Built in 1921, NP #642 is the last remaining Northern Pacific Mann McCann Ballast spreader. Five Mann McCann spreaders were built by the St Paul Foundry in 1921 for the Northern Pacific. They were used during the summer months to pull ballast back up onto the roadbed and during the winter to plow snow from the tracks. The #642 was assigned to work on the west end of the NP system on Stampede Pass and in the Yakima Valley.

The NP #10 rotary snowplow worked in unison with the #642 on many occasions. Note the Mann McCann in the bottom right. 1/6/42

NP #642 in Auburn, WA in it’s “Black” Northern Pacific colors

Northern Pacific #642 in snow removal operations on Stampede Pass, 1943.

In March 1970 the Northern Pacific merged with four other railroads to create the “Burlington Northern Railroad” (BN), the spreader was repainted and renumbered to BN #972602. When BN sold the Stampede pass line in 1985 ownership was transferred to the Washington Central Railroad were it was believed to have served as part of a wrecking train according to one of its old operators. After its retirement it sat unused on a spur track just off of Mead Avenue in Yakima, WA. In July of 1996 the spreader was purchased from the Washington Central Railroad for $1,000. The same railroad donated the shipping and moved it to Toppenish.

BN #972602 (NP #642) on Stampede Pass in its “Green” Burlington Northern” colors

On the left the Mann McCann has plowed the track leaving a small furrow of snow for the #10 rotary plow to blow off to the side. The Mann McCann was more cost effective to move shallow snow and could clear a wider swath. However when the snow got deep the rotary was brought in. The rotary required a 2 man crew to run a boiler to turn the snowblower. The Mann McCann had a 1 man crew and did not burn additional coal unlike the rotary boiler.

The NP #10 rotary snow blower (above) that worked Stampede Pass with the Mann McCann is currently on display at the Northwest Railway Museum.

In April 2019 the museum was awarded a grant from the Northern Pacific Railway Historical Association (NPRHA) to restore the aging Mann McCann. The cylinders are still functional and it was operational for the 2014 NPRHA convention. We intend to restore the spreader to it mid 1950’s appearance. 

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