By M.T. Burkhart
ASHLEY, Pa. — An important piece of Anthracite Region history is back home in Pennsylvania with the arrival of narrow gauge Wanamie Mine Railroad 9, now on display at Miners’ Memorial Park in Ashley.
Built by Vulcan Iron Works in 1915 to Delaware, Lackawanna & Western specifications, the 0-4-0T “Lokie” worked at several area collieries, including in Nanticoke, Exeter and finally Wanamie, according to Matt Stegura, who headed up the effort to bring the locomotive home. Steam ran at Wanamie until early 1969. After that, locomotive 9 (along with sister 4) went to Pine Creek in New Jersey and eventually found its way to Michigan. Locomotive 9 has not been under steam since its retirement from Wanamie.
The Huber Breaker Preservation Society, the Borough of Ashley, and state officials worked together to purchase the locomotive. It was trucked to the display site at the end of June. The idea to bring the 0-4-0T locomotive home was first floated four years ago. “There were a lot of hoops to get through,” Stegura said. “We knew what the goal was, just not how to get there.”
The hope is for the 3-foot-gauge locomotive to eventually run again, but a lot of work needs to be done before that happens. Its saddle tank was scrapped, so a new one will need to be built. However, much of the equipment from the water tank, as well as other needed parts, remain safely tucked away. A pavilion will be built to keep the engine out of the elements.
The miners’ park is on the site of the former Blue Coal’s Huber Breaker. Built in 1939, the breaker was considered state-of-the-art in its day. It closed in 1976 and was finally torn down in 2014.