Tommy Thompson’s 9” steam engines

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Glenn Brooks
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Tommy Thompson’s 9” steam engines

Post by Glenn Brooks » Sat Mar 27, 2021 11:26 am

Anybody know what happened to Tommy Thompson’s two old 9” steam engines? Any photos available?

Apparently his ROW is still in place, on Mc Connell Island, east of Friday Harbor, out in the San Juan’s, with reports of his diesel operating on it several years ago.
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Thanks,
Glenn
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Motive power : 1902 A.S.Campbell 4-4-0 American - 12 5/8" gauge, 1955 Ottaway 4-4-0 American 12" gauge

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NP317
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Re: Tommy Thompson’s 9” steam engines

Post by NP317 » Sat Mar 27, 2021 11:34 am

I will ask Keith Sternberg. He is likely to know.
'Will report back here with anything I learn.
RussN

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NP317
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Re: Tommy Thompson’s 9” steam engines

Post by NP317 » Sat Mar 27, 2021 8:30 pm

From Keith Sternberg:
"One of Tommy's 9" lokies is in the possession of his son Bradford. I
doubt it has had steam in it since Tommy died. The track is still
there on the island. I attach a photo of his three-way stub switch at
the lokie house. There is a rusty old boiler there too, which may be
all that remains of the other okie."

RussN
Attachments
McConnell_3-way2.jpg
McConnell_Bay2.jpg
McConnell_boiler.jpg

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tsph6500
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Re: Tommy Thompson’s 9” steam engines

Post by tsph6500 » Sun Mar 28, 2021 7:11 am

OK… so I'll be the one to ask the question most of us are thinking… what's the story of Tommy Thompson’s railroad?
Best regards,
Jim Leggett

Montreal Live Steamers
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NP317
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Re: Tommy Thompson’s 9” steam engines

Post by NP317 » Sun Mar 28, 2021 10:32 am

Tommy Thompson was a famous steam person in the Pacific Northwest.
He owned McConnell Island in the San Juan Islands, and used his steam powered lifeboat "Fire Canoe" to get there and back. He built his unique 9" gauge steam railroad on McConnell Island for enjoyment, and entertained many visitors over several decades. Thompson basically raised his Family in this environment.

If you look carefully at the photo above showing the bay beyond the tracks, three steam launches are visible with the Fire Canoe on the right. Many community steam adventures involved McConnell Island and Mr. Thompson. The Fire Canoe usually burned drift wood collected from the islands, and the boiler replacements bore testimony to using these salt-laden fuels. All part of Thompson's Pacific Northwest steam legacy.

Thomas Thompson was famous enough that the University of Washington (Seattle) named their research ship after him. It still docks at the U of W, and proudly bears his name. My Mechanical Engineer daughter-in-Law has been to sea on that research ship. I never met Tommy, but his name was always known at the U of W.

I hope others will add to Thompson's story. He is truly a Steam Legend here in the Pacific Northwest USA.
RussN
Last edited by NP317 on Sun Mar 28, 2021 10:44 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Short Line Tom
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Re: Tommy Thompson’s 9” steam engines

Post by Short Line Tom » Sun Mar 28, 2021 10:42 am

Each new machine was made on a "used" one.

Glenn Brooks
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Re: Tommy Thompson’s 9” steam engines

Post by Glenn Brooks » Sun Mar 28, 2021 10:56 am

Russ and Tom, many thanks for coming up with details of Tommy’s old RR. I’ll pass that along to the 18” ga crowd.

Not sure where his son lives now. But I think he is still in the PNW. So the remaining loco may well be in the Puget Sound Region still.

Tommy was an early day live steamer (circa 1950) in Washington. Lived out in the San Juan Islands north of Puget Sound on a small, private island. He built a 9” ga Railroad 9n the island, then eventually established the 18” gauge Anacortes Railway- 1 mile tourist Railway that ran from the boat harbor right into Downtown Anacortes. Regularly scheduled runs every weekend. Lasted for 20 years, then when Tommy died, the family closed it down and naysayers in the City pulled the right of way- effectively ending operation. It’s been an unsuccessful battle to re-establish it elsewhere, sadly.

