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Vintage steam locomotive will chug on

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TWC News: Vintage steam locomotive will chug on
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In its time, Steam Locomotive 786 was a technological wonder.

The train was once a workhorse for Southern Pacific Railroad, but retired in an Austin park in the 1950s. In 1992, train enthusiasts brought her back to life to pull antique railcars on a Hill Country tour.

Sadly, age and wear caught up to the old locomotive.

"This engine was built in 1916. It was built by the American Locomotive Company at their Brooks Works in Dunkirk, New York," Ben Sargent with the Austin Stream Train Association said. "We discovered a problem that we thought was going to necessitate a repair, and that repair kind of snowballed to where it turned into a complete rebuild of the engine."

In the heart of the massive machine is a 44-ton block of iron called the cylinder saddle, which developed fatal cracks.

When mechanics bean to look closer, they found a small mystery.

"This is the original because it's made in 1916. This one is dated 1918 and we think that there was a sideswipe collision this engine was involved in," Sargent said.

Fourteen years and about $2 million later, the 786 has a new heart.

"Probably the first thing like this that's been made United States in 50 or 60 years," Sargent said.

Now begins the complicated re-assembly, a process which will take another two years before the old train is operational again.

When the restoration is complete, the 786 could last another 100 years.

The Austin Steam Train Association still needs donations to finish the job. The group currently offers train excursions powered by a 1960's era diesel locomotive.

For more information, visit AustinStreamTrain.org.

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