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Locomotive due in Breckenridge

JANE STEBBINS

BRECKENRIDGE – The 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 on Wednesday.

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.”

Crews will set track at the Rotary Snowplow Park at the base of Boreas Pass in Breckenridge early this week, and put the finishing touches on the loading track and ramp Tuesday.

At 7 a.m. Wednesday, other crews will remove some of the more valuable elements of the locomotive – the smokestack, headlights bell, among others – and load the locomotive onto a flatbed trrailer, one that can make the 120-mile trek with a 50-ton engine atop it.

The trip is expected to take three to four hours.

They will ride in convoy, with videographer Wendy Wolfe leading the pack.

She has been videotaping the restoration of the engine since the town acquired it as part of the town’s oral history series, one of which will outline the history of the train that rode the rails over Boreas Pass.

The slow-moving convoy will head south on Highway 285, over Kenosha Pass and into Fairplay.

They plan to make various stops on the way to film the scenery and the trek.

The truck will make the final climb over Hoosier Pass around noon, Waugh estimates, and should arrive in Breckenridge within an hour.

It might take crews up to 10 hours to unload the train onto the track adjacent to the rotary snowplow at the park.

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.”

Crews will return to Strasburg and retrieve the tender the following day.

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 America and now serves 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 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.”

The locomotive has been repainted to reflect the Colorado, Denver and South Park Railroad that served the area 120 years ago. No. 111 is handpainted on both sides and on each headlight – one in front and another in rear for backing.

The headlights are painted so the stationmasters could tell which train was arriving at the station.

The town council decided to purchase the locomotive last summer, realizing the town might not ever get another chance.

The council authorized Gagen to spend up to $125,000 on the locomotive and its tender; he bid $62,000 and another $5,000 on a mile of track.

Restoration work cost about $40,000, transit will cost $6,000 and site preparation another $3,000.

Council members hope the locomotive and its tender will enhance the town’s status as an historic tourist destination.

“It’s beautiful – absolutely beautiful,” Waugh said. “This has been so much fun.”

Jane Stebbins can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 228, or jstebbins@summitdaily.com.

Art: in toned jpgs

Cutline: Locomotive 111 arrived in Strasburg, Colo. last summer in disarray after years of service in Central America. Now owned by the town of Breckenridge, the restored locomotive and its tender will be placed on a track at the Rotary Snowplow Park at the base of Boreas Pass Wednesday.


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