Trains News Wire EXCLUSIVE: Nonprofit outlines plan to restore Maine Central No. 470

RELATED TOPICS: STEAM/PRESERVATION
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A pace shot of No. 470 on its last run in June 1954.
Philip R. Hastings
WATERVILLE, Maine – Leverett Fernald still remembers the day, Dec. 14, 1970, that Maine Central 4-6-2 No. 470 was rolled on to a short piece of display track near the MEC's classification yard in Waterville. Now, 43 years later, the American Locomotive Co. product built in 1924 could be getting a new lease on life.

The New England Steam Corp. has been in negotiations with the city of Waterville to purchase the locomotive for $25,000. The measure is now before the city council, which has to have three public readings of the ordinance before it can vote on the matter. The second reading is Tuesday. If the nonprofit is successful in purchasing the locomotive they plan to restore it and operate it on the Downeast Scenic and Maine Eastern railroads.

“If we succeed, we'll be saving a piece of Maine Central history and that's what we want to do,” Fernald, a board member and chief mechanic officer, said.

Maine Central No. 470 was the last steam locomotive to operate on the Maine Central and pulled a farewell to steam excursion on June 13, 1954 from Portland to Bangor and back. After the trip the engine was taken to Waterville where it was weatherized and then put on display four days later.

On Oct. 28, 1962, the engine was officially donated to the city of Waterville, but a few days later it was moved back into the yard because of a road construction project. Eight years later it was put on display near Tower A, where it's sat ever since.

Over the years, groups have tried to maintain the engine, most recently in 2005. However, nearly six decades of exposure to Maine's harsh winters have taken their toll on the locomotive.

In 2012, the city put out a request for proposals to have the locomotive removed or restored. Soon after the request was put out, Terry Harper, Brett Goertemoeller, and Richard Glueck formed the New England Steam Corp. to put a proposal together, one of six the city received and the only plan to keep the locomotive in Maine.

In 2013, the city opened negotiations with New England Steam. Earlier this month, the two parties announced that the engine would be sold to the non-profit for $25,000 if the group can raise the funds in two years. The group's board includes Glueck, Fernald, Peter Violette, Brian Hebert, Jason Lamontagne and Stephen Hussar.

Fernald said the city allowed the group to inspect the engine earlier this year and volunteers were able to do an ultrasound on parts of the boiler and inspect the firebox. Even though the engine has been outside for nearly 60 years, the weatherization the Maine Central did in the 1950s went a long way to preserving the engine.

“It's got good bones, I'll put it that way. It's not pristine, but it's very restorable,” he said. “It's in a lot better shape than you would think considering it's been outside.”

The group estimates it will cost $1.7 million to restore the engine. If and when they do formally purchase the engine, Fernald said they will truck it to a yet to be determined facility somewhere in Maine. Once it is restored, the group hopes to run it on the Downeast Scenic and Maine Eastern. Both railroads offered letters of support to the project earlier this year.

“The Maine Eastern Railroad looks forward to the future possibility of having No. 470 operate on our railroad,” wrote Vice President Charles Jensen. “Having a Maine Central steam locomotive operating in regularly scheduled passenger service on a Maine Central rail line at mainline speeds and stored in a Maine Central roundhouse would be an exciting and uniquely historic way to present the locomotive to the people of Maine.”

Fernald said it's too early to know how long the restoration will take or what other issues may arise. But he adds the group is excited about restoring one of only three MEC steam locomotives still in existence.

“To see the engine restored and taken care of like it deserves would be fantastic,” he said.

For more information about the project and to learn how you can donate, visit www.newenglandsteam.org.

NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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