The Virginia Museum of Transportation has announced a campaign to restore a unique symbol of this nation’s fight for its freedom. In the mid-1970s, the Norfolk & Western Railway boldly painted a locomotive—the number 1776—red, white, and blue to celebrate the USA’s Bicentennial and to demonstrate the railroad’s commitment to America’s strong future.
Today, the 1776 is one of the most beloved diesel engines in the Museum’s collection. The locomotive’s last restoration was in 1991 and her paint and glory are now fading. The Museum has set a goal of $10,000 to bring back the engine’s true colors.
“This museum is Virginia’s official transportation museum, but doesn’t receive any state funding,” said Beverly T. Fitzpatrick, Jr., the Museum’s executive director. “When state support ended a decade ago, our restoration efforts came to a halt, until now. We have completed the cosmetic restoration of several pieces of rail stock in the past year, and are now preparing to begin work on this locomotive that is a true railfan favorite and national icon. It’s time to restore her proud gleam once again.”
In 1974, the Norfolk & Western SD45 diesel locomotive 1776 received its distinctive paint scheme in honor of the 200th Anniversary of the Declaration of Independence in 1976. From 1974 through 1978, the engine proudly headed trains across the 14-state N&W system.
The cab of the locomotive featured an eye-catching circle of thirteen stars on a blue field representing the original thirteen colonies that declared their independence from England in 1776. Striking red and white stripes ran the length of the locomotive.
In 1978, the engine was repainted N&W black, and it wasn’t until 1991 when Norfolk Southern Corporation donated the 1776 to the Virginia Museum of Transportation that it was once again painted in its patriotic red, white and blue. The 1776 was built in 1970 by the General Motors Electro-Motive Division — one of 115 of its type purchased by N&W. The 1776 was retired from service on Leap Day in February, 1988.
On July 4, one dollar of every visitor’s admission fee was designated for the 1776’s restoration. Supporters can donate securely online at www.vmt.org, mail a contribution to the Museum at 303 Norfolk Ave SW, Roanoke, VA 24016, or call 540-342-5670 during normal business hours. For more information, visit www.vmt.org.