The Western Virginia Railroad Preservation Society is dedicated to the preservation and interpretation of railroad artifacts large and small, especially those in immediate danger, and to further the public understanding of railroad history and its impact upon society. For the past several years TWVRPS has been working hard to prepare a restoration facility first, before taking on large and costly rolling stock restoration projects. This is not to say though that we have not been identifying historic railroad equipment in need. Due to recent unforeseen financial difficulties being faced by the Virginia Museum of Transportation, we have taken it upon ourselves to partner with the VMT to help preserve the Lost Engines of Roanoke for future generations. To this end the society has undertaken several different projects to accomplish this goal, the majority of which are detailed below.
Hidden among the trees and creeper vines that line the back edge of the old Virginia Scrap Iron & Metal yard in Roanoke, Virginia is a remarkable collection of historic steam and early diesel locomotives, unlikely survivors of the golden age of American railroading. Popularly known as the "Lost Engines of Roanoke", they are powerful symbols of the railroad that helped to build the fortunes of many in the Roanoke area. For nearly six decades after their long and hard-working careers came to an end, these locomotives have remained there, quietly awaiting the fate that befell so many of their sisters so many years ago. They stand today as a forgotten reminder of the industrial effort, loyalty and dedication that forged this great nation of ours, a legacy in ivy and iron. It is time now to remember them.
Discarded and sold for scrap when their years of service came to an end, it is only by pure luck that these historic locomotives have survived to this day. With the scrapyard recently closed down and slated for redevelopment, the time to save them is now.
The Western Virginia Railroad Preservation Society (TWVRPS) has launched a fundraising appeal to preserve as many of the Roanoke scrapyard locomotives as possible, through the coordinated efforts of TWVRPS, the Virginia Museum of Transportation, and other interested groups. A fourth steam locomotive, Norfolk & Western 917 was recently acquired by an individual in Ohio and removed from the yard. At an estimated cost of $50,000 each to move the remaining locomotives and rolling stock, just what can be saved will depend on the amount successfully raised before the December 31, 2008 deadline given by the Roanoke Redevelopment and Housing Authority, which now owns the scrapyard site. Your donation will help to prevent these "lost engines" from being lost forever.
For more in-depth information on these historic locomotives, and how you can help us preserve part of Virginia's heritage, please take a look at our Lost Engines Project Page.
The long-term goal of TWVRPS is to establish a facility to house, display, and restore historic railroad equipment, both from our own collection and equipment belonging to other organizations. We envision this facility as a place to preserve not only the physical artifacts, but also the traditional skills used to build, repair, and maintain this equipment, in a historically appropriate and publicly accessible environment. TWVRPS is currently working to acquire a former railroad repair shop complex for this purpose, which is completely historic in its own right.
Located in the town of Clifton Forge, Virginia, the old Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad repair shop complex still stands. Donated to the town by CSX Transportation in the early 1990s, it has been sitting in disrepair ever since.
While acquiring a facility is one thing, actual preservation and maintenance work is something else entirely. As a way to accomplish these goals, TWVRPS has begun to obtain several machine tools that will be of immense help in the continual restoration of railroad equipment and the shops themselves. To help start off this collection of machine tools the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania has graciously donated an extra set of authentic steam-era machine tools to the TWVRPS.
Having since moved the machine tools to the Walkersville Southern Railroad from the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania, multiple work days have been put to good use in an effort to return these tools to active service.
In contrast to the large and relatively low-tech machine tools, TWVRPS has been acquiring several pieces of computer equipment with the intent of creating digital archives of historical documents. This will allow us to digitally preserve historic data that may otherwise be lost, and to make it accessible to everyone without putting the original papers at risk.
At this time we have been in contact with several individuals who have the same goal in mind. We have been able to share amongst our collections and are in the process of documenting much of what is available.