Western Maryland 1309's front engine drivers installed

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No. 1309's front engine got its wheels Tuesday.
Tishia Boggs
RIDGELEY, W.Va. — Western Maryland 2-6-6-2 No. 1309’s restoration moved forward as crews reunited the front engine with its six-coupled drivers.

Crews with Diversified Rail Services, Inc., and Jason Sobczynski of Next Generation Rail Services were hard at work mounting the front engine with the 56-inch wheels Tuesday and installing the pilot today.

“The important thing is that the restoration is moving forward, and it is being done as efficiently as possible,” Sobczynski says. “It is being done correctly and in the best manner to get the engine back in service and making money for the railroad.” he said.

Still ahead is setting the boiler of the 1949 Baldwin, the last engine the iconic manufacturer made for domestic use, on its wheels.

The $2.7 million restoration has been beset by funding issues, parts theft by an employee, abrupt personnel changes, missed deadlines, and other missteps over the last five years since the acquisition of the locomotive in 2014. The former Chesapeake & Ohio locomotive last operated in 1956, and its return to service at Western Maryland Scenic is seen as a potential breakthrough for the tourist railroad that has suffered from a host of issues unrelated to the locomotive, most notably a problematic landslide area near Frostburg.

The restored No. 1309 will be the only articulated in regular operation in the Eastern U.S., and the world’s largest operating compound Mallet — that is a locomotive that uses its steam twice to drive two sets of cylinders. Its new home is a 17-mile mountain railroad includes the famous Western Maryland Railway location known as Helmstetter’s Curve, and its new Appalachian location is not far from its Chesapeake & Ohio roots in the coalfields of West Virginia.

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