Five finalists have been selected from numerous entries received for the National Railway Historical Society/Railway Age/Railway Track & Structures inaugural “Outstanding Railroad Historic Preservation Award,” designed to recognize a railroad for its efforts in railway preservation. The intent is “to honor and recognize a North American common-carrier railroad for a historically significant preservation project completed or put into operation within the past five years.”
A judging committee comprised of NRHS, Railway Age and RT&S senior leaders have reviewed all nominations. The award winner will be announced at the Railway Interchange conference in Indianapolis, in October.
The five finalists are, in alphabetical order:
The Arkansas & Missouri Railroad, based in Springdale, Ark., is a 150-mile Class III railroad that runs between Monet, Mo., and Fort Smith, Ark. The line was originally built by the St. Louis San Francisco Railway (Frisco) in the 1880s. It was acquired by the A&M from BNSF in 1986. It is a very scenic line passing thru Arkansas’ hill country, with bridges over river gorges, and several small to larger towns. In addition to freight service, the A&M runs scheduled excursion trains several days each month using restored vintage passenger cars including an open air observation car. The train rides can be several hours long roundtrip, headed both north and south out of Springdale. Aside from the vintage passenger cars, the A&M has a fleet of historic ALCO diesel locos used in freight operations and for passenger service. In Springdale next to the passenger train boarding platforms, the A&M has built a museum sharing the history of the line with many displays of historic rail equipment, dining car service items, maps, and other items.
The Everett Railroad in Hollidaysburg, Pa., is a 23-mile Class III. The lines it operates were once part of the Pennsylvania Railroad. It began freight operations in 1984 and since then has acquired additional trackage from other railroads. In addition to freight, the Everett Railroad also offers excursion train service to the public using restored vintage passenger cars and two historic steam locomotives—an ALCO 2-6-0 Mogul, and a Baldwin 2-8-0 Consolidation. Steam locomotive-hauled excursion trains have been operated since 1964. The usually one-hour long roundtrip train rides are scheduled throughout the year.
Class III Iowa Traction Railway, a subsidiary of Progressive Rail Inc., is the last functional interurban freight railroad in North America. Its rolling stock continues to function for its original purpose: moving freight to customers. All its interurban electric locomotives are more than 100 years old, and while not restored, are repaired and maintained in a manner consistent with their original construction. Erection and maintenance of the overhead electrical distribution system is contemporary with the era of the rolling stock. Interchanging with Union Pacific and CPKC (Canadian Pacific Kansas City), this functional example of century-old technology continues to effectively and efficiently serve the needs of 21st century customers and shippers. Operating alongside public roads and through many locations visible to the public, the Iowa Traction provides an education in early 20th century electric railroading, providing many lessons to current generations.
Reading & Northern is a successful Class II railroad enterprise, starting as the operator of a 13-mile branch in 1983. Through numerous acquisitions, RBMN now operates more than 400 miles of trackage in the anthracite region of Pennsylvania. Early on, RBMN hosted passenger trains. Today, regular excursions to Jim Thorpe, Pa., are scheduled out of Reading’s Outer Station and Pittston. Additionally, Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway (another RBMN property) operates daily excursions in season from Jim Thorpe. The railroad nods to its history by painting its diesel locomotives in an attractive green and yellow paint scheme inspired by the Reading Railroad. Early on, RBMN utilized former GM&O Pacific 425 as motive power on excursions; it is operational today. RBMN steam locomotive 2102 was built by Baldwin for the Reading Railroad as a 2-8-0 in 1925. In 1945, the Reading rebuilt and upgraded the locomotive to a 4-8-4 Northern; it remained in regular freight service until the end of steam in 1956. Reading kept it on the roster, though, and used the locomotive on its famous Iron Horse Rambles. 2102 had a series of owners from the 1960s through 1985, when RBMN purchased it. A lengthy restoration of 2012 culminated in 2022. The locomotive is now a centerpiece of the passenger operation that served 250,000 riders last year.
Union Pacific’s restoration and subsequent operation of 4-8-8-4 Big Boy No. 4014, the largest steam locomotive ever built, is just one among the latest contributions of UP’s efforts in preserving and presenting the history of one of the longest surviving corporate names in railroads. 4014, on excursions across the UP system, draws thousands of railroad enthusiasts trackside to witness it in operation. This locomotive’s return to service follows that of Northern type No. 844, on the UP roster since its 1944 purchase from the American Locomotive Company, and Challenger No. 3985 (recently donated to the non-profit Railroading Heritage of Midwest America, which plans to restore it back to operating condition) to keep not only steam, but a railroad at its finest, on display. Twenty-five Big Boys were built exclusively for UP, the first of which was delivered in 1941. The locomotive is 132 feet long and weighs 600 tons. Because of its length, the frame is articulated. No. 4014 was delivered to UP in December 1941. The locomotive was retired in December 1961, having traveled 1,031,205 miles in its 20 years in service. UP reacquired 4014 from the RailGiants Museum in Pomona, Calif., in 2013, and relocated it back to Cheyenne to begin a multi-year restoration process. It returned to service in May 2019 to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the transcontinental railroad’s completion.