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The Little Engine That Could

by Rev. Philip Beverly Smith

In the middle of April and October, the Eastern Division of the Train Collectors Association (TCA) has the world's largest train meet at the York Fairgrounds. Trains fill eight buildings. About 18,000 TCA members and guests come from all over the world, including Australia. But something new was added in October this year. The Standards Committee announced a Restoration Concours D'Elegance Contest. All TCA members were invited to bring restored "tinplate" trains [a nickname for trains made before and after World War II] to the Orange Hall by 5:00 PM on Thursday, October 14. They would be judged at 3:00 PM on Friday. Prizes would be awarded.


Pastor Philip Smith decided to enter a Lionel locomotive he restored years ago, an 0 Gauge model of a New York Central Hudson, a locomotive that headed the renowned 20th Century Limited. He had been walking along at a train meet when he saw a forlorn little locomotive in a parts box under a vendor's table. It lay in pieces. Someone had slapped flat black paint on it, obscuring cab numbers and LIONEL LINES lettering on the tender. He felt sorry for it. He asked to pick it up and look it over. He discovered that it was a 2056, made the year he was born (1952). He purchased it for a nominal sum. He took it home and cleaned it up as best he could. After repairing and lubricating the motor and gears, he set it on the track. It took off at very low voltage. It ran so smoothly that he decided to restore it. For the next year or two he tracked down original parts: main rods, side rods, valve gear, and a smoke unit. When he finished, he had a splendid little locomotive that ran like a Hamilton watch. He considered restoring the cab number and the tender lettering. Then he remembered something.


A man named John Myers who lived in Pottstown, was painting locomotives and cars in Reading paint schemes. Pastor Phil asked him to paint his 2056 as Reading T-1 No. 2124, the locomotive that headed the Reading's renowned Iron Horse Rambles from 1959 through 1961. One of four surviving Reading T-1's, No. 2124 is now being repainted at Steamtown in Scranton. Mr. Myers agreed. He also spliced two short 6466W tenders to resemble a long, elegant T-1 tender. Each held 26 tons of coal and 19,000 gallons of water - enough to fill a swimming pool. All this took place years before Lionel offered a scale model of the first Reading T-1, No. 2100, in 1989.


Beverly wasn't certain that a little locomotive like this was eligible. Restorations are usually as accurate as possible. Their goal is returning something to original condition, as it looked when it left the factory. This 2056 had original parts, but it was restored as a Reading T-1, a locomotive that Lionel didn't make until 1989. And that locomotive was made from all-new tooling.

Pastor Phil contacted contest chairman Joe Mania. He replied that this 2056 was eligible under a "Fantasy" category. Pastor Phil took it to the Orange Hall, set it on a section of Lionel Fastrack, and waited nervously for the judging on Friday. His 2056 won a blue ribbon - First Place. It will be featured in the TCA Quarterly (see page 26, January 2011 Vol. 57, No. 1 - Ed.) and may be displayed in the TCA's National Toy Train Museum next year.


Lionel's scale Reading T-1 repainted by Steve Gilbert as No. 2124 running in our parsonage.

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