Locomotive No. 53

Introducing Locomotive No. 53

Observant members and visitors to Sheepscot recently may have noticed a section of standard gauge track under construction. They may have wondered what’s going on. The WW&F is, after all, a two-foot gauge railway.

Here’s the rest of the story. For the better part of three years, we have been looking for just the right diesel locomotive to supplement our trusty No. 52. We needed something to plow snow, pull work trains, handle trains on the Mountain Extension, and (perish the thought) rescue a stalled steam train.

We spent a lot of time seeking a suitable locomotive. We wanted a double-truck unit that would not punish our track. We wanted something with plenty of power to do what we needed. We thought there might be a chance for an Australian sugar cane locomotive, but all that was available was an 0-6-0 diesel hydraulic not much larger than No. 52. We looked into British and French units, and we even looked into eastern European diesel hydraulics, but nothing quite fit.

We thought maybe we could salvage the remains of a wrecked GE and rebuild it. We considered building our own from the ground up. We even considered a commercial rebuild and a battery-electric. But in the end, nothing seemed quite right.

After considerable thought and consultation, we finally decided to seek a small standard gauge locomotive that could economically be modified to meet our needs, and in mid-February, we found a 1941 General Electric 45-ton side-rod diesel in Sunbury, Pa. that seemed to meet our criteria, which we were able to purchase at scrap price.

Over the last several weeks since we purchased the locomotive, the engineering of the conversion was taken in hand, with a thorough plan already laid out. This is going to be an interesting and exciting project, and If you like to volunteer, contact Jason Lamontagne at the museum.

That’s what the standard gauge track is for. No. 53 will arrive at Sheepscot by truck in May and will be unloaded onto the new track now under construction. Over the next year or three, the trucks will be overhauled and rebuilt to two-foot gauge, a new propulsion system utilizing one of its two diesel engines and traction motors will be installed, snowplow pilots will be fabricated for both ends, and most significantly, the entire locomotive including the cab will be reduced in width to fit our clearances, and its weight will be reduced by about 10 tons. And who knows, it may eventually even have an alternative battery propulsion system.