Sumpter Valley #19, A Narrow Gauge Delight

Located in eastern Oregon, the Sumpter Valley Railroad was often referred to as the “Stump Dodger line.” This was partly because the railroad had so many curves and twists that it seemed like its engineers were always dodging tree stumps. Well, this railroad was mainly built to support the region’s logging industry and as a 3-ft narrow-gauge railroad, it needed powerful locomotives that could handle well. Enter Sumpter Valley #19, which has been steaming for more than 100 years!

Sumpter Valley #19 on a test run prior to one of her excursion tours.
SV #19 preparing for an excursion. (Photo: Baker County Tourism via CC by 3.0)

A Brief History of the Sumpter Valley #19

Sumpter Valley #19 is a Mikado-type steam locomotive with a wheel arrangement of 2-8-2 and a tractive effort of 23,700 pounds. Weighing 202,000 pounds, #19 was manufactured in 1920 by ALCO for the Sumpter Valley. The company was originally known as the Oregon Lumber Company, so #19, together with #20, was built to operate on the company’s branch on the Sumpter Valley.

#19 was used for hauling logs from the forest to the company’s plant and served the company until 1940, when the railroad acquired two new locomotives that were more powerful than #19. As a result, the locomotive was sold to the White Pass & Yukon Railroad in Alaska where she was heavily used until 1958. Sumpter Valley #19 was then left unused and stored at the White Pass & Yukon roundhouse in Skagway, Alaska.

Sumpter Valley #19 steams up for fans as she rumbles down the tracks.
SV #19 steaming up for fans. (Photo: Larry Myhre via CC by 3.0)

When the Sumpter Valley Railroad Restoration Inc. was formed in 1971, the group set their sights on bringing #19 and #20 back to Oregon. The two locomotives were brought back home to Oregon from Alaska in 1977. In 1991, Sumpter Valley #19, which was in the better condition of the two locomotives, was sent to Portland for restoration. The 5-year restoration process was completed in 1996 and the legendary #19 began its excursion career soon afterward back where her career began.

Current Status

Originally, #19 was a wood-burning steam locomotive but was recently converted to an oil-burning steam locomotive. Today, #19 runs on a 5-mile right-of-way narrow-gauge railroad between McEwen and Sumpter. It operates seasonally mainly on weekends and major holidays. You can visit the Sumpter Valley Railroad website and plan for a 2-hour round trip behind the majestic #19 steam locomotive.

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