Go to contents


Posted January. 16, 2007 03:01,   


“I want to restore the glory of the lonely steam engine that stood at the demilitarized zone,”said Song Won-joon, 34, a mechanical engineering researcher at the Research Institute of Industrial Science and Technology (RIST).

“If that were to happen, it wouldn’t re-open old wounds but symbolize unification,” said Kim Mi-hyun, 25, a metal restoration engineer.

The steam engine Hwatong (Registered Cultural Asset number 78, 15 meters long, 4 meters tall, weighs 70 tons) in Jangdan Station was neglected after being bombed at Paju, Gyeonggi Province, during the Korean War at around 10 p.m. on December 31, 1950. It will undergo extensive repairs from late February to early March to revive the glory of its past prime days.

Preparations for the restoration were being made on the afternoon of January 14 at a building in Limjingak. This is the first time the steam engine has been open to the media after being transferred from the original site in November 2006.

The steam engine was a scarred carcass left from the war, with rust covering the surface, broken wheels, infinite dents from bullets, and a maple tree growing on the top.

Researchers Song Won-joon and Kim Mi-hyu inspected the steam engine and were struck with the idea for its restoration. The tension ran high, not only because it is the largest piece of restored object, and the largest steel cultural asset in Korea, but also because the symbolic meaning it holds is enormous. Kim said, “I only hope that the work is finished safely and it goes back to its final resting place.”

The pressure built up during the process that starts from the removal of rust to prevention of corrosion and to coatings. Over 10 specialists participated, but it would still be six more months before the rust alone could be cleaned up.

To remove the rust, a powerful gust of tiny wood bits are sprayed. But the essential part of the job is to adjust the force of the gust. Too weak and the rust won’t chip off; too strong and the surface will be damaged.

Above all, the color and form of the steam engine must remain the same after the preservation. Kim says, “We need it to stay this rusty color so that you can see how half a century worked into its scars, and it so it retains the merit of a cultural asset. We’re constantly experimenting at our Pohang lab to see how we can keep the color even after the rust is removed.” Song adds, “We’re planning keep the tree on the funnel, too.”

Repairs to the steam engine will be finished May 2008, and it will then be transported back to Jangdan Station. When the repairs begin in earnest, the joint sponsors Cultural Properties Administration, POSCO, and RIST will open the site to the public. It will not simply be a repairs site, but a historical site where you observe the pain of war and the hope of unification.