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Extreme makeover: West Penn volunteers restore locomotive

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    Volunteers Dave Frederick of West Penn Township, foreground, and John Shucavage of Tamaqua apply another coat of paint Sunday to the locomotive at the train display installed two weeks ago at the West Penn Township municipal building. DONALD R. SERFASS/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

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    Just two weeks ago, the rusty 1941 locomotive was hauled from Beaver Brook to New Ringgold. DONALD R. SERFASS/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS

Published July 08. 2018 01:02PM

The old, rusty “Little Engine That Could” has taken on new shine and continues to galvanize railroad-related volunteerism in West Penn Township, and newly discovered facts about its history are proving interesting.

The first step, though, is to repaint it a color believed to be close to the original, according to volunteers.

The 1940s-era Whitcomb diesel locomotive arrived at the township municipal building on June 23 and is undergoing an extreme makeover thanks to a donation of rustproof paint and sealer.

“Paint was donated by Todd Miller of M&S Hardware. But first, Tony Prudenti came and pressure washed the whole thing,” said resident Dave Frederick, who spearheaded the drive to bring the abandoned engine to the township.

The project involved an exacting extraction technique using $1.7 million in equipment because the engine had sunk into mud and coal silt over the past three or four decades. Making matters worse was a rainstorm on project day that turned the McAdoo-area coal land site into mud and muck.

The extraction and 15-mile road trip from Route 309 at Beaver Brook to 35 Municipal Road in New Ringgold took three hours.

Since then, there’s been much surprise now that the engine’s history has been revealed through research.

According to Kermit Geary Jr. of Lehigh Gap, a volunteer with the Anthracite Railroad Historical Society, the locomotive has traveled far and wide.

Geary’s research has found that the engine was built in November 1941 as a standard gauge, 30-inch wheel, Prime Mover Hercules model.

It was built for Arundel Corporation and Construction of Baltimore, Maryland. It later was sold to the U.S. Navy, Roosevelt Roads Naval Station, Puerto Rico.

Afterward, it made its way back into the private sector when sold to Equipment Corporation of America, Philadelphia. It then was sold to Redco Colliery of Beaver Brook, near McAdoo, now its permanent home.

The engine played a role in the anthracite coal industry during the war years and is expected to anchor a township welcome center where it will symbolize the contributions of West Penn Township and its citizens to the growth of a nation.

The project has not involved taxpayers dollars. Instead, it tapped into the goodwill of a diverse cross-section of business, industry and the general public.

The task of moving the 45-ton piece of machinery involved expertise and donations of time and services by professionals in the trucking, hauling, towing and railroad industries.

Among the firms and businesses involved were Horwith Trucking of Northampton, Hope’s Collision and Towing of Tamaqua; Kisenwether Towing and Recovery of Drums, M&S Hardware of Tamaqua, and donations by Prudenti, Frederick, Ted Bogosh, Art Sterling Jr., John Shucavage and others.

The engine was donated to the township by Pagnotti Enterprises.

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