Monday, March 19, 2007

Aging Pioneer Park train scrutinized

[Source: Srianthi Perera, Arizona Republic] -- Engine 2355 in its heyday was a shiny iron horse that pulled railroad cars of cargo and people between El Paso and Los Angeles, with a regular stop in Mesa. In 1958, after five decades of service, Southern Pacific Railroad donated the steam engine to Mesa, where it was installed in Pioneer Park. For decades, kids scampered along the top of the engine, climbing through its windows and up and down its ladders. Today, this important piece of Mesa's history sits rusting and disintegrating in the sun, a haven for homeless cats that frolic on the sand beneath its carriage.

An iron fence was installed in 1991 limiting access to the train, and it was cut off completely in 1998. By then, vandals had removed most of its gauges and practiced their handwriting on its peeling surfaces. "It was a fixture in the park, but now it's lost because of the gating. People don't even realize that it's there," said Mike Holste, assistant director of Mesa Parks and Recreation. An ad hoc group pulled together by his department is looking into whether the engine could be preserved and kept in Mesa or sold to a museum. Scott Lindsay, a locomotive restoration expert from Birmingham, Ala., has inspected the engine and said it will fall apart within the next three to five years. [Note: To read the full article, click here.]