Preservation Society Seeks To Secure Historic Mine Lokie
A mine lokie once used to haul cars laden with freshly mined anthracite is available and a committee of the Huber Breaker Preservation Society needs help to acquire it. The lokie, best known as Wanamie 9, once chugged along narrow-gauge tracks at the Wanamie Colliery in Newport Twp. and previously at the Loomis Colliery in Hanover Twp. “We need help to secure and preserve this historic artifact,” said Matt Stegura, of Clarks Summit, a member of a committee of the Huber society. Stegura created a GoFundMe page two weeks ago but it has drawn only a few donations. Stegura, an 18-year-old freshman history major at King’s College, got involved in restoring mine cars donated to the Huber society, which operates a miners’ memorial park in Ashley. Stegura joined Don Kane, Ashley, and his small restoration group in rebuilding one of the mine cars and in other projects. Then the lokie availability became known. Kane attempted to secure grants through Luzerne County and a natural gas company’s foundation, but without success. Kane and Stegura said their hope is that someone or a group might step forward to help buy and transport the lokie to Ashley. Stegura said the purchase price is about $15,000. Transportation costs are not known at this time but Stegura said a local individual has indicated interest in trucking the lokie. Wanamie 9 is at Veirson Boiler Works in Grand Rapids, Michigan. It is missing parts, Stegura said. He has acquired a steam gauge and a water sight, he said, in the hope they can be used in the restoration. The lokie was built in 1915 by Vulcan Iron Works in Wilkes-Barre. It weighs in at 27 tons when the tank is full of water. There is no tender; the lokie coal box would be filled from large chunks of anthracite from piles along the tracks. Rebuilt in 1948 at the Vulcan facility in West Pittston, the lokie “is somewhat brand new,’’ Stegura said. It ran at Wanamie from September 1948, until retirement in early 1969. “It has not been under steam since,” Stegura said. The Huber group wants to make the lokie fully operational. It would be stored in a pole-barn type structure, Stegura said, and run on a short stretch of trackage that would be laid at the memorial park. The lokie tracks are three-feet in width, compared to standard railroad track at four feet, eight and one-half inches. “If anyone has lokie parts or narrow-gauge track, please let us know,” Stegura said. Wanamie 9 is one of only two Vulcan lokies in existence. Wanamie 9 and Wanamie 4 were sold and moved to Pine Creek, New Jersey, in 1969 and put on display. A locomotive broker in Iowa bought them in during the 1970s. Some time in the 1990s, both became the property of Michael Schlag in Salem, Oregon, and moved there. Wanamie 4 was restored and ran for a time. In 2010 on Schlag’s death, Wanamie 4 was sold to a man in Merrill, Oregon, where it is deteriorating, Stegura said. Veirson Boiler Works bought Wanamie 9 for display at its shop. Wanamie 9 was built for the Delaware Lackawanna and Western Coal Mining Department 28 at Loomis. “When finished, it will be restored to its look at Wanamie and will run just like the old days here in the valley. It will be the first time it has seen steam since 1969,” Stegura said. “Not many Pennsylvania lokies survive and only three other DL&W steam locomotives exist. It will be the first steam locomotive to travel though Ashley since 1955,” Stegura said. Work will be done by volunteers from across the area who have worked with steam before, including at Steamtown in Scranton. Stegura said volunteers from the CNJ 113 restoration project at Minersville will assist. Stegura said a battery-operated mine motor also will be acquired to serve as a back up to the lokie. Kane said he is awaiting a promised load of anthracite, the final “touch” on the mine car restoration project. Kane has spearheaded significant restoration work at the park, including reconstruction of a switchman’s shanty that once sat in the Central Railroad of New Jersey yard north of the Huber Breaker. The shanty was the switchman’s protection during bad weather. Railroad history also is recalled with full-size tracks and a signal tower placed near the shanty. The powder house that once held dynamite used to blast coal seams has been restored. The colliery sign from the main entrance to the Huber complex was saved and is in the park. The center piece of the park is the memorial to Northeast Pennsylvania’s coal miners. A state historical marker was dedicated outside the park on Labor Day 2017. The park sits on 3.1 acres of land donated by Earth Conservancy which uses the former Blue Coal Corporation building as its offices. A second mine car is being restored by students at Wilkes-Barre Area Career and Technology Center. Huber Breaker Preservation Society created the park on former Huber Colliery property east of the site of the historic breaker. Efforts to save the breaker failed but segments of coal mining and railroad history are on display at the park.