Listen for the Whistle


Country MoonSometimes when I write an article, the article takes on a whole new direction than I had planned and almost writes itself. Funny how that happens.

I have always been intrigued with steam engines, the massive steel horses that helped open up the western part of the country for expansion. All the old Western movies portray the blood and sweat of the men who laid the track that would connect the Wild West with the East via the steam engine. So, this aspect is what I was going to delve into. However it became much more personal about a certain engine when I met Jim Mauer and Dick Stose, two volunteers with the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society, who could not sing enough praises about Engine No. 765. This is her story.

volunteers and Engine No. 785 

After being retired as a working steam engine in 1958, the fate of the 765 was to go for scrap. It was saved when the city of Fort Wayne requested the donation of a locomotive for display in a downtown park. It was saved again from becoming a rusting monument when the volunteers of the Fort Wayne Historical Society decided in 1972 that she had some running days left in her. She was rescued and restored to her full operating condition in 1979. The society had become the first non-profit corporation in the world to restore and operate a mainline steam locomotive.

“It was a labor, a long labor of love,” Jim says. “This society is made up strictly of volunteers so each person brought their own expertise on nights after work, weekends and any spare moment we had. This was a huge undertaking for an all-volunteer project, but the outcome was so worthwhile.”

Engine No. 765 is one of a famous class of steam locomotives called the Berkshire, built in 1944 by Lima Locomotive Works in Lima, Ohio. She has 14 wheels, stands 15 feet tall, weighs 404 tons, and is one of only a handful that still operate in the United States. Berkshires are an elite class of steam locomotives known for their super power, advanced technology and aesthetic charm.

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