In a landmark deal, the Kentucky Steam Heritage Corporation has acquired a historic water tender and accompanying former-Pennsylvania Railroad Railway Post Office car from the Indiana Transportation Museum.
Both cars, along with a former-Pennsylvania Railroad baggage car, were transported from Indiana to the KSHC property in Irvine, Kentucky, in late 2018. The cars were part of a package deal when ITM was evicted from its longtime home at Forest Park in Noblesville, Indiana, a suburb of Indianapolis. The transaction solidifies ownership for all three pieces of equipment for Kentucky Steam.
Kentucky Steam President Chris Campbell said the transaction of the cars from ITM to KSHC helps to further the organization’s efforts in the ongoing restoration of former-Chesapeake and Ohio steam locomotive 2716 to operation.
“The water car itself is a valuable addition to the eventual operations of C&O 2716 and has historical relevance to Eastern Kentucky, particularly the communities of Irvine and Ravenna,” Campbell said. “We have been glad to provide a safe haven for it but now, we believe its future is even more secure, as are the futures for the two Pennsylvania Railroad cars.”
In July 2018, various preservation groups scrambled to acquire and move equipment from ITM’s Forest Park museum grounds with days to spare before the property was repossessed by the City of Noblesville for redevelopment. The marquee attraction of that scramble was the dismantling and subsequent movement of 100-year-old steam locomotive Nickel Plate Road No. 587. The engine now resides on KSHC’s Irvine campus, partially dismantled and in safe storage.
Kentucky Steam inked a deal to coordinate the relocation, storage and eventual restoration of the 587. During ITM’s move away from Noblesville, however, the organization encountered debilitating financial responsibilities, moving artifacts to a potential new home in Logansport, a museum site that has not materialized. In the wake, many former museum pieces have been sold off to other entities or returned to their respective owners.
The water car acquired by KSHC from ITM was originally the coal and water tender for L&N locomotive No. 1958, which operated out of Ravenna, Kentucky — one of the two communities encompassing KSCO’s campus development — during much of its operating life. After the L&N 1958 was scrapped, the tender was saved and assigned to maintenance-of-way service by the railroad. It was later acquired by the Southern Railway and converted into a water car. Later in its life, it operated as Norfolk Southern’s auxiliary tender for famed steam locomotive N&W 611 before being retired in 1987 and donated to the Indiana Transportation Museum where it was used again as a water car, this time for Nickel Plate 587 until 2003 when the engine was taken out of service.
Kentucky Steam leased the car in late 2018 and moved it from an isolated industrial siding in Arcadia, Indiana, with the help of Hulcher Services. The car, along with the two ex-Pennsylvania Railroad cars, was set on CSX tracks where all three were extensively rehabbed for transport on the CSX mainline. The two Pennsy cars were included as consideration in the deal with 587’s restoration estimate.
Kentucky Steam’s official acquisition of the water car, baggage and RPO car coincides with a multi-entity deal that also includes ownership change for Nickel Plate 587. The veteran excursion engine, which was restored and operated from 1988 until 2003, has been sold to a private individual who intends to continue the trajectory originally planned when the 1918-built Baldwin locomotive was moved to Kentucky two years ago.
Kentucky Steam President Chris Campbell said the deal is an excellent outcome from what could have become a very unfortunate situation.
“When we moved 587 and the three support cars in the summer and fall of 2018, it was a major win for railroad preservation as the four pieces were saved from legal trouble and potential scrapping,” he said. “This deal ensures the long-term safekeeping of these cars, and gives a new sense of urgency with the restoration of Nickel Plate 587.”
The new owner of 587, who wishes to remain anonymous, plans for the engine to remain in Ravenna for the foreseeable future. Kentucky Steam will work closely with the owner as plans materialize for fundraising, and potentially transferring the locomotive into a newly-formed nonprofit designed specifically for the engine, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In the meantime, Jason Sobczynski, KSHC Chief Mechanical Officer and CEO of Irvine Kentucky-based Next Generation Rail Solutions, will collaborate with the owner to develop a mechanical plan.
“It’s wonderful to see the future of the 587 looking brighter than it has in some time,” Sobczynski said. “While there is some major repair work ahead, it is a rare opportunity to return a locomotive to operation which needs what once was considered scheduled maintenance.”
Updates on the 587 will be limited as logistics are established. For more information, including a full roster of Kentucky Steam’s equipment, visit www.kentuckysteam.org, or visit Kentucky Steam’s social media channels.
From a Kentucky Steam Heritage Corp. news release. March 5, 2021.