KENNETT SQUARE, PA - Exelon Power has donated a locomotive from the company's retired Cromby Generating Station to the West Chester Railroad, a non-profit organization which preserves and operates vintage trains in Chester County, a suburb of Philadelphia. The railroad plans to restore the locomotive, number 7706, and use it to supplement their existing fleet.
Locomotive 7706, a GP38 model with a 16 cylinder, 2000 horsepower diesel engine, was built in 1969 and purchased in the mid-1990s for use at Cromby Station. A two-unit power plant in Phoenixville, Chester County, Cromby Station retired at the end of 2011 after 57 years of generating electricity. At Cromby, the locomotive was used to pull railcars of coal across the Schuylkill River to the power plant where the coal was used as fuel to generate electricity. On average, every week the locomotive would pull between 75 to 100 railcars, each filled with 100 tons of coal.
"Locomotive 7706 did a lot of hard work at Cromby Station and we're happy to see it get a new lease on life with the West Chester Railroad," said Bill Swahl, director of Performance Operations for Exelon Power. Swahl was general manager of Cromby Station from 2008 to the plant's retirement in 2011.
After several weeks of preparation and transport, the locomotive arrived at the West Chester Railroad's yard just before Thanksgiving. The estimated value of locomotive 7706 is $140,000. "We're very appreciative to Exelon for this donation and we're so excited to restore this locomotive," said Derek Slifer, director of Passenger Operations for the West Chester Railroad. The railroad expects their restoration efforts to take two years, with a majority of their work focused on restoring the exterior. "Since the locomotive was in use and needed to run nearly every day, it still runs really well," added Slifer.
"The railroad provides a unique service to Chester County, helping residents and visitors appreciate the beauty and history of the county," said Swahl. "Cromby Station and its employees were very active in the community and giving back is very important to Exelon and something we take a lot of pride in."