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Little engine could cause big dispute

State historians, museum both want 'camelback'

By Jim Strader THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

HARRISBURG -- A locomotive which pulled trains through northeastern Pennsylvania in the early years of this century is the subject of a long-running tug-of-war between a Scranton railroad group and a St. Louis museum.

And now the state government is involved.

A House of Representatives committee has approved a resolution, at the request of the Lackawanna Chapter of the Railway and Locomotive Historical Society, asking the county government in St. Louis to return the so-called "camelback" engine.

Previous efforts over the last five years or so to have the locomotive returned have failed, said Paul R. Hart, director of the Lackawanna group. This summer, the chapter was given ownership of the engine by the national leadership of the rail organization to help in its endeavor.

The locomotive is one of only two such steam engines known to exist that ran on the Delaware Lackawanna and Western Railroad, Hart said.

The other is in "very sad condition" and has been given to the Steamtown National Historic Sit in Scranton for retoration, he said.

Camelback engines were given their name because the cab sat in the middle of the locomotive, forming a kind of hump. The engine burned anthracite coal -- common to northeastern Pennsylvania and favored because it produced less smoke and soot -- but required the kind of space not available in the front of the cab, Hart said.

Steamtown, a railroad heritage sit of the National Park Service, is a possible destination for the disputed locomotive if it is returned, he said.

Steamtown spokesman Ralph Coury said the federal government would consider accepting the engine only after the ownership issues were resolved.

Hart said that terms of the loan, which was made in the early 1950's in part because the Lackawanna group had no place to keep the engine, required the St. Louis museum to maintain the engine.

Hart said the train engine was in bad shape last time he saw it.

"St Louis has mor or less stonewalled things. They said they are living up to the agreement," Hart said.

"They only became interested in keeping it when somebody else wanted it."

Jim Worton, who is the director of the county-run museum in St. Louis, said the locomotive has been on display there under terms of a "permanent loan" made 45 years ago.

"What we're currently doing right now, since it's a one-of-a kind locomotive, is we're undertaking a conservation program," Worton said. "We're preserving it so it will not deteriorate further."

Worton said the restoration project could take as long as three years.

Afterward, he said, the locomotive is to be returned to display in the museum.

He said he knows of no plans to give the engine back to the Lackawanna group.

"Since it is in our possession, we want to ensure that it is restored and put on display for the public," Worton said.

Hart said his group is hopeful that the Pennsylvania resolution will be approved by the House and Senate and then sent to St. Louis, where he hopes that Missouri state officials will take notice.

"Apparantly, not everbody in St. Louis is quite as obstinate," he said.

"There are a couple of people who have just said, 'No,' and dug in their thhels.">[? Another option remains.

"The only other way to resolve it is to go to court," Hart said.

Septmeber 3, 1999 Pittsburgh Tribune Review.