BTW, Keith Sternberg is another legendary steam hand in the Pacific Northwest. He lives out on Lopez Island, next island over to Tommy’s old place, and is a shipwright, boilermaker, machinist, and swings ship compasses for a living. He restored the Virginia M. Puget Sounds last operational steam powered passenger ship, out of the Puget Sound Mosquito fleet, and builds 7.5” ga steam Lokies.

There are a couple of links on line to old home Anacortes Railway videos, now on YouTube, and at least one short documentary...

BTW, Tommy built the entire thing. Restored the loco from a 1000# air charged underground mine engine, and personally hand built all the rolling stock. The engine ran on dried cedar bark chunks, Tommy sourced by the truck load from a now defunct Anacortes lumber mill. Yellow Cedar is a highly aromatic northern evergreen, that grows from Washington up into south eastern Alaska, along the coast. Old growth trees could reach 1500 years of age and had massively thick trunks and bark. Hence Tommy had great slabs of bark to burn in the loco. Very pleasant fragrance around town, when he was operating his Railway!

I think that is Tommy the photos, below...
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Glenn
Moderator - Grand Scale Forum

Motive power : 1902 A.S.Campbell 4-4-0 American - 12 5/8" gauge, 1955 Ottaway 4-4-0 American 12" gauge

Ahaha, Retirement: the good life - drifting endlessly on a Sea of projects....

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NP317
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Re: Tommy Thompson’s 9” steam engines

Post by NP317 » Sun Mar 28, 2021 11:03 am

Thanks, Tom.
That brand new video history is really good! Latest info as of 22 February, 2021.
Thank you for posting this reference.
RussN

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RussellCofIdaho
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Re: Tommy Thompson’s 9” steam engines

Post by RussellCofIdaho » Sun Mar 28, 2021 11:47 am

Thanks for posting this Glenn, the history of the 9” railroad is fascinating, especially that most of it is still around!

The tales of The San Juan Islands are of interest to me because my wife’s uncle is from there and always told stories- taking busses and boats to school, ugly little rooster greeting him as he arrived home, torrential storms, beautiful stories.

I grew up on the coast south of San Francisco so have other ocean memories but I find it all inspiring of tomes I want to write and artwork I want to paint.

The photos of Tommy’s 18” leave me misty as a bunch of us had planned to head west for a ‘last ride’ party, I even called the restaurant to make dining arrangements. Unfortunately we were all busy making a stupid living and it didn’t happen. Now that is long ago history, our 18” railroad on the ranch has been gone 7 years and my brother Rollie who built it all (and sold it at scrap prices I couldn’t afford to pay) is in hospice dementia care.

My family is now living in a bus (why is the photo upside down?!?) thanks to the high housing prices in the Boise area, hoped to take a tour of the area (can you imagine a 30,000 pound beast on the ferry?!?) but with COVID still raging, everything is put off...

Ive got to get to Chaski more, Facebook less...

I guess at least we have memories, as you get older sometimes that’s all you have.
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Russell Courtenay
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tsph6500
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Re: Tommy Thompson’s 9” steam engines

Post by tsph6500 » Mon Mar 29, 2021 5:30 am

Thanks for the great steam story. History gets forgotten so easily if we don't tell the tales.
Best regards,
Jim Leggett

Montreal Live Steamers
www.montreallivesteamers.org

A Founding Member of the Tinkerbell Scale Society - Northern Division
I'm an A.R.S.E. (Association of Railroad Steam Engineers)
Toad Swamp & Punk Hollow Railroad - Head Tycoon
The Juvenile Traction Company - CEO & Apprentice Machinist 3rd Class
White Mountain Central RR - Engineer & Fireman

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Marty_Knox
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Re: Tommy Thompson’s 9” steam engines

Post by Marty_Knox » Mon Mar 29, 2021 9:17 am

Live Steam magazine for August 1972 had a two page article by Francis A. Orr titled 'McConnell Island Narrow Gauge'.
It has pictures of the 9" gauge Mogul, Tommy's boat, and the 18" gauge Porter.

kcameron
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Re: Tommy Thompson’s 9” steam engines

Post by kcameron » Mon Mar 29, 2021 8:24 pm

As for his name being important out there, look at Google Earth. Tommy Thompson Trail, an old rail line, shows crossing Fidalgo Bay. It shows he is being remembered well.

https://www.traillink.com/trail/tommy-thompson-trail/
-ken cameron
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