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Wed Jul 22 17:17:45 EDT 2009

[Thanks, Ned!]

New railroad museum is set to chug into Portsmouth
Posted to: Community News Portsmouth


This Norfolk & Western steam locomotive was among the early 20th Century treasures that came to be called the "Lost Engines of Roanoke." They have been sitting in a scrap yard in that city for 60 years and are now bound for restoration. (Courtesy of The Western Virginia Railroad Preservation Society.)

Groundbreaking ceremony for the Railroad Museum of Virginia

4 p.m. Thursday Where 16 Crawford Circle, next to the nTelos Pavilion.

The ceremony will be rescheduled in the event of severe weather. For more
information, call (757) 393-4093, ext. 334.

By Janie Bryant
The Virginian-Pilot
© July 22, 2009

After 11 years of work, on Thursday the ceremonial shovels will finally hit the ground at the site of a new Railroad Museum of Virginia.

Construction of a sheltered platform reminiscent of an old-fashioned train depot should be complete in four months, said former state Sen. Willard J. Moody Sr., who led the effort.

Visitors will use the platform to board four antique rail cars that have been restored for exhibits: a dining car, two mail cars and a caboose.

Eventually, they also will get to examine a steam locomotive that first hit the tracks in 1910.

"Believe me, we've looked high and low across the whole United States," for a steam locomotive, Moody said.

They found what they were looking for in a Roanoke scrap yard.

The "Lost Engines of Roanoke" were castoffs from the early 20th century that had been fading away in the scrap yard for 60 years.

Railroad devotees have been trying to save them for at least half that time, said Bev Fitzpatrick, executive director of The Virginia Museum of Transportation in Roanoke.

The owner of the yard had promised them to the Roanoke museum. So in return for covering the cost of moving all of the "Lost Engines" from the scrap yard, Portsmouth's museum will get one of the locomotives and a tender.

Moody said restoration work on the locomotive should be completed by the end of the year. When the work is finished, the cost of moving the Roanoke trains and restoring Portsmouth's locomotive and tender will be about $225,000, he said.

In addition, another $400,000 will have been spent on the museum site construction and improvements, he said. The locomotive Portsmouth will get is one of the last examples of its kind, a Norfolk & Western Class M2 steam locomotive used until 1950.

Putting a shine back on the old steam engine is just the kind of preservation work that Portsmouth's museum boosters hoped to do.

The museum has already acquired an extensive inventory of artifacts that will be used to tell the history of railroads in Portsmouth and beyond.

It is a story Moody and his group are eager to share with a new generation.

Moody, who spent most of his law career representing railroad workers, said he can look outside his downtown office and see the families making their way to the Children's Museum of Virginia next door.

"I think that's what we're going to see with these trains," he said. "We're going to see groups of children that learn about the history of America through the history of railroads."

Janie Bryant, (757) 446-2453, janie.bryant at


As of: July 22, 2009

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