With a remote control for the winch in one hand, Todd Belaire signals Wednesday to workers from The Cote Corp. of Auburn as they adjust the chains used to move the chassis of the Lion locomotive at the Maine State Museum in Augusta. Belaire says he helped move the historic locomotive into the museum 37 years ago. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

AUGUSTA — The foreman who led the removal this week of the Lion locomotive from the Maine State Museum also helped move the large, historic locomotive into the third-floor lobby nearly four decades ago.

Todd Belaire of The Cote Corp., the Auburn-based crane and rigging company, had just begun working for the company in 1986 when it was hired to move the steam engine into the State Street building.

Belaire, 60, of Topsham said it was mostly manpower that brought the train into the museum, with a crew of workers pulling it inside in three pieces – the chassis, the boiler and the tender. The pieces were moved one at a time on metal rollers placed atop wooden beams.

Workers on Wednesday used a winch on a flatbed truck to pull the train back out through a large hole in the building’s wall, where windows were previously located.

Bernard Fishman, director of the museum, said the facility uses crews from The Cote Corp. when it has big, historic items to move, because “they’re very careful.”

“They understand these are museum objects,” Fishman said. “That’s why we use them.”


Belaire said the company being picked for such jobs “is a nice feather in our cap,” although the jobs come with a certain amount of pressure.

“You can’t just go back to the shop and get another one” Belaire said of the museum pieces, like the Lion locomotive, if they were to be damaged in a move.

“They’re irreplaceable,” he said.

Workers from The Cote Corp. used a gantry to lift the massive train parts, place wooden beams and aluminum rollers beneath them and set the parts down so they could be rolled out of the building.

Belaire said company founder, the late Armand Cote, and his son, Ron, also worked on the project when the train was brought into the museum after it was donated, restored and placed on exhibit.

The crew from The Cote Corp. used the same basic method and tools Wednesday to get the train out of the museum as workers used in 1986 to move it into the building.


Belaire said the company now has more modern equipment, including forklifts, but some of the newer technology would have been too heavy to use on the third-floor job, so they used lower-tech, tried-and-true methods to disassemble and remove the train.

Sheila McDonald, deputy director of the museum, said Wednesday was the first time the approximately 20,000-pound train had been moved in 37 years.

McDonald said workers documented the disassembly of every bolt of the Lion so it can be put back together correctly when returned to the museum.

She said when the steam engine is brought back into the building, it is to be moved to a new spot on the first floor and be presented with an enhanced space, including graphics, audio-visual productions and interactive materials.

In the meantime, it will be stored at a Cote Corp. facility.

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