AKRON, Ohio — William B. “Bill” Benson, who was deeply involved in a number of steam railroading activities in the 1970s and 1980s, died on Jan. 16. He was 80.
He was a co-founder of Steam Tours Inc, and owned former Reading T-1 No. 2102, operating it on a number of excursions in the Midwest in the 1970s.
In 1974, he was named chief mechanical officer of the American Freedom Train, and in March 1975, he managed the restoration of Reading No. 2101 at Baltimore & Ohio’s Riverside roundhouse in Baltimore in 30 days, directing 50 paid employees and nearly 100 volunteers.
In 1987-88, he restored Reading No. 2100 for Richard Kughn, owner of Lionel Trains at that time. He was also president of American Coal Enterprises, which used former Chesapeake & Ohio 4-8-4 No. 614 in a series of tests in 1985 on CSX, testing a number of improvements to steam locomotive technology.
He was a graduate of the University of Akron and worked in the financial sector. He also operated an export-import business. He was a long-time collector of Lionel O gauge trains.
He is survived by his wife, a son, a brother, and numerous nieces and nephews.
— Updated at 10:40 a.m. to correct site of Reading 2101 restoration.