The History of the Frisco Park Steam Engine
In 1926, the SLSF (Frisco) Railway purchased 30 of the 4-8-2 configuration type locomotives from Baldwin Locomotive Works of Philadelphia, Penn. The 4-8-2 designation was devised by Frederick Methvan Whyte and became a way to classify steam locomotives by wheel arrangement. Whyte’s system counted the number of leading wheels, then the number of driving wheels, and finally the number of training wheels, with groups of numbers being separated by dashes. Frisco 1529 had the distinction of being the very last 4-8-2 “Mountain” type locomotive built by Baldwin for the Frisco Railway in 1926. The price tag was a mere $69,586.79 each.
The St. Louis–San Francisco Railway bought a total of thirty 4-8-2s from the Baldwin Locomotive Works to be used in passenger service. Fifteen (road numbers 1500 through 1514) were delivered in 1923, five (road numbers 1515 through 1519) came in 1925 and the final ten (road numbers 1520 through 1529) arrived in 1926. All thirty of these “Mountains” had 28 x 28 cylinders, 69″ drivers, a 210 psi boiler pressure, and 56,800 lbs in total locomotive weight.
During the late 1930’s, the SLSF needed new locomotives, and money was tight, so the West Springfield Shops undertook a project to build a total of 34 4-8-2s from older locomotives. The first eleven of these rebuilds, out shopped in 1936 and 1937, were built from used 2-10-2 parts and were assigned road numbers 4300 through 4310. They had 27 x 30 cylinder, 70″ drivers, a boiler pressure of 250 psi, a tractive effort of 66,400 lbs and weighed 431,110 pounds. Another 23 4-8-2s were built using the boilers from 2-10-2s between 1939 and 1942. These locomotives were assigned road numbers 4400 through 4422 and had 29 x 32 cylinders, 70″ drivers, a boiler pressure of 210 psi, a tractive effort of 68,600 lbs and weighed a whopping 449,760 pounds. They were the heaviest Mountains ever built. Locomotives numbers 4400 through 4412 were built as oil burners and numbers 4413 through 4422 burned coal.
End of the Tracks
There are six surviving SLSF “Mountains”:
- 1501 at a city park in Rolla, MO
- 1519 at the Railroad Museum of Northwest Oklahoma in Enid, OK
- 1522 at the Museum of Transportation in St. Louis, MO
- 1526 at the Museum of the Great Plains in Lawton, OK
- 1527 at Spring Hill Park in Mobile, AL
- 1529 at Frisco Park in Amory, MS
Number 1522 was donated to the Museum of Transportation in the early 1950s. It was restored to operating condition by a volunteer group known as the St. Louis Steam Train Association and has run several excursions.
On November 18, 1934, beautiful weather prevailed as Frisco Engine 1529 made a stop in Amory during a trip from Washington, D.C. to Tupelo. This was no ordinary train. It was the special train of the 32nd president of the United States, Franklin D. Roosevelt. With around 15,000 people in attendance, President Roosevelt spoke from the back of the train platform remarking, “I had thought all the people in this part of the country must have been in Tupelo, but evidently there must be plenty more here.” President Roosevelt also said that his was his first visit to North Mississippi, and he was coming back. He called the state a pioneer in the field of electrical development and remarked that other states and communities were standing by watching the wonderful work and that someday the entire country would follow suit.
The arrival of diesel power in the late 1940s caused most of the original 30 Frisco Railroad “Mountain” locomotives to be either retired or scrapped. Frisco 1529’s final accolade would be that it was the last steam engine to make a passenger run for Frisco. In fact, during its service on the Eastern, Northern and Southern divisions of the Frisco Railway, Frisco 1529 traveled 1,663,014 miles during its lifetime – the equivalent of almost 65 times around the world. When the Frisco Railroad converted to diesel power in 1952, they decided to retire Frisco 1529. But where do you retire a workhorse like Frisco 1529?
On October 29, 1953, over 5,000 people showed up to celebrate the gift of Frisco 1529 from the Frisco Railroad to the City of Amory. They would also witness the dedication of the new $200,000 Amory division office building of the Frisco railroad. During a speech by the governor Huge White at the dedication ceremony, he predicted that the retired locomotive would become a popular attraction for sightseers. “Within 10 years, there won’t be any steam engines left,” he said, “and this will probably be the only one in North Mississippi.”
Governor White was right. It’s more than 50 years later, and of the six surviving SLSF “Mountain” locomotives, our beloved Frisco 1529 makes its home in Frisco Park.
The good news is that restoration of Frisco 1529 is in full swing. Lorie Bryant, director of Amory Main Street, Inc., applied for and received funding from the BNSF Foundation in 2009 and 2011. The funds were used to provide the signage on Engine 1529’s enclosure detailing the train’s significance.
Within the past year funds were also pooled with donations from the Amory Railroad Festival Executive Committee and the North Monroe County Community Foundation to install a new iron fence. A new paint job for Frisco 1529 is underway too to restore the locomotive back to its original glory.
Builders Plate Discovered
In June 2012, a train enthusiast found and reported to Mayor Howard Boozer an integral part of our Baldwin Locomotive. The Baldwin Locomotive Works Builders Plate that originally came with the locomotive had been found in Cleveland, Ohio. The plate, approximately 9 and ¼” in diameter was on the train after it was originally built. The plate, circular in description, is slightly curved to match the curvature of the smoke box on the locomotive. It is in pristine condition with no scratches or dents. The plate was displayed in the Hobbyville Hobby Shop on Huron Road in downtown Cleveland, Ohio for many years until the shop closed and the contents were sold. Mr. Tony Lemut of Parma, Ohio, a history enthusiast and owner of an eBay historical items store, stumbled upon the plate due to a friend’s fondness of historical artifacts. Mr. Lemut posted the item with the following description on his eBay store:
Vintage BALDWIN LOCOMOTIVE WORKS BUILDERS PLATE dated May 1926 and numbered 59203. The back of the plate is stamped 14504E95. There is a number 1 stamped above these numbers. Approx 9&1/4″ in diameter. This plate was on a 4-8-2 “Mountain” type Locomotive, road number 1529 and was one of 30 purchased by the St. Louis & San Francisco Railway ( SL & SF ). According to research, the 1529 locomotive is one of only 6 SLSF “Mountains” surviving and is located at Frisco Park in Amory Mississippi. No. 1529 was the last of the 30 to be delivered.
Mayor Howard Boozer bid upon and won the plate. The original builders plate is now back home, where it belongs, in Amory, Mississippi. The original plate will be placed on display in a protective case in the Amory Regional Museum. A replica will be placed upon the original point of origin on the Baldwin 1529 in Amory’s Frisco Park after the full restoration of the locomotive.
“St Louis-San Francisco 4-8-2 ‘Mountain’ Type Locomotives.” 12 May 2012. Steam Locomotive Dot Com. Web 18 June 2012. <http://www.steamlocomotive.com>
“Engine 1529’s Colorful History.” Colleen Conger. April 2012. The Monroe Journal. Web 18 June 2012. <http://www.monroe360.com>
“BALDWIN LOCOMOTIVE WORKS BUILDERS PLATE ST. LOUIS – SAN FRANCISCO RAILWAY 1926.” Tony Lemut. Ebay Dot Com. Web 18 June 2012. <http://stores.ebay.com/therooster>