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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

50 years ago in Expo history: A steam locomotive from Omaha drew big crowds to the fair grounds

 (Spokane Daily Chronicle archives)
By Jim Kershner The Spokesman-Review

The old-fashioned toot of the steam whistle heralded the arrival of steam locomotive No. 8444 – one of the last operating steam locomotives – near the Expo ’74 grounds.

It was hauling eight train cars with Union Pacific officials. Train aficionados crowded around the Burlington Northern depot to take snapshots.

The locomotive wasn’t quite like the old steam engines of cowboy movies. It ran on bunker oil rather than coal, and it was massive, weighing 550,000 pounds fully loaded. The train had been making its way from Omaha for a week, drawing big crowds along the way.

The locomotive had been out of service since 1958, but the engineer said it “ran like a sewing machine all along.”

From 100 years ago: A speeding train cut an auto in half near Mead, killing three members of a Green Bluff family.

The driver, who survived, said his “view was obscured by the station house near the crossing,” and the train was coming so fast he couldn’t avoid the collision. A witness said the car was traveling slowly as it approached the crossing and “seemed to hesitate” right before reaching the tracks.

Also on this day


1954: Mass trials of Jonas Salk’s anti-polio vaccine begin, with the first shot delivered in Fairfax County, Virginia. More than 443,000 children receive shots over three months.

1986: The world’s worst nuclear disaster occurs as Reactor 4 at the Chernobyl nuclear power station in the USSR explodes. As a result, 31 die and radioactive contamination reaches much of Western Europe.