Historic West Virginia Locomotive Will Return Home

Release date: 2/20/2015

SPENCER, N.C. – The North Carolina Transportation Museum Foundation has reached an agreement to sell Buffalo Creek & Gauley 2-8-0 No. 4, a 1926 Baldwin-built steam locomotive with deep West Virginia roots, to the Durbin & Greenbrier Valley Railroad for restoration and operation in the Mountain State.

The locomotive will be moved this spring to the shop in Cass, W.Va., at the Cass Scenic Railroad, now operated by the Durbin & Greenbrier Valley, for the completion of boiler work and other repairs. The Durbin & Greenbrier Valley hopes to complete the restoration in time for the locomotive’s 90th birthday in 2016. When completed, the locomotive will appear as it did in the early 1960s when it gained fame as one of the last steam locomotives in regular service in the United States. Because it was a saturated steam locomotive, it often showed signs of leakage on its smokebox front, thus earning it the nickname “Old Slobberface.”

The Baldwin Locomotive Works in Philadelphia, Pa., built the locomotive for use in Mexico, but instead it was sold to the Buffalo Creek & Gauley in Clay County, W.Va. It became one of the most photographed steam locomotives in the Eastern U.S., making its last run in 1965. The locomotive was sold to the Pennsylvania-based Quakertown & Eastern excursion operation in 1967, the Southwest Virginia Scenic Railroad in Hiltons, Va., in 1972, and the non-profit support organization for the North Carolina Transportation Museum in 1978. It was restored in 1986 and lettered and numbered as a replica of Southern Railway 2-8-0 No. 604, which had been based at Spencer. The locomotive pulled the museum’s 3-mile on-site train ride for years. It last operated in November 2001 and was partially restored in the 2000s before other priorities at the museum resulted in the restoration being stopped.

The locomotive was the first piece of rolling stock that a group of Southern Railway retirees restored at Spencer in 1986, a move that is regarded as the turning point for the North Carolina museum that today is the home to the largest preserved roundhouse in the nation, hosts major events such as 2014’s Streamliners at Spencer festival, and is serving as the site for the restoration of Norfolk & Western Class J No. 611. Proceeds from the sale will be used to upgrade the museum’s permanent rolling stock.

“We appreciate the role that No. 4 played in the development of the North Carolina Transportation Museum,” said Steve Mersch, president of the North Carolina Transportation Museum Foundation. “We owe a debt of gratitude to this powerful locomotive, and we want to see it run again in its authentic garb and in its home state. It deserves the chance to run once more on a line-haul railroad. Returning it to West Virginia, where it can be restored and operated makes this a real homecoming.”

"We are looking forward to returning this historic West Virginia steam locomotive to service not far from where she once operated. We are truly thankful to the North Carolina Transportation Museum Foundation for entrusting us to carry on the legacy of the Buffalo Creek and Gauley No. 4 steam locomotive,” said Durbin & Greenbrier Valley President John Smith. “We know it’s been the dream of many who have contributed to the preservation of this engine over the years to see it under a full head of steam and on the tracks again. The Durbin & Greenbrier Valley Railroad is proud to be a part of making this happen."