Up Close and Personal With the Reading 2100

Made in Reading, Meet made in LaGrange. Two distinctive forms of motive power go nose by nose at Rockport Yard in Cleveland.

Made in Reading, Meet made in LaGrange. Two distinctive forms of motive power go nose by nose at Rockport Yard in Cleveland.

Reading No. 2100 arrived in Cleveland on Saturday afternoon en route to the former Baltimore & Ohio roundhouse that is now operated by the Midwest Railway Preservation Society.

The T-1 class steam locomotive made the trip via BNSF and Norfolk Southern on a flatcar from its former home in Washington State. The American Steam Railroad Preservation Association is leading the efforts to restore the 2100 in Cleveland to operating condition.

That means transforming it from being an oil burner into a coal burner again. To pull off the job, the group needs to raise $700,000. It has established a website to solicit donations and provide news about the restoration of the 2100. http://www.fireup2100.org/

No. 2100 was among a class of 30 Northern locomotives churned out by the Reading shops in Reading, Pennsylvania, between 1945 and 1947.

Carrying road numbers 2100-2129, the 4-8-4 locomotives were a hybrid built from salvaged parts of the railroad’s I-10a Consolidations (road numbers 20-20-2049) and new parts supplied by Baldwin and other contractors.

No. 2100 thus began life as I-10a No. 2020, a 2-8-0 built by Baldwin in 1936.

The T-1 locomotive was designed for fast freight service, but the final 10 of the class were equipped to haul passenger trains. This was largely limited to troop train duty.

All of the T-1 locomotives served in freight service and in their later years of revenue service the T-1s were pulling coal trains as diesels infiltrated the Reading motive power rosters.

No. 2100 was one of three T-1 locomotives that Reading assigned to its Iron Horse Rambles, a.k.a., Reading Rambles, between 1959 and 1964.

The Ramble was not a new program. The Reading began the Rambles in 1936, typically operating as excursion trains taking passengers out on mainlines and branch lines to see the fall foliage.

Running steadily until World War II, the Rambles resumed after the war and became diesel powered in the 1950s. However, the trips became less frequent and seemed to have faded away until the Reading announced their return as steam-powered trips to be known as the Iron Horse Ramble.

The first of these operated on Oct. 25, 1959, behind T-1 No. 2124, which pulled 16 cars from Wayne Junction to Shamokin. The Rambles continued to be a fixture on the Reading with No. 2124 joined by No. 2100 and No. 2102 also sharing the duties of pulling the trains.

Citing high locomotive repair expenses and deteriorating track conditions, the Reading said that the 50th Ramble on Oct. 17, 1964, would be the last.

Including the 2100, four Reading T-1 locomotives survive today. A year after the last Iron Horse Ramble took a ride on the Reading, No. 2100 was sold to a Baltimore scrap dealer along with the 2101 and 2102.

But the 2100 was not scrapped and 10 years later steam impresario Ross Rowland Jr. purchased the 2100 in order to obtain parts for the rebuilding of T-1 No. 2101, which went on to pull the American Freedom Train.

The 2100 sat in Hagerstown, Maryland, between 1975 and 1987 before it was restored by a group known as 2100 Corporation whose leaders included Rowland, Bill Benson and Richard Kughn.

The group spent more than a million dollars to overhaul the 2100 but no railroad would agree to allow it operate on its tracks, although it did make some break-in runs on the Winchester & Western.

Over the next several years, the 2100 would embark on a long, strange odyssey that brought it to Ohio.

The journey began with a trip to the Wheeling & Lake Erie’s Rook Yard in Pittsburgh that eventually led the 2100 traveling to the railroad’s shops in Brewster.

The 2100 Corporation donated the 2100 to the Portage Area Regional Transportation Authority, which had plans to operate the steamer. But those didn’t pan out and the 2100 wound up on the Ohio Central in Coshocton where it was stored until 1998.

On Jan. 16, 1998, Tom Payne of RailLink Ltd. in Edmonton, Alberta, purchased the 2100 at an auction from PORTA. The locomotive made some test runs under steam on the Ohio Central in May 1998.

Payne moved the 2100 to a former Michigan Central shops in St. Thomas, Ontario. Now part of the Elgin County Railway Museum, the shops transformed the 2100 into an oil burner.

During that restoration the “Reading” name on the tender was removed in favor of the name “Ferroequus.”

He also purchased an auxiliary tender and 12 passenger cars with the idea of offering excursion train service.

Then he made a disturbing discovery. There was no suitable tracks in St. Thomas over which to operate a heavy steam locomotive in excursion service.

In June 2005 the 2100 was sold to the Golden Pacific Railroad in Tacoma, Washington., traveling there atop a flat car.

In Washington, the 2100 was steamed up and able to pull trips over former Milwaukee Road tracks between Tacoma and Frederickson.

Accompanying the 2100 on those trips was a former Amtrak F40PH. The train, which consisted of three bi-level commuter coaches formerly operated in Chicago by Metra, operated in push-pull fashion with the F40 serving as a cab car.

Tickets for the trips were $50, which included a catered lunch in Frederickson. The high cost of tickets was blamed in part for the failure of the service to make money and the last trip ran in 2006.

The next year the Spirit of Washington dinner train used the 2100 over the same route, but this service was short-lived, lasting just a few months. However, the dinner train united the 2100 with a remnant of the Reading Crusader, an observation car.

The 2100 was moved to Richland, Washington, for storage where it sat until it began moving eastward for Cleveland last month.

The Fireup 2100 group Tweeted on Saturday that the 2100 is expected to remain at Rockport Yard until Tuesday or Wednesday when NS is expected to move the steamer and its entourage to Campbell Road Yard and then the ex-B&O roundhouse at West Third Street.

Roger Durfee visited the 2100 this past weekend and sent along these images of it. Note that in the eighth photograph down an American Airlines jet is landing at nearby Cleveland Hopkins International Airport.

Roger’s detailed images show a locomotive that has acquired some rust, but otherwise looks like with a little TCL it could be brought back to life.

Will it be? It is going to a while and will hinge on a number of factors beyond the control of any one person or organization.

Article by Craig Sanders, Photography by Roger Durfee

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One Response to “Up Close and Personal With the Reading 2100”

  1. Dave Lockard Says:

    Excellent! In the mid 1960’s while living in Glenside, PA I rode on several Iron Horse Rambles, most leaving from Jenkintown. The most memorable was the double header to Gettysburg w/2100 & 2102 as I remember (?).

    When you paid for a seat, each rail fan would receive an engineer’s cap with the ‘Reading Lines’ diamond emblem sewn on the front as well as a commemorative booklet I still have both as well a cancelled tickets.

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