Learn more about the special projects the Northern Central Railway has been working on!
The Northern Central team is constantly working on creative projects to enhance the experience of our excursions!
In the fall of 2019, Northern Central Railway of York (NCR) decided it was time to purchase a diesel locomotive for use on our railway. Funds donated by Board President Michael Patrick allowed NCR to acquire GP9 #6076 from the Adirondack Scenic Railroad. The GP9 (General Purpose 9) type locomotive was built by the Electro-Motive Division of General Motors in 1957 for the Pennsylvania Railroad and carried the number 7249.
GP9 locomotives were an upgraded version of the popular EMD GP7 locomotives. The new locomotives featured a 1750 h.p. Diesel engine powering 4 axles. These locomotives were light enough to tread down small short lines and powerful enough to pull 100 freight cars down the main lines. The locomotive’s operational flexibility made it a favorite with railroads big and small. Over 4,000 GP9 locomotives were built between 1954 and 1959 with over 300 locomotives going to the Pennsylvania Railroad. Northern Central Railway operates approximately 17 miles of Ex-Pennsylvania Railroad trackage, allowing the locomotive to run on home rails.
When locomotive #6076 arrived on Northern Central Property in the fall of 2019; it was still in the Adirondack Scenic Railroad’s paint scheme and in need of major repairs to the car body. Northern Central Railway launched a fundraising campaign to complete body repairs and apply a new paint job on the locomotive. Major donors to the campaign were the Delaplaine Foundation and Stock & Leader. Stock & Leader made their donation in honor of D. Reed Anderson was the founder, president and a board member of the Northern Central Railway until his death in March 2021. The restoration process began in the spring of 2021 with minor body work with the remainder of the body work and the painting process scheduled for early spring 2022.
When finished, 6076 will sport authentic Pennsylvania Railroad colors to increase the historical and educational value of Northern Central Railway’s excursions.
“Prince de Liege” Steam Locomotive
In the summer of 2021, Daniel Trump, the superintendent of the Northern Central Railway of York, formally began discussion with the owner of the Prince de Liege to investigate the feasibility of moving the locomotive to the Northern Central Railway of York for restoration and operation. Talks intensified, and an agreement was made. In May 2022, the first step of the Prince of Liege’s next chapter was completed with the locomotive’s relocation from Topton, PA to the Northern Central Railway of York in New Freedom, Pennsylvania.
The Prince de Liege is a 0-4-0VBT type locomotive, which might seem like gibberish, but actually explains many of the locomotive’s features. The Prince de Liege features no pilot wheels, 4 driving wheels, and no trailing wheels, and these features are shown in the “0-4-0” section of the type name. The Prince de Liege also features a vertical boiler, which is very unusual for locomotives, which usually have their boilers mounted horizontally. This feature is shown in the type name by the letters “VB”. The “T” in the type name identifies the Prince de Liege as a tank engine. A tank engine is different from a normal steam locomotive because a tank engine carries all fuel and water onboard the locomotive, with no tender attached. All of these features made the Prince de Liege well suited for switching tasks found at small industries or railway terminals.
The Prince de Liege is an 0-4-0VBT steam locomotive built in 1877 by Societe Anonyme de St. Leonard of Liege, Belgium. The Prince de Liege was one of six of its type built between 1876 and 1885 and may have originally been used to switch other locomotives at the factory it was built at before being sold. The Prince de Liege was sold to Charbonnages du Hasard, a Belgian coal mining company, where it worked until 1960. Following operation in Belgium, The Prince de Liege was moved to Steamtown U.S.A., located in Bellows Falls, Vermont, in 1964, where it received its name. Belgian history states that the locomotive was named in America, but a Vermont newspaper article from the time the locomotive crossed the ocean claims the name “Prince of Liege” was engraved on a plate on the locomotive. The boiler registration plate has the words “PCE DE LIEGE” stamped into it, but this is an abbreviation meaning that the boiler was in service in the Province of Liege. The same plaque was misread as Steamtown publications and documents often listed the locomotive as #3364, a misreading of #336A. The locomotive was auctioned off to a private owner in 1988 and displayed in front of a restaurant in Susquehanna, PA for many years. The locomotive was then moved to a restoration site where it was scheduled for a new coat of paint. Unfortunately, the locomotive was largely forgotten and never worked on until 2017, when the restoration shop owner was facing eviction and needed to find a new owner for the locomotive. The current owner was able to acquire the locomotive and move it to Topton, PA for the initial stages of the restoration. During the locomotive’s stay in Topton, PA, the frame of the locomotive underwent heavy repairs, along with fabrication of a new water tank, and work on almost every part from the cylinders to running gear.
