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Project 113 receives donation, renumbers locomotive

Although only two Central Railroad of New Jersey steam locomotives survive to this day, including our #113, bits and pieces of others have made it to the present day. Thanks to the generosity of another New Jersey native, James Barkelew, Project 113 now owns the headlight from 113's twin sister #115. Growing up in Roselle, along the C.N.J. six-track main line just west of Elizabeth, Jim loved to watch the trains come and go. These tracks carried the Jersey City-bound trains of the Reading and Baltimore & Ohio as well as the C.N.J.'s frequent commuter service and their longer-distance trains, including the queens of the fleet, the "Blue Comets" to and from Atlantic City. Pulling the "Blue Comets", the C.N.J.'s largest passenger power, 4-6-2s #831-833, made a special impression on young Jim. Years later, after service in the Navy, Jim got a job as a Pullman conductor, based out of Jersey City. He worked on the B. & O., Lackawanna, and Erie lines, often pulling duty on troop trains that took him across the U.S., to Florida, Chicago, and as far west as Salt Lake City. On the western trips, he recalls, he saw Union Pacific Big Boys still in active service. In 1958, when the B. & O. abandoned its "Royal Blue Route" passenger service from Washington, D.C., to Jersey City, Jim got laid off; he went into other lines of work, eventually retiring from the engineering department of the Elizabethtown, Pa., gas company. After that, he raised beef cattle in West Virginia.

At some point early in his years with Pullman, while already starting to collect railroadiana, Jim drove over to the C.N.J.'s shops at Elizabethport, knocked on the door, and asked if they had anything left from the steam locomotive fleet; the C.N.J. completely dieselized in 1955. "Oh, we don't have much. No bells or number plates. How about that headlight there?" Into Jim's car it went, along with a box full of locomotive blueprints. Sixty years later, now retired from farming and living with his daughter, Susan, in Frenchtown, New Jersey, Jim does not have room to store everything that he had collected. Through an Internet search, Susan found Project 113, and on Sunday, the 4th of December, 2016, on a day #113 powered Santa trains to Schuylkill Haven and back, she pulled her station wagon up to the Minersville station so our volunteers could carry the newly-donated treasures inside. In addition to the generous donation, we very much appreciated the opportunity to talk to someone whose memories go back to what many would consider the golden age of steam in this country. Susan and Jim rode the one o'clock train and then visited #113's cab at Minersville -- our hospitality a small gesture in exchange for what Jim Barkelew has given us, artifacts to preserve and share with up and coming generations.

For the Easter Bunny trains operating on April 8th, 2017, our locomotive will appear as C.N.J. 115, honoring both Mr. Barkelew and #113's sister locomotive, which did not survive scrapping in the 1950s; only 113 and 4-4-2 #592, now on display at the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum in Baltimore, remain of the "Big Little Railroad's" steam fleet. Trains Magazine's Web site ran this story about the renumbering on Wednesday, the 5th of April:

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