Keith Beaton’s hands shifted from gauge to gauge today as he leaned inside the 12-ton monument to pre-World War II Dupont.
The 51-year-old Stryker mechanic played doctor, tapping the insides of the small, rusty locomotive used in the old DuPont Explosive Co. powder works.
"Fire in the hole!" he yelled. And with some turning and tweaking of a few switches, the locomotive rumbled, and a piece of the city’s history came to life.
After moving to DuPont in March, Beaton has worked almost daily to breath air into the antique train’s lungs.
The 1941 locomotive, which the Army delivered to the city two years ago, is now running. My former colleague, Rob Tucker, wrote about its homecoming.
Some parts still need tweaking, such as a whistle that’s more of a whisper among the engine noise. (Above is a video lifetime DuPont native Fred Foreman made of the narrow gauge train running on its own for the first time)
Still, it’s a far cry from when the machine came to the city two years ago. Beaton, along with Foreman, are working to restore it 100 percent.
While they’ve been busy, the DuPont Historical Museum has worked on plans to open one of the last in tact dynamite trains as an exhibit behind its building at 207 Barksdale Ave.
Volunteers took a big step two weeks ago when they completed a 100-foot-long, $100,000 wooden canopy that will shield the train from the elements.
Eventually, volunteers want to add lighting, sidewalks and fencing to the exhibit. To do that, however, they need money and skilled volunteers to see the project through.
But for now, Lee McDonald, the museum’s president, said everyone’s celebrating the locomotive’s progress.
Less than week ago, she saw the train start up for the first time and move a few hundred feet on the strip of tracks under the recently completed canopy.
"To see it move, see it going, it gives you goose bumps," she said.
Look for my print story later this week.