NKP 765 News Briefs

Fort Wayne’s engine will have a summer workout in excess of 3,000 miles and an appetite for its weight in coal.

Fort Wayne’s engine will have a summer workout in excess of 3,000 miles and an appetite for its weight in coal. A test fire last week and inspection by Norfolk Southern, Amtrak, and the FRA have readied the engine for the season.

Below are some news briefs from the engine’s owners, the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society:

– FWRHS has posted the 765’s entire 2012 schedule, including deadhead dates. There is talk of the engine stopping at Horseshoe Curve on August 20th for a photo opportunity.

– NKP heritage unit no. 8100 will accompany the locomotive for the season, and no. 1070 of Wabash colors will travel with the engine to St. Louis. No. 8100 is reportedly on its way to Fort Wayne now.

– No. 765 will carry whistles from each fallen flag railroad or territory she runs on, including the New York Central (Toledo), Pennsylvania Railroad (Harrisburg, Pittsburgh), Norfolk & Western (Williamson, WV) and Wabash (St. Louis.)

– No. 765 has been outfitted with brand new cab signals and refitted with an MU box, though the railroad will likely keep a crew assigned to the trailing unit.

– The tool car no. 701 will be named the “Glenn E. Brendel” in honor of the organization’s founding member who passed away February, 2011.

– The FWRHS has a few more surprises and offerings in store based on their website.

A Berkshire on the Move


Following a lengthy and expensive upgrade to Nickel Plate Road no. 765’s tender to to tune of $60,000 and six months of work to the existing Buckeye trucks, the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society is putting miles on its 2-8-4 in new and familiar territory this summer and fall.

No. 765 will operate nearly every weekend in September on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad for the first time, kicking off the railroad’s semi-annual Steam in the Valley celebration with Viscose 0-6-0 no. 6 also in attendance.

Though steam had recently operated through the national park in the past with the Ohio Central’s consummate Canadian, no. 1293, weight restrictions on a bridge had previously prevented a locomotive any bigger than the 4-6-2 from visiting. Now that work to the line has removed these constraints, the 765 will have 50 miles of rail, mostly welded, at an average 30MPH to run. Meanwhile, no. 1293 and its stablemates at the Age of Steam Roundhouse are getting prepared for to be housed in  the new facility, which is halfway through construction now.

Following operations in September, no. 765 will return to Owosso, Michigan in October pulling trips on the same routes as last year’s TrainFestival from Owosso to Alma and the 1225/765 doubleheader from Alma to Cadillac. These trips will immediately benefit the Steam Railroading Institute and their Project 1225.

What does this mean for no. 765 and the railroad historical society? Aside from another chance to show a certain considerate Class 1 railroad it’s ready and waiting a future call to duty, but also to prove itself on the Wheeling and Lake Erie, and with the roller bearings and temperature senors on the engine truck in place, earn some practice for a future at the head of an Amtrak train.

I hear Rock Island may be calling.

It’s Interesting Work if You’re a Four Wheeled Trailing Truck

2010 has already been a particularly interesting year for mainline steam, with three of its biggest stars experiencing vastly different playing fields in the new year.

Only a few weeks into its tear down for routine federally mandated work, Milwaukee Road 4-8-4 no. 261 rose to the top of railfan headlines as its owners, the National Railroad Museum of Green Bay, Wisconsin and its caretakers, the Friends of the 261 were unable to come to terms over new lease negotiations for the locomotive. The present 15-year lease is to expire in 2011 and the 261 cannot turn a wheel without substantial overhaul work; work that would be completed just in time for the lease to tick out.

In what has apparently been a series of bold, if not uninformed moves, the museum has sought to increase the lease payments to over ten times their original amount, forcing the Friends to either walk away or pass that cost onto its customers. The museum also wanted the locomotive returned with several years of its operable life left. With the excursion market forever in flux and no guarantee of a return on the investment, the Friends were unwilling to concede to the new and wholly unrealistic lease demands. The museum continued to position itself as only interested in having the operable 261 run and further posited that it was the failure of the Friends to concede to their demands that would prevent this.

