HESSTON, Ind. — Making its Hesston Steam Museum debut during 2018 Candy Cane Express festivities (scheduled for Dec. 8-9) will be a 1953 Plymouth Locomotive Works No. 4 gas-powered machine that replaced a steam engine at the Illinois Brick Company’s quarry in Blue Island, Ill.
“These little locomotives really were a necessity for industry back in the ‘50s. So when the steam locomotives started wearing out Plymouth Locomotive Works (located in Plymouth, Ohio) along with a couple other manufacturers found it easy to sell these,” said Hesston Steam Museum General Manager Ted Rita.
At the Blue Island facility, Rita said the engine was used to pull cars loaded with bricks to the kilns and to haul clay from the quarry to the factory.
“Instead of two to three hours of maintenance a day and fire-up time, a crew could come out and just start this up and go to work. So it was a big improvement for companies like the Illinois Brick Company,” he said.
Another big improvement was the size of the crew required to operate the Plymouth locomotive — “just one.”
“When Plymouth brought these around to companies that had little ‘Donkey Engine’ steam locomotives to sell these it was very easy — ‘Hey you only have to have one person.’”
Rita said the Hesston Steam Museum got the 1953 gas locomotive from the quarry in Blue Island “in derelict condition.”
“We’ve had this for a number of years and we just restored it to operating condition … We just did some modifications to the brakes today (Nov. 24) … We’re happy with the way it’s running.”
The Plymouth engine will be pulling the Candy Cane Express featuring on open and enclosed passenger coaches on Dec. 1-2 and Dec. 8-9 for 20-minute scenic rides through woods and farmlands. Trains (including a narrow-gauge amusement park line) will run from noon to 5 p.m. (all times Central).
Donate a new unwrapped toy for U.S. Marine Corps Toys for Tots to the ticket booth and receive a free train ticket (suggested value of toy $6-plus). Tickets are $5 for adults (or $17 for four rides), $3 for children 3-12 (or $10 for four rides) and free for those under 3.
Santa Claus will await youngsters and their Christmas wish lists in a 1900s era railroad caboose warmed by a wood stove. All are invited to take photos with him at no charge. The Jolly Old Elf is scheduled to arrive at noon.
Doc’s Soda Fountain, an authentic 1930s soda bar where “soda jerks” dish up ice cream treats, will add to the vintage experience with festive hand dipped milk shakes, full lunches until 4 p.m., and breakfast from 9 to 11 a.m.
The Depot Store (which opens at 11:30 a.m.) offers stocking stuffers and gifts for your little engineer at 15 percent off the normal price.
The non-profit La Porte County Historical Steam Society, organized in 1956, operates the Hesston Steam Museum on 155 acres. It is one of the largest operating collections of steam-powered equipment in the Midwest. The Steam Museum is located at 1201 East 1000 North in LaPorte County, Ind., east of State Road 39 and west of Basswood Road just over the state line between New Buffalo and Three Oaks. Visit www.hesston.org for more.