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Engineers Prepare to Move a Locomotive

So he and partner Robert W. Riiber, company vice president, thought up a different way to move a massive locomotive — specifically, the Chesapeake and Ohio No. 2732 at the old city visitors' center on Robin Hood Road.

The Science Museum of Virginia bought the 60-year-old train from the city for $1 last winter. Early in 2003, the museum called for proposals on how best to transport the engine and attached coal tender to the museum.

One engineer suggested using cranes. Another wanted to lay temporary tracks along the route. Ameri and Riiber came up with a different approach — jacking up the locomotive and tender (separately, on different days) onto an 80-wheel transport, like those used for moving houses.

The museum liked the idea — and the $180,000 price tag on the operation. So one day in April (as of last week, the 12th looked promising), the locomotive will move for the first time since 1960.

It won't be easy. The detailed 1.5-mile route the engineers have drawn, along Hermitage and Leigh streets to the museum, will require sections of those streets to be closed for most of the day. Two traffic signals will have to come down, three phone lines raised and a gas line covered. After that, Riiber says, "we have a clear shot."

The transport's diesel generator powers each axle individually, so the driver walks alongside and controls its direction with a hand-held joystick. Numerous other city workers and engineers will accompany the train on its caterpillarlike progress to the museum, where it will be parked on the Leigh Street side of the rear lot.

The locomotive will receive cosmetic repairs and a fresh coat of paint, but won't be restored to working condition, says Walter Witschey, museum director. He's anxious to see the train, which hauled cars for years in the mountains of his native West Virginia, arrive at its new home. "It's a wonderful little machine," he says. Little? — Melissa Scott Sinclair

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