Lineside Legacy - June, 1999

A Pennsy Decapod

THE WESTERN NEW YORK Railway Historical Society of Buffalo, New York, is the proud owner of former Pennsylvania Railroad 2-10-0 No.4483, the last Peansy class I1sa in existence. Currently, this group is working to protect and preserve the 4483, which will eventually become the centerpiece of a WNYRHS railroad museum to be built in the community of Orchard Park, south of Buffalo. Recent efforts have focused on the cosmetic restoration of the Decapod, and the preservation of other artifacts in the society's extensive collection.

No.4483 was built by Baldwin in May, 1923, the 183rd out of a total of 475 I1sa's ordered by the Pennsylvania. The I1sa class was designed for freight service, and all came with piston valves, 62-inch drivers, and a boiler pressure of 250 p.s.i. as standard equipment. With a huge firebox (59.5 square feet), twin automatic stokers were installed to keep the large 30.5x32 cylinders full of steam. The stokers and power reverse gear were unusual luxuries that the Peonsy rarely applied to steam locomotives, and the twin air tanks on the pilot gave the class a distinctive and powerful look.

No stranger to western New York, No.4483 made frequent freight runs to the Pennsylvania's Ebeneezer yards along the Harrisburg main line and trips north on the Elmira Branch to Sodus Bay. To extend the Ilsas range, the Pennsy outfitted many with Automatic Train Control which allowed them to operate in areas of New York state equipped with CTC. When the Pennsylvania dieselized, the I1sa's were retired and No.4483, one of the last to operate, was preserved and stored with other PRR steam power at the Northumberland, Pennsylvania, roundhouse in 1959 as the last remaining example of the class.

During 1963, the 4483 was sold to the Westinghouse Air Brake Company, which displayed it and the PRR business car Ohio on the front lawn of their headquarters in Wilmerding, Pennsylvania. WABCO executives had long wanted a railroad display. since their main product (air brake components) was railroad-related. Unfortunately, the equipment was neglected and it soon deteriorated. Sometime during the mid-'60s Westinghouse removed the asbestos boiler insulation but, other than sandblasting and paint, the locomotive received little attention during its stay in Wilmerding.

In 1982, Westinghouse decided to dispose of No.4483, and offered it to any non-profit organization that could remove the engine from its display site before the end of the year. The equipment was eventually awarded to the then three-year-old WNYRHS, and No.4483 and the Ohio were removed from display over the Thanksgiving weekend and shipped over Conrail to Buffalo. The move was supervised by Ed Winters of Winters Rail Services, working with WNYRHS volunteers.

At the present time, No.4483 is in Hamburg, New York, and is stored on a Buffalo & Pittsburgh Railway siding behind the Hamburg Model Railroad Shop. Over the years, much has been done to stabilize and preserve the locomotive, and the society has repainted it as needed and electrified the headlight, marker lights and cab lighting to make it more presentable. Also, work has been done to weatherize the engine, and vandal-prone appliances have been removed and stored. The cab has been almost completely rebuilt, with new sides below the window frames, and a new floor, windows and fireman's door. As a crowning touch, a former Pennsy long-haul tender, complete with dog house, was purchased from the Wilmington & Western in 1991 and will eventually join the 4483 on display, replacing the short-haul tender that it was retired with.

Right now the WNYRHS has no plans to overhaul and operate the I1sa, choosing instead to concentrate on the development of their museum. This is not to say that the locomotive couldn't be rebuilt; it was inspected by Southern's steam mechanic Bill Purdie in the fall of 1983, who found it sound and restorable. An ultrasonic test on the boiler in 1984 confirmed this and revealed the superheaters to be in good shape. If and when the museum gets its own rails, operational restoration is definitely a possibility. For now, cosmetic restoration is the logical way to go. Keeping it oiled and painted and getting some sort of roof over it are the immediate goals, says WNYRHS member Scott MR Hawbaker. He adds, "This summer, we plan to finish the paint job started last year on the tender (the Pennsy short-haul) with a nice glossy coat of Brunswick green. The 4483 should look great for its 76th year!"

Over the past 19 years, the WNYRHS has grown to over 500 members, and the collection includes four locomotives (including 4483), two depots, and over 35 pieces of rolling stock. Some of the more notable pieces in the collection include a former New York Central FA2, a South Buffalo Railway Alco switcher and eight cabooses from assorted area rail lines (one of which, an ex-Virginian! Norfolk & Western caboose, is maintained by the society at the Erie County Fairgrounds and is open for display during the fair). Recent efforts have concentrated on the restoration of the former Buffalo, Rochester & Pittsburgh depot at Orchard Park, which is open to the public most Sundays. Right now the viability of the museum planned for Orchard Park depends on the disposition of the Buffalo & Pittsburgh Railway trackage which leads to Conrail's (soon Norfolk Southern's) South Buffalo Yards. This 43mile stretch of track will play a very important role in keeping the museum equipment active. For more information, you can contact the group at P.O. Box 416, Buffalo, NY 14231-0416. The Orchard Park depot is located on Route 277 at Lincoln Street, about one mile from the intersection of Routes 277 and 20A. Restoration progress on No.4483 can be viewed from the hobby shop (the former Erie passenger depot) on Union and Scott Streets in Hamburg, New York. Thanks to Scott M.P. Hawbaker for providing the WNYRHS info.

Sumpter Valley Heisler No. 3

In a unique move, the Sumpter Valley Railroad is to have their ailing two-truck Heisler No.3 rebuilt with the cooperation of inmates at the Powder River Correctional Facility in Baker City, Oregon. Most of the work will be done inside the Baker City shop area of Inside Oregon Enterprises, with plans to run the No. 30 after restoration is completed. Thanks to Bob Yarger's Railway Preservation News website (

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