Friday, May 24, 2013
WATERVILLE -- The Old 470 steam locomotive sits rusting near College Avenue, and city officials hope to either sell it or see it restored.
The Old 470 steam train engine in Waterville.
Staff photo by Michael G. Seamans
It is clear, however, that the city does not have the $1 million or so it would take to fix it up, according to City Manager Michael Roy.
"It's an important part of the city's past but unfortunately, with all the other demands on the city, we don't see where we're going to have the resources to do anything with it," Roy said recently. "We hope someone out there is willing to restore it and put it someplace where it can be more appreciated."
The locomotive was the last steam engine used for passenger service on the Maine Central Railroad. It made its final trip through Waterville -- from Portland to Bangor -- on June 13, 1954.
The 470, built in 1924 by American Locomotive Co., was a gift to the city on Oct. 28, 1962, by Maine Central Railroad on its 100th anniversary.
In 2004, railroad enthusiasts tried to support an effort to restore and preserve the engine, saying it was the last representative of the indigenous steam locomotives that once powered industry, commerce and passengers throughout Maine.
The engine had deteriorated because of exposure to harsh weather, unsupervised visitors, vandals and thieves. Rust had eaten through the engine's cylinder jacks, the cab was severely rusted and it was stripped of gauges, valves, windows and its wooden interior.
Some work was done to spiff up the engine, but ultimately, interest fizzled.
Jennifer Hickey of Waterville and her sons, Ben and Jacob, were members of the Friends of 470 Restoration Committee about 10 years ago and her boys raised money for the train effort.
She said Friday that at first there was a lot of enthusiasm around helping to restore and preserve the engine.
"The people were all very well-intentioned; however, they just did not have the capability to follow through with it," she said. "Colby College kids painted it on community day and we did some greasing of valves."
Now, when she drives past the engine, which is just north of the new Mid-Maine Homeless Shelter, her heart sinks.
"It just really makes me sad and really disappointed that we haven't been able to do anything and keep the train in the respect that it really deserves," she said. "It's just such a piece of history."
Parks and Recreation Director Matt Skehan, who is helping to advertise and coordinate the sale or restoration, said the city sent out requests for proposals to have the locomotive removed or restored, with an initial response deadline of Aug. 1.
That deadline has been extended to Oct. 5, Skehan said.
Bidders were asked to send their proposals in sealed envelopes marked "470 Steam Engine" to Waterville Parks & Recreation, 6 Wentworth Court, Waterville, 04901.
The bids will be reviewed by a committee charged with determining the best and most feasible plan for the city and the engine, according to the request for proposal.
More information about the engine and other specifications is available on the Parks & Recreation page at www.waterville-me.gov.
Skehan, a member of the Friends Committee, said the engine is in deplorable shape.
"It's dangerous and it's in awful condition," he said. "Our insurance representative from Maine Municipal was here in the spring and he said there were several red flags that went off when he saw the engine, including all the open holes in it."
Skehan said the representative said if someone stuck a finger in one of the holes, he could lose it.
The city erected signs at the engine to warn people of the danger.
"It's just a really tough economy to be trying to raise money and there are a lot of other causes and organizations out there that are very worthy," Skehan said. "It's really hard with this steam engine and we don't really see any money coming down the pipeline immediately."
Roy said the city has not put a price on the engine, which sits on property owned by the state Department of Transportation.
Skehan said he even though he has spoken to some people who have expressed interest in buying the engine and some who are interested in fixing it up, he has received no written proposals.
Amy Calder -- 861-9247