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Steam engine to return to railroad museum

  • Article by: SCOTT COOPER WILLIAMS
  • Associated Press
  • May 24, 2014 - 12:05 AM

GREEN BAY, Wis. — Green Bay's prized historic train engine is on its way back home.

After a two-year hiatus at a museum in England, the locomotive named after President Eisenhower is being shipped back to the United States.

The delicate process of transporting the 100-ton locomotive across the Atlantic Ocean has gone off without a hitch so far.

"It's been going very, very well," said Jacqueline Frank, director of the National Railroad Museum in Ashwaubenon.

The restored World War II-era railroad artifact is expected to arrive in June back at the museum, where it will become part of a retooled and expanded exhibit, Press-Gazette Media (http://gbpg.net/1h19e5v ) reported.

Following WWII, Great Britain made the steam engine a gift to the United States as a show of gratitude for U.S. support during the war. It was named the Dwight D. Eisenhower after the Army general and future president who had commanded allied forces in Europe.

Located at the Ashwaubenon museum since 1964, the locomotive has been displayed alongside two railroad cars that Eisenhower used to travel Europe during WWII.

Museum officials two years ago loaned the engine to a museum in England for an exhibit celebrating British steam engine history. The borrowing museum agreed to pay all transportation costs and to perform a complete cosmetic restoration of the Eisenhower before returning it to the United States.

Some railroad enthusiasts in the United Kingdom later developed misgivings about returning the artifact. One of them offered $1 million for the coveted locomotive, sending a personal check to Green Bay, museum officials unannounced.

But those museum officials refused the offer and returned the check.

Tobias Lumb, a project manager at the British museum, said the Eisenhower was loaded onto an ocean liner May 3 bound for North America following a successful two-year exhibit in which it was admired by thousands of British railroad buffs.

"Our thanks go to all those involved in making this happen," Lumb wrote in an email. "The sheer scale of this transcontinental project was immense and testament to the vision and expertise of all those involved."

An international shipping firm called Atlantic Container Line was selected to haul the locomotive across the Atlantic Ocean.

The 2,500-mile journey was scheduled to reach Canada recently. From there, the historic treasure will travel back to Green Bay as cargo on rail lines.

At the National Railroad Museum, officials expect their globe-trotting artifact to arrive in early June.

In preparation, crews are working to restore the other two WWII cars and to implement other improvements for an exhibit scheduled to open Aug. 2. It will include interactive elements and other new features.

"It's pretty much a whole new exhibit," Frank said.

A drive is under way to raise $150,000 for the exhibit improvements and future maintenance.

Frank said visitors to the museum will be impressed at the restoration that was completed overseas on the Eisenhower. The work included repainting the locomotive using its original green color, which is not even available in the United States.

Coupled with the other improvements being made to the exhibit in Ashwaubenon, Frank said visitors stepping inside the Eisenhower will feel "like you just walked into the 1940s."

"It's just incredible," she said. "It does look really, really wonderful."

An AP Member Exchange Feature shared by Press-Gazette Media

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