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Inside the Story: Engineers are working to bring an old piece of history back to life

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Inside the Story: Engineers are working to bring an old piece of history back to life (Photo: KUTV)

(KUTV) A historic locomotive that's carried thousands of passengers on the famous Heber Valley Railroad, also known as the Heber Creeper, is about to be reborn.

Built in 1907, Number 618 is undergoing a major restoration.

Seven years ago, the 110-year-old steam engine was taken off the tracks. And since 2014, mechanics have been working to bring it back to life.

"The engine is going through a deep, major overhaul," said Michael Manwiller, chief mechanical officer.

But bring back this century-old locomotive is no easy task.

"The work is hard, heavy, it's dirty, and it takes a long time to get there," Manwiller said.

It also requires pulling out the old blue prints from the 1900s, since these kinds of machines are no longer being built.

Which means you can't just simply order the parts you need and you have to make them from scratch.

"Everything that is for this locomotive is essentially handmade, hand-fitted, and hand assembled," Manwiller said.

The 618 was originally built for Union Pacific Railroad, which retired it in 1958. Then it sat at the Utah State Fairgrounds until 1970, the year it came to Heber City to help kick off the Heber Creeper Line.

The trains that are currently used on the Heber Valley Railroad are diesel engines. But there's something to be said for using an old-fashioned steam engine.

"We do it for the love of what it is: it's a living, breathing, physical way to touch or experience the past," said Manwiller. "It's unlike any other machine that is out there."

Engineers can't wait to see the 618 back on the tracks.

"There is just something about it that takes you back," said Craig MacFarlane, one of the engineers working on the 618. "Once you get the steam and smoke coming out of the stack, chugging like that, and you can just feel the power of that engine. Don't know how to describe it."

And when it comes out of the shop, it will be like new.

If all goes as planned, the 618 will make its comeback in December of this year. If not, they will have it in operation next summer.

For more on the Heber Valley Railroad and the 618 steam engine visit its website.


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