U.S. Sugar re-acquired the steam engine from a private owner and plans to spend the next year or more restoring the retired Florida East Coast engine. Eventually, U.S. Sugar hopes to make the engine operational and add vintage passenger cars for offering public train rides.
“This steam locomotive is part of our history, and we wanted to bring it home,” said Judy Sanchez, senior director of corporate communications and public affairs for U.S. Sugar, during a welcoming home celebration in Clewiston. “We intend to restore Engine No. 148 to its former glory.”
The engine was shipped via rail from Colorado to Clewiston, where a team of about two dozen U.S. Sugar mechanics and others will inspect the engine and perform an engineering study. U.S. Sugar plans to return the 97-year-old engine to operating condition after its decades-long retirement.
“These engines helped fuel Florida and its growth. To be able to save such an important piece of our past is an incredible opportunity that will benefit generations to come,” said Seth Bramson, company historian for the Florida East Coast Railway, the only rail system along the east coast of Florida, which dates back to Henry M. Flagler. “This is an indication of the caring and interest of this company in honoring its past and the state’s great history.”
Founded in 1931, U.S. Sugar has long used railroad as an efficient means for transporting goods throughout the region and beyond. It’s the only sugarcane farming company in the continental United States that transports all of its cane to a sugar factory by railroad, which saves on fuel and reduces truck traffic and fossil fuel emissions. Its South Central Florida Express transports sugar, citrus products, fertilizer, farm equipment and other agricultural freight year-round. Its Sugarcane Train hauls sugarcane from the fields to the mills during harvest season. In all, the company operates a dozen locomotives and 800 rail cars over 300 miles of track.