D&NM #14, “Iron Will” at the Lake Superior Railroad Museum

When the Duluth & Northern Minnesota (D&NM) Railroad shut down operations in 1919, it looked like one of the company’s newest locomotives, D&NM #14, might be heading for an uncertain future. But being new and still strong, another railroad snapped her up. That saved #14 from the scrapper’s torch and began a whole new, and interesting, career. In fact, Disney fans may have seen this steamer without even knowing it!

Duluth & Northern Minnesota #14 on display at the Lake Superior Railroad Museum.
Duluth & Northern Minnesota #14 on display at the Lake Superior Railroad Museum.

Brief History of D&NM #14

D&NM #14 was built by Baldwin Locomotive Works and purchased by the Duluth & Northern Minnesota Railroad, along with a second locomotive of the same design that was numbered #13, in 1913. D&NM #14 is a lightweight MK-Class Mikado, meaning it has a 2-8-2 arrangement under the Whyte Notation.

The D&NM served as the railroad company for the Alger-Smith Logging Company. While considered ‘lightweight’ Mikados, #13 and #14 were the heaviest locomotives to operate on the line; and the locomotives were primarily used for freight service, although they did occasionally lead passenger excursions. When the logging company shut down in 1919, the D&NM also halted operations.

D&NM #14 (right) on display with Soo #2719 (left) and DM&IR #332.
#14 (right) on display with Soo #2719 (left) and DM&IR #332. (Photo: Jerry Huddleston via CC by 2.0)

The locomotives were purchased by the Lake Superior & Ishpeming (LS&I) Railroad in Michigan. #14 was renumbered to LS&I 22 when the railroad acquired the locomotive, however it would eventually revert back to #14. Although she was slow, the locomotive was lauded for its ability to pull extremely heavy and long trains from Michigan’s iron ore mines. #14 would be part of the LS&I for nearly 4 decades, although her work load diminished in the 1950s.

In 1959, D&NM #14 found herself sold to Inland Steel Company. The locomotive was used as a switcher for a few years by the company in Port Inland, Michigan. By the time D&NM #14 was retired from revenue service in 1966, she was the last steam locomotive operating regular service in Michigan. The company would then use the locomotive for her nearly a decade as a portable steam generator.

D&NM #14 awaits cosmetic restoration at the Lake Superior Railroad Musem.
#14 prior to cosmetic restoration at the LSRM. (Photo: Steve Knight via CC by 2.0)

Restoration, Excursion Service, and an Acting Role

In 1974, D&NM #14 was acquired by Donald B. Shank, who was both the President of the Duluth, Missabe & Iron Range Railway and founder of the Lake Superior Railroad Museum, in exchange for one of DM&IR’s hot water generator cars from the railroad’s surplus. The locomotive would officially be donated to the Lake Superior Railroad Museum in 1981.

Since D&NM #14 was still in solid shape mechanically, the locomotive was chosen to be the steam locomotive for the museum’s new North Shore Scenic Railroad. Restoration work was completed both at the museum and Fraser Shipyards in Wisconsin. After more than 25 years since moving via her own steam, the locomotive entered excursion service on July 11th, 1992, following a successful test run five days earlier.

The North Shore Scenic Railroad would be home to the locomotive for a little over six years, as she led various excursions. The D&NM #14 would also travel to other communities throughout Minnesota and Wisconsin for special events and excursions.

In addition to revenue/excursion service, D&NM #14 was featured in the 1994 Disney movie “Iron Will”, a fictionalized story based on a 1917 dog sled race sponsored by the Great Northern Railway. The locomotive can be seen both as herself and costumed as Great Northern #807, although the original #807 was a Mastodon type (4-8-0). Since the locomotive was in active service, the engineers and conductors operating the locomotive in the movie were actual museum volunteers, not actors.

Current Status at the Lake Superior Railroad Museum

D&NM #14 had her last run on the North Shore Scenic in October 1998 and has remained on static display at the museum since. While discussions to restore her to operating condition have happened on several occasions, it appears that she will remain static for the foreseeable future. Railfans interested in learning more about the museum can visit their website for location, exhibit information, and more.

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