An American Treasure
GN1355 is a Class H-5, 4-6-2 Pacific style steam locomotive. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as nationally significant for its mechanical and technological attributes and is listed as a Save Americas Treasure official project by the White House, National Parks Service and National Trust for Historic Preservation. This locomotive gains its significance as the sole surviving member of a class of fifty-two steam locomotives that were rebuilt with the new state of the art steam technologies of the time. GN1355 was originally built in 1909 by the Baldwin Locomotive Works as a ten-wheel Class E-14 passenger locomotive #1020. In 1924, the Great Northern Railway rebuilt the locomotive in the twelve-wheel arrangement, Class H-5 Pacific style passenger locomotive with the following new steam-era technological advancements: Belpaire boiler, superheated steam and other new steam appliances. Originally renumbered #1494 after the rebuild it was renumbered for a final time on 10 April 1926 to #1355. The engine’s operating career spanned over forty-five years in the Pacific Northwest, the Iron Range of Minnesota and the branch lines of Northwest Iowa and Minnesota. The locomotive was retired from service and placed on exhibition 14 July, 1955 in Sioux City, Iowa as a gift from the Great Northern Railway Company as a token of thanks for the cities support of the railroad. This singular event not only gave Sioux City a beautiful locomotive but, in the news report describing the arrival and presentation of the GN1355 to the city the Sioux City Journal also introduced the locomotive to it’s readers as “Old Chief Ironhorse”. While this has never been an official name for GN1355 the nickname took to the hearts of this community and it has stuck with us since that day.
Today, Ironhorse has completed over a decade of intensive cosmetic restoration work. Working from old photographs, research from other steam locomotives and most importantly with inputs from retired engineers and firemen we believe we have achieved the most historically accurate restoration possible. To our surprise and gratefulness we have been rewarded by comments from former steam locomotive trainmen about its cleanliness, accuracy and completeness. The locomotive and tender have been repainted to its 1920’s and 30’s passenger paint scheme known as the Great Northern Glacier Park paint scheme. The same paint scheme it carried when it pulled the Great Northern Railroads famed named trains of the Oriental Limited and the Empire Builder. Sporting a Glacier green boiler and cab interior, graphite smoke box and tires, gloss black undercarriage and cab exterior, and a red roof GN1355 is a stunning example of the romance and beauty of the heyday of passenger trains.
GN1355 was originally a coal burning locomotive and was converted to an oil burning locomotive. Actually it went back and forth between coal and oil 4 different times through its operational career. Its final tender #1451 has a capacity of over 4,500 gallons of fuel oil, and a water tank capacity of 10,000 gallons. The locomotive was designed to operate at 210 psi of steam pressure and when the locomotive and tender were fully loaded for a run it weighed in at over 467,400 pounds. The locomotive has a Traction Power rating of 40,511 lbs at 85% working pressure and with its 73 inch tall main driver wheels this locomotive was built for the power required to pull trains through the Rockies and the ability to run at speed on more level track. GN1355 and its tender #1451 are approximately 78 feet long and the locomotive is over 15 feet tall at its funnel. When you stand next to GN1355 you really get an idea of how huge these locomotives really are.
GN1355 also holds another very distinctive honor among Great Northern Railway history buffs. It was the only locomotive in the GN stable to sport a 7 chime steam whistle which gave it a very beautiful and distinctive sound. During our major events throughout the year the whistle is brought out and operated for our guests to hear. Also, there are other hidden interactive components to this locomotive to please and excite any visitor. It’s not just a dead static display. We have operational headlights and classification lights on both the locomotive and tender; the pneumatically operated automatic bell ringer system has been restored and is fully operational along with operating pressure gages in the cab. This allows the visitor to not only observe but operate certain items just as the engineer or fireman did while it was operational.