WWII-era locomotive ships from Milwaukee to the Netherlands

Posted at 6:55 PM, Oct 19, 2017
and last updated 2017-10-20 10:42:29-04

Milwaukee has played a large role in bringing a piece of World War II history across the ocean to its final resting place.

The Whitcomb locomotive was built in the U.S. in 1944. The trains were shipped to Europe to help rebuild the railways after World War II.

When the work was done, most of the trains were scrapped, but one was bought by a cement company in Mason City, Iowa.

It carried cement for nearly 60 years and when the company retired it, they received an unexpected phone call.

"We were approached by a museum in the Netherlands that wants to restore it back to its original condition and celebrate the 75th anniversary of World War II," said Lehigh Cement Company plant manager Tim O'Neill. "We're happy to be a part of that."

The cement company cleaned up the locomotive, lifted it onto a truck and drove it to Milwaukee.

"The Port of Milwaukee specializes in handling unusual cargo and this is unusual cargo," said Port spokesperson Jeff Fleming.

Over the course of an afternoon crews carefully connected cables to the old locomotive and finally they raised it and placed it on a large ship.

"This ship will leave Lake Michigan, go through Lake Huron, Lake Erie, Lake Ontario, St. Lawrence sea way and then out to the open ocean," Fleming said. "That's a long trip and it will take about two weeks."

The final stop, a railway museum in the Netherlands.

O'Neill said it has been bittersweet, "It hasn't run for most of the time I've been here so it's nice to see it go and actually be restored back to the way it should be."

The museum will restore the train to its original white and yellow colors. They hope to have it ready by 2021.