Railway Museum new engine

One of two new locomotive purchases is seen here on Monticello Railway Museum tracks near downtown Monticello.

The Monticello Railway Museum has a substantial bucket list, but has checked one item off with the purchase of a locomotive that once ran on the rails the museum now owns in Piatt County.

It is one of two locomotives that will soon be added to the museum’s fleet, bringing its total to 10.

Restoration of the two new engines now begins. What will it take to complete that process?

“Truckloads of time and money,” said museum volunteer Bill Crisp, estimating the overall project cost at north of $100,000.

A GoFundMe campaign has been launched to raise $50,000 of it, and can be located at https://gf.me/v/c/yxvh/bill039s-fund-for-monticello-railway-museum.

Illinois Terminal #784, which at one time rolled along the Illinois Interurban in Central Illinois, is now in Alabama, but will be transported to Monticello soon.

“We have documentation that the 784 actually ran on the tracks that we own in Monticello now,” said Crisp. “It’s a locomotive coming home, one that’s worked on our lines.”

“We have goals of what we’ve like to achieve, and this is one of the goals that has been out there,” he added.

That locomotive was retired by Norfolk & Western and Norfolk & Southern Railways in 1994 and sold to Saquatchie Valley Railroad, where it worked in short line service before being acquired by Knoxville Locomotive Works.

Cash did not exchange hands in the sale of #784. Instead it was an old-fashioned barter – the engine for parts the railroad museum had on hand.

“They had the locomotive, we had parts they wanted, so we traded parts for a locomotive,” said Crisp, who said it worked out well for both entities. “And it clears out some storage space for us.”

Crisp said it is not easy to move retired locomotives, saying they have to be transported “dead,” in other words not running. Inspections of brake lines and other apparatus also need to be passed before the vehicles can travel railway to another destination.

Chicago & Midland #31 on site, is almost ready

The other locomotive the museum purchased, the Chicago & Midland #31, was one of only two RS1325 models built by Electro-Motive Diesel. It was a unique design that would help switch passenger cars at terminals, but quickly become outdated as passenger loads declined.

But #31 has had a long life, 60 years in freight service that ran into earlier this year.

It is already on site at the museum, awaiting mostly cosmetic work at this point.

Since it’s diesel engine has run so recently, it will be able to get into the railway museum’s fleet operational fleet quickly and begin giving rides. It’s orange paint will be replaced by a more classic C&IM green scheme.

Throttle Time still active

The COVID-19 pandemic has shut down a majority of activities at the museum, but volunteers still been busy. Restoration of two pieces has been accomplished, plus inspection and work on steam engine #401 a year early, since there have been no passengers allowed this year.

Throttle time is still being operated, said Crisp. Interested parties can sign up at mrym.org, receive 45 minutes of training, then are able to drive a train for 30 minutes under the watchful eye of a museum engineer.

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