Michigan receives $120k federal grant to restore 150-year-old locomotive


Miners pose with the Yankee locomotive at the Jackson Mine, Negaunee, circa 1880. Credit: Archives of Michigan.

MARQUETTE COUNTY, Mich. (WLNS) – A Michigan museum received $120,000 in funding to restore one of the oldest surviving steam locomotives in the United States.

The Michigan Iron Industry Museum got the federal grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services to restore the Yankee.

The Yankee is thought to be one of only three surviving Chaplin locomotives in the world.

The grant will cover the costs of conserving and restoring the vertical boiler locomotive, which was manufactured by Alexander Chaplin and Co. of Glasgow, Scotland, between 1862 and 1868.

The Yankee hauled six to 10 small, four-wheel ore cars, each capable of carrying 5 or 6 tons of ore, with a maximum speed of 10 miles an hour.

“The Yankee and its twin, the John Bull, signaled the first major technological change for the Upper Peninsula iron mines – the coming of steam,” said museum historian Barry James.

The locomotive signified the coming of the industrial revolution to the Lake Superior iron mines that led the nation in production from the 1850s into the 1890s.

“Until the locomotives began hauling ore at the Jackson Mine in Negaunee around 1868, all the work was done by human or animal power,” added James. “The locomotives made removing the ore more efficient.”

After being decommissioned, the Yankee resided outside of Cleveland-Cliffs Iron Company offices in Ishpeming for decades. It was donated to the state of Michigan in 1986.

Today, the Yankee is about 70% intact, and almost 60% of its parts are original. A recent historical report complete with conservation recommendations will guide restoration efforts.

“The Yankee is a rare artifact and is an integral part of the Michigan Iron Industry Museum’s collections,” said James

The project will begin in 2020 and expected to take about one year. After the restoration is complete the Yankee will be placed on permanent display in the Michigan Iron Industry Museum.

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