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Vulcan arrives at Pa. rail museum

(The following story by Larry Alexander appeared on the Intelligencer Journal website on December 28.)

STRASBURG, Pa. — It’s the little engine that could.

Weighing in at just 12 tons, the small Vulcan switch engine, a new addition to Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania’s collection, and its half-dozen or so siblings, were once the workhorses of some of the nation’s largest rail yards.

In use for decades, but now with its engine torn apart and its yellow paint almost entirely obscured by rust, the little engine sits on a siding at the Strasburg museum, awaiting the preservationist’s attention.

For the museum, acquiring the engine Dec. 13 was a nice Christmas present.

“We have practically the entire Vulcan Locomotive archives here at the museum, and yet we did not have a Vulcan locomotive,” museum director David W. Dunn said. “So when this came up for donation, we jumped on it.”

Built in 1926 by the Wilkes-Barre-based Vulcan Locomotive Works, this particular little engine spent its working life there, moving raw materials and finished locomotives around the site.

It was retired in the 1960s and in 1973 was acquired by Harold Cox and Ed Blossom, who moved it to Dushore Car Co. where they were restoring historic streetcars.

Blossom donated the gasoline-powered Vulcan to Electric City Trolley Museum in Scranton in the 1990s, where it was to be used to move trolley cars in places where there were no overhead wires to power the electric motors.

“They didn’t need this anymore, and declared it as surplus,” Dunn said. “And since they knew we were interested in acquiring a Vulcan, they called us. We sent our curator of locomotives and rail cars, Allen Martin, up to look at it, and he would very much like to get it back into running order.”

Once its engine can again power the locomotive, it will go back to work, teaming up with the museum’s Plymouth switch engine to haul cars and locomotives around the grounds as needed.

Dunn said the Vulcan faces a major overhaul, but that, considering its age and abuse by time and weather, it likely can be restored with few problems.

“This locomotive has been stored both inside and outside since its retirement,” Dunn said. “The car body is bereft of any paint, and new windows and doors will need to be fabricated.

“Despite its rusty appearance, the car body itself is in otherwise good condition and can be stabilized quickly through the application of rust preventative and paint.

“Given the size and the condition of the piece, restoration costs should be relatively minimal for an artifact of this nature.”

The Vulcan is now awaiting its turn in the museum’s restoration shop.

Also at the museum, the Seth Thomas clock that hung on the museum’s north wall since 1983 has a new home.

On Nov. 20 the 60-pound, clock, which has a diameter of 8 feet, was hoisted into the tower overlooking what will soon be the museum’s new entrance.

Built in 1881, the clock was placed in the Broad Street Station in Philadelphia, where it marked the time until the station was demolished in 1952.

The clock was spared by Publicker Industries of Linfield, and stored in a warehouse until donated to the museum in 1982.

That same year, the clock was converted from mechanical to electrical.

The clock and the museum’s new facade will be dedicated May 18.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

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