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Climax Locomotive S/N 1551 Restoration Project

The Association's involvement in the project to restore the Cass Scenic Railroad State Park's Climax steam locomotive ended in December, 2015.  The new operator responsible for the Park's railroad operation and maintenance, the Durbin and Greenbrier Valley Railroad, informed the Association that its assistance in the project was no longer need.  The Association began the massive restoration project in 2002 and it was estimated to be approximately 80% complete.  It is anticipated that the remaining work on the locomotive will be completed by DGVR personnel.

The home page on this site contains a statement by the President of the DGVR.  We hope that he is correct and that the Climax Project is completed so this historic locomotive can be returned to active service.

Although the Association is no longer involved in the Climax Project, this page is being kept as a partial (and very incomplete) record of what was done by Association volunteers.  No additional work sessions will occur and donations for the project are not wanted.


Climax locomotive before restoration
The Climax locomotive sitting on the "dead line" in Cass prior to the start of restoration work in 2002.  (Photo by Sonny Burruss)  
Climax locomotive shop number 1551 was built by the Climax Locomotive Works in Corry, Pennsylvania, in 1919 and delivered new to the Moore-Keppel Company lumber operation in Ellamore (Randolph County) West Virginia.  It  operated there until the lumber mill closed in 1946.  It was then used as standby power on the coal hauling Middle Fork Railroad before being retired in 1960.  It was the one of the last Climax locomotives in U.S. commercial operation.

At retirement it was poorly maintained, badly worn and severely rusting.  It was destined for a proposed railroad museum to be built in Ellamore, but that project never got off the ground and the State purchased the locomotive in 1970.  It was trucked to Cass for restoration with a projected operational date of May, 1973.

Restoration work had just started when a massive fire destroyed the Cass shop complex in July, 1972.  Although there was some damage to the locomotive, it survived the shop fire in relatively good shape.  However, the loss of the shop caused an indefinite postponement of its restoration and work was never restarted.  The locomotive spent the next 30 years sitting on the Cass “dead line” awaiting its fate and slowly deteriorating in the weather.
Climax locomotive after restorationArtist's rendition of how the Climax locomotive will look after restoration is complete.  (Image by Richard Sparks)

In 1998 the Mountain State Railroad and Logging Historical Association proposed that the organization initiate a multi-year project to rebuild the locomotive and restore it to operational service in Cass.  The project was approved with the condition that a restoration building be built to reduce the project’s impact on the limited Cass shop facilities.  The Association solicited donations, completed a 40x100 foot building (which was turned over to the State), and commenced restoration work in October, 2002.

The Restoration Project

This is a complete mechanical restoration.  The locomotive was completely disassembled and each component analyzed to determine what needed to be done to restore it to operational condition.  Some parts just need to be cleaned and painted.  Others require welding, machining, or other significant repairs.  Some parts were beyond repair and are being used as patterns to fabricate replacements.  Many foundry patterns have made to allow accurate reproduction of unusable parts.

In all cases the goal is to maintain the historical integrity of the locomotive while restoring it to better than new condition so it will give years of reliable service without the need for major non-routine maintenance.  There is a core group of about a dozen volunteers with experience in machining and mechanical arts working on the project.  In addition, volunteers of varying skill levels are helping with various aspects of the project.

There is no firm date for completion of the project.  Work is progressing well, but since most volunteers live far from Cass there are a limited number of work sessions each year.  An unofficial goal is that the Climax may see some service around 2014, but that is far from a firm date.

Funding and Support

There are several sources of funding for the Project.  As of December, 2012, the Association and individual donors have provided over $196,000 in funding to purchase materials, tools, and contracted services.  The State of West Virginia obtained a $200,000 Federal grant for the project and that money is being used to purchase several big-ticket items such as axles, new steel tires, gear castings, injectors, and air compressors.  The Park already has a serviceable replacement boiler on hand that will be used after some repairs and certifications are completed.  Also, a number of companies have provided services and materials free or at significant discounts, and several have donated large machine tools to help equip the restoration facility.

Donations are always welcome and will help speed the restoration project.  All donations are tax deductible can can be sent to Bob Hoke, MSR&LHA Treasurer, 6304 Kaybro St., Laurel MD 20707.

Getting Involved

Working on the Climax locomotive
Restoration Project Leader Grady Smith assembling a repaired piston crosshead for the Climax locomotive. (Photo by Gerald Curtis)

Volunteers are always welcome to help with the project.  There are normally work session about every two or three weekends.  Dormitory-style housing is supplied in Cass at no cost  and meals are provided by the Association.  Workers typically arrive on Friday evening, work a long day on Saturday and Sunday morning with an early afternoon departure for home.  Due to insurance regulations all volunteers must be current MSR&LHA members and everyone must sign a liability waiver for the Park.

If you are interested in volunteering please contact Grady Smith, the Climax Restoration Project Manager, at or 740-373-2895 to get the latest work schedule and discuss your interests and skills.

