Steam Locomotive #643

Built in 1901 by the Pennsylvania Railroad #643 is a class B4a 0-6-0 switcher.  She was among the last of the B4 yard switchers built.  When built 643 was of a design near obsolescence, at least as far as the PRR was concerned.  By the end of the decade the B4 type switchers were already being replaced by the larger more powerful B6 series that would remain the predominant 6 wheel switcher for the PRR unitl the end of steam in 1957.  By 1917 the PRR had declared 643 as surplus, and it was put up for sale.  The Central Iron and Steel Company in Harrisburg, PA purchased the 643 from the PRR.  For the next 40 odd years she worked day in and day out for Central, and it’s successor company, Phoenix Iron and Steel.  While 643 was at Central she was not without changes.  The first of which was that 643 was renumbered to become their #5.  Also at some unknown point the smaller original tender that she was built with was replaced with a larger, welded one.  In 1945 #5 received a new replacement boiler at the H.K. Porter Company. The original 1901 boiler was of the Belpaire type favored by the PRR.  The new boiler put on in 1945 by Porter is of the more common radial stay style.  It is also believed that the new boiler is slightly larger then the original.  The steel mill closed in 1959 and it looked as though the end was near for 643.  But luck favored her, and in 1961 she was purchased by the Williams Grove Historical Steam Engine Association and moved to her new home.  She has been here ever since, serving as one of the crown jewels of the WGHSEA’s collection of historic machinery.