March 7, 2022 Part of a Santa Fe engine is heading East, thanks to a creative collaboration between two unlikely preservation partners.
Later this year, two 501(c)(3) entities, the Kentucky Steam Heritage Corp. and the Pueblo (CO) Railway Foundation are partnering to swap locomotive components, a move that will bring one 78-year-old locomotive’s restoration closer to completion. The move will send two fully-rebuilt cross-compound air compressors from former Santa Fe Northern type locomotive #2912 in Pueblo, Colorado, across the country to Kentucky, where Chesapeake and Ohio No. 2716 is being rebuilt for eventual operation. In return, Kentucky Steam will send C&O 2716’s non-operational air pumps to Pueblo, and the components will be mounted on the cosmetically-restored Santa Fe engine built in 1944.
It’s estimated that the transaction will save the restoration effort of C&O 2716 anywhere from $50-$70,000 and is a landmark partnership between two rail preservation institutions that have not collaborated in the past.
The Pueblo Railway Foundation was formed in 2003, taking over the assets and railroad preservation work of its predecessor, the Pueblo Locomotive & Rail Historical Society. The organization currently runs the Pueblo Railway Museum, and owns several historic pieces of rail equipment, including Santa Fe 2912 which was under restoration work in the 2000s. Several of the engine’s major appliances were fully rebuilt by Backshop Enterprises before the group made the difficult decision in 2011 to abandon the return of 2912 to operation and settle for a cosmetic restoration. Among the rebuilt components were two cross-compound air compressors, the exact type that was used on many American locomotives in the mid-20th century, including C&O 2716.
Air pumps – more properly termed cross-compound air compressors – are vital appliances that adorn every operating steam locomotive. In simple terms, they utilize steam power to produce compressed air, and the air is pumped into high-capacity tanks on the locomotive. The readily available reserve of air is vital to any railroad operation, as the brakes for the locomotive and each rail car are operated by the application and reduction of air pressure. The acquisition and fabrication of parts for these precise mini-powerplants is always a large portion of any historic locomotive restoration. For Kentucky Steam, the aspect of acquiring already-rebuilt air pumps was an amazing yet elusive opportunity.
Dave Dandurand, an officer with the Pueblo Railway Foundation, explained how the transaction came to be.
“Jason Sobczynski, Chief Mechanical Officer of Kentucky Steam Heritage Corporation, knew about the progress of our 2912 rebuilding efforts and contacted the PRF in late 2021 to inquire about the status and availability of the air compressors,” he said. “After a quick discussion among the PRF Board of Directors, an agreement was reached whereby KSHC will bring the compressors from C&O 2716 by truck to Pueblo, and swap them with the compressors on 2912.”
Sobczynski elaborates on the reasoning behind the overture to the PRF.
“The farther we got into dismantling 2716, the more we realized that the air pumps were going to be a significant investment on both time and money,” he said. “I knew about the rebuilt compressors in Pueblo and figured we would at least inquire about a swap. Their willingness to work with us will save us a significant amount of resources, and their engine won't undergo any cosmetic changes with the old pumps from 2716. It’s really a win-win situation for us both.”
In addition to exchanging components, Kentucky Steam will present a donation check to PRF as a sign of goodwill and to help cover some of the costs associated with the completed rebuilding of the compressors over a decade ago.
Founded in 2015, The Kentucky Steam Heritage Corporation has a long-term lease on 2716 from its owner, the Kentucky Railway Museum. The engine, built in 1943 by the American Locomotive Company in Schenectady, New York, is the centerpiece of the organization’s ambitious rail-based tourism project based in Estill County, Kentucky. Kentucky Steam purchased a 40-acre former CSX rail yard in 2018 and has been steadily renovating the space into a railroad-centered campus which will feature the already-refurbished locomotive repair facility, as well as a concert venue, restaurant, and museum. While trains are the theme, the complex will be the hallmark of Appalachian revitalization, providing a springboard for experience-based tourism.
Organization president Chris Campbell says that the locomotive will be both an attraction at their Irvine, Kentucky-based facility, and will also go on the road often, acting as a rolling marketing tool for Appalachian Kentucky’s own tourist endeavors.
“Our hope is that the locomotive will captivate a new audience wherever it goes,” he said. “2716 will bring people to whoever is hosting us as well as eventually draw them to visit us in Kentucky.
“It’s quite the story to have our mission be able to be carried out thanks to a partnership with an organization over 1,200 miles away” he said. “We can’t thank the folks at the Pueblo Railway Foundation enough for considering our project as worthy of support.”
The Pueblo Railway Foundation’s mission is to operate, preserve, and display railroad equipment and history, focusing on Southern Colorado. By displaying historic artifacts to the public, their goal is to promote interest in railroading, as well as champion the preservation and study of railroading history of the region.
The Museum is one of the only places to feature operating artifacts from the Colorado & Wyoming Railroad. Also on display are vintage pieces of equipment from the Santa Fe and Denver & Rio Grande Western railroads. The highlight of each year is the PRF’s “Pueblo Express” Christmas train rides at the Pueblo Union Depot, a festive event with more than 1,000 attendees last December.
Reid Adams, another officer at the PRF, says that though they and Kentucky Steam are separated by distance, their collaboration is welcomed and can help both entities reach their goals.
“We are excited to work with the Kentucky Steam Heritage Corporation and share components of our vintage steam locomotive static display so that the C&O 2716 can become fully operational. Parts and components for steam engines are hard to find and very difficult to fabricate. Therefore, it is vital for museums and rail heritage organizations across the country to collaborate and share resources to help preserve vintage equipment. The PRF and KSHC partnership demonstrates how groups can work together to preserve historic railroad artifacts.”
For more information about the Pueblo Railway Foundation and the Museum, visit https://pueblorailway.org/
To learn more about Kentucky Steam, visit www.kentuckysteam.org