A Brief History of Chesapeake and Ohio 2716
Our steam locomotive 2716 has an interesting story. The engine is actually owned by the Kentucky Railway Museum, located in New Haven, Kentucky. The museum has very generously leased the engine to us on a long-term basis, allowing projects like the Kentucky Rail Heritage Center to showcase its beauty and mechanical significance. Be sure to visit the Kentucky Railway Museum by visiting their website, or dropping by when in the area!
The Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad (C&O) was a Virginia-based railroad company formed in 1869, and operated until 1972 when it was merged into the "Chessie System" - a predecessor to current-day CSX Transporation. It served 11 states and had a significant presence during its heydey in the Appalachian coalfields of Kentucky, West Virginia and Virginia.
2716 was the 17th engine in a group of 90 total engines ordered by the C&O between 1943 and 1947. These mighty engines were ordered by the railroad from two manufacturers: The American Locomotive Company (ALCO) and the Lima Locomotive Works. They were given a class of K-4 by the railroad. 2716 was part of the first order of 30 engines and was delivered from ALCO in December of 1943, just in time to help the railroad move increased traffic necessitated by World War II. The hard work put in by 2716 and her sisters helped win the war abroad, transporting material, troops, and families as the Nation united with a common goal.
2716 stored in Russell, KY only a few months from retirement. April, 1956
In peacetime, the engines continued to perform admirably for the C&O, operating mainly out of Russell, Kentucky which was a major division point and servicing area. 2716 and her sisters operated as far west as Louisville, and as far east as Newport News.
In the mid-1950's, many American railroads began buying diesel-electric engines which were increasingly proving to be more efficient and require less maintenance than steam locomotives. The C&O followed this trend and began ordering diesels to replace engines like 2716.
After only 13-years of service, 2716 was retired by the railroad and was put into service as surplus. After a few years, the railroad decided to sell their unneeded steam engines for scrap. Luckily, however, the C&O was quite preservation-conscious and donated thirteen of the K-4 class engines to communities that the railroad served.
2716 was donated to the Kentucky Railway Museum in May of 1959, and was towed to Louisville at the museum's location on River Road. There, it was put on display as a proud reminder to museum visitors as a hallmark of the apex of American steam locomotive technology.
In 1979, however, the engine found itself being targeted for a restoration project by the Clinchfield railroad. 2716 was readied to move, and was taken to Irwin, TN to be restored for the company's excursion service. After only a few months of disassembly, the program was shelved and the railroad sent the half-stripped locomotive back to Kentucky for an uncertain fate. A short time later, however, 2716 received another chance. This time, the Southern Railroad tabbed the hard-luck engine to be resotred in Birmingham, AL for their own excursion program, the famed Southern Steam Program.
Master Mechanic of the Southern, Bill Purdie, was given creative license by the railroad, and outfitted the C&O engine to look like a Southern Railway locomotive - even though the company had never owned an engine like 2716. The new-look engine was debuted in the summer of 1982 to great fanfare.
The engine ran until the summer of 1982 when she was again sidelined for an extended period of time. Work was required to repair 2716's firebox and went into the shop in Birmingham, never to steam for the Southern again.
2716 was kept in storage until 1995 when the Norfolk Southern (the new conglomerated company created by the Norfolk and Western and the Southern merger of 1982) ended their steam program. The Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society quickly acted to move the engine from Alabama to their shops in New Haven, Indiana to run on excursions there.
Mechanical officer Tom Stephens masterfully oversaw the rehab of Southern 2716 and transformed her back to the appearance that she exhibited when in service for the C&O.
The poor locomotive was only given a few weeks of operation in July 1996, and was again sidelined by the Fort Wayne group in the fall. She was stored outdoors for several years before being shipped back to Kentucky, this time to KRM's new home in New Haven Kentucky.
In the Spring of 2016 - twenty years after 2716 last was under steam - the Kentucky Railway Museum agreed to a long-term lease of the engine to us for eventual restoration and operation. As of now, 2716 is being stored at KRM and is having work being done to it to prepare it to move to its new home.
We will update all the restoration progress on a separate page, to be added soon as we update our website. In the meantime, enjoy our project roll-out video from 2016, embedded below!