Of the 1,577 steam locomotives in all of North America, 34 are of the 440 type. 29 of the 34 are pre -1900 4-4-0's. Of the thousands of 4-4-0's built by the Amoscog Locomotive
works in Manchester, NH, only 14 remain. Seven of these are at the Mt. Washington Cog Railway and have been modified for that unique application. Built in July of 1892, the 494 we have in White River
Junction is 105 years old this month. It is the oldest surviving Manchester 4-4-0 in its original configuration. With the closing of Steam Town, the "494" became one of three steam
locomotives left in Vermont.
Charles Ryerson, the originator of the current initiative to preserve the B&M locomotive "494" located in White River Junction, Vermont., is an avid
railroad enthusiast. His travels have afforded him the opportunity to document the design of surviving steam locomotives in the US and Europe. Ryerson first visited the "494" in 1993 and was
appalled by the obvious damage being visited upon it as a result of benign neglect. Weathering from 30 years of exposure as a static display in Hartford had already taken its toll on wooden fixtures
and sheet metal parts. Original Manchester castings were left lying on the tracks beneath the locomotive.
Upset by what he saw, Chuck went to the town hall and found the person in charge of the
artifact. Unaware of its historic value or the fact that the locomotive had problems, the trustee agreed to meet with Chuck during lunchtime to listen to his concerns. Together they surveyed the damage
to the locomotive.
The town was sympathetic to the plight of the "494" and in 1994 Parks & Recreation Director, Tad Nunez called Chuck with the idea of forming a committee to
preserve the locomotive. Following a series of meetings which included other "494" enthusiasts, an ad hoc "Friends of the 494" committee was formed to "set up goals"
(Mission Statement) for the group and to prioritize preservation efforts on behalf of the engine, its tender, and caboose. Occasional work days were scheduled to begin the stabilization and restoration
process. Tad and Chuck led the group in these efforts.
During the following year work proceeded along several fronts. The group deemed it important to get the "494" listed on the
National Register of Historic Landmarks. To do so would insure its credibility as an important historic artifact and, indeed, be truly considered a national treasure. This prevents anyone in the future
from arbitrarily deciding to cut up the "494" for scrap.
With this in mind and with a $5000.00 anonymous grant, the town hired preservationist Hugh Henry from Chester, Vermont, to
research and write the history of the locomotive. In conjunction with this effort, the group conducted a national search to hire the expertise necessary to evaluate the condition of the locomotive.
They found David Conrad of Connecticut, a nationally recognized steam locomotive expert.
Conrad spent about 3 days evaluating the engine, its tender and caboose. Every aspect of this
evaluation was photographed and videotaped. In his written report to the group, the locomotive was considered to be well intact and was deemed highly restorable. The tender, although of the same
vintage and not original equipment, is considered to be in poor condition. Significant portions need to be replaced for it to be made operational again. (Being unfamiliar with wooden structures, Mr.
Conrad offered no opinion about the caboose.)
Over the Christmas Holidays of 1994, Chuck wrote a draft proposal for the "494". This document outlined the problems associated with
the 494, defined the goals of the group, detailed the remarkable history of the "494", encompassed equipment specifications, and developed a plan, as well as a detailed course of action for
the preservation of the equipment.
Chuck's draft in combination with Henry's history and Conrad's evaluation provided the group with ample resource material to proceed with several
applications on the 494's behalf. The first was to the National Register. Already accepted by the State of Vermont, the application was readily accepted by the federal government.
A year ago
application was made to the Vermont Department of Transportation for an ISTEA grant to fund the restoration as well as provide shelter to protect the equipment from future weathering. Concurrently the
group made application to the National Railway Historical Society for membership to further validate the restoration project's national importance through the organization's endorsement and the support
of its 20,000 members throughout North America and Europe.
You might recall reading about the "494" project in the Valley News twice this Spring: first, on the occasion of "The
Friends of the 494" being recognized as The White River Junction Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society, and secondly, as the recipient of an $82,000 restoration grant awarded by the
Federal Government through the Vermont Department of Transportation.
The final resting place for the 494 will be at the former crossroads for the Central Vermont and the B&M Railroads in
White River Junction in Vermont. There the 494 will serve as a museum and a monument to the rich railroading heritage of the entire Upper Valley.
This might all seem like a happy ending to the
"494 story, but its not. The State award was for half of what was requested to secure, with certainty, the future of the "494". With no indications to date of what provisions of the
restoration plan were funded, we are proceeding with the understanding that all State funding is to be applied directly to the preservation effort, and that the customary overhead expenses in support
of that effort are to be borne or raised by the group.
The amount of money necessary for the completion of the project in relation to the size of the group requires some creative fund
raising approaches. As it is with railroads and railroad people themselves, geographical boundaries prove arbitrary and artificial. We are redoubling our fund raising effort by taking it across state,
regional, and national lines.
To find out what you can do to help the 494 Restoration Project,
please visit our