Western Maryland Scenic test fires 2-6-6-2 No. 1309

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Safety valve lifts on Western Maryland Scenic's C&O 2-6-6-2 No. 1309 as the restoration moves forward.
Chase Gunnoe
RIDGELEY, W.Va. — Chesapeake & Ohio No. 1309 is waking up.

Western Maryland Scenic and contractor Diversified Rail Services are stationary test firing the 2-6-6-2 today in the latest step toward returning to operation the last steam locomotive built for domestic use in the U.S. by Baldwin in 1949.

Contractors raised No. 1309’s boiler to its working pressure of 210 pounds Wednesday afternoon. Gary Bensman, president of Diversified Rail Services, says the test fire is operating as expected.

“We tested the injectors and generally just inspected the boiler for leaks. There are no leaks on the boiler,” Bensman says.

Another component to Wednesday’s test was to open the throttle and blow steam through the superheater units to clean out welding residue, dust, and grinding dirt from the header and branch pipes. Bensman says cleaning out those units and pipes will keep the pistons and valves from collecting dirt after reassembly.

“It was blood red when we started, now it’s clean white,” he says.

Aside from a couple minor piping issues and a small list crews developed from Wednesday’s test fire, the next major steps are to apply the lagging and jacket to the boiler – a task that should begin in the next month or so.

After major funding ran out in fall 2017, wheel work continued as a result of donations from Trains readers contacted by direct mail. At the time contractor Gary Bensman of Diversified Rail said a crew of 4-6 could finish the engine in six months if an additional $530,000 was raised. Work resumed in May after additional funding was secured, and the railroad continues to raise money for the project.

When completed No. 1309, will become one of the largest steam locomotives in regular service in America, and the only Mallet type in operation east of the Mississippi.

Western Maryland Scenic Railroad officials say No. 1309’s remaining costs are around $250,000 as of early October.

For more information, or to make a donation, go to www.wmsr.com.

Additional details added at 2:50 p.m. central

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