Summary of Some Recent Work Sessions

January 18-19, 2014
Boiler work in the locomotive shop, making stairs for the cab
October 5-6, 2013
First filling of the new water tank; cab roof stiffeners; rail wetters
September 14-15, 2013
First run of the complete frame (not a complete locomotive)
August 17-18, 2013
Installing the third truck.
August 3-4, 2013
Assembling and painting the front (and final) truck.
July 13-14, 2013
#1 truck shaft gears installed; safety chains and brake rod stirrup were put on; and machining on the miter gear shaft was begun.
May 4-5, 2013
Work on the steam dome, drawbars, joining the tender and main frame for the first time.
April 20-21, 2013
Building the steam dome shroud and soldering two halves of a ring section together prior to machining.
April 6-7, 2013 Continued work on the brake rigging; applying the butt strap to the steam dome casing.
March 23-24, 2013 Reaming brake hanger holes and brazing the worn ends of the front truck's bolster.
March 9-10, 2013 Major work on the front truck, the new diamond stack, and both front and rear cut levers and grab rails.
February 23-24, 2013 Inital assembly of front (final) truck, making a cut lever, swedging a bolt hole, making brake rod clevices
July 21-22, 2012 Moving the 3rd truck into position under the tender frame
April 28-29, 2012 Diamond stack construction; rear truck; shop overview photos
February 18-19, 2012 (2) Moving the almost-completed water tank lid
February 18-19, 2012 Center plate grooving; final water tank welding & lifting pads; stack height calculations
February 4-5, 2012 Constructing the sand dome
January 14-15, 2012 (3) Anatomy of a Shay smoke stack (compared to the Climax)
January 14-15, 2012 (2) Stack ring machine work
January 14-15, 2012 Placing the tender tank top
November 19-20, 2011 Fabricating a center pin; Stack ring work; Countershaft bracket truss rods; Water tank riser
April 30 - May 1, 2011 (3) Manufacturing babbet hammers
April 30 - May 1, 2011 (2) Tender truck gear assembly; Water tank welding; split washer & spacer machining
April 30 - May 1, 2011 Installing tender truck gears & bolster; sand boxes; water tank bottom welding
April 16-17, 2011 Gear shaft assembly; machining gear shaft; sandbox
April 9-10, 2011 Truck assembly, ladder fabrication, water tank interior view
April 2-3, 2011 Machining bearings
March  26-27, 2011 Drilling front bolster and shaft machining
February 12-13, 2011 Tank baffles & outlets; swivel plates; gear shafts
December 18, 2010 (off site work session) Boring the Climax locomotive's pinion gears
November 20-21, 2010 Tender tank; Climax ladder; center plates; misc. parts
November 13-14, 2010 Cross box bearings; water tank trim; brake hanger holes
November 6, 2010 Machining gear shaft bearings; miscellaneous activities.
October 9-10, 2010 Various machining and welding activities; cleaning telltales on the boiler.
September 25-26, 2010 Miscellaneous tasks (boiler, water tank trim, machining)
May 11, 2010 Cross box boring
April 10-11, 2010 Water tank baffle installation; Boiler thickness measurements
March 13-14, 2010 "Before" locomotive photos; masking frame parts; machining work
February 20-21, 2010 Truck assembly; thrust washer machining; grinding lapped cylinder seals
January 30-31, 2010 Water tank fabrication and welding; Truck component bending
January 16-17, 2010 Machining a bolster swivel plate; rebuilding an arch bar truck frame
November 21-22, 2009 Wood work on tender tank decking; general machining
November 14-15, 2009 Additional assembly of the tender truck; begin making water tank deck
November 7-8, 2009 Initial (partial) assembly of the tender truck
October 31 - November 1, 2009 Drill the new top bar for the truck frame; painting; bending bolster truss rods; brazing up a casting defect
October 2-4, 2009 Sandblast and paint the frame and other parts
September 19-20, 2009 prepare frame for sandblasting; move tender truck
February 2-3, 2008 Coal bunker; lathe rebuilding; bolster swivel plates; water tank, shop views
January 19-20, 2008 Coal bunker; pinion shaft removal; rear coupler pocket
January 5-6, 2008 Frame repairs; horn/pinion gear work; center (swivel) plates
March 31 - April 1, 2007 Horn machining
March 17-18, 2007 Drawbar pocket; square shafts; horn welding; storage locker; main frame
March 3-4, 2007 Square shafts; coal bunker; drawbar pocket; radial-arm saw
February 17-18, 2007 Horn castings; Reed Prentice lathe, draw-bar pins; square shafts
January 20-21, 2007 Crankshaft machining; tank frame work; main frame; square drive shafts
January 6-7, 2007 Transport donated machine tools; delivery of repaired smoke box saddle; crankshaft machining

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Page last updated or validated on July 22, 2016