Museum Gets Grant to Restore Historic Locomotive

Group trying to restore locomotive built in 1906

By Justin Franz

Libby’s Heritage Museum has received two grants worth $10,000 to aid in the creation of a strategic plan that will outline the steps to restore and eventually operate an antique steam train that ran there nearly a century ago.

The Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation in Missoula has given the museum $5,000 and the Kootenai River Development Council helped secure a matching grant from the Big Sky Economic Development Trust Fund. The money will be used to pay a Helena consulting firm to create a strategic plan that will layout the steps needed to restore J. Neils Lumber Co. steam locomotive No. 4. The historic “Shay” type locomotive was built in 1906 and came to work in the woods of Lincoln County in 1917. It was last used in 1946 and has been on display in Libby ever since. In 2012, museum volunteers started restoring the locomotive.

Next month, an official from the Federal Railroad Administration will come to Libby to inspect the locomotive’s boiler – which is used to turn water into steam to power it – and see if a new boiler will need to be built or if repairs can be made to the current one. Museum officials say the restoration is expected to cost $500,000, although savings could be found if the current boiler is deemed repairable.

The strategic plan, expected to be completed later this year, will also outline the steps needed to restore a passenger car built in 1876 and lay tracks on the museum grounds for excursion rides. Museum officials hope the historic train rides will bring more tourists to Lincoln County.

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