Volunteers bringing steam locomotive back to life in Maine

(Bill Trotter /The Bangor Daily News via AP)

HANCOCK, Maine (AP) — A group of volunteers is restoring the last steam-powered locomotive operated by Maine Central Railroad with the goal of putting it back into operation.

The locomotive, known as No. 470, hasn’t run in 65 years. Until 2016, it was rusting outdoors while on display in Waterville.

New England Steam Corp. moved the locomotive to Hancock, where a team of volunteers is painstakingly chipping off rust and restoring the machine, the Bangor Daily News reported.

The plan is for Down East Scenic Railroad to lease the locomotive from New England Steam for use on its excursions, bringing thousands more visitors to the region, said Richard Glueck, president of New England Steam Corp.

For now, it’s a work in progress.

In the summer, as many as 18 people might show up on weekends to work on the locomotive at the Down East Scenic Railroad service yard, where the dismantled locomotive resides, Glueck said.

“We’re literally going to know every nut and bolt on this thing by the time we get through,” said Leverett Fernald, a machinist with Cianbro Corp. who serves as New England Steam’s chief mechanical officer. “We’re not just trying to preserve a machine. We’re trying to preserve the skills that go with it.”

While there’s no shortage of volunteers, the organization still has thousands of dollars to raise to make the project a reality.

New England Steam Corp. has raised $500,000 for the project since it bought the exposed locomotive from the city of Waterville in 2015, Glueck said.

At the current rate, it may be another 10 to 15 years before the project is completed, he said.