RAVENNA, Ky. — Part of a Santa Fe engine is heading East to help return a locomotive to operating condition, thanks to a creative collaboration between two unlikely preservation partners.
Two non-profit organizations, the Kentucky Steam Heritage Corp. and the Pueblo (Colo.) Railway Foundation, will swap locomotive components, bringing 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 4-8-4 No. 2912 from Pueblo to Kentucky Steam, for use in the rebuilding of C&O 2-8-4 No. 2716 for operation. In return, Kentucky Steam will send No. 2716’s non-operational air pumps to Pueblo to be mounted on the cosmetically restored Santa Fe engine.
It’s estimated that the partnership between two organizations that have not previously collaborated will save the 2716 project from $50,000 to $70,000.
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 No. 2912, parts of which were fully rebuilt before the group decided to settle for a cosmetic restoration. Among the rebuilt components were the air compressors now to be used on No. 2716.
These components 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 railcar are operated by the application and reduction of air pressure.
Pueblo foundation officer Dave Dundurand explains, “Jason Sobczynski, chief mechanical officer of Kentucky Steam Heritage Corp., 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.” An agreement quickly was reached for the compressors from 2716 to be trucked to Pueblo for the swap.
“The farther we got into dismantling 2716,” Sobczynski says, “the more we realized that the air pumps were going to be a significant investment on both time and money. … 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 make a donation to the Pueblo foundation 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.
“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,” Kentucky Steam President Chris Campbell said. “We can’t thank the folks at the Pueblo Railway Foundation enough for considering our project as worthy of support.”
Reid Adams, another officer at the PRF, says the 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,” Adams says. “… The PRF and KSHC partnership demonstrates how groups can work together to preserve historic railroad artifacts.”