COOPERSTOWN JUNCTION _ One of two, rare electric locomotives that for years sat rusting along state Route 7 in the town of Milford is getting prepped for one last ride on the rails.
A temporary building was erected last week around a GG-1 purchased from the Leatherstocking Railway Historical Society by The Henry Ford, one of the nation's premier history and culture museums.
The locomotive is being cleaned of asbestos by contractors and will have its transformer removed, said Bruce Hodges, president of the Leatherstocking Railway Historical Society.
"I think it's fantastic. I can't think of a better home to go to than the Ford Museum," Hodges said.
The Henry Ford in Dearborn, Mich., has the Rosa Parks bus, the Wright Brother's bicycle shop and Abraham Lincoln's chair from the Ford Theater among its collection.
It also includes Greenfield Village, which has nearly a hundred buildings dating from the 1600s to the present, many of which are staffed with costumed interpreters.
The GG-1 purchased by The Henry Ford is one of 16 surviving examples of a locomotive class of the Pennsylvania Railroad that originally numbered 139 engines, said Christian Overland, vice president for museums and collections at The Henry Ford.
Most of the GG-1s were sold for scrap, but the one purchased by The Henry Ford, PRR 4909, and a sister-engine that remains with the Leatherstocking Railway Historical Society, PRR 4917, are among the survivors.
The nearly 80-foot-long locomotives weighing nearly 240 tons debuted in the mid-1930s at the apex of steam power and helped usher in a new era in railroad locomotives, Overland said.
That era lasted until the mid-1980s with the decommissioning of the last GG-1s, Overland said.
"That's unheard of in the world of locomotives," Overland said.
The GG-1 will be restored to the deep burgundy with gold pinstripes the locomotive was originally painted with as part of the
Pennsylvania Railroad fleet, he said.
GG-1s, which were powered by overhead high-voltage power lines, were built primarily for passenger service, but many were eventually used for freight hauling.
The museum will be displaying the locomotive indoors next to one of two surviving Alleghany steam locomotives as a part of its transportation exhibit, Overland said.
"Transportation is one of the things we do," Overland said. "Really our collections are based on everything about America."
The GG-1 will also serve as part of the museum's exhibit on designers.
Raymond Loewy, who contributed to the design of the GG-1, was a well-known industrial designer, Overland said.
His work includes corporate logos, including Exxon and Shell, the interior of the Concorde passenger jet, several models of locomotives and passenger cars and household appliances.
Overland said the museum is hoping to have the locomotive transported via rail to Michigan by June. But he said the restoration work could take several years and will be subject to successful fundraising campaigns.
The Henry Ford paid $15,000 for the GG-1, Hodges said.
The work on the locomotive is obvious to passers-by on Route 7 because it is occurring a short distance between the road and the CP Rail track.
A large temporary building was erected to create a negative atmosphere during the asbestos-removal process, Hodges said.
The locomotive's transformer will also be removed by a crane and that is why the GG-1 was moved to where it sits now, Hodges said.
"Their biggest concern is that they need clearance away from wires," Hodges said.
Mike Bissell, who lives directly across the street from where the GG-1 was moved, said he was pleased the locomotive will be going to The Henry Ford. But he said he was concerned about possible health risks associated with the removal of the asbestos and the transformer. The people who live in the area should have been notified of the work, even if the contractor has all the required permits, he said.
Hodges said he agreed that the people in the area should have been informed about what was going on at the site and notifying the neighbors was an oversight.
Amtrak is believed to have flushed out all the PCB-laden oil that surrounded the transformers when the locomotives were decommissioned, Hodges said.
"Since they are going to be putting this on exhibit inside that building, I think they are going to be extra careful," Hodges said.
The Leatherstocking Railway Historical Society had wanted to do the restoration itself, Hodges said.
"The money's just never been there," Hodges said.
But even though the society didn't have a hand in the actual restoration, Hodges said, he was pleased to know it had a role in saving the GG-1 from the scrap-heap by giving it a home for many years.
"We know that won't happen," Hodges said.
The remaining GG-1 in Cooperstown Junction is visible from Route 7 and there is a possibility that it too could be sold for preservation in the future, Hodges said.
More information about The Henry Ford is available at www.hfmgv.org.