BALTIMORE, JUNE 20 -- Like a sleepwalking monster, the 300-ton locomotive lurched and began to move.

The jet-black hulk of Chesapeake & Ohio Railway engine 1604 was pulled slowly past the tables at Hardee's. It rolled by the Payless Shoe Source and briefly eclipsed the sale blouses in the window of Lovely Lady before emerging from the side of Mount Clare Junction shopping center.

Onlookers applauded.

"I think it's beautiful," said Ruth Shipley, a neighborhood resident.

It's not every day a steam engine barrels out of a neighborhood shopping mall. But today a circa-1941 locomotive, complete with coal tender, was pulled from its berth in the center of a mall and towed down temporary tracks to the nearby B&O Railroad Museum.

The locomotive, one of the largest ever built, had sat in the center of the mall since the mall was built in 1987 at the site of the once-bustling B&O Railroad locomotive works.

Leasing the locomotive from the nearby museum had seemed like a guaranteed way to draw customers. It didn't quite work out that way, however.

Business at the mall, which was built around the locomotive, has never been good, and some store owners blame Engine 1604. They say the 125-foot-long, 16-foot-high locomotive made it hard to get around in the mall and blocked customers' view of stores.

Last July, a new management company, Chattanooga-based Fletcher Bright Co., took over the mall.

"We felt it really didn't belong in a retail operation," said Marian Frieson," a regional property manager with Fletcher Bright. "Sitting in the middle of the mall, it didn't make for a good shopping atmosphere," she said.

The mall's loss was John Hankey's gain. Hankey, the railroad museum's curator, was more than happy to be getting Engine 1604 back. The transfer was not without complications, however.

Before the mall existed, the locomotive sat in an open field at the site. To free the train engine, the mall's east wall had to be knocked out.

Moving the train will end up costing about $100,000, officials said.

Hankey led the army of railroad workers and volunteers who helped move the engine. Clad in pin-striped engineer's overalls and cap, he drove a switcher engine down the tracks and hooked up Engine 1604, then pulled the locomotive out backwards.

The Allegheny series locomotive, according to Hankey, was one of the last and most powerful steam engines built. The 7,500-horsepower engine was used to haul coal from West Virginia and Kentucky over the Allegheny Mountains to Newport News and other East Coast ports.

The directions on the back of the engine's coal tender attest to 1604's power: "25,000 gallons of water, 25 tons of coal."