News & Reviews News Wire Major private collection of steam locomotives is sold to Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad (updated)

Major private collection of steam locomotives is sold to Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad (updated)

By Jim Wrinn | December 18, 2021

| Last updated on April 1, 2024

Part of Fred M. Kepner collection, including 14 steam locomotives, will be retained by heritage railroad; other pieces to be sold

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Line of steam locomotives in disrepair
Over his lifetime, Fred Kepner quietly amassed a collection of 14 steam locomotives, with 12 of them stored at Merrill, Ore. Martin E. Hansen

MERRILL, Ore. — What is perhaps the single largest private collection of steam locomotives, mostly from the western U.S., has been sold and will soon be dispersed following the death of its long-time owner.

The Fred M. Kepner collection of 14 steam locomotives and other railroad equipment has been purchased by the Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad in Garibaldi. Some of the collection will be retained by Oregon Coast Scenic and shipped to its facilities in Tillamook County, Ore. The rest will be sold to other appropriate preservation organizations.

“We are all very excited at the opportunity to expand our equipment roster and vision for the future of our organization,” says Oregon Coast Scenic Chief Mechanical Officer Scott Wickert. “The locomotives that we are bringing home will provide more diversity to our collection. I’m personally thrilled to be able help preserve Fred’s legacy and make sure the locomotives find good homes.”

Kepner, 74, died in October 2021.  He had spent his life collecting steam locomotives, starting in the 1970s. Twelve of the engines are stored in Merrill, Ore., and others are stored off-site.

At his passing, Kepner owned the following at Merrill:

— McBryde Sugar No. 4, 0-6-0, 30-inch gauge, Baldwin 1900, construction No. 17686, with five associated flatcars;

— Oregon-American Lumber No. 105, 2-6-2, standard gauge with tender, Baldwin 1925, Construction No. 58193;

— Oregon-American Lumber No. 104, 2-6-2T, standard gauge, Baldwin 1923, Construction No. 56851;

— Glen Alden Corp. No. 28, 0-4-0, 36-inch gauge, Vulcan 1918, re-boilered;

— Long Bell Lumber No. 4, 2-6-2, standard gauge, Baldwin 1907, Construction No. 31152;

— Oregon Pacific & Eastern No. 1, 2-6-2T, standard gauge, Baldwin 1925, Construction No. 59206;

Tank locomotive in weeds
Oregon, Pacific & Eastern No. 1 is one of the locomotives in the Kepner collection. Some of the rolling stock will go to Oregon Coast Scenic and some will be sold. (Martin E. Hansen)

— Sierra Railroad No. 38, 2-6-6-2, standard gauge, Baldwin 1934;

— Great Northern No. 1246, 2-8-0, standard gauge, Baldwin 1907, Construction No. 32297;

— Sierra Railroad No. 18, 2-8-0 (no tender), Baldwin 1906, Construction No. 29790;

— Sierra Railroad No. 36, 2-8-2, Alco 1930, Construction No. 68278;

— Pickering Lumber Corp. No. 8, 3-truck Shay, 1924, Lima, Construction No. 3254;

— Charles McCormick Lumber No. 100, 2-8-2, standard gauge, Baldwin 1925, Construction No. 59284;

— Southern Pacific wrecking crane No. 7180, Bucyrus 1926, Construction No. 4535; 160-ton with idler car and tool car

He also owned the following at off-site locations:

— Bonhomie & Hattiesburg No. 300, 2-8-2, Baldwin 1925, Construction No. 58241, in Mississippi;

— Sierra Railroad No. 34, 2-8-2, Baldwin 1925, Construction No. 58679, in Jamestown, Calif.;

—Weyerhaeuser Timber Co. No. 101, Baldwin DS4-4-750 diesel; Construction No. 74814, in Klamath Falls, Ore., with coach;

— Pickering Crane No. 2, American No. 1305 “Logger Special,” 1925, in Jamestown, Calif.

Oregon Coast Scenic will keep four locomotives: Pickering Shay No. 8; Sierra 2-6-6-2 No. 38; and the two Oregon-American Lumber locomotives, 2-6-2T No. 104 and 2-6-2 No. 105.

The locomotives to be moved to Tillamook County will form the Fred Kepner Memorial Collection in a museum setting, in addition to existing excursions. Oregon Coast Scenic operates McCloud No. 25 and three Harriman coaches that Kepner previously owned.

Proceeds from the sale of the locomotives not moved to the Oregon Coast Scenic will be used to pay to relocate the locomotives moved from Merrill to Tillamook, about 330 miles. The final list of what will be available is in the works. Queries about purchasing locomotives in the collection should be directed to Oregon Coast Scenic General Counsel Martin E. Hansen in Bend, Ore.

Kepner worked for a time at a tourist railroad in New Jersey.  After that, he worked odd jobs on and off while he collected locomotives.

He started the Great Western Railroad Museum with hopes of operating on California’s McCloud Railroad. He restored McCloud River 2-6-2 No. 25 to operation as part of this plan in 1983. As he started running No. 25 on the McCloud, he began moving his collection there to launch an operating railroad museum.

In the late 1980s a change in McCloud management put an end to that plan and Kepner had to find a new home for his collection. He moved some of the collection to Chiloquin, Ore., and some (like Sierra No. 38) remained on a leased piece of track at McCloud.

During the 1980s and early 1990s, Kepner added a few more locomotives.  About 25 years ago, he leased Union Pacific property in Merrill and moved the bulk, but not all, of the collection there. It remains there today.

Oregon Coast Scenic crews have spent several weeks securing the Merrill site to protect the locomotives. Smaller movable pieces have been removed and stored securely.

— Updated at 1:20 p.m. CST to correct identification of OP&E No. 1 in caption; updated and revised at 5 p.m. CST with information on locomotives Oregon Coast Scenic plans to keep.

6 thoughts on “Major private collection of steam locomotives is sold to Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad (updated)

  1. I know Skookum belongs to a private individual with eventual plans to move it to her final new home in Willits, CA, but I’m just thinking with OCSR retaining the Sierra #38 Mallet, which is a California locomotive while Skookum is very much a Pacific NW one, even being lettered for Columbia River Belt Line, if that owner would ever be willing to trade Skookum for #38. OCSR was instrumental in Skookum’s restoration, and it looked so perfect running along the Oregon Coast and Nehalem River. If OCSR has plans to restore #38 to operation, maybe they could work out a deal with Skookum’s owner for an eventual trade to bring Skookum back to the Tillamook branch and send #38 to Willits. So the Pacific NW locomotive would return to the Pacific NW, and the California locomotive could return to its home state.

  2. Am I wrong to think that these locos are more than a bunch of rusted out hulks? They look pretty awful, between the rust and what looks like large parts of their anatomy.

  3. How many of them will be able to get more than a cosmetic restoration, especially with steam restorations running over a million dollars and probably many parts missing or stolen?

  4. Let’s see if the state of California DPR is paying attention…I’d jump at buying all of the Sierra engines as well as the Pickering shay and crane.

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