By STAN GOLDBERG
The Frederick News-Post
WALKERSVILLE, Md. (AP) — Jamie Haislip has gone from playing with model trains as a youngster to working with a 44-ton railroad engine as an adult.
The 52-year-old electrical contractor recently purchased a 1949 diesel locomotive engine, which now sits on the track at the Walkersville Southern Railroad, where he works as a volunteer.
The engine has some rust and cracked windows. It needs a lot of work to become fully functional but it does run, and Haislip hopes to have it up and running as part of the WSR next year.
“I wanted to save it, I didn’t want to see it go to the scrap heap,” Haislip said. “I’ve followed trains all my life, but this is the first engine I’ve owned.”
Haislip stood in front of his 14-foot-tall, 25-foot-long engine on a recent Sunday morning as he talked. He was getting ready to drive one of the railroad’s other engines on an excursion trip. WSR operates on a portion of the track between Walkersville and Frederick, offering scenic rides and specialty excursions, such as train rides with Santa and dinner trains.
Trains are Haislip’s hobby. He first got interested in model trains as a youngster and then began working with railroad speeders or motorcars. Speeders were used to perform track inspections and maintenance work.
In 2006, the resident of Chantilly, Va., became one of about 75 volunteers at the Walkersville railroad. He mainly does track work, usually about 16 hours a week, mostly on weekends.
It was about a year and a half ago when he heard about the 44-ton engine, which was at the South Carolina Railroad Museum in Winnsboro, S.C.
There were originally 49 such engines made between 1940 and 1956. But only three, including the one Haislip owns, are known to still exist.
This particular engine had run on the Pennsylvania railroad system until 1962, when it was sold to a quarry in South Carolina.
It continued to be used there until about 10 years ago.
“It had been in mothballs since then, and we were concerned they were going to sell it or scrap it,” Haislip said.
He especially liked this engine because it was a Pennsylvania engine and the Walkersville track was initially a Pennsylvania track. If he could get it running, it would be the only such Pennsylvania engine running on a Pennsylvania track.
“I called down there and said we wanted to try and save it,” he said. “I told them if they could get it running I would buy it.”
He flew down to the museum on Aug. 20. He was told the engine should start. In less than two hours, and with a few minor problems, they had it running and took the engine on two successful test drives.
Haislip then bought the engine.
“It cost me $5,000, it was a steal,” he said.
He then arranged to have the engine hauled by truck to Walkersville on a lowboy trailer on Sept. 22. They had to remove some parts to get the load under the maximum weight. The trip took 10 hours.
Haislip hopes to begin working on the engine this month. He and four or five other volunteers will spend two or three days a week working on it. He hopes to have the engine up and running by spring 2012.
The focus will be getting the engine and brake system to pass Federal Railroad Administration inspections.
“You have to go through a lot of intensive testing,” he said.
They will also have to make sure the diesel engines are in good working order, replace some missing parts and fix the cracked windows.
Then the engine will be sanded and repainted. Haislip said that really isn’t a big job. It will be painted Brunswick green.
Overall, it will cost Haislip another $5,000 to $6,000 to get the engine restored.
When it’s done, the engine will be used by the railroad for some of its trips. It will be the most powerful engine at the railroad and the easiest to control.
“This could be a real asset for the railroad,” Haislip said.
Information from: The Frederick (Md.) News-Post, http://www.fredericknewspost.com
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)