After the movie is finished, #7 is returned to the mill site and parked on the east end of the laminated beam plant along with several sections of assembled rails and ties.
It is now painted with Army lead paint for a preserver which fades under the ultra violet rays of the sun to an embarrassing shade of PINK while it rests here for the next 8 years. (1963)
Discussions were held at several staff meetings about putting it back into service as a plant site switch engine, but this idea was tabled in favor of purchasing a (Diesel Powered Track Mobile) manufactured by Wagner. The Track Mobile would be a better fit for the huge modernization plans of the early 1960s.
#7 would receive a shinny new coat of black paint and be moved into a special park located on the south lawn of the old Hotel Margaret.
#7 sat in this special place of honor for the next 25 years, serving as a point of interest and photo back drop for tourists.
This leisure life style resulted in a slow and unnoticed corrosion process caused by rain water entering through the smoke stack, mixing with coal smoke residue, and destroying the metal.
Orville Spooner, a long time Timberlands employee and son-in-law of Dan Ryan, #7's last engineer, noticed the erosion problems and brought them to the attention mill managers. (1987)
Preservation concerns over asbestos insulation inside #7 prompted Champion Int., the current owners of the Bonner Mill, to donate #7 to the Ft. Missoula Museum where it presently serves as a tourist attraction.
During the early spring of 1988, #7 is taken apart and loaded onto a special heavy hauling semi truck for its last journey to Ft. Missoula. This move required several trips due to #7's overall length and height measurements. The special truck driver commented that the extra length required him to drive I-90 to the Wye in order to turn around and finish his trip to Ft. Missoula.
Shorty Thompson, Bob Simes and Joe Simenski, retired Champion Mill employees, together with friends, used 1800 pounds of sand and a sand blaster donated by Don Dills to blast away over 63 years of corrosion and old paint. Rob Walla from Sherwin Williams paint provided the technical assistance to apply a new coat of primer and a sparkling new top coat of black paint.
#7 currently serves as part of a display at Ft. Missoula made possible through funds provided by the U.S. Forest Service.
It was my special privilege in 2014, to represent the Bonner Milltown History Center and take a group of youngsters from a Christian school on a field trip where they could actually climb into the cab of old #7. Our good friend Mac Palmer explained the operator controls and other mechanical operating features, not to mention letting each kid ring the bell, as their experience ended. This field trip was finished by watching a video of the movie Timberjack where the class could actually see old #7 operating under its own power.