WATERVILLE — In 1954, the Old 470 steam locomotive made its last trip through Waterville on its Maine Central Railroad route from Portland to Waterville.

That same year, Waterville native Roland Boulepte returned from military service to resume working for the railroad.

Boulepte remembers when the Old 470 was moved to its present location on College Avenue, where it has been for 60 years deteriorating at the hands of weather and vandals.

Over the 40 years Boulepte spent working for the railroad, he watched the state of the locomotive go up and down, painting it himself with work crews at least three times because it “had gotten to the point of being a disaster.”

But on Monday, as Boulepte was running errands with his wife, he drove by the Old 470 and saw something he said he couldn’t stay away from. The Old 470, now owned by the New England Steam Corporation, was being taken apart piece by piece to be placed on trucks and driven to its new home at Washington Junction in Ellsworth, where it will be restored to its original state.

“For me to see it being moved to be renewed, that’s really something. That’s history repeating itself,” Boulepte said from underneath his hard hat as he watched a team of NESC volunteers dismantle the rusted locomotive. “I didn’t even know they were going to do this. I was on my way up to Wal-Mart and I told my wife, ‘Oh we’ve gotta go back.’… I couldn’t stay away from it. I wanted to see it on a truck.”

Monday was the first of a three-day project to move the non-functioning locomotive, which was built in 1924.

By 1:30 p.m. crews of engineering and mechanic experts along with NESC volunteers had removed the 41-ton boiler from its frame and loaded it onto a truck using two cranes. The 80-ton frame, consisting of the locomotive’s wheels and pistons, was to be loaded onto another truck Monday afternoon. The 15-ton tender is going to be dismantled and loaded onto a truck Tuesday. On Wednesday, the parts will be driven to Ellsworth and unloaded at the restoration site, where a structure is being built to cover the locomotive and protect it from the elements.

The Old 470 is the largest surviving steam locomotive in New England, and after sitting as an artifact for more than half a century accumulating rust and corrosion, taking the engine apart bolt by bolt is nothing short of “a labor of love,” said NESC president Richard Glueck, of Winterport.

“It’s a mechanical inquisitiveness,” he said. “But once you’ve seen a steam locomotive in operation, it is engraved in your mind forever. You will never be the same again because it’s a living breathing piece of machinery.”

After the train made its final run in 1954, it was put on display by Maine Central Railroad. It was officially given to the city as a gift on Maine Central Railroad’s 100th anniversary in 1962. It’s been on display, slowing deteriorating, on land now owned by the state as the city changed around it. The railroad station is no longer there, and neither are many of the other buildings in the area that’s now Colby Circle.

In 2012, the city determined it couldn’t afford the estimated $1 million it would take to restore the deteriorating locomotive.

NESC bought the steam locomotive from the city of Waterville for $25,000 in 2013 with the intention of restoring the engine to working condition.

This week’s move of the locomotive is the culmination of three years of raising money and working to prepare the 92-year-old piece of machinery for the move. While much of the locomotive is rusted, the irreplaceable parts of the train – including the frame, the boilers, the cylinders and the wheels – all appear to be in serviceable condition, Glueck said. However, the tender, which held the coal that powered the engine, has rusted out and will need to be replaced entirely during the restoration.

The individuals who have volunteered to help with the locomotive’s move come from a variety of professional backgrounds including retired science teachers, a college professor of mathematics, a retired aircraft mechanic and a retired telephone serviceman. But the one thing that binds them all together is their love for the history of steam locomotives.

“It’s just in the blood,” Glueck said. “We’re all people who have expressed a love of steam railroading.”

There were about 25 people watching crews dismantle the locomotive on Monday afternoon. Some were there out of sheer interest in the feat they were watching, but Glueck said he ran into people who grew up around or worked with the engine itself.

Boulepte said that as someone who spent a career working with trains, it’s exciting to see so many people who still have an interest in locomotives.

“You have two brands of people in anything like this. You have those that have an interest that never worked the railroad, and we have those like myself that have an interest because they spent their life on the railroad. It’s really exciting for me to see this being done because of the future. There’s not many (steam engines) like this,” he said.

Up next for the Old 470 is its restoration, which Glueck said could take the better part of 10 years. He said the restoration will move as fast as funds are raised, and that the total restoration to working condition could cost about $1.3 million. NESC is always seeking donations for the project, Glueck said, and also seeking parts original to the era of the locomotive such as exterior lights or brass gauges.

“We’re going to do a first-class job on her,” Glueck said.

Lauren Abbate can be contacted at 861-9252 or at:

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Twitter: @Lauren_M_Abbate