Clewiston, FL– Members of the Glades communities, local elected officials, pastors and the people of U.S. Sugar celebrated today the beginning of the company’s 90th harvest season at a dedication event for its historic steam locomotive Engine No. 148, which hauled the season’s first sugarcane train from field to mill.
“Our company has great respect for the hard, admirable work that brought this piece of history back to life,” said U.S. Sugar President and CEO Robert Buker. “We are proud to finally be able to show everyone this amazing artifact of American ingenuity, innovation and industrial know-how.”
Everyone safely gathered around the century old locomotive as it came to halt on the tracks before them and Mr. and Mrs. Buker smashed a champagne bottle of pure cane sugar over its coupler to christen the “Sugar Express” before sending the train on toward the mill. The Clewiston Tigers High School Marching Band was also on hand to play “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad” as the steam locomotive was dedicated.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the event was not open to the public; however, the City of Clewiston invited local residents and rail fans to view the train from a secure, pre-determined location as it chugged through town. The newly restored steam engine was also displayed for several hours at the U.S. Sugar Locomotive North Shop for individuals to take photographs and videos.
“Ninety years ago, our founder, Charles Stewart Mott first laid out his vision for U.S. Sugar to become a leader in innovation,” said Ken McDuffie, Senior VP of Sugarcane Operations at U.S. Sugar. “Part of that innovation was developing the only large-scale rail network for trains to haul harvested cane to a sugar mill.”
“While most steam locomotives originally ran on coal, U.S. Sugar’s fleet used cleaner burning diesel fuel. And because we’re always looking for innovation and sustainability, this steam engine has been designed to run on recycled vegetable oil,” said Buker.
U.S. Sugar plans to add passenger cars to Engine No. 148 in the future so visitors can see their farms and learn more about the company’s rich history and food production from a very unique perspective. The Sugar Express also is expected to help draw more visitors to America’s Sweetest Town as they come to experience a ride on a genuine steam locomotive.
Since 2016, U.S. Sugar has been working to restore Engine Number 148, a vintage 1920s-era steam locomotive the company employed decades ago to haul sugarcane from the fields to its mill. The steam locomotive, which the Florida East Coast Railway originally received delivery of in June 1920, ran throughout their system, including on the fabled Key West Extension. The Florida East Coast Railway, the only rail system along the east coast of Florida, maintained the locomotive until 1952, when it was acquired by U.S. Sugar. Engine No. 148 remained with the company until the 1970s, when it was sold to a tourist line in New Jersey and, over time, made its way to Colorado where it languished until being re-acquired by U.S. Sugar.
About U.S. Sugar
U.S. Sugar is a farming company that grows sugarcane, citrus, sweet corn and other winter and spring vegetables in South Florida. The company was founded in 1931 by Charles Stewart Mott, a visionary leader who hailed from a long line of farmers. Since the beginning, the company’s success has been rooted in traditional farming values and respect for the land.
About Sugar Express
The mission of the Sugar Express is to provide a safe and educational means to learn about transportation history, agriculture, and the people of U.S. Sugar. It will use historic steam locomotive No. 148 to take visitors on trips through the lush crop lands cultivated by the nearly 2,500 hardworking employees of U.S. Sugar.
About FMW Solutions LLC
FMW Solutions LLC (FMW) was organized in 2016 to provide innovative solutions to clients in need of rail industry mechanical services. The three principals of FMW offer more than 50 years of experience in the field of railroad mechanical service, engineering design, and strategic planning, and FMW’s team of mechanics and technicians provide innovative solutions to the rail sector. This expertise spans a diverse body of work including Class I railroad diesel-electric locomotive repair, short line diesel-electric locomotive inspection and repair, total steam locomotive overhaul, and railroad mechanical equipment consulting.