AT&SF No. 2926 is about to steam again — after 63 years

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Rick Marsden paints ceiling panel for the new company store at the home of Santa Fe Railway 2926 in Albuquerque, N.M. The panels will be curved to replicate the roof of the 2926 cab. The previous company store was torn down in June during rerailing of the 2926.
Bill Diven
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - With the derailment of Santa Fe Railway 4-8-4 No. 2926 behind them, volunteers bringing the massive 4-8-4 back to life can almost feel the steam rising.

On Wednesday, fire hose stretched from a nearby hydrant in anticipation of filling the boiler with water for a last pressure test and partially filling the 24,500-gallon tender. Barring another surprise, No. 2926 will be in steam next week for the first time in 63 years.

"This has been a lesson in humility and a lesson in keeping going," says Mike Hartshorne, president of the New Mexico Steam Locomotive and Railroad Historical Society. "No one here quits easily."

It's been a long time coming for NMSL&RHS, founded in 1997. Aided by contract heavy equipment, the group pulled No. 2926 from an Albuquerque park in 1999 and in 2003 moved it to an industrial spur where the restoration commenced.

The engine was to be fired up early in June until a routine move returning 120 feet of locomotive and tender built by Baldwin in 1944 to the engine house ended abruptly when a 14-foot H beam supporting rail over the service pit shifted. That dropped the lead axle of the trailing truck onto the ground.

There, No. 2926 sat for more than two weeks until Hulcher Professional Services could rerail it. First, however, the restoration crew tore down the company store to make room for the rescue and braced the pit walls against the weight of Hulcher's sideboom Caterpillars.

Since then the errant H-beam has been replaced with added gussets, new rail laid by Albuquerque-based GandyDancer LLC, welded rail clips installed, and work begun on a 10-by-24-foot framed company store replacing the earlier metal shed.

Once the fire is lit, everything from cleaning steam lines to raising the safety valves will happen privately for safety reasons. If that goes as planned, the site will be open to the public on Wednesday, Aug. 22, for crew, fans, the news media, and anyone curious to see the million-pound behemoth living, breathing and demonstrating its six-chime whistle.

Meanwhile the crew is prepping for its annual open house from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. on Saturday Sept. 29. The free event features educational displays, model trains, live music, free hotdogs, soda and water and an expanded line of No. 2926-related merchandise in the company store.

Plans to operate No. 2926 continue amid the uncertainty of working with Amtrak, which would provide the engineer and insurance coverage. One goal is to run from Albuquerque to Las Vegas, N.M., over former Santa Fe Railway trackage now owned by the state of New Mexico and BNSF Railway's Glorieta Sub where only Amtrak's Southwest Chief operates.

Additional information can be found on the NMSL&RHS website
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