Volunteers have joined forces with railroad museum officials in central Europe to bring Poland’s steam locomotives back to life.

They’re not only gathering to scrap away decades of rust and soot in an effort to restore the a handful of the nation’s old steam engines to their former glory, but often pay for the privilege, adopting the locomotives, some of which date back to the 1890s.

“This steam train symbolizes liberty,” Janusz Boratynski, an immunology professor in his 60s, told Agence France-Presse. “When I was little, it transported me from my city of Wroclaw, ruined by the war and teeming with rats, to a holiday spot on the other side of the country.”

Boratynski jumped at the chance to adopt one of the engines in particular: the Tki3, a brooding hulk of red-trimmed black metal built in the early 1900s (see above photo).

In return for his adoption fee, about $500, which covers the cost of a new coat of paint, Boratynski will have his name etched into a plaque on the antique locomotive, once famed for having set a speed record of 110 kilometers per hour, or nearly 70 miles per hour, according to the wire service.

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