NESCo Purchases Maine Central #470

NESCo’s purchase of 470 has been completed! 

On Thursday, November 5, 2015, officials of the New England Steam Corporation completed its purchase obligation to the city of Waterville, Maine, turning over a check for the full purchase price of $25,000 to the City Manager. There was a great deal of media coverage by television and radio networks, and further coverage in the Bangor Daily News and Waterville Morning Sentinel

With this transaction completed, work crews will begin lightening the locomotive for the impending move to Washington Junction on the Downeast Scenic Railroad. This will include freeing the boiler from the chassis, removing the cross-compound pump, and dismantling other large parts on the engine. One of the most awaited items will be the cutting of the drawbar pin, allowing the separation of the locomotive from its tender. 

So wait - I thought the tender was going to be moved this fall? It was, but reassessment of the loads to be moved over the roads has necessitated securing larger cranes and a different tactic for carrying the 470 to her new home. While we have several plans engineered and available for moving the tender and locomotive, it became obvious that rigging the heavy-lift cranes should only be done once. In that manner, work crews only have to be present and set up once in Waterville and once in Hancock. Chief Mechanical Officer Leverett Fernald and Supervising Engineer Joe Foley, Jr., feel the move can take place once the ground is hard and dry in the late spring or summer of 2016. Again, these are estimates and hinge on the safe use of the moving equipment. According to the contract between NESCO and Waterville, a window of 12 months is open for safe removal of the locomotive from the date of purchase. We certainly are going to beat that time limitation. 

So 470 goes to Washington Junction. Then what? Two separate organizations, the Deupree Family Foundation and the Samuel Freeman Foundation, have donated $10,000 and $51,400 (respectively) toward the construction of an indoor shop on Track 7 in the Washington Junction yard. An enclosed shop, based on the design created by University of Maine Civil Engineering students, will be in place to welcome our new patient. An arch-tarp structure, designed for heavy wind and snow loads, will sit atop repurposed cargo containers with drainage rock under them. A drop pit will be added as well. The chassis and tender will sit on rails, while the boiler will be on a mobile truck-carrier. The whole locomotive will be mobile. 

What gets repaired first? Most likely the tender. The frame, brake rigging, and trucks under the tender are appear to be in very good condition. The tender cistern and coal bunker are too far gone to serve as anything other than a pattern. Since 470 can't operate without a tender, and since a tender is a significant and fairly straight-forward project, that's where we are going to start. We have submitted several grant applications to purchase new tender steel at this time. By having those funds on hand, we can start that portion of the restoration in late 2016. Our colleagues at the Wiscasset, Waterville, and Farmington Railroad have offered us use of their riveting jaws. We hope at least a portion of the restored tender will reflect the traditional railroad shop fabrication technique. 

New England Steam Corporation members are responsible for the purchase and the further restoration of Maine Central 470. The corporation itself is a custodial body for our priceless treasure. Be proud of what we have accomplished together and revel in where we are going. 

Photos are courtesy of Kerri Marion, an independent history blogger in the Waterville area.