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Monday, March 30, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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100 years ago in Spokane: thousands gawk at electric train

From our archives,

100 years ago

The “most powerful locomotive in the world” was on display at Spokane’s New Union Station, and thousands gathered to gawk at it.

It was a new kind of locomotive – an electric locomotive – “more powerful than any steam locomotive.” The Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway took out an ad that called it “this huge representative of future railroad motive power,” the first of an “advance guard of 50 mighty electric locomotives” to be used on the railroad’s main line through the Rocky Mountains.

It weighed 260 tons and utilized 3,000 volts of direct current through overhead trolley wires.

“It uses no coal, requires no water, carries no tender, had no boiler” and even generated its own power on downhills. This was all part of the Milwaukee Road’s unprecedented electrification project over 440 miles of the main line, including the section through the St. Paul Tunnel in the Bitterroots (today’s Hiawatha Trail) and down through the St. Joe River country.

“One aim of the company in electrifying the line is to remove the expense of moving fuel trains, from which no direct revenue is obtained,” said a spokesman from General Electric, which built the locomotive. “The engines also remove the danger of forest fires in the mountain country, thus preserving the scenery and removing the unpleasantness of smoking cinders.”

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