Nevertheless, the effort to price the Friends out of leasing the 261 may have been a calculated one, as the 261 immediately found itself listed for sale at $225,000 soon after the negotiations publicly ended. As if the story didn’t have enough curve balls, the 261 was apparently sold, then not sold, and as of this writing rests in purgatory as the buyer, apparently a gentleman from the western United States, seeks to evaluate the mechanical condition of the locomotive and reportedly seek additional buyers to make the purchase with him. To add a final twist, there have been rumors of the buyer offering to lease the 261 back to the Friends, but under similar pretenses that the museum also presented.

Since the negotiations between the Friends and the museum had been ongoing for several years, the Friends have been looking forward and have taken the opportunity to “re-brand” as the Railroading Heritage of Midwest America, allowing them to seek out new restoration candidates and presently operable steam locomotives to lease and operate on their own excursions.

When it came to light that the sale had yet to be finalized, The Green Bay Press published that National Railroad Museum Executive Director Michael Telzrow had resigned from his position to take a job elsewhere.

Across the Great Lakes, Pere Marquette 2-8-4 no. 1225 and Owosso, Michigan’s Steam Railroading Institute, fresh from their renown success as hosts of TrainFestival 2009, were forced by the presence of a long-standing and massive debt to lay off a number of its employees, including Chief Mechanical Officer Greg Udolph who joined SRI in 2007 as its young, but remarkably determined Chief Mechanical Officer.

Lead by Executive Director TJ Gaffney, also newly installed, the Steam Railroading Institute thanks in part to its ongoing Polar Express stardom and “North Pole Express” excursions, rocketed back into the limelight as the engine performed more frequently throughout the year than it had in the previous decade. Excursions, photo charters, and a variety of other operations showcased the 1225 and the young leadership of SRI as it moved to create one of the country’s largest railroad festivals in years.

Looking ahead at a locomotive requiring considerable work (and temporary loss of its major bread winner) and its financial obligations (costs associated with property ownership and the facility’s turntable) forced the board of directors at SRI to curb its operating budget, curtail operations, and lay off part-time and full time employees. This move came after the 1225 was removed from service after only a day of operating its Christmas trips, as the engine’s age and need for the overhaul was again catching up to it.

After experiencing a minor (and in the steam days, a completely normal) tube failure during TrainFestival, SRI descended on the repair and replacement of the failed tubes plus neighboring ones, allowing them to operate a memorable doubleheaded photo charter and public excursion to Cadillac, Michigan in the fall. With the locomotive set to go down for its overhaul the following summer, SRI made the difficult decision to concentrate all its efforts into operating successful North Pole Express trips albeit with a diesel.

While the loss of its talented staff and the removal of the 1225 from active service are remarkable abrasions, Gaffney is actively pursuing underwriting opportunities for the overhaul of 1225 and SRI is approaching operations this year with cautious optimism, where opportunities to partner again with other historical railroad organizations. Michigan has seen how meaningful its Steam Railroading Institute is, and it is this authors opinion that Owosso won’t be long for help from its community, including aid from a grant similar to the one a certain Nickel Plate Road Berkshire received in 2000.

And speaking of the 765, the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society has taken a cue from the Nickel Plate in upgrading the 765’s tender to all roller-bearing wheel sets in an effort that will streamline and expedite the operation of the 765 on Class 1 railroads. Originally thought to be undertaken during the 765’s ground-up rebuild in 2000-2005, this work will put the 765 in the running to become Amtrak certified and includes the application of thermocouplers on its engine truck and main driver boxes to further demystify the locomotive for modern railroads.

The 765 has nearly ten years of boiler time on it before it goes down for its own federally mandated work and the roller bearing upgrade is expected to be completed in time for the summer excursion season.

