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Taking a train ride back in time

Taking the Medina Railroad Museum's excursion trains between Lockport and Medina this summer will be even more of a trip back in time for railroad buffs than it has been in previous years.

The trains will be drawn by two vintage New York Central Railroad "Streamliner" diesel locomotives the museum bought last year.

The 1953 locomotives were refurbished and started up this week in the Falls Road Railroad workshop, operated by Genesee Valley Transportation, off Park Avenue in Lockport.

"These were the first generation of diesels that came along when they started replacing steam," said Dwayne Fuehring, a Norfolk Southern engineer.

He first restored the locomotives about a decade ago in a shop in Bellevue, Ohio, at the behest of their then-owner, Michael Fox of Kansas City, Mo.

"It was about a two-year process with each one," Fuehring said.

However, they had been idle again, two years after having been used to pull excursion and dinner trains for a railroad museum in Nashville, Tenn.

"Two years is a long time to leave a locomotive sitting," Fuehring said. Cracked batteries, assorted electric woes and fluid leaks had developed.

James Dickinson, president of the museum, said the organization invested $150,000 in buying the locomotives about a year ago, having them towed here and making repairs.

Dickinson said he's glad the locomotives are "back on their home rails" in Western New York.

The museum acquired a 1966 dispatch log that proves the units were serviced at Buffalo's Central Terminal. There's also a 1955 photo that shows the locomotives in Westfield.

Dickinson said, "[Fox] wanted to sell them to someone in New York that ran excursion trains, but he couldn't find anyone."

Then the Medina museum staff found word about the locomotives on the Internet, and it didn't take long for the deal to be struck.

The diesels were towed here on CSX Corp. freight trains. One arrived in Lockport on Tuesday and the other Wednesday.

Each locomotive carries two 12-cylinder diesel engines. Each engine is supported by eight 400-pound batteries.

"There's a lot of machine in those old-timers," Dickinson said. "They were designed to go 90 to 100 mph. They were the pinnacle of locomotive design for passenger trains."

But on the Medina-Lockport run, they will putt along at 25 mph, said Rol Holler, a director of the museum.

Holler said it will take another month or so before federal railroad inspectors approve the locomotives' use, and until then they will remain in Lockport. Once approved, the locomotives will be housed in Medina.

Dickinson said he wants them there in time for the museum's "Thomas the Tank Engine" promotional excursions on the first two weekends in May.

Holler said Genesee Valley Transportation crews will drive the diesels "until we get museum staff qualified." He said he's one of those who intend to learn how to drive them.

e-mail: tprohaska@buffnews.com1

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