One Whitcomb's final journey

A World War II US Army locomotive to travel the ocean (again) to be near old battlefields
RELATED TOPICS: MIDWEST | HISTORICAL | LOCOMOTIVES
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Embedded time-lapse video from the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. The wrapped locomotive appears about six seconds into the recording.

MASON CITY, Iowa — A 70-something World War II veteran is leaving Iowa and returning to the old battlefields of Europe for good. Specifically, a Mason City, Iowa-based 65-ton Whitcomb diesel is going to Holland where it once served in the U.S. Army during the war.

The locomotive was loaded onto a ship in Milwaukee, Wis., on Thursday and is scheduled to arrive in Antwerp during the week of Nov. 6. The locomotive was one of several hundred 65-ton center-cab Whitcombs sent to Europe as the Allies defeated the Nazis. The locomotive returned to the U.S. after the war and was sold as military surplus.

The 65-ton tonner, formerly U.S. Army Transportation Corps No. 7989, was donated by the Lehigh Cement Co. to the Stromrein Goes-Borsele Museum in the town of Goes in the Netherlands. The museum has a collection of World War II-era rolling stock and locomotives, including a Davenport 0-6-0T built in 1943. Museum leaders had been seeking an example of the center-cab Whitcomb diesel, 20 of which were sold to the country at the end of World War II.

When museum leaders began their search for a Whitcomb, they also began a crowd-funding campaign, which has raised about $41,000 to date. Much of that amount will be spent to move the locomotive from Iowa to Milwaukee and from Antwerp to Goes. The ocean shipping has been donated by Splietoff Shipping, which makes two monthly trips between Antwerp and several Great Lakes ports.

"It is a big deal for us, we were approached by a museum in the Netherlands that wanted to restore this back to its original condition to celebrate the 75th anniversary of World War II, and we're happy to be a part of that," Lehigh Cement Plant Manager Tom O'Neill told local newspapers.

While at Lehigh Cement, the locomotive's original Buda diesel prime movers were replaced with Cummins engines, and the trucks and traction motors were also replaced. Fortunately, the original trucks and traction motors were still on hand at the plant and will accompany the locomotive to Holland.

"We were looking for years to find one Whitcomb to complete our collection in the railway museum," reported Project Manager Jos van der Heijden with Stoomtrein Goes-Borsele by telephone to the Mason City Globe-Gazette newspaper.
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