Carry passengers, promote legacy


An ambitious project is underway to create a second, full-scale working replica of the Stourbridge Lion locomotive, designed to run by its own steam power on railroad tracks in Honesdale, just as the original Lion did in 1829.


The cat is out of the bag- make that lion.
An ambitious project is underway to create a second, full-scale working replica of the Stourbridge Lion locomotive, designed to run by its own steam power on railroad tracks in Honesdale, just as the original Lion did in 1829.
Stan Pratt publicly announced the project Monday night at Honesdale Council, and welcomed those interested to participate on the project committee.
Pratt, who is Honesdale Fire Chief, was instrumental in the early 1980’s to have the 1874 Silsby steam fire engine restored.
He said afterward in an interview that the current effort to build a Lion replica grew out of a discussion with several people. It actually has been discussed for years.
The goal is to further celebrate the heritage of the Stourbridge Lion, the first commercial locomotive to operate in the Western Hemisphere, which took place in Honesdale. The replica would operate the tracks in Honesdale, and possibly go as far as White Mills, Pratt suggested. It might also be taken to other parts of the country for special events, all the while focusing on the legacy of Honesdale, Pratt stated. It is conceivable that an open air coach would be built to carry  passengers, something that the actually Lion never did.
When Protection Engine Co. 3 Fire Company was in need to replace a broken piece on the Silsby steam fire engine, they located Peter Bouley of Train Rite Services LLC in Chepochet, Rhode Island. A certified boiler builder with a passion for old steam locomotives, Bouley was able to fashion the part the fire company needed. Pratt has since interested Bouley in the Stourbridge Lion replica project, and Bouley has offered to donate his time to oversee its construction.
Further reducing the overall cost of the project, Bouley has also donated a boiler, a key component. Pratt said that Bouley is interested in teaching others to fabricate historic hardware with modern technology. The hope is to involve vo-tech high students from the area in helping to craft pieces.
The working replica will have the familiar “grasshopper” legs that will go up and down as the steam moves the pistons and turns the wheels. Although it will be built as close as they can to the original, the replica will have to be built up to code for modern steam boilers, and the wheel base will be a bit wider to fit the modern railroad track gauge. The boiler also will be capable of considerably more power, 125 pounds per square inch (psi) than the actual Lion, which ran at about 40 psi. Unlike the first Lion, this one will have brakes (Horatio Allen surely would have been thrilled).
The coal tender will be built first. Parts will be cast at the Cattail Foundry in Gordonsville, Pa., an Amish-owned company. Bouley said in an interview Tuesday that he has copies of the construction blueprints for the replica the Wayne County Historical Society maintains in their museum, which will be utilized.
Pratt said that the cost is expected to be around $200,000 but may be considerably less. Pratt stated that he hopes there will be community support for the project. Bouley said that the boiler he was able to donate is worth about $120,000.
Bouley stated that he has a passion for steam locomotives and imparting the knowledge that he has to a younger generation, to carry on the skills. He said he has worked on hundreds of vintage locomotives and has built a few. Among his assignments have been work for Disneyland, the Smithsonian and the Henry Ford Museum. Looking forward to teaching young people in the area as they  work on the Lion replica, he added that he would offer any young person who works on the project, a chance to pull the throttle on the completed engine. Being able to influence young people in their lives, he said, has given him proud moments when years later he has heard how their lives have been enriched.
Bouley stated that he was hopeful, with everyone doing their part, the replica could be “under steam” as early as next year.
The original Lion and replica
The original Stourbridge Lion, built by  Foster Rastrick & Co., Stourbridge, England for the D&H Canal Company, cost $2,915, according to the Wayne County Historical Society web site. It was brought to Honesdale as an experiment to haul coal to the canal boats, but its eight tons was found too heavy for the wooden tracks. Engineer Horatio Allen took it on a few trial runs, beginning on August 8, 1829. What is left of the original was eventually donated to the Smithsonian Institution and is on loan to the B&O Railroad Museum in Baltimore.
The full scale replica kept at the Wayne County Historical Society museum was built by the D&H Railroad Company for the 1933 Century of Progress Exposition in Chicago. This replica was designed to move on its own power, and did so at the Exposition. The replica was relocated to Honesdale in 1941. Jim Bader, one of the Wayne County Historical Society trustees on the committee, noted later that the effort in 2004 to prepare it for another powered demonstration was canceled. The cost of insurance was far too much to proceed, Bader stated. In that case, the aged replica was going to have to be brought up to modern code rather than provide for that from the beginning.