What's ahead for the steam scene in 2020

Posted by Jim Wrinn
on Thursday, January 23, 2020

It’s shortly after the first of the new year and it’s time to dust off the crystal ball that John Craft and I fashioned 20-something years ago for his Steam Central Website. The crystal ball was and still is about coming attractions in the U.S. steam scene. A heads up back in the day when the internet was in its infancy and before there was social media. Today, it’s time to break out the big ball and gaze into what 2020 may bring.


If 2019 was the year of the articulateds (two out of three made it into steam: (4014 and Skookum made it; 1309 did not), then we’ll dub 2020 the year of going small. The main place you ought to be: Chama, N.M., and Antonito, Colo., either in February when the rotary snow plow runs for a sold-out audience, or Aug 22-30 when the Victorian Iron Horse Roundup lets steam and coal smoke proclaim the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad’s 50thanniversary. From the friends I’ve spoken with already about their own travel plans, I’d say the August event is the No. 1 gig for the year just like Promontory was in 2019. With Denver & Rio Grande 315 backdated to No. 425, newly rebuilt D&RG 4-6-0 No. 168 in a starring role, and visiting 4-4-0 Eureka from Las Vegas, and 1975 2-6-0 Glenbrook from the Nevada State Railroad Museum this will be a narrow gauge late summer event not to be missed. What was already an incredible steam show in the San Juan Mountains of Southern Colorado made into a once-in-a-lifetime gathering. 


Nearby Durango & Silverton’s restored oil burning 2-8-2 No. 493 will bring back a K-37 Class to the Silverton line for the first time in decades. It’s being painted now and could start testing any day now. Once again, the Rockies win the steam show! 


Elsewhere …. 


Don’t take UP’s Big Boy for granted. It will likely find its way to the Pacific Northwest this year at some point and maybe make some other points of call. Again, none of us ever thought we’d live to see a 4000 run again, so enjoy if it you have the time and the money and the good health. 


Speaking of not taking things for granted: Some annual trips are worth noting. Top of the list is Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum’s day-long excursions on its short line partner in north Georgia. Whether powered by Southern Railway 2-8-0 No. 630 or 2-8-2 No. 4501 or both, this is a trip worth riding and chasing. In the upper Midwest, we expect that Nickel Plate Road 2-8-4 No. 765 will return to Ohio’s Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad in September for trips, and that Iowa Interstate will run at least one of its Chinese-built 2-10-2 QJ types in September to benefit local emergency responders along the route.


Other engines to keep an eye on that are nearing the completion of their restorations: 

• Santa Fe 4-8-4 No. 2926

• Black Hills Central 2-6-6-2T No. 108

 • U.S. Sugar’s former Florida East Coast 4-6-2 No. 148


We’ll report on all of these great engines often at www.TrainsMag.com. Have a great year, riding and photographing and we’ll see you on board or trackside or here! 






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