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The Engines of the AVRR

Firing up #401 steam locomotive

Building up steam in the #401 steam locomotive, 2003.

Steam locomotives #401 and #402 are both coal-burners, using a grade of anthracite (hard coal) called pea coal. The engineer begins to fire up the locomotive by starting a good wood-shingle fire in the 11” by 19” firebox, and sometimes heavier wood is needed to bridge the gap before switching to coal. 

#401 locomotive during a Steamin' Day

AVRR volunteer Brent McDougall serves as engineer on the #401 steam locomotive.

Normal steam pressure is 135–140 pounds per square inch, regulated by safety valves atop the boiler’s steam dome. Keeping the fire hot and even on the fire box’s cast iron grate is a real art, no less important than keeping the proper water level in the boiler by operation of the two steam injectors on each locomotive. The engineer rides on the tender, which holds 40 gallons of water and 60 pounds of coal. 

Diesel locomotive re-painted

AVRR volunteer Dave Leon as an engineer on the newly painted “diesel-style” locomotive, March 2016.

The F-7 “diesel-style” locomotive only resembles this type of engine on the outside. Under the body cover is a Briggs & Stratton Vanguard two-cylinder air-cooled gasoline engine of 16 horsepower. This operates a hydraulic system with sufficient power to drive all trucks. Hydraulic motors and chains are used to power the axles of each truck. The diesel underwent a makeover to mirror the coloring of the AVRR’s other trains with the help of students from the Chester County Technical College High School. The newly painted engine was put back into service at the 2015 Egg Hunts. 

Thank you for spending the time to explore our exhibit The Auburn Valley Railroad: From Then to Now. We hope that we might see you at an upcoming Steamin' Day sometime soon. Learn more about the Marshall Steam Museum and the Friends of Auburn Heights Preserve at

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Reviving the Railroad
The Engines of the AVRR