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The hiss of steam, the steady chugging of the engine, the call of the whistle echoing off the hills… These were the sounds of the iron horse, the American steam locomotive, the Machine That Built America. Those sounds will be heard again in Thomaston this May, for the first time in 62 years. This May the Railroad Museum of New England will host Flagg Coal Co. #75.
Between the 1830s and 1960, steam locomotives carried passengers and freight to every corner of America. They became part of our national history, a symbol of mobility and change. Over the years, steam locomotives became larger and more efficient. Technology advances through World War II would soon change the face of railroading forever. By 1948, steam engines were gone from the Naugatuck Valley, replaced by modern diesel locomotives on the New Haven Railroad out of Waterbury. Regular steam operations ended on the New Haven system in 1952, ending an important era in modern industrial history.
Flagg Coal Co. #75 is a 40 ton coal-fired steam locomotive built in 1930. It worked in Pennsylvania coal mines and New York rock quarries until it was retired in 1953. Placed in deep storage until 1991, it was purchased by father and son team John and Barney Gramling from Indiana. The Gramlings moved #75 to their farm and fully restored it to operating condition, completing it October 2001. Since then, #75 has since traveled as far as Florida, Michigan, and North Carolina as a living, breathing ambassador of American steam railroading.