What’s in the Numbering of a NKP Steam Locomotive? Mystery, Intrigue and Subterfuge

NKP 765

Nickel Plate Road 765 pauses at Canton during a visit to the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad. When it returns in September it will be No. 767, a number it once wore as a stationary exhibit.

The visit of Nickel Plate Road 767, a.k.a., NKP 765, to the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad next month has been getting attention that the locomotive’s owner has been able to cash in.

“It’s handy when a nod to history can be good programming and also create some buzz. It’s already stimulated more ticket sales for our upcoming trips at the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad in September,” wrote Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society vice president Kelly Lynch on TrainOrders.com.

Recently, the FtWHS renumbered 765 to 767 for ceremonies held at an open house to reveal plans for the Headwaters Junction park that will eventually serve as the home base for the 765.

As part of that, the 765 was given number 767, which it wore during the decade it was on display in Lawton Park in Fort Wayne.

The story of how 765 became 767 and then 765 again goes back to the late 1950s when the NKP was retiring the last of its steam locomotives.

The NKP had 80 2-8-4 Berkshire type locomotives built in the 1940s by Lima Locomotive Works.

No. 767 was chosen to participate in a celebration held Oct. 4, 1955, to mark the completion of a track elevation project through Fort Wayne, Indiana, that resulted in the closure of several street crossings. Its role was to break the ceremonial ribbon across the tracks.

Nearly three years later, No. 767 was stored serviceable, but never returned to service.

Because of its participation in the 1955 ceremony, the City of Fort Wayne asked the NKP to donate the 767 for display in Lawton Park.

Reportedly, East Wayne Roundhouse Foreman, A.H. “Hap” Adang decided that No. 765 was in much better condition than the 767 and to donate it instead.

The 767 had been stored outside and vandalized. The 765, though, had been stored indoors, had been a crew favorite on the Chicago-Fort Wayne run, and was mechanically complete.

Workers renumbered the 765 to 767 and the real 767 was scrapped in 1964. For years no one was the wiser except a handful of NKP employees and any friends they had told about the number swap.

After the FtWRHS was formed in 1972, its member began hearing reports about the number swap that had taken place more than a decade earlier.

As they disassembled the 767, they found parts marked 765. The steam dome also had the manufacturer’s date for the 765. Lynch explained in a TO posting that the 765 never actually operated as No. 767.

Another FtWRHS member posting on TO said the NKP did not change the monthly, annual or Form 4 documents at Cleveland headquarter to match, so when the fake “765” went off to Chicago to be scrapped in 1964, the ICC Form 4s for the real 765 were trashed by the Interstate Commerce Commission

“That was a problem when we got the 765 ready to return to service in 1979,” he wrote. “We then had to have a mechanical engineer reconstruct the documents and certify the boiler calculations to put her back into service.”

He said that monthly inspection reports for the 765 in December 1958 show that for two days it was in stationary service, thus making the 765 the last Berkshire under steam at the Nickel Plate.

Further investigation revealed that there were ways to distinguish the 767 from the 765.

The 767 had been rebuilt after colliding in Fort Wayne with a Wabash passenger train on July 15, 1951.

That accident, which killed four people and injured 13, occurred when the engineer of Wabash train No. 13 mistakenly thought the clear signal at the diamonds for NKP train No. 51 was for his train.

The 767 struck the Wabash train in the buffet car at 10:22 p.m. after the 767 engineer applied his train’s emergency brakes. Both trains derailed.

No. 767 was rebuilt at the Conneaut shops and returned to service. In the process, the 767 received a six-sided number board.

Lynch said that the locomotive placed in Lawton Park had a flat, hand-painted headlight number board. Home address numerals were placed in the “flying” number boards.

The faux 767 was placed in Lawton Park on May 4, 1963. Ten years later it was removed from the park to begin restoration, which was completed in 1979.

The 765 has operated under other numbers on occasion including in 1993 when it ran as Chesapeake & Ohio No. 2765. It made trips in that disguise between Akron and Pittsburgh that August.

The FtWRHS has indicated that the 765 will continue to operate as the 767 for the remainder of 2016.

And that brings us back to a question someone asked recently as to whether the 767 number plate is original. For that matter, is the number plate of the 765 an original.

In his posting on TO, Lynch showed a photograph of the 765 at East Wayne shops in the early 1960s sans its number plate and number boards.

They may have been scrapped in 1964, might be in someone’s basement or one or more of them might still exist.

There is always a little mystery surrounding a restored steam locomotive.

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One Response to “What’s in the Numbering of a NKP Steam Locomotive? Mystery, Intrigue and Subterfuge”

  1. Jim H Says:

    The accident report: http://specialcollection.dotlibrary.dot.gov/Document?db=DOT-RAILROAD&query=(select+3417)

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