Restoration of Historic Locomotive Keeps Moving Forward
There's an historic locomotive that's been getting a lot of attention in Corry over the past few years. In 2022, that attention will be even greater.
Locomotives were built in Corry from 1888 to 1928 at the Climax Locomotive Company. One model of locomotive built there was called the Climax A. In 2016, a group called Corry R.A.I.L.S was formed to hopefully find an old Climax A, bring it back to Corry, and use it to promote tourism in the area. After two years of research, only one Climax A was found intact. It was in Alaska.
Corry R.A.I.L.S Co-Founder Tom Van Tassel immediately had this thought.
"This was the only Climax A complete left in the world. There were 350 to 400 of them built, but this is the only one left. So, OK, let's go get it.”
In 2018, Van Tassel and Carl Wassink spent their own money to travel to Nome, Alaska to check out the locomotive and see if it could be acquired. It was owned by a railroad buff who had hoped to restore it.
"But it was all torn apart,” says Wassink. “The gentleman who had been working on it for 34 years had died. The family was looking at disposing of it. So now it was 'Okay, How much?’ and ‘What hoops do we have to jump through?"
A deal was eventually finalized. In 2019, another trip to Alaska was made to arrange the packing and shipping. In August of 2020, the Climax A arrived back to the town in which it was built 119 years earlier. Since its arrival, work has been done to get the old locomotive rebuilt and operational. The parts, much of it wood, now sit in a donated building just a few blocks from the old Climax plant.
"A lot of that is rotted from just sitting out in the elements for 119 years. So most of that wood will be replaced,” says Wassink. “There are some pieces of the wood that we will use. Original pieces."
Financial help from the community has been amazing. Even people from outside Corry are excited about the project. A man from Lock Haven has volunteered to manufacture missing pieces of the locomotive. A man from Meadville is working on the engine to get it running again.
"He has told us he would have that operational sometime in the Spring of 2022. Which is pretty darn exciting when that comes back and gets offloaded,” says Van Tassel.
The final plan is to have the locomotive fully rebuilt in 3 to 5 years, depending on funding. It would be able to be loaded on a trailer, along with portable track, to teach Corry railroad history to other communities as well.
One way to help Corry R.A.I.L.S. is to purchase Climax A merchandise. It’s sold online at corryrails.com or at Hiram’s Marketplace at 109 Center Street in Corry.