The Constitution: America’s Locomotive™
Next stop: Archer Hotel Burlington. The entire hotel exudes a refined look and feel reminiscent of the turn-of-the-century industrial era, complete with warm woods and cool metals. Walk into Archer’s Kitchen + Bar, then, and you’re greeted by a handsome mural of the Boston & Maine #3713 — a long-running passenger engine built in 1934.
It’s quite a striking work of art, to be sure. But why a train?
Good question. The answer lies with Roger Brown, Archer Burlington’s esteemed architect.
“When we first started thinking about the industrial-chic style for this project,” said Brown, “I researched anything that I could find about the Boston area, which had to do with industry. I came across the story about the #3713 and the project to save it and restore it.
“The character of the steel engine design, the cogs, gears and other structural aspects of the locomotive made a great statement about America’s industrial heritage, and this tie to the Boston location made it a viable example for us to call upon in our quest to make this hotel speak to that industrial-chic design style.”
The backstory of the B&M #3713
In 1934, the Lima Locomotive Works of Lima, Ohio, built five locomotives for service across Northern New England on the Boston & Maine Railroad. These engines were built so well that the company was contracted to build another five; however, the second set varied slightly from the first.
The #3713 was in the first set of engines and cost $100,000. All five engines hauled important passenger trains on the B&M, running between Boston, Massachusetts, and Bangor, Maine, as well as three other routes that serviced New York and Vermont. With a typical speed of 70 mph, the #3713 carried enough coal to pull and heat a 14-car train for 250 miles, plus enough water to go approximately 125 miles.
When the railroad took delivery of the second set of engines in 1937, it decided to sponsor a contest to name the 10 engines, plus 10 additional passenger engines. The practice of naming trains had been popular in the 19th century but had fallen out of favor — until this contest.
New England schoolchildren from kindergarten through junior high who lived in a community along the railroad could enter the contest. And the prize for suggesting the best names? Each locomotive would have its new moniker painted on its side, along with a plate containing the name of the child and the name of the child’s school attached to the running boards on both sides of each engine, above the drive wheels. More than 10,000 names were entered for the 20 engines.
J. Schumann Moore, a 14-year-old student at Eastern High School in Lynn, Massachusetts, sent in the winning name for #3713: The Constitution. Moore chose the name because it stood for “the backbone of our country. Appropriate especially in that the railroads are the backbone of our transportation system.” Such a stately name wasn’t chosen for all of the locomotives; others included Peter Cooper, Allagash, East Wind, Greylock, Kwasind, Rogers’ Rangers, Old North Bridge, Ye Salem Witch and Camel’s Hump.
The B&M Railroad held a christening ceremony for the trains in Boston’s North Station on December, 11, 1937 — a proud moment for Moore and his fellow contest winners.
Once World War II started in 1941, The Constitution began pulling 15- to 20-car troop trains. It is thought that after the war was over, The Constitution and the other named engines received fresh coats of paint, along with updated lettering. The names were applied with “speed” lettering, which slanted forward, imparting the notion of high speed. The engines also resumed their previous duties of hauling regular passengers.
As time wore on and The Constitution aged, it was outfitted with special steam pipes that allowed it to melt snow in the North Station yards before becoming a stationary steam power plant. Her last job was during a flood, so chosen because the fireboxes of many steam locomotives rode higher in the flood waters than most diesel engines could. The Constitution’s last run was in 1956.
F. Nelson Blount, a New England seafood processor, acquired The Constitution and exhibited the locomotive throughout Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont. It then was loaned to Boston’s Museum of Science before being overhauled in 1969. At that time the #3713 also received a fresh coat of paint — this time, in its original pattern.
In 1984, The Constitution was moved from New England to Scranton, Pennsylvania. It later became part of the Steamtown National Historic Site; claiming approximately 40 acres of the Scranton railroad yard, Steamtown NHS is home to Blount’s large collection of standard-gauge steam locomotives and passenger and freight cars.
Project3713 — a full restoration and operation of The Constitution — began in 1995 as a partnership between the National Park Service and the Lackawanna & Wyoming Valley Railway Historical Society. In 2013, the America’s Locomotive™ campaign was started as a way to raise funds for the remaining restoration. Everyone involved is aggressively working toward a return of The Constitution to the rails for passenger service sometime in 2019. When that happens, the old girl will be the largest steam engine ever operated by the National Park Service.
Donate to Project3713
To help restore The Constitution to its former glory and get it back in working order, Project3713 has developed four ways to donate:
Open Donation allows a one-time donation of the donor’s choice.
Subscription Donation allows regularly schedule donations at three different levels while earning engine-themed gifts.
Sponsorship of Specific Parts allows individuals and corporations to sponsor specific parts and assemblies.
Railroaders’ Memorial Plaque offers the chance to honor a favorite railroader or those of the past.
Once Brown determined the locomotive concept, Archer looked to artist Andrew Tedesco to create a mural that would celebrate New England’s industrial heritage — fitting, indeed, for an industrial icon to find a home in such an industrial-inspired, chic space. Tedesco worked with Archer to bring the collaborative vision of the #3713 to fruition in Archer’s Kitchen + Bar.
Brown added, “The Boston and Maine locomotive was a great example of industrial design, and the school children’s desire to save it made for a good story. The children’s passion about this engine made it seem worthy as an object to be featured in the hotel’s story, which had a strong local connection.”
And that is the story of how The Constitution — the mighty #3713 — ended up gracing the walls of Archer Hotel in Burlington, Massachusetts. For more fun facts about Archer’s home in Burlington, check out this blog post about Boston’s buzzworthy northwest suburb.