San Antonio Museum moves SP business car, looks at steam

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Crews move a former Southern Pacific office car to preservation in Texas.
Jim Lesiak
ELMENDORF, Texas— The San Antonio Railroad Heritage Museum has a new and significant piece in its collection: On Wednesday, the San Antonio Railroad Heritage Museum took delivery of a former Southern Pacific business car, No 127, the Alamo.
The Pullman car has a long history with Texas railroads. Built in 1926 for the Galveston, Harrisburg & San Antonio as No. 999, then was sold to the Texas & New Orleans between 1931 and 1932, it was renumbered as 127 after being merged into the Southern Pacific fleet, where it served until it was retired to private ownership in 1982.
No. 127 called Pasadena, Texas, home until 2014, at which point the property was sold and the new owner put the business car up for sale. At that point, the museum took an interest in acquiring No. 127, and in 2017, worked out a deal with the owners to donate the car to the organization’s extension at the Elmendorf Heritage and Railroad Museum. The city of Elmendorf provided a grant covering the moving costs. On Wednesday, contractors moved the car out of the greater Houston area and transported it 210 miles over the road to its new location southeast of San Antonio.
“We were rained out four times in a month, and we had to dry the ground out with lime and other agents,” says Jim Lesiak, owner of Over the Top Construction, the moving contractor. “Our challenges were unstable ground, causing the jacks and cranes to fail. We also had challenges from narrow streets and poor visibility.”
Lesiak also said that unique modifications made to No. 127 while it was still in service also complicated the move.
“The Southern Pacific redid some of the mechanical things that Pullman did, so we had to refabricate the dollies to support the car,” he said. “This is the only car out of 22 I’ve hauled that needed this type of special attention.
Museum President Gary Rodriguez says that acquiring No. 127 is a step toward realizing the museum’s eventual goal of offering train rides to the public.
"Our goal is to completely restore the 127 and update it with modern HEP equipment," he told Trains News Wire. "The Alamo car will be the pride of our future fleet of equipment."
Rodriguez says the museum has also secured the donation of a GE 70-ton switcher from the Ash Grove industrial plant in Midlothian, Texas. While it is being prepared to move to the museum, the staff is raising funds to cover repairs on the bearings on one axle.
"These units were nicknamed "scooters," and had top speeds of 60 miles per hour," Rodriguez says, "It'll definitely work for train rides."
The museum is also raising money to fund a functional restoration of Southern Pacific 794, a 1916 Alco currently on display at the Sunset Station Depot in San Antonio. Phase I of the restoration calls for $100,000 to cover the asbestos abatement and remediation of the 2-8-2's boiler. The funds will also provide for a thorough inspection of the locomotive and its components, allowing the museum to establish a detailed budget for the restoration.
"We look forward to seeing the Alamo behind the SP 794 in the future," Rodriguez says, "Our organization's goal is to be Texas' premier railroad museum."
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