Watch this giant steam locomotive train move for the first time in 65 years

The 2926 burns fuel oil to create steam. The train ran under its own power for the first time in decades on July 24, 2021.

Amanda Kooser/CBS

Any large passenger or freight train locomotive is a marvel, a creature of metal, capable of pulling enormous weight and traveling for miles without getting tired. But there’s something dreamy about a steam locomotive, a huffing, puffing iron dragon of yesteryear. Over the weekend, one of these fantastic beasts came back to life.

Santa Fe 2926 was sitting in a park in Albuquerque in 1999 when the New Mexico Steam Locomotive & Railroad Historical Society purchased it for a nominal $1 payment and began a restoration project that spanned more than two decades. On Saturday, the mighty locomotive moved on the tracks under its own steam power for the first time in many years.

The 2926 is one of the largest passenger engines ever built. It runs on petroleum instead of coal and was manufactured by Baldwin Locomotive Works in 1944 for the Atchinson, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad. It once carried freight and people across the American Southwest, traveling one million kilometers before retirement.

“Under the strict supervision of the Federal Railroad Administration and manned by a professional railroad engineer and his crew, AT&SF #2926 successfully ran under its own steam power at approximately 3:44 p.m. on Saturday, July 24, 2021, for the first time since that the locomotive was taken out of service in 1953 and placed in a city park in 1956,” the restoration group said in a statement.


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The historic steam locomotive Sante Fe 2926 goes back…


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Years ago, as a volunteer for the society, I went down inside the boiler of 2926. With plenty of free space, I removed the rust from the interior with a scaler, a tool portable electric. I didn’t spend a lot of time on the project, but many other volunteers spent endless hours tearing the engine apart, cleaning and rebuilding it, and bringing a machine that could have easily rusted to life.

I stood in the New Mexico sunshine with other company members on Saturday as we watched brake testing and the build of steam. After hours of final preparations, 2926 slowly backs away, the monstrous wheels turning. With the tinkling of his bell for a soundtrack, he then moved forward, a dream coming back as reality on the rails.

2926’s oil-carrying tender reflects hardhat-wearing members of the New Mexico Steam Locomotive & Railroad Historical Society gathered to watch the locomotive move under its own steam power.

Amanda Kooser/CBS

As a lifelong rail fan, I felt all the signs of high elation: the soaring heartbeat, the smile, the attention paid to every element of the scene around me. Steam rushed into the air. The whistle sounded in celebration. The volunteers cheered. More than 250 tons of history were set in motion.

Steam engines are oddities, antiquated marvels in a modern age of diesel engines and electric trains. They embody a certain spirit of the past, a reminder that – for better and for worse – we once harnessed our country to giants who ate coal, oil and water and exhaled smoke and steam. .

For now, 2926 is a bit of a caged animal, limited to 300 feet (91 meters) of lane where restoration crews have been working on it. Volunteers hope to see it one day liberated, rolling the tracks in the southwest, pulling passengers through scenic deserts and mountains…but that will require writing another new chapter in the history of the train.

First of all. No longer a monument, the 2926 is a living legend.

Jose P. Rogers