DB Harrington moving to SC4

Posted on April 26, 2018


The Port Huron Museum, Community Foundation and SC4 are collaborating on an effort to bring the rare and famous DB Harrington train engine back into the public eye.  This narrow gauge train has a storied history dating back to the late 1800s that includes stops on what is now Desmond Landing, Traverse City, Cedar Point and The Henry Ford.

This historical gem was built in 1878 by Porter, Bell & Co. for the Port Huron and Northwestern Railway. The Port Huron line became the largest narrow gauge line in Michigan with 252 miles serving 55 stations with the major portion running between Port Huron and Saginaw. The DB was named for Daniel B. Harrington, prominent early citizen who gave Port Huron its name, who sadly died the same year it was constructed so he never saw the locomotive run. Weighing only 12 tons, the small engine was capable of pulling three to four cars with average speeds of 13 to 20 mph and a maximum of only 30 mph. It is the only known surviving artifact left from the Port Huron and Northwestern Railroad and the third oldest porter known to exist.

From 1883 to 1923 the DB was used by several logging and lumber companies until it was transferred to the Glen Haven Canning Co. and used as a stationary boiler. When the boiler gave out in 1933 the owner, David Day, loaned the locomotive to Traverse City where it was put on display in Cinch Park until 1965. After attempted negotiations between Day and the city, he sold the DB to Cedar Point where it was displayed until 1974 before being placed in storage to make room for coming attractions. In 1981 preparations were made to put the engine in service at Cedar Point but plans changed and the engine was instead donated to the Ford Museum in Dearborn. The Ford Museum never displayed the DB Harrington and in 1990 they gave the title to the Port Huron Museum where it was relocated to in 1992.

It has remained in storage at the museum until today when it made its voyage to the metal shop at SC4. The Community Foundation will be overseeing this next chapter of the DB Harrington, which will include minor cosmetic restoration work as well as the addition of some key missing components to the engine.  The Foundation has hired TJ Gaffney, local historian and owner of Streamline Historic Services LLC, to manage the project. 

Initial funds that allowed this project to begin were the result of a $25,000 CN grant written several years ago by former intern and Youth Advisory Council member, Shaker Samman. The Community Foundation and the Port Huron Museum are launching an effort to raise $50,000 to help complete this phase of restoration work.

To contribute to this restoration project and help bring the DB Harrington back to life

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