Keeping Steam Up: Maintaining Integrity, Significance, and Authenticity in the Preservation Treatment of Operating Steam Locomotives

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MA in Historic Preservation

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To view a complete copy of this thesis please contact Goucher College Special Collections & Archives at or (410) 337-6075.


This treatise shows how change can be managed to maintain integrity, significance, and authenticity in preservation treatment of historic resources. The approach put forth in this treatise has implications for the preservation of a variety of historic resources. This treatise uses operating steam locomotives to demonstrate a revised philosophical and practical approach towards integrity, significance, and authenticity. As integrity and authenticity are affected by changes, so too is the interpretation of the steam locomotive's significance. My hypothesis is: ―How can the railroad preservation community manage change in order to maintain integrity, significance, and authenticity in preservation treatment of operating steam locomotives over time? The American preservation community will need to rethink current preservation philosophies and practices towards understanding integrity, authenticity and significance as they come to grips with the change. As the surviving historic fabric becomes less prevalent, a shift in where the emphasis lies in the definition, interpretation, and use of these three terms in treatment needs to occur to reflect the artifact‘s degree of change and significance. My research answers the "why" and the "so what" questions of preservation in order to more clearly define the "how" of preservation treatment for functioning resources such as operating steam locomotives. My thesis research examines the affects that degree of change and loss of integrity have on operating steam locomotives and re-analyzes the underlying principles, theory, and concepts of integrity, significance, and authenticity in preservation to reach a renewed understanding. A practical approach was developed to enable the railroad preservation community apply a renew understanding of integrity, significance, and authenticity to preservation treatment to manage change to ensure that the key character-defining features that convey the significance of steam locomotives are preserved. By better managing change through the approach put forth in this treatise, the preservation community will be able to realistically and confidently maintain integrity, significance, and authenticity in preservation treatment of not only operating steam locomotives, but other dynamic historic resources now and in the years to come.