Wednesday, April 18, 2018

The locomotive that built a bomb

Admittedly, the Northwest Railway Museum has many interesting stories to tell, and most have only rarely been shared.  One recently discovered tale concerns a locomotive that helped build a bomb.  

A light industrial switcher was delivered to a place now known as Hanford, Washington in September 1943.  It was destined for use on a secret project; very few people knew its purpose.  The Manhattan Project was charged with developing one of the most devastating weapons ever created, and a sparsely populated area along the Columbia River was selected as a site to build a Plutonium reactor and concentrator that were essential components in the effort.  The product from this plant was used to create the plutonium bomb, which was nicknamed "Fat Man."

The Plymouth-built locomotive now in the Museum’s Collection was used to build the infrastructure, and continued to serve the facility until October 1954.  Later, the locomotive was sold at auction and purchased by the St Regis Paper Company in Tacoma and used to switch their pulp mill.  Interestingly, the St Regis Story is important too, involving the ubiquitous forest industry and Tacoma’s industrial sector.

Plymouth locomotive #463 recently got some attention from a team of volunteers from a US Coast Guard icebreaker.  The US Coast Guard Cutter HEALY (WAGB - 20) serves above the Arctic Circle from June through November. While the HEALY is in its home port of Seattle, the crew gets involved in a number of community projects. The Museum was chosen earlier this year to benefit from their help, and the Plymouth project was selected. The HEALY team is replacing the cab floor and beginning work on the cab side restoration. Work will continue incrementally, and eventually this object will be placed on exhibit to help tell an important chapter of Northwest history.  Thank you to the Officers and Crew of the USCGC Healy!

1 comment:

David said...

Spike, Locomotive #463 is a nice acquisition for the NRM! The history alone makes it a great addition... Living just south of Oak Ridge, we have a similar history around here. We have been on the train tour that runs through part of the Oak Ridge facility... Take Care, Big Daddy Dave