Reading & Northern 2102 Returns to the Main Line

Reading & Northern’s newly-restored T-1 2102 leaves Tamaqua, Pa., on a shake-down run to Jim Thorpe on Friday, April 8, 2022. Photo by M.T.Burkhart.

Reading & Northern 2102 Returns to the Main Line

By M.T. Burkhart

PORT CLINTON, Pa. – After an absence of three decades, the sound of a working Reading T-1 locomotive once again echoes off the mountains above the Keystone State’s Coal Region.

For three consecutive days in early April, regional Reading & Northern put newly-restored 4-8-4 2102 through its main line paces, each outing venturing further from the Port Clinton shops. It brought to fruition about six years of work.

In late March, the big “Northern” type locomotive was mated with its tender. Then on Monday, April 4, R&N founder/owner Andy Muller Jr. lit the fire in preparation for the much-anticipated test runs. Late the next day, with Muller at the throttle, 2102 moved several yards under its own power to position the tender to receive a load of bituminous coal. The big day would come on Wednesday, April 6.

The Reading’s 30 T-1 types were built in the company steam shops between 1945 and 1947 from various components harvested from existing 2-8-0 locomotives, including boilers and fireboxes. After toiling in heavy freight service and being replaced by diesels, some of the locomotives were given a reprieve in 1959 with the Reading’s popular Iron Horse Rambles that barnstormed the system.

The rambles ended in 1964, but 2102 continued in various fan trip duties before landing at the Blue Mountain & Reading in the mid-1980s. Flue time expired in 1991. In January 2016, the railroad announced that the 2102 would be rebuilt and returned to service.

In a testament to its fans and the many people who have looked forward to this day, the railroad posted a note the night before alerting folks to the test run. While no timeframe or schedule was listed, and despite the cold drizzle, dozens of people turned out in Port Clinton to witness the milestone.

Just before 10:30 a.m., the locomotive pulled out of the shop area and retrieved a flatcar loaded with rail and switch parts, an open car for some passenger department and other employees, and former Reading caboose 92848. The train backed to the railroad’s “Outer Station” at North Reading, with a couple of stops along the way to check on the running gear. After dropping the flat car, the train returned to Port Clinton at track speed and tied up for the rest of the day.

Wednesday, April 7, featured day-long downpours, with 2102 making an afternoon round trip to Tamaqua, Pa., deep in the heart of the anthracite country where it once worked.

After a night of heavy rain, Friday April 8 dawned bright and sunny, with the T-1 once again simmering quietly at Port Clinton. Just after 8:30 a.m., 2102 departed north on a caboose hop. The train stopped for about 30 minutes at the former Reading station in Tamaqua, where residents posed for photos and admired the locomotive. At Haucks, 2102 left the former Reading for the old Jersey Central and headed east along newly installed welded rail for a water stop at Nesquehoning and eventually Jim Thorpe. After posing at the station, the caboose was repositioned and the run back to Port Clinton was tender first. There, the fire was dropped and the locomotive was placed inside the shop to cool down.

Some obvious work on the T-1 remains, including lettering the tender, cab and adding striping (The yellow number on the cab for the test runs was temporary vinyl). By all accounts, the locomotive performed well. Additional break-in runs may be in the cards, including the possibility of 2102 leading a freight or two before its highly-anticipated first public passenger run from North Reading to Jim Thorpe and return on May 28.

This article was posted on: April 10, 2022