New effort will focus on restoration of famed Pennsylvania Railroad K4s No. 1361

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No. 1361 is runs northbound on the Nittany & Bald Eagle Railroad pulling into Tyrone, Pa., to load passengers for a round trip to Bellefonte in July 1987.
Steven J. Brown
ALTOONA, Pa. – Preservationist Bennett Levin announced Thursday a new push to restore famed Pennsylvania Railroad K4s steam locomotive No. 1361 to operation after an on-again-off-again state of rebuild and disassembly for more than 20 years.
The 100-year-old official state locomotive of Pennsylvania needs a new welded boiler at an estimated cost of at least $1 million and its driving axles must be converted to roller bearings, Levin told members of the Pennsylvania Railroad Technical & Historical Society gathered in the famed railroad shop town for their annual meeting.
“There is movement going forward,” he says.

Levin says the 4-6-2 locomotive will be restored to pull a replica 1940s and 1950s PRR passenger train of six P70 coaches and B60 baggage cars that will tour the Keystone state as an educational tool. He also said he will work for a legislative remedy to alleviate liability insurance problems plague excursion trains. That would mean that excursion operators would no longer need Amtrak’s liability insurance to operate on freight railroad tracks.

He says the restoration effort will be privately funded and that no additional government money will be involved. He said that retired Norfolk Southern Chairman Wick Moorman is also supporting the restoration. “We believe there are financial partners out there to sustain the operation,” he said.

Levin said that a survey of the boiler shows that it should be replaced so that it can be reliable once more. He said that boiler manufacturers such as Foster-Wheeler and the shop in Germany that produced a new boiler for a 4-6-2 in England in 2008 will be under consideration.

He called the current operating environment for historic equipment “fragile.” A special train behind Levin’s Pennsylvania Railroad E8s and private cars to Altoona this week was cancelled after Amtrak said it would no longer handle charter trains earlier this year.

Levin has worked tirelessly for railway preservation projects nationwide for years, much of the work in obscurity. The PRR holds a special place for him. “This is going to be my last hurrah,” Levin said. “We need to solve the problem.”

The locomotive was display on Horseshoe Curve from 1957 to 1985 when it was restored to operation over a 2-year span. An axle problem sidelined the engine in 1988, and it was partially restored at Steamtown before that effort was abandoned and the boiler moved to the East Broad Top shops in Orbisonia, Pa. The boiler was returned to Altoona and a small crew has been working on components over the last year.

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