Museum Buys Pre-World War II German Steam Locomotives

The locomotive find of the century: LaPorte County Steam Museum adds to collection

| January/February 1988

  • steam loco
    John Edris inspects the Czechoslovakian, one of four new foreign-built locomotives from California acquired by the LaPorte County Steam Museum.
    Bill Swedenburg

  • steam loco

Reprinted by permission of author Henry Lange, columnist and staff writer for The News-Dispatch, Michigan City, IN 46360. – Ed.

“We think this is the find of the century,” John Edris said yesterday with the kind of pride that pops brass buttons on an engineer’s overalls.

The buttons stayed in place, but Edris, director of the LaPorte County Steam Museum, and the other active members of the LaPorte County Historical Steam Society in Hesston are finding it difficult to hold back big smiles, broad grins and other displays of happiness usually reserved for new fathers or winning political candidates.

Things are on a roll at the Hesston Steam Yards, thanks to the addition of four new steam locomotives – the entire working equipment of a pre-World War II narrow gauge German railroad.

I found John standing atop Number 1930, a twelve ton, 0-4-0 engine manufactured in Czechoslovakia in 1940 but never delivered to Germany because of the war.

“She’s never been fired,” Edris said. “It’s a brand new locomotive just as it came from the factory – never used.”

John placed the value of the locomotive, its cab and part of the boiler – all painted in two shades of green separated by gold leaf – at $300,000. It’s as rare a piece of machinery as you’d find anywhere in the world.

A few hundred feet away, on the regular Hesston right-of-way, sat three more steamers: A sixteen ton engine manufactured in 1906 by Jung of Germany, a 1934 Henshel ten ton locomotive, and an eighteen ton Orenstein & Koppel engine built in 1938 with eight drive wheels. The Henshel is similar to the first locomotive introduced to the public at Hesston during the 1966 Steam Show.

John makes no secret about which engine will be rolling first.