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Officials say Hagerstown City Park steam engine unlikely to run their rails

September 02, 2008|By DAN DEARTH

HAGERSTOWN -- After sitting idle for 55 years in City Park, Steam Engine 202 could one day carry passengers on limited excursions.

A proposal to restore the engine is preliminary at this point, said John Bryan, historic sites facilitator for the City of Hagerstown. For starters, a committee has not been formed to discuss the issue and, to his knowledge, no railroad has stepped forward to offer its tracks.

"We're nowhere close," Bryan said. "It's probably a five-year plan."

Officials from three railroads, however, said the proposal was unlikely to happen.

Rudy Husband, a spokesman for Norfolk Southern, said he doubted the railroad would allow a steam engine to operate on existing rail lines.

CSX spokesman Bob Sullivan agreed, saying, in part, the "demands of the economy" would make it impractical to occupy valuable rail space with an old steam engine.

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"I can't think of a scenario where we would permit it," Sullivan said.

Reinstating Engine 202 probably wouldn't be worth the insurance costs, said Phil Light, president of the Winchester & Western Railroad Co.

"It would really be tough," Light said. The insurance would cost "too much to really fool with."

Weighing 415,000 pounds, Engine 202 was built in 1912 by Baldwin Locomotive Works. It carried passengers between Baltimore and Hagerstown for the then-Western Maryland Railroad Co.

Bryan said Engine 202 was retired in 1953. The locomotive subsequently was placed in City Park for residents and tourists to enjoy.

About 3,500 visitors check out the engine each year. The Hagerstown Railroad Museum at City Park is open from May through September. This year, however, the museum will remain open until October, Bryan said.

Earlier this year, the City of Hagerstown and the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau donated a combined $17,000 to paint and redo the markings on 202's exterior, among other things.

The late John Edward Long, a former Hagerstown resident, spearheaded an effort that began several years ago to restore Engine 202. Although Engine 202 was donated to the city, the locomotive sat rusting until Long asked city officials for permission to repair it.

The city granted Long's request in 1982 and sold him the engine for about $1, according to published reports. The restoration project took about two decades to complete.

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