Otter Tail Power's coal plant trains now at WMSTR in Rollag

On Thursday, Sept. 1, two World War II era train locomotives that were donated from Fergus Falls are now on the tracks at the Western Minnesota Steam Threshers Reunion.

An engineer Thursday, Sept. 1, tests one of the locomotives from the Hoot Lake Power Plant in Fergus Falls that is now shutdown. Two engines are now being used at the Western Minnesota Steam Threshers Reunion in Rollag that starts Friday.
Ryan Longnecker / WDAY News
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ROLLAG, Minn. — Twenty-four hours before the crowds line up to ride around Steamer Hill, trains from the 1920s are getting primed for the thousands at Steamer Hill.

This year, some new engines are turning heads. One locomotive from 1941 was used in World War Two and after the war it, along with a second engine, worked for decades hauling coal at Otter Tail Power's Hoot Lake Coal Plant.

When the plant shut down to make way for solar recently, the locomotives came to Rollag to live out a new life in show business. The steam enthusiasts who work there year round love it.

"It's a disease. It's just so interesting, preserving history. I am a history buff," Tim Moen, an engineer who helps oversees the the trains at Rollag.

During this Labor Day weekend celebration, the trains will haul hundreds of people a day. These new trains will help ease the workload.


WDAY News was the first to get a ride on the new additions. Chugging down the tracks, the men and women who work on the four locomotives now at Rollag can't describe the thrill, which is why they are here long before and long after Labor Day weekend.

"The equipment, the history, the people — I mean, the people are a huge point," said Mark Kirshenman, an engineer at the reunion. "I live 200 miles away (one way) and I am up here every other weekend in the summer."

Seven-year-old George from Perham, Minnesota was mesmerized by the roundhouse, and he said one day he'll be working on these trains.

Fortune has favored these locomotives that have found their way to Rollag — spared from ending up in the woods left to rust.

Now these pieces from yesterday will get used a lot, bringing thousands a trip around the hill.

Doors for the Western Minnesota Stream Threshers Reunion will open Friday morning with events running through Monday.

Kevin Wallevand has been a Reporter at WDAY-TV since 1983. He is a native of Vining, Minnesota in Otter Tail County. His series and documentary work have brought him to Africa, Vietnam, Haiti, Kosovo, South America, Mongolia, Juarez,Mexico and the Middle East. He is an multiple Emmy and national Edward R. Murrow award recipient.

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