Owned by United States Steel, the Duluth, Missabe & Iron Range Railway was built for one major purpose: to haul iron ore from the mines of Minnesota and Wisconsin to the Lake Superior ports of Duluth and Two Harbors, Minnesota. Its primary cargo was so heavy that normal hopper cars couldn't carry it; the DM&IR's signature rolling stock was the short "ore jenny" designed especially to haul iron ore.
As World War II loomed on the horizon, ore tonnage on the Missabe Road increased more than fourfold from 1938 to 1941, and the railway needed additional motive power. Ordered from Baldwin, the new engines were based on a Western Pacific 2-8-8-2 design. A four-wheel trailing truck was added to accommodate a larger firebox and a longer, all-weather cab for Minnesota's bitter winters. The so-called Yellowstone 2-8-8-4 wheel arrangement had originated earlier on the Northern Pacific, where Alco had promoted the first engine of that type by hosting a sit-down dinner for 12 people in its firebox.
Delivered in the spring of 1941, the DM&IR's first eight Yellowstones were among the largest steamers ever built, in the same class as Union Pacific's Big Boys. By at least one measure - tractive effort - the Missabe Road engines were more powerful. They pleased their owners so well that, with the permission of the War Production Board, an additional ten Yellowstones were ordered for delivery in 1943. Because the new engines were delivered during a seasonal downturn in ore traffic, part of the new order was temporarily leased to the Denver & Rio Grande Western. The following year, the D&RGW asked to borrow them again, stating in a telegram that they were among the finest engines the road had ever run. Hauling trains of over 100 loaded ore cars, the DM&IR's 2-8-8-4s soldiered on into the 1960s, with the last officially retired in 1963.
Upgraded with new features including wireless tether and quillable whistle, the massive DM&IR Yellowstone returns to the Premier line for 2009, ready to haul the most challenging loads on your layout.
Did You Know?
Three Missabe Road Yellowstones have been preserved. Engines 225 and 229 are on outdoor display in Proctor and Two Harbors, Minnesota, respectively. Yellowstone 227 resides inside the Lake Superior Transportation Museum in the former Duluth depot, where electric motors spin her massive drivers for the delight of visitors every hour.