WATERVILLE, Maine — After sitting by the side of College Avenue for decades, an old steam locomotive once again is on the move.
Maine Central N0. 470 has been on display outside near the avenue’s intersection with Ash Street for decades, having been out of service since 1954, but a nonprofit organization that purchased the locomotive from the city last fall is hoping to bring it back to life.
On Monday, New England Steam Corp. began the process of moving the locomotive to Hancock, just outside Ellsworth, where it hopes to refurbish it and put it back on the tracks.
Two large cranes slowly lifted the engine’s boiler — the long cylinder that produces the steam to move the locomotive’s pistons — into the air Monday and placed it on the back of a flatbed truck.
The plan, according to Richard Glueck, president of New England Steam Corp., is to move components of the locomotive by truck Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of this week. Once at Washington Junction, an industrial neighborhood of Hancock just across the city line from Ellsworth, the long, painstaking process of refurbishing the locomotive will begin.
It likely will take several years of work to complete the project and to get the No. 470 running again on the tracks, Glueck has said. The plan, after restoring the locomotive, is to lease it to Down East Scenic Railroad, which will use it as part of the seasonal excursion service it offers each summer in Ellsworth.
“Moving 470 is the culmination of three years of intense planning, fundraising and volunteer labor to preserve and restore the largest surviving steam locomotive in New England,” the group said recently in a prepared statement. “[The locomotive] is an icon of Maine transportation history, having made its final steam powered run on June 13, 1954.”
By refurbishing the locomotive and putting it back in service, New England Steam Corp. hopes to help provide an additional boost to the area’s tourism sector and to use it as a “living classroom,” where people can be exposed to literature, history, science and the arts, group officials have said.
Glueck said Monday that his group has been looking forward to finally getting the move underway.
“It’s been spectacular,” he said. “This is probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life.”
Glueck added that acquiring the locomotive and laying plans to move and then restore it would not have been possible without the numerous donations in time, labor and money the group has received.
He reiterated that how long the restoration project takes depends on “the speed of money” — how long it will take to raise the estimated amount of more than $1 million it will take to complete it. The goal, he added, is to have the No. 470 restored and back on the tracks in time for its 100th birthday in 2024.
“It’s so rewarding to know the locomotive has a second life now,” Glueck said.
Donations can be made to the New England Steam Corp., also known as NESCO, online at newenglandsteam.org or by mail at P.O. Box 302, Winterport, Maine 04496.