In 1945, as World War II ended, this steam locomotive was born in Reading, Pennsylvania.
“During wartime efforts, rail was huge. That’s why the railroads needed these big locomotives, to haul all the excess freight and equipment being used for the war efforts and overall booming economic era of our country,” explained Josh Cascarella, director of passenger operations for Reading & Northern Railroad.
The famed T-1 class steam locomotive #2102 had a busy career hauling heavy coal trains, then eventually transitioned to passenger excursions. In the late 80s the steam locomotive was purchased by Reading & Northern Railroad, Pennsylvania’s largest privately owned railroad, which runs through the Poconos.
The locomotive fell out of service in 1991 and has been sitting in storage ever since. But now, after a 2.4-million-dollar full restoration, she’s getting ready to come roaring back to life.
“There are four of these locomotives left in existence, and ours is currently the only one operating,” said Cascarella.
Four all-day ‘Iron Horse Rambles’ excursions are being offered between Reading and Jim Thorpe in May, July, August, and September. With the excursions catching international attention, spots are filling up fast.
“This is very popular among rail fans. They have been following the restoration closely. As soon as tickets went on sale, they were gobbled up,” said Cascarella.
Rebuilding a historic train of this size from bare boiler took six years. Since a train from 1945 doesn’t come with a manual, crews had to track down reference pictures and make custom parts.
“It’s a lot of work, then a big puzzle putting it back together. It’s very rewarding to see people happy, especially kids, because not too long ago I was that little kid watching it go by,” said steam shop manager Ryan Bauscher.
Following the ‘Iron Horse Rambles’ excursions, the locomotive will serve the public again for October fall foliage rides.