Slim Princess Locomotive Moves to New Home at the Eastern California Museum
By Jon Klusmire – Eastern California Museum
The Slim Princess locomotive was on the road, and the sight of a full-size steam locomotive rolling down US 395 drew quite a crowd.
The fully refurbished narrow-gauge locomotive was loaded on a semi-truck trailer on June 9 and hauled from its longtime perch in Dehy Park in Independence to its new home in the recently constructed Larry Peckham Engine House at the Eastern California Museum.
Residents of Independence and surprised visitors and passersby stopped to watch the all-volunteer crew from the Carson and Colorado Railway lay down temporary track that was used to roll the 22-ton locomotive to the trailer. The large semi-tow truck from Miller Towing in Lone Pine winched the engine onto the trailer. Once secured, the rig rolled down US 395 and then up Onion Valley Road and deposited the Slim Princess at its new engine house.
In a way, the very public move of Engine #18 represented history repeating itself. In 1955, Southern Pacific donated the engine to Inyo County. A group of volunteers built the short run of track in Dehy Park. The locomotive arrived on the back of a truck. As an appreciative crowd watched, the engine was placed on the track. It remained a well-known landmark and anchor of Dehy Park for the next 62 years.
Before it was retired to the park, the Slim Princess had quite a work history. The narrow-gauge engine, which was built in 1911, came to the Owens Valley in 1928 and was operated by Southern Pacific, which had taken over the original Carson & Colorado route from Keeler to Nevada. In later years, the route was shortened to just Keeler to Laws. The steam locomotive was replaced by a diesel electric engine in 1955.
The move to the museum grounds represents one of the final steps in the successful effort to restore the engine to fully operating condition. The non-profit Carson and Colorado group has spent the last five years working to get the locomotive running. After firing it up late last year, the group obtained all the relevant state and federal permits to operate the engine.
Volunteers, including numerous professional steam engine and locomotive mechanics and engineers, put in thousands of hours of work on the engine. Financial help came from some grants and large donations, but mostly came from selling t-shirts and hats and hundreds of small donations and fundraisers. Over the years, more than $100,000 was raised to fuel the restoration effort.
Another group of large donations from the Friends of the Eastern California Museum, Carson and Colorado, and the Museum/Inyo County funded construction of the Larry Peckam Engine House on the grounds of the Eastern California Museum.
The locomotive will get an official dedication on Monday July 3, during the Slim Princess Engine #18 Silver Spike Celebration. The locomotive will steamed up around noon, and the final “spike” will be ceremoniously driven on the 300-foot length of track on the museum grounds. Visitors will be able to take an up close look at the locomotive and talk to the engineers and mechanics who rebuilt her.
The Idle Hands Bluegrass Band will perform starting at about 4 p.m., and there will be a fundraising tri-tip dinner on the museum grounds, at 155 N. Grant Street in Independence. Please RSVP for the dinner by calling 760-878-0258, or going online at https://tinyurl.com/ku9nkm3.
The Carson & Colorado Railway (CCR) is an all-volunteer 501(c)3 non-profit group dedicated to the restoration, and eventual operation of Southern Pacific narrow gauge locomotive #18, as a living reminder of the proud history of Independence and Southern Inyo County. For more information, and the group’s latest newsletter, check www.carsoncolordo.com