Conrail agreed to facilitate the removal of the K-4 from the Curve. In September 1985, the locomotive was towed off the Curve and into a shop in Conrail’s Juniata complex. Using a mix of paid and volunteer labor, the locomotive was returned to service in April 1987. During that year and 1988, a number of K-4 excursions operated on non-Conrail short-lines in the region.
In 1988, while operating a “ferry” move en route from York, the locomotive suffered the catastrophic failure of a main bearing and drive axle, resulting in restricted, local operation. That fall, the locomotive returned to the Juniata shop for further assessment.
The assessment coincided with the Federal Railroad Administration’s renewed interest in regulating the operation of historic steam locomotives. That interest triggered several years of debate on how the locomotive should be restored to meet changing regulations.
By 1992, Museum officials knew that further restoration would cost at least $1,000,000 plus. Fundraising was undertaken, and a major grant was awarded by the Southwestern Pennsylvania Heritage Preservation Commission.
In 1994 the museum signed a contract with the University of Scranton and that city’s Steamtown national Historic Site for restoration of the locomotive. The University would provide project management, and the Historic Site would provide shop space, equipment and some labor. In spring 1995, the locomotive was loaded onto several high-capacity flat cars and moved to Scranton, where restoration began later that year.
After a series of starts and stops on the project, $1 million of additional state and federal funding was secured, and a new crew began work in 2002. Over the following 10 years, the K4 work progressed, albeit slowly. Changes to locomotive and FRA specifications, resulted in a “project hold” and management changes in 2007.
From 2007- 2011 the museum took a reorganization approach to the project. With the construction of the Harry Bennett Memorial Roundhouse, the museum decided to relocate all K4 parts to Altoona. The construction of the new roundhouse provided the museum space for restoration work, that previously did not exist on site.
The Harry Bennett Memorial Roundhouse has become its home. Current restoration is being done by professional railroaders who are volunteering their time and skills – continuing the tradition of Altoona shop workers to rebuild 1361. This current phase is part by part and is dependent upon your support to bring 1361 back to life.
At the Harry Bennett Memorial Roundhouse you will find the K4’s interpretive exhibit celebrating it’s Centennial history.
To stay up to date on progress and to help us continue our preservation efforts consider becoming a museum member. K4 updates are provided in a timely manner in the museum’s membership e-newsletter: “The Standard”.