The recent drama centering on the three largest steam locomotives operating east of the Mississippi underscores not only the importance of these historical marvels, but that the process in restoring, operating, and maintaining these beasts requires thick skin, appreciable public support, and are vocations one paycheck shy of a real job. Gray hair is optional, though definitely an eventuality.

It’s interesting work if you can get it.

Despite sidelined no. 1225, TrainFestival Triumphant

The tenacious railroad preservationists from the Steam Railroading Institute in Owosso, Michigan are reporting that 36,000 people descended upon the town for the museum’s TrainFestival 2009 – and that’s not counting the many who comprised the museum, vendors, volunteers, or locomotive crews.

Facing fluctuating weather forecasts, thousands came in droves to ride a series of all-day excursions between Owosso and Alma, Michigan, and tour the museum grounds as it hosted eight operating steam locomotives, hundreds of vendors, dozens of displays, and an functioning live steam layout.

With visitors representing all fifty states and a dozen countries, the event turned Owosso into a historic and economic hot spot in a state whose economy and displaced auto industry has largely governed public perception.

Photo by Walter Scriptunas II
Photo by Walter Scriptunas II

TrainFestival gained national notoriety before the gates even opened thanks to the cross-country excursion of Southern Pacific Daylight no. 4449, drawing thousands track side in an endeavor that mirrored the locomotive’s goodwill tour at the head of the American Freedom Train in 1975-1976. In a joint effort, the Daylight’s caretakers Friends of the 4449 and the equally experienced Friends of Milwaukee Road no. 261 chaperoned the 1941 Lima graduate from Portland, Oregon to Owosso in two weeks.

As previously mentioned on SteamCentral, this portion of the festivities would not have been possible if not for the efforts of nearly a half dozen railroads, including Amtrak, BNSF Railway, Canadian National Railway, Canadian Pacific Railway, Great Lakes Central Railroad, METRA, Rail America, and in a last minute series of logistical acrobatics, Norfolk Southern and the Indiana Harbor Belt stepped in to aid in the movement of the locomotive when it was discovered in the 11th hour that no. 4449 would not clear obstacles south of Chicago. Both railroads allowed the ferry move of no. 4449 in a gracious commitment that helped salvage the trip. Alternative and substantially more complicated routes through Indiana (which could have included a joint ferry move with Nickel Plate Road no. 765) were considered but fortunately not utilized.

In the months leading up to the festival, SRI had performed substantial work on Pere Marquette Berkshire no. 1225, including an overhaul of the Baker valve gear and test runs with freight trains compliments of Great Lakes Central; all of it topped with the application of a paint job that would color the eyes of Lima Locomotive Works photographers an envious green.

In an early morning incident that was quickly and responsibly handled, no. 1225 suffered a tube failure which rendered four tubes unfit for service on July 24th. For all the massive effort put forth by SRI, this unfortunate incident only underscored the importance of no. 1225’s forthcoming overhaul, for which TrainFestival was the massive fund-raising tool. SRI expects the locomotive to be repaired for its series of fall and winter trips, including an October 3rd doubleheader with no. 765 and the consistently sold out North Pole Express.

As the dust settles on SRI’s property, the gains made by the organization and the many its many partners are nothing less than extraordinary. Whispers of future events are audible from its young, robust staff of steam saviors, with perhaps an even larger undertaking still many years away.

NKP 765 Summer Excursion Schedule Announced

Following over two years of research, negotiations, planning, and scheduling, the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society will be highballing Nickel Plate Road no. 765 to North Judson, Indiana’s Hoosier Valley Railroad Museum in May.

No. 765 will operate roundtrips on preserved Chesapeake and Ohio trackage between North Judson and LaCrosse, Indiana Memorial Day Weekend and Father’s Day Weekend this summer. The locomotive will pull three trips daily both weekends using the Ohio Central Railroad’s passenger fleet with all trips departing North Judson featuring photo runs for passengers.

Tickets for these trips are on available at www.765.org or by calling 260-493-3885.

