Restored locomotive chugging down Boothbay Railway Village’s track

Christening marks decade-plus effort
Tue, 09/11/2018 - 8:00am

A piece of Maine’s paper-making history chugged around Boothbay Railway Village’s track last week. An 1895 Baldwin Locomotive S.D. Warren Co. used in the  Westbrook-based mill’s heyday took its first trip around the village Sept. 8 after a 10-year restoration effort.

A train which once sat under the Railway Village’s entrance sign returned to operation after a ribbon-cutting and christening ceremony conducted by BRV's founder, board of directors and daughter of Frank Van Walsh who donated two former locomotives used by S.D. Warren.  In 1949, he bought the engines from S.D. Warren and took them to New Jersey. Van Walsh refitted the steam engines for use at a Fair Lawn, New Jersey amusement park.

In the late 1960s, Van Walsh retired to Southport and donated both engines to the Railway Village. In 2008, its board of directors started the quest to restore the No. 2 locomotive. The directors raised about $30,000 from Daily Foundation and Amherst Foundation grants, private donations, and a challenge match by an anonymous donor. Approximately $30,000 more was taken from the Railway Village’s operation budget for completing the restoration, according to Executive Director Margaret Hoffman.

At 10:45 a.m., Van Walsh’s daughter, Cindy Smith of Southport, and Engineer Brian Fanslau, who oversaw the restoration project, cut a ceremonial ribbon. BRV founder George McEvoy and Board President George Barrett poured a bottle of Moxie, a Maine-made soft drink, to christen the restored locomotive.

“We know champagne is used for ships, but we couldn’t find any historical precedent for christening locomotives. So we are improvising by using a bottle of Moxie,” Hoffman said. The locomotive’s rebirth was also coming as S.D. Warren’s name is retired. Sappi North  America, the mill’s parent company, announced a name change.

Hoffman gave an impromptu history lesson of how the two locomotives now lin Boothbay were part of S.D. Warren’s past and about the restoration effort. “At one point, the mill was the world’s largest paper maker producing 35,000 tons,” she said. “It is returning to steam operation in Maine. When original parts were not salvageable, replacements were painstakingly recreated following the original orders and drawings obtained through the archives of Baldwin Locomotive Works and S.D. Warren."

Following the ceremony, 50 people rode the locomotive’s first trip around the village. Hourly train rides continued until 4 p.m. The village also hosted discussions later about paper-making and board member Ron Ginger discussed the locomotive’s restoration.