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Rebuilt Reading & Northern 4-8-4 to debut on freight trains

By Scott A. Hartley | January 27, 2022

Former Reading No. 2102 set for four ‘Iron Horse Ramble’ excursions

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Three-quarters view of steam locomotive in shop building
Three-quarters view of steam locomotive in shop building
Reading & Northern No. 2102, shown on Aug. 23, 2021, will debut on freight trains before beginning its “Iron Horse Rambles” excursions, owner Andrew Muller Jr. says. (Dan Cupper)

PORT CLINTON, Pa. — Reading & Northern 4-8-4 No. 2102 will mark its return to service following a six-year, $1.45 million rebuild by pulling freight, according to railroad owner and CEO Andrew M. Muller Jr.

Muller told Trains News Wire that he expects the engine to break in on R&N freight trains in mid-March. Four “Iron Horse Ramble” passenger excursions between Reading and Jim Thorpe, Pa., in May, July, August, and September have been announced and advertised in the March issue of Trains Magazine.

Front view of steam engine in shop building
No. 2102 is set to return to service after a six-year rebuild. (Dan Cupper)

The big locomotive was one of 30 members of the T-1 Class that Reading Co. built from older 2-8-0s in 1945 and 1946 at its shops in Reading, Pa. Number 2102 is one of four T-1s that avoided scrapping, surviving to power a series of “Reading Ramble” steam excursion operated between 1962 and 1964.  Retired a second time after the last Ramble, the engine’s ownership passed through several hands over the following two decades until Muller acquired it in the mid-1980s. He ran it on passenger trains on his first railroad, the 13-mile Blue Mountain & Reading, and later on additional routes he acquired from Conrail. The engine also made several off-line trips over Conrail lines during those more steam-friendly days. No. 2102 has been out of service since 1991, but Muller always has promised that it would run again.

He is making good on that promise now. The big 4-8-4 shares space with operational 4-6-2 No. 425 in Reading & Northern’s steam shop building near the railroad’s headquarters at Port Clinton, Pa. Since 2016, rail employees, volunteers, and contractors have combined efforts to rebuild the 2102. Its first fire was lit just a year ago, and forces have accelerated work to get the engine ready for service. “The engine is brand new,” Muller says.

The T-1s were freight locomotives, and hauled all types of Reading trains during their brief lifetimes as diesels quickly took over the assignments.  Muller’s Reading & Northern handles growing volumes of anthracite traffic, and it’s quite likely that R&N No. 2102 will see its first revenue service working coal trains.

The railroad operates passenger trains year-round, and the T-1 will become part of that service with its first excursion on May 28. Muller anticipates the four advertised trains will be followed by five Reading Outer Station-Jim Thorpe trips during the fall foliage season. “It all depends on response to ticket sales,” he says.

More than 225,000 people rode R&N trains in 2021. The railroad continues to add to and upgrade its passenger car fleet. Last year, R&N purchased 11 cars, including a dome, a diner, and an open-air observation car, from the former San Luis & Rio Grande in Colorado. Muller recently picked up five more cars, including an additional dome, a 48-seat diner, and a grille car. “I am thrilled to get two more domes,” he tells New Wire. Dome car seats always sell out on the Jim Thorpe trips, he says.

View from cab end of steam locomotive under repair
Repairs to the locomotive, shown on Aug. 23, 2021, are concluding at the Reading & Northern’s Port Clinton, Pa., shop. (Dan Cupper)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5 thoughts on “Rebuilt Reading & Northern 4-8-4 to debut on freight trains

  1. I fondly remember seeing 425 and 2102 double head during one of the BM&R Railfan Weekends in the late 1980s. Great to hear she’s coming back! Congrats to the team the made it possible!

  2. One of my fondest memories is pacing a 2100 pulling an eastbound Reading freight train on US422 between Lebanon and Myerstown, PA in the mid 1950’s. The track was about 1/2 mile south of the highway, but the smoke plume was magnificent. They were the Reading’s work horses in those days until the F7’s replaced them.

    1. The “Crossline” was home to the T-1’s. They could make the running time and then some. Only bottleneck to Allentown was Pike Street in Reading and up Temple Hill where a 2-8-8-0 would push. Then you could run to CNJ or L&HR in Allentown.

      Temple Hill was bypassed by the Blandon Low Grade Line around 1959.

  3. It is truly thrilling to think that the number of operational Steam Engines are as great as they are. I did not expect that we would see this many still alive this year.

  4. I remember seeing 2102 leading excursions in 1972 on the former Western Maryland from Baltimore to Hagerstown. And on the former B&O from Philadelphia to Baltimore.

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