Railroad out of money for 2-6-6-2 restoration, stops work

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The cab of Chesapeake & Ohio 2-6-6-2 awaiting restoration in July 2015.
TRAINS: Jim Wrinn
CUMBERLAND, Md. — A lack of money is forcing the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad to stop all work on restoring Chesapeake & Ohio 2-6-6-2 No. 1309.

“A lot of our visitors have the idea that we should throw all of our money into the 1309’s restoration, but that would bankrupt us,” Executive Director John Garner tells Trains News Wire.

In explaining why the project is short of funds, Garner says that grant requirements and personnel issues are partly to blame. News Wire could not independently verify Garner's specific claims Friday afternoon.

Garner does say the railroad has "done a poor job of communicating" how operations keep the railroad in business and that the railroad considers No. 1309 to be a special project, akin to other projects, such as landscaping.

"Those special projects come to a stop when money runs out,” he says.

No. 1309’s restoration has received at least $400,000 from the State of Maryland to help fund the restoration. News Wire confirms with Maryland officials that that money is nearly gone.

Garner says that it will take at least an additional $530,000 to complete No. 1309’s restoration, an estimate Garner says he received from the railroad's contractor on the steam locomotive project, Diversified Rail Services. Documents Garner provided to News Wire show that the running gear and the boiler would require $120,000 and $115,000 to complete, respectively.

In April, Garner said the railroad had spent $800,000 of its own cash on the project and had expected to spend the $400,000 state grant. In August, Garner told News Wire that the project's total cost sat at $1.8 million.

Follow-up calls to confirm the latest totals were not answered Friday afternoon.

Garner also says that funding issues alone, not any ongoing mechanical problems, were behind the railroad canceling an early November hydrostatic test on the articulated locomotive’s boiler.

“We filled the boiler with water up to the crown sheet, and repaired a few leaks around the stay bolts,” Garner says. “Then we ran out of money.”

Garner says Western Maryland Scenic is actively pursuing alternative sources of funding, but railroad officials' attempts so far have been insufficient to keep the project moving forward. Garner says that the staff are pursuing additional grants from various donors, but those funds are unlikely to arrive until late 2018 — if they are approved at all. Special photo freight charters held in October did not bring in as much money as anticipated.

“Those trains brought in a modest amount of money for the 1309, but there weren’t as many people as we hoped,” Garner says. “I don’t think that we fully understood what was going on in the region on that weekend, there were several other railroad-themed events going on around the same time."

Garner says that the railroad will hold another round of freight photo charters in February 2018. In the meantime, he says that railroad officials hope to bring in funds through a letter writing campaign. He says that this week, staff members are preparing to send out about 1,600 letters to potential donors in Virginia.
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