Nonprofits work together to restore historic trains

| 31 Jan 2023 | 02:26

Four nonprofit organizations have partnered to restore three identical historic locomotives to operate in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

Middletown & New Jersey Railroad No. 2, Hoboken Manufacturers Railroad No. 700 and New Haven Railroad No. 0814 are 44-tonner locomotives constructed by General Electric in the mid-1940s. All are important surviving examples of early diesel-electric industrial switching locomotives, produced using relatively new technology at a time when U.S. railroads were primarily powered by steam.

The No. 0814 was donated to the Danbury (Conn.) Railway Museum in 2006.

The No. 2 and No. 700 were preserved in a joint 2021 purchase campaign, titled “Operation 88.” No. 2 was acquired by Operation Toy Train of New York in Port Jervis and No. 700 was acquired by the Tri-State Railway Historical Society in Boonton, N.J.

While none of the three locomotives are operational, all are in good shape and are excellent candidates for restoration to operating status.

However, the youngest of the three is 75 years old, and spare parts are hard to find.

The Delaware & Ulster Railroad of Arkville, N.Y., owns a fourth 44-tonner, former Western Maryland Railway No. 76, that was taken out of service several decades ago because of the dwindling supply of available parts.

After years of storage, the No. 76 cannot economically be made operable again but it retains many of its original mechanical and electrical components.

“While it can’t run again, the No. 76 is a great candidate as a part source,” said Richard King, president of the Tri-State Railway Historical Society. “While it would be cost-prohibitive for our organization to acquire an entire locomotive just for the few parts we need to restore our HMRR No. 700, a group of organizations would benefit greatly from using all of No. 76’s available components.”

The Delaware & Ulster has offered to donate No. 76 for restorations of Nos. 2, 700, and 0814. In return, volunteers from the other three organizations are providing support services to the Delaware & Ulster Railroad as it conducts repairs and restoration work on its antique railroad equipment.

One of the pieces being analyzed for restoration is the Delaware & Ulster’s historic New York Central “Doodlebug,” built in 1928 by the J. G. Brill Co.

“These donated services and the efforts of these experienced volunteers will save the Delaware & Ulster tens of thousands of dollars in expenditures over the next several years, far more than the sale or scrap value of our inoperable locomotive,” said Todd Pascarella, general manager of the Delaware & Ulster.

“We are greatly appreciative of the connections and knowledge that this partnership has already afforded us, and we look forward to continuing to foster these new, positive relationships.”

Operation Toy Train, Tri-State and Danbury will be splitting the cost to remove No. 76 from its storage location in Roxbury, N.Y.

Late this summer, No. 76 will be moved by truck to the Port Jervis Transportation History Center, where internal components will be removed by these three organizations.

Nos. 2, 700, and 0814 are likely to be restored to operation in the next few years.

The Danbury Railway Museum also owns another 44-tonner, GE demonstrator No. 1399, that is operational. It, too, will benefit from several parts from No. 76 to improve its reliability and keep it in service.

“We have been searching for spare parts for No. 1399 and the missing parts to restore our New Haven No. 0814 for years,” said Jose Alves, president of the museum. “Being able to share this opportunity and restore two other locomotives at the same time is an amazing bonus, and it speaks to the overwhelmingly supportive nature of the people involved that we were able to bring this many organizations together successfully to make this project a reality.”

After mechanical and electrical parts are removed, the shell of No. 76 will remain on display at the Port Jervis Transportation History Center under Operation Toy Train’s ownership. It will be repainted in the colors of the local New York, Ontario & Western Railway, representing a piece of Port Jervis history that has otherwise been lost to time.

“We are grateful that we’ve been able to work with three other amazing organizations to not only restore our own M&NJ No. 2 to operation but ensure that every piece of the No. 76 will serve a purpose going forward,” said Rudy Garbely, a director for Operation Toy Train of New York.

“Collaborative efforts like this are the future of railroad preservation, and it’s an honor to work with this fantastic group of leaders in the industry to achieve a common goal.”

Operation Toy Train of New York, the Tri-State Railway Historical Society and the Danbury Railway Museum each have launched fundraising campaigns to cover the restoration costs for their locomotives, including the acquisition and installation of parts salvaged from No. 76 and the repainting of each to its historically accurate paint scheme.

Grants, corporate donations, and contributions from private donors are welcome. To learn about the project or to donate, go online to