Wartime Whitcomb diesel returns to the Netherlands

DUTCH preservationists have brought back to the Netherlands an American-built diesel loco that was involved in the liberation of Europe at the end of the Second World War.

The Whitcomb type 65DE19a loco was found by Dutch enthusiasts from the Stoomtrein Goes Borsele (SGB) heritage railway, Netherlands, after several years of research at the Lehigh Cement Company in Mason City, Iowa, where it had been out of use since 2005.

An archive picture taken by the USATC in 1945; a pair of Whitcomb 65 tonners crossing the river Mosel near Trier in western Germany on a temporary bridge (the destroyed original one is on the right) with a train of mixed freight wagons in March 1945, not long after the US Army had occupied the city. COURTESY USATC / SGB

The cement company agreed to donate the loco to the Dutch museum railway and it was moved by ship all the way from Milwaukee via lakes Michigan, Huron, Erie, Ontario and the St Lawrence Seaway before crossing the Atlantic arriving in Kallo (Antwerp), Belgium (close to the SGB railway) on November 7.

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The transport operation was partly funded by €35,000 raised through internet crowdfunding added to a legacy from one of the project’s early supporters; the shipping companies provided transport at cost and the Netherlands Embassy in Washington DC assisted by preparing the necessary paperwork so that the loco could be imported as a heritage item.

SGB has moved the loco – which was built in December 1943 (works No. 60359) – to its base at Goes where initially it will be displayed on a short length of track restored in the wartime US Army Transportation Corps (USATC) livery ahead of the planned festivities celebrating the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Netherlands in 2019-2020. The engines will be removed and diesel engine manufacturer Cummins has offered to overhaul them.

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