Engine 999 replica has a footprint in Northeast Ohio, national parades

·3 min read

Aug. 9—Since being built in 1932, the Collinwood Alumni Engine 999 has toured in parades at various locations throughout the United States, including at the Lake County Fair and Last Stop Willoughby.

A replica of the New York Central Empire Express 999, the Collinwood engine was built on a 1930 Hudson truck frame under the leadership of Peter P. Ducosky, who began a 32-year career as a pipe fitter with the New York Central Railroad in the Collinwood Yards after he and his wife, Stella, moved to Cleveland.

The American Legion's Collinwood Post 999 members, many whom worked at the New York Central Collinwood Yard, worked alongside Ducosky to build the replica after work hours.

"They wanted to use it in parades, so they started building this on their own time on second shift," said Tom Pescha, vice president of the Painesville Railroad Museum, the current home of the Collinwood engine. "Management found out about it pretty quick and said, 'We like this. Let's bring it out for shift and do it right.' Back then, New York Central Yard did a lot of engine building and car repair, so they had all the proper tools to do this."

The New York Central Empire Express 999, which the Collinwood engine was fashioned after, was the first train to exceed 112 mph in 1893.

In addition to participating in parades for the Fairport Harbor Mardi Gras, Last Stop Willoughby and the Lake County Fair, the Collinwood engine has been to Pittsburgh, New York City, Washington, D.C., and the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif.

"Over the years, this has been in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and Chicago, so it's been around a lot," Pescha said. "Back when they originally built this, it would go around the Collinwood area, raise money for families and candy for kids, so it did a lot of fundraising back then."

The engine has won best trophy at the Lake County Fair both years it participated.

"The biggest joy I have is when we take it out on the road, going down the street and seeing all the people's reaction," Pescha said. "They stop and take videos of us. We'll be blowing the whistle and people are amazed at it. It's 90 years old."

With the addition of the new barn that's currently being built for the Collinwood engine at the Painesville Railroad Museum, the train will be on permanent display along with its history and other Collinwood High School memorabilia, as well as other railroad displays and artifacts.

The museum, located at 474 Railroad St., has had possession of the engine for the last couple of years and has since put $6,000 into mechanical repairs on it.

"We get people knocking on our door to see the engine every week," Pescha said. "We have a trolley that was donated to us. It's an 1880 trolley, so it was horse drawn. We'll do a restoration on that and the long-term plan is to pull that behind the 999 engine. You gotta preserve history."

The new barn for the engine is on schedule to be completed by Sept. 24. The walls and the trusses for the roof are currently being installed.

"It will be featured on Sept. 24," Pescha said. "We are having a birthday party for the engine and it's also when we'll do the dedication of the barn from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m."

For those interested in making a donation toward preserving the engine, they may send a check to the museum or call 216-470-5780.