Part of Auburn Valley Master Plan

Last month, a conspicuously large piece of machinery showed up on the back of a flat car, and parked itself right smack in the middle of where the NVF plant’s many buildings once stood.

The Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control’s plans for the former National Vulcanized Fiber plant in Yorklyn are chugging ahead with its latest acquisition.

Turns out, it’s a turntable, and part of the Auburn Valley Master Plan, which includes an agreement with the Wilmington and Western Railroad to install a new Yorklyn station.

Project manager Matt Chesser said the decision was made to find and install a turntable because otherwise, the locomotives would be pushing trains back to their station.

“This was identified early on by [WWRR] that this was something that would be neat for the public to see,” Chesser said. “It’s an interesting process to watch.”

Chesser said a similar turntable exists at the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad in Frostburg, Md., where he said they visited to discuss its benefits.

As the hunt began – “they don’t grow on trees,” Chesser noted – someone at WWRR eventually spotted an ad for one at the Illinois Railway Museum in Union, Illinois.

“They had an extra one, turns out,” Chesser said. “They bought this one before they found a larger one that better suited their needs – they have some really big trains out there.”

Chesser said representatives from the museum were appreciative that the turntable would be refurbished and put to work instead of being dismantled for scrap.

“They actually sold it to us for scrap value, which was about $4,900,” Chesser said, noting that the purchase also includes the pivot, curved rails, control box, and gears.

“It all needs to be refurbished, but it’s all complete,” he said. “It’s been sitting outside for over a hundred years – it was originally built in 1910 by the American Bridge Company of New York, and it set up in a town on the south side of Chicago.”

He added that the turntable fits in nicely with the other restored bridges and fixtures they’ve acquired for the Yorklyn site.

“We’ll have a nice collection of things from around the country here soon,” he said. “And it fits the story well – a turntable from 1910 in front of buildings from 1904.”

WWR executive director David Ludlow said that he’s excited to see the plans moving forward.

“DNREC found a good deal,” he said. “This has always been in the works, so to have it on site is just fantastic.”

The roughly 80-foot long turntable will be set into a circular concrete pit across from the Mill One building that will be even with the existing rail lines, with the pivot in the center.