In July, no. 765 will travel to Owosso, Michigan to star alongside Lima Locomotive Works relatives PM no. 1225 and SP. no. 4449 in the nation’s largest railroading event of the year as it and seven other historic steam locomotives operate in public exhibition and recreational passenger service. The 765 will be on live-steam static display July 24th and 25th and operate a day-long passenger excursion on July 26th.

Tickets for this event may be purchased online at www.trainfestival2009.com.

No. 765 To Attend TrainFestival

For the second time in history, Lima Locomotive counterparts Pere Marquette no. 1225 and Nickel Plate Road no. 765 will be reunited, this time for TrainFestival 2009 in Owosso, Michigan at the Steam Railroading Institute. This unique celebration allows the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society and the Steam Railroading Institute another opportunity to work together in their railroad preservation mission. The official press release can be read online here.

Both no. 765 and no. 1225 will operate passenger excursions during TrainFestival 2009. Tickets are now on sale for a special earlybird discount at www.trainfestival2009.com

1225 and 765 in Hurricane, West Virginia

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Steam Lives on at the Ohio Central

1293 tackles the line at Morgan Run.With the passing of regular steam passenger excursions, many feared the end to Ohio Central steam completely, but that is not the case. Now, with the apparent sale of the railroad in the works, fears of a complete end to steam have arisen, but the railroad has allayed concerns, stating “the steamers (and numerous historic diesels) are safe, and face a bright future of operations.” In addition, the company has stated that “A lot will be happening with [the] steamers that will be good news to
steam fans and Nickel Plate Road fans alike.”

Indeed, OC steam will be alive and well this fall.

The Ohio Central Railroad’s official Steam Department website received a face lift late last 2007, incorporating a new locomotive to the department’s roster: NKP Berkshire no. 763, which had been purchased from the Virginia Museum of Transportation that same year. Chief Mechanical Officer Tim Sposato reports that the mechanical planning committee has been discussing the work required to all engines as well as laying out the rebuilding program for no. 763. In addition, Grand Trunk Western 4-8-4 no. 6325 has received light repairs, with more substantial work being discussed. Additional news and a recap of 2007’s work has been also been posted.

Before the work on no. 763 commences in full stride, the railroad is wisely keeping capable Candian Pacific 4-6-2 no. 1293 and recently restored Lake Superior & Ishpeming 2-8-0 no. 33 up to spec, including installing a new set of tender wheels for 1293. No. 33 had a public unveiling on April 19th, 2008 for the Ohio Rail Tourism Association when it operated a passenger train full of attendees from Sugarcreek, Ohio to the railroad’s Morgan Run shops.

The Ohio Central also operated No. 1293 at the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad and Byesville Scenic Railway in a number of successful outings in 2007 and the OC Steam Team will return to the Cuyahoga September 24th-28th and Byesville again October 3rd-5th.

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Blog About a Berk – NKP 765

NKP 765

The Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society has established a new way to keep its members and the general public informed of their preservation efforts by digitally adding to it’s quarterly printed newsletter Short Lines, including details regarding the task of bringing restored Nickel Plate Road 2-8-4 steam locomotive no. 765 back into to the business of public excursions and exhibition,

In the Short Lines – Second Section, board members and volunteers upload shop reports, web updates, essays, and related musings. Recent updates include an excerpt from an operations progress report regarding passenger excursions:

“Negotiations for a stay within the immediate region are being negotiated so that the 765 may perform a series of out and back trips allowing us to share our magnificent machine with the public at large, refresh our crew, and equally important: satisfy our debt reduction.

It is so important that this and other operations currently being sought out are a success. Without these excursions, our reputation and ability to take on other restoration projects is severely diminished.”

Last year the the FWRHS was asked to postpone their scheduled operations at the request of the railroad that was hosting them days before an announcement was to be made.

With the 2005 rebuild of the No. 765 completed, the crew is without a doubt ready to hit the road again in a region that has largely been devoid of mainline steam since 1993. No. 765 will be fired up for the FWRHS Annual Open House August 16th & 17th.

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