Texas city moves to get rid of display steam locomotive

RELATED TOPICS: STEAM/PRESERVATION
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PORT ARTHUR, Texas — Residents of Port Arthur, Texas, are surprised that the city government appears to be fast-tracking the removal of a steam locomotive that has been on display at Bryan Park for more than 60 years.

No. 503, a 1913 Baldwin-built Ten-Wheeler, arrived in Port Arthur in 1957 after the city asked Kansas City Southern for a steam locomotive to put on display. The railroad had already disposed of most of its own steam locomotives and provided No. 503 from the Louisiana & Arkansas Railway, in which KCS owned a controlling interest. The Port Arthur News reported that on Monday, crews covered No. 503 with plastic tarp and moved a wrecking ball on site in preparation for demolition.

"Unfortunately, all of a sudden on Monday we saw the plastic go up," says Tom Neal, director of Port Arthur's Museum of the Gulf, "If there was any way to preserve no. 503, that would be great. [The museum] is like most people, we don't really have the resources to do it ourselves, but it would be nice if there was another way to handle it this other than to just have it go away."

Ken Stickney, editor of the Port Arthur News, told Trains that No. 503 has been considered a potential environmental hazard for more than 30 years. He said that the city of Port Arthur previously attempted to demolish No. 503 in the mid-1980s, citing concerns about asbestos insulation around the boiler. Citizens rallied to the engine's aid, and although they were unable to follow through with any of the plans proposed to relocate or even restore the engine, they did prevent it from being scrapped.

Recently, though, Stickney says, some local residents and businesses have raised concerns that recent natural disasters striking the Texas coast may have caused the engine to contaminate its surroundings.

"Apparently the sense of urgency was related to Hurricane Harvey, as both oil and possibly asbestos escaped during the flooding," Stickney says, "No advanced notice of its removal was given to the historical society or museums. People were taken by surprise."

The city of Port Arthur did not respond to Trains' request for information.


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