By Mrs Jennifer Bacchus (AMC)January 20, 2012
Anniston Army Depot, Ala. -- A rare piece of locomotive history has a new home at Anniston Army Depot, thanks to depot employees more than 1,500 miles away.
The Defense Non-Tactical Generator and Rail Center, otherwise known as DGRC, a component of the depot located at Hill Air Force Base in Utah, recently sent a brass bell to Anniston in honor of the relationship between the two organizations.
"Brass bells are hard to find. They are highly collectible and are often taken from locomotives for that reason," said Billy Funderburg of DGRC.
Funderburg said a DGRC employee, Sheldon Cherry, came up with the idea to send a brass bell to Anniston, so part of DGRC's mission can be displayed at their headquarters.
"Some of the employees took it home to polish it on their own time," said Funderburg. "It came off the locomotive looking rough, but it looks great now."
Jeff Simmons, the depot's director of production, said the bell will serve as a reminder of the important work performed at DGRC.
"Without the trains in proper operating condition, it would limit each installation's ability to accomplish their mission," he said.
Throughout history, brass bells have been used on locomotives. In the last few decades, however, they began to be seen as keepsakes because brass polishes better than many other metals and brass bells have a distinct tone, according to Stanley Bowen, a mechanical supervisor for DGRC.
Over time, the brass bells have been replaced by bells made of steel or other, less precious, metals, so the men and women of DGRC were pleased when Locomotive 4604, a GP-10, 120-ton, 1750-horsepower, 16 cylinder train came to the center for overhaul with its brass bell intact.
Bowen said locomotives have the same identification number from the time they are initially constructed until they are decommissioned.
Locomotive 4604 was manufactured in 1957 at the EMD Factory in Cleveland, Ohio. The locomotive was overhauled in 1977 and 1990. It is currently at DGRC being rebuilt once again for the 2012 production with updates that include a bigger cylinder and pistons, electronic air brake systems, upgraded wiring systems and relays as well as a new paint job and interior.
"I probably have the best job in the world -- working on locomotives," said Bowen. "There are only a handful of people who overhaul locomotives for the military and I'm thankful to be one of the few."