The Northern Central Railway will complete the final stages of the Prince de Liege’s restoration, which will include installing a new boiler, reassembly and installation of reconditioned parts, and cosmetic rehabilitation. Northern Central Railway will then complete test runs of the locomotive to ensure safe and efficient operation, as well as familiarize Northern Central Railway crews with the details of the locomotive. Northern Central Railway will operate the Prince de Liege for a variety of special excursions, with the potential for Hand on the Throttle events in the future.
When finished, the Prince de Liege will be a one of a kind railway attraction in the United States. Not only is the Prince de Liege from the same 1860s-1880s era of railway development as Northern Central Railway’s “William H. Simpson” #17 steam locomotive, it will hold many individual records. The Prince de Liege will hold the following records:
- Oldest operating European built locomotive in North America.
- Only operating standard gauge, European built steam locomotive in the United States.
- Oldest operating locomotive in Pennsylvania.
- Oldest operating Belgian built locomotive in the World.
- Oldest operating example of Walschaerts valve gear in North America.
- Only operating, standard gauge, vertical boilered locomotive in North America.
1906 Delaware & Hudson Gondola
In 2017, the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania donated gondola car #8148 to the Northern Central Railway. Gondola car #8148 was built in 1906 by the American Car & Foundry Company for the Delaware and Hudson Railroad. After a long career in revenue service on the D&H, gondola #8148 was relegated to maintenance-of-way service, and eventually donated to the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania.
Gondola #8418 is a great representation of a long transitional period on American Railroads, transforming from wood construction to steel construction of railcars. Prior to this time period, passengers and freight cars had been made entirely from wood. However, as railcars got bigger and loads got heavier, railcar manufacturers turned to steel to add strength to new railcars. The transition to steel cars was relatively quick, leaving few surviving examples from this time period. Gondola #8418 is also unique because it is believed to be the only example of a drop end gondola in the United States.
During its time at the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania, gondola #8418 was left exposed to the elements and suffered rot and rust damage throughout the walls and underbody components. Northern Central Railway rebuilt both sets of trucks, wheels and brackets, the steel frame was repaired, and the brake system was repaired. In the second stage of the restoration, the lumber side walls and floor were replaced, and accurate paint and lettering was applied. The car was tested and placed into service in June 2022.
Gondola #8418 will add historical accuracy to Northern Central Excursions, while simultaneously providing open-air passenger seating on excursions in the warm seasons. Additionally, Northern Central will use gondola #8418 to expand bike aboard excursions during the summer.
Northern Central is especially thankful to the main donors towards gondola #8418: York County Community Foundation and the York County Economic Alliance.
New Freedom Coach
In 2017, Northern Central Railway realized that another passenger car would be necessary to increase capacity for our premiere events such as Tanenbaum Trains, PA Cowboy Weekend, Santa Express, and Howard Tunnel Excursions. Originally, NCR set out to purchase an existing accurate 1860’s era coach, but quickly realized that building our own would be more effective.
Northern Central Railway worked with contractors to construct and furnish a period correct 1860’s era coach. A flatcar was refurbished and then used as the frame for the new coach, with a new superstructure being constructed above the deck of the flat car. Once the metal superstructure was created, it was hidden within new wooden walls that finished up the major initial construction. After the partially completed coach arrived in New Freedom, Northern Central finished the project. The coach interior and exterior was painted to match the rest of the railway’s existing rolling stock, and the interior was furnished. Northern Central’s shop crew painted and installed all of the seat hardware needed in the coach in addition to creating all of the seat bottoms and rests. All safety features were tested and the car was then placed into service in the Summer of 2021.
The Northern Central Railway is proud to share that the New Freedom Coach has accomplished its initial goal of increasing capacity for our premiere events. This has allowed Northern Central to fund additional projects that improve passenger experience.
Northern Central is grateful to the many funders of the New Freedom Coach:
Explore York, the Northern Central Railway Board Members, The W. Dale Brougher Foundation, Glatfelter Insurance Group, Peoples Bank Corporation, Stewart Companies, Kinsley Construction, and Louis Appell III.