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Steam locomotive arrives at Bellevue railroad museum

TOM JACKSON • Updated Feb 26, 2019 at 10:51 AM

BELLEVUE — After a long and painful separation, railroad buffs in Bellevue reunited with Nickel Plate No. 757.

The steam locomotive arrived at the Mad River and NKP Railroad Museum in Bellevue on Feb. 14, completing a long effort to bring it back to Bellevue from its previous home at the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania in Strasburg, Pa.

The 757 will be Mad River’s first steam locomotive.

“It’s hard to tell the story of the railroad without a steam locomotive in your collection,” said Dwayne Fuehring, project manager for Bring Back 757 and vice president of the museum.

But No. 757 itself also has a special place in the hearts of Mad River Museum supporters.

Fuehring said the locomotive, built in 1944, was based in Bellevue during its service. It went out of service in 1958, and in 1960 it was officially retired and offered to the city of Bellevue.

City fathers did not accept it, as they did not want the expense of putting it on display. The locomotive was kept in Bellevue until 1966, when it was finally given to the Railroad Museum of Bellevue.

Meanwhile, because of Bellevue’s important railroad heritage, railroad buffs worked to keep that history alive. In 1976, the Mad River museum opened, and in 1981, the first effort was made to bring No. 757 back to Bellevue. It failed.

Many years passed, but finally Mad River was able to make the case that No. 757 would be better off in a new home with people who could spend money on it and restore it.

“They decided it would be better to release it to a better home,” Fuehring said.

To bring the locomotive back, the museum launched an effort to raise $250,000, to cover the costs of hauling it to Bellevue, restoring it and displaying it.

The museum has raised $160,000 so far, mostly from donations, although another $90,000 is still needed.

The locomotive for now is in the Coach Yard facing Southwest Street, where everyone can see it and enjoy it.

For now, the locomotive will be cleaned up to prepare for when the museum reopens in May. When the museum closes in October, plans call for moving the locomotive indoors for restoration. Eventually, the locomotive will have its own display track, with a roof over it to protect it.

“We think we can do it between the next three to five years,” Fuehring said.

A week was budgeted to bring the locomotive back, but it only took three days. A locomotive was used to tow no. 757 and a red caboose also owned by the Mad River Museum.

The journey home drew the notice of rail buffs.

“We’ve got several pictures en route people posted on social media. In rail preservation circles, this was a big deal,” Fuehring said.

Bringing back the locomotive was a nice achievement for Mad River.

Much of the Bellevue museum’s support comes from its about 300 members, including a core group of about 20 active members.

Annual memberships start at $25 for adults, $20 for seniors over 60, with more other options available.

Members get to bypass the regular museum admission charge, $10 for adults, and can visit the museum over and over again anytime they like, just like Cedar Point season pass holders. They also get a bimonthly newsletter, invitations to exclusive members-only events and a discount at the museum gift shop. Information is available at www.madrivermuseum.org.

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