Restored train parked outside Breckenridge
Restored train parked outside BreckenridgeBy Jane StebbinsSummit County CorrespondentThe black paint of Locomotive 111 shines in the sun, wooden doors gleam, the smokestack rides high in the sky. Inside, wainscoting glows below the Tuscan red-painted ceiling.
It’s a far cry from the condition it was in last summer, when Breckenridge town manager Tim Gagen outlasted a professional bidder at auction to win the locomotive. The water injectors and whistle were lost in a fire at the Hudson Depot in Hudson, Colo. The boiler jackets had been misplaced after workers removed the asbestos. The number plate had been stolen.But ironworkers at the Uhrich Locomotive Works foundry in Strasburg, located east of Denver, were able to make new water injectors. The boiler jackets were replaced. And, in a strange twist of fate, the foundry recast a number plate – and traded the replica for the original with the man who stole it.Now, the steam locomotive and its tender, similar to one that rode the rails over Boreas Pass in the 1880s, will begin its slow trek from Strasburg to Breckenridge.Town historian Rebecca Waugh is about as giddy as she ever gets. “It’s very exciting,” she said. “I think it’s going to be Breckenridge’s greatest tourist attraction.”This train was built by the Baldwin Locomotive Works in Philadelphia in April 1926 and shipped to Central America. There, it hauled bananas for the United Fruit Co. most of its life.”It’s one of the last authentic steam locomotives made by them,” Waugh said. “It’s a little bigger and more powerful. That’s one of the reasons we wanted it. If it undergoes a functional restoration, it would be strong enough to pull a train.”Locomotive 111 and its coal tender are similar to another train, No. 537, that ran through Breckenridge at the turn of the century. It and the No. 40 – which also worked in Central American and now serving the Georgetown Loop – have since been brought back to the United States. Others are located in Idaho Springs, Boulder, Central City and Golden.
The most recent owners originally envisioned building an old West town near Hudson, Colo., complete with railroad tracks, switches, a water tank, Victorian homes and steam locomotives. The dream faded, however, and the owners began to sell their equipment, Waugh said.According to Waugh, railroad buffs aren’t selling off their cars and engines these days. “This is the only steam locomotive on the face of the Earth that’s coming up for auction,” she said. “Everyone’s holding onto their rolling stock – even in South America.”