his time as CEO, which continues today. He has been a personal friend and booster of the 557 effort from the beginning.

The photo was taken at a recent lunch where restoration of 557 and the continuing fund raising effort was a topic of discussion. Jim forwarded the photo with the title "Three Amigos." Engine 557 could not be in better company. Three Amigos have all given substantial financial support and encouragement to the resurrection of 557. Thank you Amigos!

Joe Alutius returned to the engine house bearing gifts. Joe’s donations included two books for our technical library:

Joe presented an ADLAKE switchman’s lantern (clear globe with SO.RY. etched in the glass). SOUTHERN RY. is also stamped into the top of the lamp. It is complete with burner and new packing and wick. Joe said, “I was working in a section gang and the foreman told us to clear out any thing we wanted from a little station house as it was scheduled for demolition the next day.”

Joe went on to become chaplain at the U.S. Army Transportation School at Fort Eustice, Virginia. With his prior railroad experience firing on the C&O he was pressed into service as Chaplain Fireman Joe on S-160 No. 607 for her last trip in 1974. At that time they had set the safety valves down to 175 psi. He remembered that it had been some time since the last run and the throttle had been stuck so SP4 Frank Dewey had removed the steam dome cover and got the throttle loosened up and put back together for the run. Yes this was the one and only Frank Dewey! Frank was conductor on that last train and Sgt. Sims was the engineer

Joe said they had a successful run that he will always treasure. All the smoke was just following orders, not because the fireman was remise. He hopes to be around to see 557 in steam. I would like Joe Alutius on the firing deck when we do steam up. Chaplain Joe retired as a Lt. Colonel and lives right right down the road in Eagle River, Alaska.

This e-mail message arrived from Wasilla Mayor Bert Cottle:

“Patrick, Commissioner Chris Hladick, Department of Commerce, Community & Economic Development was in town doing a speech for me, and we had some extra time.  So I brought him down to Engine 557 to brag about the work you and crew are doing.  Commissioner Hladick also sits on the board for the Alaska Railroad, so it was a chance for me to address expanding our opportunities here in Wasilla in reference to the Railroad.  Sorry we missed you, if Commissioner Hladick is back in Wasilla I will make sure you get to meet him.  Thanks”.

Visitors this month came from Norway, South Africa and all places in between. Donald Haynes is with the BNSF in Texas and visited with local family members. He is a life long signalman, very up to date on PTC issues. He sees visiting steam power operating under track warrants in the short term.

Mike Jensen, long time model railroader arrived with a nice donation, and left with a new 557 hat and memorabilia. Regular volunteer, Ken Elmore brought his grand kids, Tim and Theresa to ring our bells.

John VanWingerden, dad of volunteer machinist, Doug, tried out the fireman’s seat box and looks far too comfortable in the cab.

Five year old Max Schmidt came by with his Aunt Susan and demonstrated an understanding of the steam engine and major components that most adults do not grasp. There is hope for the future of Steam.

Evan McKinney and Jerry Park, were I believe impressed with the progress made on 557. Evan is a former Alaska Railroad guy and author of a new novel on the construction of the Alaska Railroad, HIGH IRON TO FAIRBANKS. I am a life long student of Alaska Railroad history. Evan’s work is the first to put me right there as the action is happening in this historical novel. The story line of fictional characters is woven within the facts as reported at the time. Mac and the Damn Yankee station men become as real as Fredrick Mears himself, while Anchorage is founded and the Alaska Engineering Commission creates the Alaska Railroad. Add HIGH IRON TO FAIRBANKS to your reading list along with GET MEARS.

Mr. Larry Hobson, retired from the Beluga River power plant, was very complimentary of work being done. Just keep those good vibes coming folks.

Pipe fitters, Jerry Peters and Tom Walker are completing the air line install for the brake pipe on the tender. Tom is finishing up the K-8 vent valve at the rear of the tender while on the other end a new Emergency Brake Valve is going in. S-160 locomotives were delivered with out these devices. The Greenley Pipe Bender comes in real handy for this work.

August 22, 2017 the 8 volunteer members of the Engine 557 Restoration Company Board of Directors, convened the 5th Annual Board Meeting at the engine house. President Pat Durand, Vice President Scott Hicks, Secretary/Treasurer Dick Morris, Directors Dale Wade, Jim Posey, Maria Keffer and Doug Engebretson were all present. Director and Webmaster John Combs attended via FaceTime from Dayton, Ohio. Doug Engebretson who is COO of the Alaska Railroad Corporation was elected to another three year term. Draft minutes of the meeting are available on request. In summary the board is very satisfied with the progress being made as allowed by funding and volunteer dedication. Board attention is turning toward exploring options for operation and all the details that entails, such as rolling stock, staffing, and infrastructure for the future.

Pyle National K-240 Steam Turbine Generator SN. 55437 is one of three we have for 557. With a little cleanup work and new lubricant Jerry Peters applied house air and got 24 volts at far less than the recommended steam pressure. We plan to have one in service and a spare in standby.

The board members and our volunteers are ever mindful that Engine 557 Restoration Company would not have made it past the proposal stage with out all of the dedicated support of major funders and in-kind donors. When the opportunity presents , please extend an appreciative word of thanks to these individuals and organizations. Employ their services when you can.

For a different take on the S-160 sisters in Europe check out this youtube video: Steam Locos in Profile: USATC S-160s

Patrick J. Durand, President
President Engine 557 Restoration Company

Make all donations to: Engine 557 Restoration Company at the address below.
An Alaskan 501(c)(3) Nonprofit Corporation, EIN 46-2663256

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