Auctioneer Mike Peterson in action
After a two year search (and a number of dead ends and nearly "done deals"), The Valley Railroad Co. has purchased an additional steam locomotive.
Former Knox & Kane Railroad No. 58, a 2-8-2 built by Tangshan Locomotive & Rolling Stock Works in July 1989 (construction number SY1658M) was purchased by the Company on October 10, 2008 at the liquidation auction of the K&K along with 10 tons of spare parts. Why buy another locomotive? Why now? A bit of background on the motive power situation at The Essex Steam Train.
As our business name implies, one of our missions is to operate trains powered by steam locomotives. Steam locomotives are inherently expensive: to operate, to maintain and to restore. Under Federal Railroad Administration rules(49CFR, part 230), each steam locomotive can operate no more than 1472 "service days" within a period of 15 calender years. Our No. 40 will come due for it's "1472" in May 2014 (or sooner if we use up it's "service days). Our No. 97 will come due in March 2011, so we really have only the balence of this year and the next two before it comes due (as of last month, it had accumulated 1271 "service days). We'll use up those 201 "service days" and then No. 97 will be due. But the "1472" on No. 97 will entail a good deal more rebuilding than usual, we estimate that with the size of our crew, facilities and resources, the work will take 4 or 5 years to accomplish if all goes well. Should the project not go according to schedule we could have a motive power crisis in 2014 when No. 40 comes due. Rather than risk not having two steam locomotives available (remember, they must be inspected and maintained during their "term of service" and being old machines are subject to failures) we decided add a third steam locomotive to our roster.
Some readers will recall that in May 1989 the Company purchased a brand new steam locomotive from Tangshan, our No. 1647. It had a beautiful all welded boiler (equivelent toASME standards), well made running and driving gear which proved easy to maintain and was economical to operate. Unfortunately, we sold it in 1992 due to a number of factors (a banking crisis, cash flow, lack of resources AND someone who had an immediate need for a "new" steam locomotive). The locomotive just purchased was built to the same specifications as ours and arrived on the same boat.
Knox & Kane No.58 too is due for a "1472" plus a good deal of cosmetic work having been in a building that burned earlier this year. Early this month, a VRR team of Wayne Hebert, Kjell Benner and Dave Conrad spent two days inspecting the locomotive and tender inside and out.
Our immediate plans are to stabilize the locomotive and tender prior to moving them to Essex. Our near term plan is to begin work on the restoration once the annual inspections of Nos. 40 & 97 have been completed in January/February 2009.
We expect to have the locomotive (Valley Railroad running number to be determined) restored, inspected and ready to steam by mid-2011.