One of the most common questions which I receive regarding the museum is “when will we have an operating steam locomotive?”. People asking this question are almost always referring to the locomotives in our collection, and those who have been around since, say, 2003, are generally referring to Georgia Power #97. 97 was the last steam locomotive to operate at SRM before being taken out-of-service for boiler repairs in December, 2003. My usual answer is something along the lines of, “well, once some more pressing projects that are more vital to the overall health of the organization or the collection are complete, we’ll look at funding the restoration of 97”, or, if in a particular mood, “when you write a check.” The truth, until now, has actually been “I have no idea”.
I now have an answer to the question, though not necessarily in the exact context in which folks are asking it. While we are not yet rebuilding one of our own locomotives, we will have an operating steam locomotive for a couple of weekends later this year. On September 29-30, and October 6-7, we will be hosting a steam locomotive, Jeddo Coal #85 (aka “Mack”), owned by John and Barney Gramling of Ashley, Indiana.
For a number of years, the Gramlings have been rebuilding and operating their own tank locomotives, at museums and on tourist railroads throughout the country. Starting with ex-Flagg Coal 0-4-0 #75 (aka “Hank the Tank”), John and Barney later expanded their operating roster to include Lehigh Valley Coal #126 (“Sadie”). Most recently, ex-Jeddo Coal #85 (“Mack”) made its debut, just as #75 was going into the shop for its federally mandated 15-year inspection. The Gramlings have made appearances at a number of our neighbor museums and tourist railroads, including the North Carolina Transportation Museum, the Heart of Dixie Railroad Museum, the St. Mary’s Railroad, and others. John and Barney were even the subject of a television show, “Have Steam Engine, Will Travel.”
Coincidentally, this steam event will occur roughly 20 years after our move to the current museum site from the “Old Site” over on May Road. We are planning the event as a celebration of 20 years at the current site. We are hoping to also attract former volunteers, particularly those that were around during the move, for a reunion.
There will be further details revealed as Mack’s visit approaches. Please help us to pass the word as we promote the event. Also, we hope that individuals will step forward to help sponsor the event. More on that soon, as well. I’m excited, not only because steam is what attracted me to the museum in the first place 19 years ago, but because I believe it is an important part of our mission to educate the newer generations about what a steam locomotive is—not only as a static interpretive piece, but as a living, breathing, operational artifact.
Photo: Flagg Coal, Facebook