While train travel is generally considered a very safe mode of transportation, there have been several accidents throughout history involving steam locomotives. There are very few of these locomotives still in existence today and even fewer that still operate. One of the largest of these scarce engines can be found in Buck County, Pennsylvania: New Hope #40.
A Brief History of New Hope #40
Built by Baldwin Locomotive Works in 1925, the New Hope #40 is a consolidation-type steam locomotive with a wheel arrangement of 2-8-0. It was ordered by the Lancaster and Chester (L&C) Railway Company of South Carolina to be used in hauling various goods and products. During its time in South Carolina, #40 served as one of the largest and strongest steam locomotives on the railroad.
It didn’t take long for #40 to make news once it got to South Carolina. On December 15th, 1925, a mere 10 days after arriving to L&C, #40 derailed after her #3 driving wheel on the fireman’s side popped off. The ensuing investigation determined that the locomotive’s engineer was likely at fault failing to use the trains air brakes, instead using the locomotives’ independent brakes. The end result saw one dead, one seriously hurt, #90 out of service until the following spring, and L&C unable to haul products for several months.
#40 was repaired and would operate on the L&C railroad for more than two decades until it was sold to the Cliffside Railroad Company of North Carolina in 1947. Although both the L&C and Cliffside had similar railroads, #40 wasn’t used that much by the Cliffside Railroad. This was because it was by far the biggest steam locomotive on the company’s roster so maintaining it proved to be quite challenging and the company’s crew also preferred smaller 2-6-2 locomotives.
In 1962, #40 was sold to Steam Train Inc. of New Hope, PA. This was the first steam locomotive bought by the company. Although it was still in great shape, #40 wasn’t used that much. In 1967, it was discovered that #40 swayed from side to side even on a straight track and many speculated that this was perhaps one of the main reasons why it was used sparingly by the two previous owners.
This issue was corrected in 1975 but was still used sparingly until it was officially acquired by the New Hope and Ivyland Railroad, which was later shortened to just New Hope, in 1990.
Today, #40 is the only operating steam locomotive on the New Hope Railroad and remain the most popular locomotive in the fleet. To learn more about #90 and the railroad itself, or for ticket and upcoming event info, be sure to visit the New Hope Railroad website.
A longtime railfan, Bob enjoys the research that goes into his articles. He is knowledgeable on many railroad topics and enjoys learning about new topics. You can get a hold of Bob at his email link below.