Jacksonville Locomotive Ready for Restoration, New Home After 60 Years


The Atlantic Coast Line 1504 is on the move again, three decades after the century-old locomotive became a static part of the parking lot at the Prime Osborn Convention Center.

But while the 80-foot-long engine and dinghy roll again, the steam won’t fuel its pistons for quite a while, as it leaves the town it has inhabited for most of its life. .

Instead, it will take about three years to be carefully disassembled and each part restored at FMW Solutions’ Southeast office and fabrication shop in Chattanooga. Then, the renewed parts of the 2,500 horsepower steam engine will be shipped 700 miles south to US Sugar’s Sugar Express Railway Museum for reassembly and testing.

Jacksonville City Council approved the transfer of the historic Jacksonville train to the US Sugar tourist attraction in June, despite concerns from some local historians about what has been called “the big train theft.”

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Sugar Express operations manager Scott Ogle called it a “sweet success” and said they were delighted to put No.1504 back into service. He said the effort that led to the restoration is “a continuation of the legacy upheld by the Atlantic Coast Line, CSX, the residents of Jacksonville and the North Florida Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society, which all played a role in the preservation of No. 1504 over the past six decades. “

With the Clewiston Sugar Express store busy restoring the passenger cars for future use, No.1504 had to be sent to the FMW facility, Ogle said. It will eventually join a restored 1920 American Locomotive Co. steam engine in the nostalgic passenger excursions of the Sugar Express, FMW officials have confirmed.

On Monday, large cranes were used to separate the No. 1504 boiler and steam engine from its drive wheels, chassis and coal tender. On Tuesday morning, the boiler, steam engine and parts were loaded onto flatbed trucks for transport to Tennessee, where locomotive surgery will take place.

American Locomotive in Richmond, Virginia, built the 471,000-pound No. 1504, a massive vehicle requiring 10,000 gallons of water and 16 tons of coal to turn its 73-inch-high drive wheels. It was used on passenger journeys between Jacksonville Station, now the convention center, and Virginia. It even operated in the 1920s on the South Central Florida Express lines, operated by US Sugar Corp. from Sebring to Fort Pierce via Clewiston, some shared by Atlantic Coast Line.

Old Atlantic Coast Line Steam Locomotive # 1504 as it was on display in June in the parking lot of the Prime Osborn Convention Center just after being transferred to a Clewiston rail attraction.

Locomotive originally parked in the Atlantic Coast Line building

The huge locomotive was eventually pulled out and first parked in 1960 outside the Atlantic Coast Line (now CSX) on Water Street. Thirty-nine years later, it was moved to the Prime Osborn parking lot, on display near the rails it was running on.

The locomotive received $ 75,000 in renovations, then $ 10,000 in additional work when it was moved, but began to rust when the section of the railway company unsuccessfully applied for restoration grants. The local chapter of the National Railway Historical Society eventually joined other groups to win a 2015 $ 10,000 restoration grant from Trains Magazine, to which CSX corresponded,

Members of the association cleaned the rust, secured its windows and repainted it in 2015. But despite the exterior work, it has suffered from bad weather in recent years. So when Sugar Express LLC expressed interest in restoring it to join its other classic steam train in Clewiston, the company and the city agreed.

Larry Geertseme secures the cowcatcher from the front of the 101-year-old Atlantic Coast Line Steam Locomotive # 1504 onto a trailer for transport with the rest of the train for catering in Tennessee.

Gary Dickinson, a member of the Historical Society of Railways local who helped restore the exterior a few years ago, says it is the only original USRA Light Pacific steam locomotive. . In near-original condition, it was also designated a National Historic Landmark of Mechanical Engineering in 1990 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Local historian Wayne Wood had lobbied to keep the locomotive. He suggested moving it inside the Prime Osborn or exhibiting it at the Science and History Museum Project when it moves to the North Shore.

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