NACOGDOCHES, Texas — Moving operations will begin Wednesday, Oct. 6, for the 36-ton Shay locomotive located outside Stephen F. Austin State University’s Forestry Building. Following its transport to Harbor Springs, Michigan, the Harbor Springs Area Historical Society and its partners will conduct much-needed renovations and display the locomotive where it will introduce visitors to the contributions of Ephraim Shay, inventor of the Shay locomotive and longtime Harbor Springs resident.
Built in October 1907 by the Lima Locomotive and Machine Works of Lima, Ohio, the two-truck Shay locomotive ferried countless loads of cut timber from East Texas forests to sawmills located in Manning and Camden, Texas, until the early 1920s. After remaining idle for nearly half a century at a railroad siding facility in Camden, the locomotive, originally owned by W. T. Carter and Brother Lumber Company, was donated to SFA in 1970. Since then, it, along with the accompanying Angelina County Lumber Company log car, has stood on the SFA campus as a symbol of the economic and cultural impact of the forest industry on the region.
“While we will certainly miss having this landmark of East Texas forestry history at SFA, we are extremely grateful it has found a new home and will be restored for display at the longtime home of the locomotive’s inventor, Ephraim Shay,” said Dr. Hans Williams, dean of SFA’s Arthur Temple College of Forestry and Agriculture.
Williams said the locomotive needs extensive repairs and renovation, but the college is limited by the large cost of such operations.
Williams was first contacted by representatives from the Harbor Springs Area Historical Society in April 2021 to inquire about the possibility of the university transferring ownership of the Shay locomotive.
Since its inception in 1990, the historical society has focused on the acquisition and restoration of Ephraim Shay’s many artifacts, including the steel-clad Shay Hexagon House constructed in 1892, and the all-steel vessel, the Aha, built by Shay in 1894.
“These projects demonstrate the dedication of the historical society, the City of Harbor Springs and the local community to preserving the history of the area in general and the memory of Ephraim Shay in particular,” said Matt Parmenter, Harbor Springs Area Historical Society trustee. “The addition of a Shay locomotive to these artifacts is an important way to further celebrate the legacy of Ephraim Shay.”
The historical society has enlisted the expertise of licensed engineers and historians to assist in the transportation and renovation of the locomotive.
The Angelina County Lumber Company log car will be housed at the Southern Forest Heritage Museum in Long Leaf, Louisiana. This nonprofit museum seeks to develop, preserve and maintain the nation’s most complete and significant sawmill complex and promote and interpret the forest history of the South. The Angelina County Lumber Company log car will be displayed next to the museum’s restored McGiffert log loader, which was traditionally used to load harvested logs onto rail cars for transport.