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U.S. Sugar celebrates end of harvest, uses century-old steam locomotive to haul sugar cane

U.S. Sugar completed restoration work on the locomotive in late April.

A century-old U.S. Sugar steam locomotive delivered the end-of-season sugar cane harvest for the first time in more than five decades thanks to a new restoration project.

Locomotive No. 148 brought that harvest from the field to U.S. Sugar’s mill to commemorate the 100-year anniversary of its 1920 launch. The locomotive was built by American Locomotive Company.

Originally, the train traveled on the Florida East Coast Railway. In 1952, U.S. Sugar purchased the locomotive to help ship raw sugar to its mill. The company used the train for about a decade before selling it in the private market.

“Seeing No. 148 under steam and back on her home track is a heartwarming sight to see,’’ said Judy Sanchez, senior director of corporate communications and public affairs for U.S. Sugar.

In 2016, U.S. Sugar CEO Robert H. Buker, Jr. pushed to repurchase the train. Partnering with FMW Solutions LLC, the company was able to restore the locomotive. That work wrapped in late April.

“U.S. Sugar’s restoration of Engine No. 148 has been a tremendous source of pride for our employees, who have worked tirelessly over the past 4 years to bring this steam engine back to life,” said Bob Lawson, general manager for U.S. Sugar Railroad Operations.

“We look forward to the day when we can host members of the public on excursions to share our rich history with railroad enthusiasts, Florida residents and children alike.”

The company says it will continue to operate the train going forward under the name “Sugar Express.”

“The pride that U.S. Sugar has in its heritage, and this historic symbol in particular, is something truly exceptional in this day-and-age,” FMW Solutions Vice President Shane Meador said.

“We are honored to have worked with U.S. Sugar to complete the restoration of No. 148 and have been pleased with its performance.”

The 2019-20 harvest lasted 239 days, according to the company’s count.

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