NKP 763 sale will require city approval

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ROANOKE, Va. - The sale of Nickel Plate 2-8-4 No. 763 from the Virginia Museum of Transportation to the Ohio Central will require the approval of the Roanoke City Council, the Roanoke Times reported. The museum last month agreed to sell the 763 to Ohio Central for $125,000, and the railroad has already made a down payment of $25,000. Because the locomotive, like much of the museum's rolling stock, is actually owned by the city, the Roanoke City Council must authorize the sale. "We can certainly use the money," museum executive director Bev Fitzpatrick told the Times.

The Virginia Museum of Transportation has had rough going the last few years. In 2001, it lost almost half its annual revenues when state funding for non-state museums was cut. Some of those funds have been restored, but last summer, a storm tore off part of the museum's new roof, leading Fitzpatrick to say the museum was in crisis.

While selling museum assets to solve cash flow problems is generally frowned upon in the museum world, not everyone agrees. "In the museum world, there are very, very different views on this," Kay Strickland, a past director of the transportation museum, told the Times. Unlike paintings and other kinds of museum artifacts, she said, rolling stock such as the 763 requires constant maintenance. "I don't think this is the worst thing that could happen. There comes a time when you have to be practical and do what you can to survive."

Some pointed out that the locomotive, built by Lima in 1944, has no real connection to Virginia, since the Nickel Plate did not operate in the state. It was held for preservation by the Nickel Plate at the end of the steam era and acquired by Norfolk & Western in its merger with Nickel Plate in 1964. N&W repainted the engine at the Roanoke Shops in 1966 and donated it to the museum.

Some of the sale money could go toward transporting three N&W 4-8-0 steam locomotives, as well as a 2-8-0, that have sat at the Virginia Scrap Iron and Metal Co. in Roanoke since the 1950s. The derelict locomotives have been donated to the museum, but will probably have to be trucked out of the scrap yard since they can no longer roll.
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