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Annual HRA Awards

At the Fall conference in Minneapolis, the HeritageRail Alliance presented its annual slate of awards.

Significant Achievement Awards

These are given for restorations and other large capital project completed in the last 12 months. This year the category was broadened to recognize equipment restorations in multiple categories such as steam locomotives, passenger cars and electric cars.

It’s not every year that two pre-Civil War locomotives receive a thorough cosmetic restoration. The B&O Railroad Museum and the Atlanta History Center were recognized for their restorations of Baltimore & Ohio 4-4-0 #25 William Mason (Mason 1856) and Western & Atlantic 4-4-0 Texas (Danforth Cooke 1856). The two efforts took different directions. The Mason was backdated to what restorers believe was its original color scheme.

The much-rebuilt Texas rolled out in the relatively austere black of its later years of service.

Few modern passenger cars are more beloved than vista domes. Restoring a Budd or ACF dome is particularly challenging due to the curved dome glass and the difficulties of climate control under that glass. The North Shore Scenic Railroad received the award for restoring Burlington California Zephyr dome-buffet-lounge Silver Club (Budd 1948), in which attendees rode during a pre-conference trip.

Of the several electric car restorations completed during the last year, the most challenging was Winona, Minnesota single truck streetcar #10 (St. Louis 1914). It last ran in 1938 and the carbody became a cabin outside of town. The restoration took 13 years and a quarter million dollars. The restoration is notable for its historic accuracy. Under the car is the correct power truck, one of only two Dupont trucks in North America. It was purchased from the Trolleyville collection. Inside the car are replicas of the correct seats, thanks to the loan of hardware from a car at Museum of Transport.

Strasburg Rail Road received the award for the expansion of its shop building. Strasburg has become an important center for the restoration of steam and passenger cars. It bodes well for rail preservation that they felt confident to invest in a bigger facility.

Looking from the old shop into the new addition.

Inside the new shop.

Recognizing people

Bob Opal received the Friend of Railway Preservation Award. Opal is in the process of retiring as HRA’s legal counsel and Federal Railroad Administration liaison. He served in the Law Department of Chicago & North Western and was responsible for dealings with the FRA after Union Pacific absorbed C&NW. After retirement, he handled all FRA contacts for ARM, then ATRRM and now HRA. He served on the Rail Safety Advisory Committee and was instrumental in negotiating regulatory rules that better fit railway museums and tourist railroads. He is also a longtime volunteer with the Illinois Railway Museum.

Bob Opal (right) with conference chair Aaron Isaacs.

Ken Rucker received a Lifetime Achievement Award. Ken is the longtime head of the National Capital Trolley Museum. He lead the museum through a difficult relocation and rebuilding when, of all things, a freeway was built through the museum site. Under his leadership the museum now has a first class physical plant and has successfully undertaken multiple streetcar restorations. Ken was also active for many years in ARM.

Knowing that his health was failing, the HRA awards committee felt it was time to give a Lifetime Achievement Award to Jerry Joe Jacobson. Between then and the conference Jacobson passed away, so the award was made posthumously. Jacobson owned the Ohio Central Railroad and used it to host numerous excursions and his own steam tourist operations with a stable of operating locomotives.

Steam on the Ohio Central.

After selling the railroad and retiring, he constructed the Age of Steam Roundhouse, an accurate replica of the real thing, to house and restore his ever-growing roster of steam locomotives, diesels and passenger cars.

Age of Steam Roundhouse


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