Grant will give life back to vintage locomotive

Friday February 4, 2011

LENOX -- A tired, vintage locomotive will soon be given a new lease on life and transformed into a shiny, freshly painted machine, thanks to a recent grant.

The nonprofit Berkshire Scenic Railway Museum won the annual $10,000 H. Albert Webb Memorial Railroad Preservation Award from the Massachusetts Bay Railroad Enthusiasts to restore a 1945 Maine Central diesel-electric locomotive in the name of history.

"We're an operating museum and there's so much to celebrate in the Berkshires," said Jay Green, the former chief administrative officer of North Adams who is now a member of Berkshire Scenic's board of directors and the one in charge of government affairs and special projects.

"Railroads were and are integral to the Berkshires," he said. "We feel that we complement the other cultural museums well."

To apply for the grant, Green, along with the chief mechanical operator at Berkshire Scenic, Tom Delasco, compiled a breakdown of the project, a timeline and its historical significance, which were the requirements.

The museum found out they won at the Amherst Railway Society Railroad Hobby Show this past Saturday. The Webb Award will fund Berkshire Scenic's restoration of the Maine Central locomotive, built by American Locomotive Co. in Schenectady, N.Y. in 1945. Currently the locomotive appears weathered, with peeling paint and spots of rust, and requires steelwork on its body and new wheel mechanisms.

Each year, the grant funds preservation projects in the New England area. In 2000, Leigh Webb created the award in memory of his father who was a New England railroad enthusiast.

Several Massachusetts historical railroads have won the award since 2001 including the Boston Street Railway Association, the Friends of Bedford Depot Park, and the Beverly Historical Society. Projects included, respectively, the restoration of a Boston Elevated Railway streetcar, reconstruction of a quarter-mile of rail track, and preservation of 5,000 historic railroad images from Walker Transportation Collection.

Berkshire Scenic was founded in 1984 as a volunteer-run organization focused on the preservation of railroads. The museum halted tourist service in 1989, and after much work from its volunteers and a sizable grant from the state, tourist service began once again in 2003.

The museum's next goal is to receive a grant from the town that would provide sufficient funds to demolish a neighboring industrial building, offering the original streetscape.

"We're hoping to form a partnership with the state. This railroad does attract a lot of visitors and brings commerce to the area," said Green, a longtime railroad fan. "It's historical, educational, and downright fun."


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