McCloud River Railroad
#37 on St. Maries River Railroad

As noted elsewhere on this site, Midwest Pacific transferred the McCloud River #37 from the McCloud Railway to the Dakota Southern Railroad in early 2017. The #37 operated on the Dakota Southern for about two years before sidelined by electrical issues by early 2019. In 2021, the State of South Dakota sold the railroad Dakota Southern operated out from underneath the company; Midwest Pacific sold some of the locomotives previously used on the Dakota Southern to the new operator but kept the #37, which has been sent to the St. Maries River Railroad in St. Maries, Idaho.

St. Maries in northern Idaho has long been home to a large forest products industry, especially after the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific Railroad completed its transcontinental mainline through the town in 1908-1910. A giant sawmill and plywood plant operated by Potlatch Forest Industries has dominated the town for many decades. The forest products giant deemed rail service to be essential enough to the plant's operation that the company formed the St. Maries River Railroad to purchase seventy-one miles of Milwaukee Road track when that company abandoned its main line west of Miles City, Montana, in 1980. The STMA system consisted of nineteen miles of former Milwaukke Road main line extending from St. Maries west to a connection with the Union Pacific at Plummer Junction, Idaho, plus fifty-two miles of the Milwaukee's Elk River branch extending from St. Maries south to a connection with the Burlington Northern at Bovill, Idaho. Potlatch also purchased another forty-five miles of Milwaukee mainline extending from St. Maries east to Avery, Idaho, which it operated as a private logging railroad for a couple years until the U.S. Forest Service reclaimed much of the right-of-way and forced the railroad's removal. The STMA existed to serve the needs of the Potlatch plants, hauling logs from reloads on the Bovill line north to St. Maries and then lumber and plywood from the St. Maries to the outside connections. Flooding damaged the connecting BNSF line into Bovill in the middle 1990s, which cut that connection off, and then in 2009 Potlatch implemented changes in the St. Maries mill that eliminated rail log shipments and ended operations on the former line to Bovill.

In 2010 Potlatch sold the St. Maries River Railroad to the Michael Williams, who has since folded it into the Midwest Pacific Rail Net & Logistics umbrella with his other properties. The Williams company had planned to send all three of McCloud's SD38s to St. Maries River as early as 2012, but did not. The demise of the Dakota Southern finally resulted in the #37 being sent to the St. Maries River, and UP delivered the locomotive to the interchange at Plummer Junction on the afternoon of 23 July 2021. The #37 will rejoin most of the former Shasta Sunset Dinner Train cars, which have been in St. Maries since 2012. The Williams Group was contemplating starting up a dinner train operation on the Bovill line at that time, but those plans never came to fruition. The #37 will need mechanical work before it can be used, but if those are the plans it will be a welcome addition to the STMA operations, as that company has been having increasing problems keeping its existing locomotive fleet operational.

The most iconic photo location on the St. Maries River Railroad has always been the impressive trestle over Benewah Lake, seen here sometime in the late 1990s or early 2000s. This view has chamged substantially in recent years, as parts of the trestle collapsed under the weight of STMA's large locomotive crane in 2006. The collapse nearly ended the railroad then, but after some deliberation Potlatch rebuilt that part of the trestle. C.G. Heimerdinger Jr. photo, Jeff Moore collection.

The entire STMA locomotive fleet the #37 will join is seen here parked in front of the shop Potlatch built in St. Maries after buying the railroad. The roster consisted of EMD GP-9s #101, #102, and #103, and SW-1200s #501 and #502. Potlatch bought all five from the Milwaukee Road and had all five completely rebuilt by Morrison-Knudson in Boise, Idaho, prior to delivery. C.G. Heimerdinger Jr. photo, Jeff Moore collection.

Ted Curphy got some advance notice that the Union Pacific Plummer Turn operating from Spokane, Washington, to Plummer Junction on Friday, 23 July 2021, would have the #37 in its consist. Ted got the following photos of the #37 en route to its new home, all are reproduced here with Ted's permission. Ted has included photo locations with each photo. Thank you, Ted!

The #37 arrived in Plummer Junction well after the STMA freight had come and gone, and baring a special weekend movement the unit is likely to move to St. Maries on Monday the 26th. Hopefully this page will be periodically updated as the #37 is repaired and hopefully returned to service on the St. Maries River Railroad.