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Toot, toot. Who owns the locomotive?

By Tim Ruzek

Post-Bulletin, Austin MN

You could call it a locomotive-support payment.

Austin City Council members, who didn’t know until August that the city supposedly had owned a retired steam locomotive for the past 50 years, on Monday approved an agreement that verifies the Mower County Historical Society as the vehicle’s owner.

With the agreement, the city will pay the historical society $20,000 for maintenance and upkeep of the locomotive while not acknowledging itself as ever having owned the locomotive.

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Volunteers with the nonprofit historical society have been taking care of the locomotive at the Mower County fairgrounds in southwest Austin, including building a shed in 1979 to store and protect the former Milwaukee Railroad steam locomotive 1004.

The locomotive has been displayed at the fairgrounds since 1957 and will remain there under the agreement.

In early August, Frank Bridges, a member of the historical society board, informed the council about the ownership situation, calling the mishap a "colossal oversight."

At the time, the historical society asked the city to pay $15,000 to help compensate the group for its care of the engine for the past five decades. It also wanted the city to pay $1,500 annually for the engine’s maintenance.

Evidence of the city’s ownership, according to the historical society, stemmed from July 5, 1957, when the city accepted the retired locomotive from the Milwaukee Railroad based on the rail company president’s proposition that the city permanently maintain it as a museum piece.

Soon after, the locomotive was moved through Austin to its current site at the fairgrounds.

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