Richard Glueck, president of New England Steam Corp., walks past the old tender car for the steam locomotive Maine Central 470 toward a new tender car the group had built in Millinocket. The new rail car, which was delivered Friday, is a big piece in a multi-year effort to restore the locomotive and getting it running again. Credit: Bill Trotter

HANCOCK, Maine — A rail car that is a crucial piece to a volunteer-driven, multi-year steam locomotive restoration project was delivered Friday to a rail yard in the Washington Junction neighborhood.

The tender car, which will carry up to 98,000 gallons of water and 10 tons of coal for the Maine Central 470 locomotive, was specially built over the past three months by Millinocket Fabrication and Machine Inc., according to Richard Glueck, president of New England Steam Corp. It needs more work — including reusing fittings from the old tender, getting it mounted on a chassis and wheels, and painting — before the tender car will be ready.

“The tender is a huge deal for several reasons,” Glueck said. “It’s an essential component of the whole locomotive,” and because it will display the railroad name, it is “a crucial heritage piece.”

Reusing the old tender is not possible, he added, because of the amount of rust damage it has accumulated over the years. The locomotive and tender, which operated in Maine from 1924 to 1954, sat for 62 years on display outside in Waterville. New England Steam Corp. bought it from the city of Waterville and moved it in 2016 to the Washington Junction rail yard in Hancock, where it’s been stored out of the weather and under lock and key.

“We’re going to use as many parts [from the old tender] as we can over again,” Glueck said. “Even to the discerning eye, it should be almost indistinguishable [from the original].”

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Glueck said the fabricated tender car cost $128,000, the chassis it will sit on costs an additional $7,500 and drafting architectural blueprints from which to fabricate the tender cost $14,000. The total cost of building and completing the project likely will exceed $200,000, according to Leverett Fernald, a machinist with Cianbro Corp. in Pittsfield who also serves as New England Steam Corp.’s vice president and chief mechanical officer.

Glueck said the not-for-profit group wants to spend as much of its restoration budget in Maine as possible, he said, especially while the COVID-19 pandemic has shut down so much of the state’s economy.

The eventual goal of restoring the locomotive is for Downeast Scenic Railroad to lease No. 470 from New England Steam Corp. for use on its excursions through Ellsworth, Hancock and, eventually, to Green Lake in Dedham.

The more substantial part of the project remains restoration of the locomotive itself, which is the largest surviving steam-powered locomotive in all of New England or the maritime provinces of Canada, Glueck said. How long it takes depends on funding, he said, adding that the project is expected to cost up to $1 million to get the locomotive operating again.

Bill Trotter

Bill Trotter

A news reporter in coastal Maine for more than 20 years, Bill Trotter writes about how the Atlantic Ocean and the state's iconic coastline help to shape the lives of coastal Maine residents and visitors....