Restoration of C&O 2716 Steams on in Kentucky

President of Kentucky Steam says work continues on the Chesapeake & Ohio 2-8-4 and that it will burn oil once it is restored. Photo by Chris Campbell.

Restoration of C&O 2716 Steams on in Kentucky

By Justin Franz

By the end of the summer, the former Louisville & Nashville Ravenna, Ky., shops will be a beehive of activity as laborers tackle not one, but two steam locomotive restorations at once. That’s not to say things haven’t already been busy at the shop located in the heart of Appalachia and the home base for the Kentucky Steam Heritage Corp., the non-profit currently restoring Chesapeake & Ohio 2-8-4 2716. 

Founded in 2016, KSHC secured a lease with the locomotive’s owner, Kentucky Railway Museum, to lease and restore the locomotive. The last time it ran was in the 1990s, which KSHC President Chris Campbell said made it an ideal candidate for restoration. In 2019, the locomotive was moved to Revenna, where KSHC had acquired 47 acres of property from CSX that included a diesel locomotive maintenance facility. Since then, the non-profit has not only been busy with 2716 but it’s also been working to rebuild track in the yard and turn the shop, which hadn’t been used in years, into a restoration facility and museum. 

“We bit off a lot by purchasing that property,” Campbell said, “but we wanted to have our own place to maintain, showcase and even operate the locomotive.”

Kentucky Steam Heritage

A photo of the Kentucky Steam Heritage Corp., facility in Revenna, Ky. Photo by Drayton Blackgrove.

Campbell said that like many non-profits, Kentucky Steam’s forward progress was slowed by the pandemic. However, as summer begins, Campbell said major progress has been made at the Revenna site, especially when it comes to track work. Eventually, the group will have tracks into all three shop bays, plus a fourth alongside the building. At least two of those shop tracks should be done and connected this summer allowing the group to easily move equipment in and out, including 2716. That will be especially important because it was recently announced that L&N 4-6-2 152 was going to be restored on-site by a contractor hired by KRM

The group is also restoring the diesel-era sanding facility outside of the shop. Campbell said while “steam” is in the non-profit’s name, its goal is to preserve the history of railroading in the region and that includes the diesel era. The group has acquired three different diesel locomotives, all with ties to the region, that he said will look great next to the 1980s-era facility. 

With progress on the shop facility getting to a place where it will be easier for volunteers to work on locomotives, Campbell said he expects the restoration of 2716 to pick up pace in the months ahead. As of early 2023, the locomotive was about 35 percent complete. The non-profit has partnered with other groups to help speed up the restoration, including acquiring recently-restored air pumps from a Santa Fe steam locomotive out west and tubes and flues from C&O 2789 at the Hoosier Valley Railroad Museum

Kentucky Steam Heritage

A rendering of what the KSHC site might look like once completed. 

While the locomotive last ran in the 1990s, the restoration hasn’t been without its challenges. Specifically, the stay bolt caps and sleeves underneath the boiler jacket were in much worse condition than previously thought because of moisture exposure. Campbell said the group has ordered 470 new stay bolt caps and sleeves to replace those that were damaged. 

KSHC has also decided to convert the locomotive from coal to oil. Campbell said this is being done to make it easier to operate while on the road. Campbell said while he’ll miss the smell of burning coal, he believes it’ll result in a cleaner and more economical operation. 

“We want to be able to take this locomotive out on the road and burning oil will make that a lot easier,” he said. “(The fact is) we’re in the middle of coal country in Kentucky, but it’s getting harder and harder to get coal.” 

Once the locomotive is running — Campbell said it was still about three years away before 2716 would run on its own — one of its first trips out of Kentucky will be to the Naugatuck Railroad in Connecticut. Campbell said he expected similar opportunities to emerge once the locomotive was in operating condition. 

“We don’t want to be dependent on a Class I railroad to operate on. The opportunities to run will be on short lines and at museums,” Campbell said. 

Beyond the locomotive and immediate shop area, KSHC has also been busy working with corporate sponsor Hardy Oil to develop “The Yard,” a multi-use development that will feature an amphitheater and music venue. Campbell said the stage is about 95 percent complete and they hope to host events there later this year. KSHC is also operating a small museum on site that is open every Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, visit https://www.kentuckysteam.org/.

Kentucky Steam Heritage

KSHC Chief Mechanical Officer Jason Sobczynski inspects the firebox with Joe Bratcher of Kentucky Railway Museum. Photo by Chris Campbell.

This article was posted on: June 14, 2023