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Steam Locomotive No. 385

In 1982, the Delaware Otsego System – (DO) [parent company of the NYS&W] acquired the assets of the Morris County Central, including No. 385. The DO / NYS&W had early plans to restore 385 to operation and run her over their lines in excursion service, but this did not come to pass. After many years of subsequent storage, and taking on the sad patina of neglect, the Delaware Otsego donated the locomotive to the Bergen County Vocational & Technical High School in Hackensack, NJ in June 1990.

The donation of the locomotive from the DO to the school was intended to benefit students enrolled in Bergen Tech’s “Stationary Steam Course”. In theory, students would have a “hands-on” learning experience while working on a unique, early 20th Century steam locomotive restoration project.

In October 1990, the late Joseph Supor, Jr., founder of J. Supor & Son Trucking & Rigging Co., Inc. donated the cost of trucking 385 nearly 2 miles from the rails of the NYS&W to Bergen Tech, where the locomotive was lifted into place on a panel of display track in an area adjacent to the school athletic field, alongside the Hackensack River.

By 1999, the direction had changed drastically at Bergen Tech, when the “Stationary Steam Course” (which had been established in 1952) was totally eliminated and all facets of the program were disassembled and removed. Reportedly, preparations were being made to immediately dispose of 385 by scrapping her.

At this point, Mr. Supor became aware of the dire situation and thereby became the next important person in 385’s life to step up, and once again, save her from being destroyed. Mr. Supor literally rescued the locomotive at the very last minute, as it was due to be cut up within hours of his acquisition. In what can only be described as a herculean effort of men and machines, Mr. Supor’s rigging crew carefully removed No. 385 from the schoolyard and trucked the locomotive to his facility in Harrison, NJ.

Mr. Supor stored No. 385 with intentions of cosmetically restoring the locomotive for display at his Company headquarters. Unfortunately, this never occurred, although there were many discussions on what to do to preserve this unique relic from our Nation’s Industrial past.

At some point in 2005, Earle Gil found himself in Harrison, and paid a visit to his beloved old engine. For Gil, now approaching 77 years of age, it was just like the first time he had seen her over 46 years before in 1959. “She doesn’t look so bad”, he said at the time, though in his heart he knew the engine was suffering. During his visit, he met Joe Supor and the two men found that they had a lot in common, especially No. 385. The seeds were at last sown for the eventual donation of No. 385 to the Whippany Railway Museum.

Unfortunately, neither Earle Gil, Sr. (who passed away in June 2007), nor Joseph Supor, Jr. (who died in September 2007) lived to see No. 385 preserved at the Museum where Earle was a Charter Member and Trustee.

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