By Michael T. Burkhart
A pair of historic Reading Company cab locomotives have found a new home at SMS Rail Lines and will run on the Woodstown Central Railroad tourist operation, the company announced this week.
Last spring, SMS was approached by the Reading Company Technical & Historical Society (RCT&HS) about leasing former Reading FP7s 902 and 903. Stored for more than a decade at Steamtown National Historical Site in Scranton, Pa. they have not run in excursion service in years. FP7 902 (which will be leased by SMS) is owned by the RCT&HS and 903 has been purchased outright from the Philadelphia Chapter of the NRHS.
“Together, these two units will be a crown jewel in rail preservation as these extremely historic locomotives operate together in regular passenger service once again,” SMS officials said in a press release. “We are excited to bring these units to the railroad soon.”
In mid-September, the locomotives were still at Steamtown and were expected to travel to the SMS shops in Pureland, N.J., for work before entering service. The railroad did not release a timeline for when they would move.
Part of a group of six FP7s built for the Reading in 1950, they migrated to SEPTA commuter service in 1974 before eventually coming to the Lancaster Chapter NRHS (and later acquired by RCT&HS) and Philly Chapter. Restored to Reading colors, they ran regularly in the mid-1990s on the Delaware Valley Railway over the old Wilmington & Northern branch. Service later included a mainline trip from Philadelphia to Strasburg, Pa., in 2001 and runs over home rails on the East Penn in the fall of 2007.
One other Reading FP7 remains. Class unit 900 is at the RCT&HS Reading Railroad Heritage Museum in Hamburg, Pa.
Woodstown Central started up over county-owned tracks between its namesake town and Swedesboro and Salem, NJ in November 2022. Tourist trains are currently running with a Baldwin diesel, but 0-6-0 9, a former U.S. Army switcher undergoing restoration, will also see tourist service.