Mountain Lakes, Paterson Students Restore Old Train
by Maria Seminerio, Daily Record

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Picture Courtesy of Lance Terrell

PATERSON, New Jersey - It was tough, grimy work, but the Mountain Lakes and Paterson teenagers who spent yesterday afternoon restoring an 89-year old locomotive didn't seem to mind.

"It's fun, I'm happy to do it," said Jennifer Popper, a Mountain Lakes High School sophomore, while scraping rust from the surface of Engine No. 299, believed to be the last locomotive used in the building of the Panama Canal to survive today.

The 15-foot high engine sits in front of the Paterson Museum, where it was built when the building housed the Cooke of Paterson Locomotive Works at the turn of the century, while the city was still the industrial center of the United States.

Students from Mountain Lakes and Paterson's John F. Kennedy high schools will work together there for several weeks to clean and paint the historic locomotive.

"We want to make this thing look proud again," Ken Muir, assistant principal of Mountain Lakes High School told the group of about 30 students as they prepared for the job of cleaning paint brushes and donning latex gloves.

The engine's restoration is one of the many community service projects the schools have performed over five years, since Muir approached Kennedy High School officials with a program to bring students from the two schools together>

The schools are separated by only 20 miles, but their students' lives are light years apart.  Mountain Lakes is County, and Paterson is one of the state's poorest cities.

Muir said he hoped it would be eye-opening for both groups to meet and share projects.   Over the years students have teamed up to tutor the city's elementary school students, visit the elderly in nursing homes and clean the area around the Great Falls.

The projects, funded through a federal education grant that will provide $7,600 this year, has been "more successful than we thought was possible," said Kennedy teacher Tom Destafano.

"The kids have become friends," Destafano said.  "Some who participated a few years ago still write to each other."

Kennedy junior Janell Gonzalez said making new friends was the best part of the project.

To bring the locomotive back to its original condition, the students will remove all the old paint and rust and refinish it with a lustrous black paint, Muir said.  The engine's number will be repainted and some of the parts will be re-welded.

Technical History of Locomotive 299

Reprinted by kind permission of the Daily Record, Paterson, NJ
From the Canal Record, September 1998

Presented by CZBrats
October 14, 1998

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