OGDEN, Utah — With the Golden Spike sesquicentennial less than three years away, a small group of volunteers are working feverishly to wrap up a 25-year labor of love in time to celebrate it.
Since the early 1990s, the Ogden Golden Spike Chapter has been working in a small shop at the northwest corner of the Union Station to restore a narrow gauge C-16 Denver & Rio Grande Western locomotive.
Lee Witten, Union Station’s archivist, says the hulking piece of metal is one of only two existing locomotives made by Grant Locomotive Works, a locomotive manufacturer that operated from 1867 to 1895.
The antique, numbered 223, was retired from traditional use in 1941 and donated to Salt Lake City. It stood for years as an ornament in the city’s Pioneer Park, reported the Standard Examiner (http://bit.ly/2cArpYu). In the 1980s, after years accumulating rust from being outside in the elements, the machine was moved to the Salt Lake City Union Station on Rio Grande Street.
In 1991, the 223 was moved to Ogden, and soon after, the group of local train enthusiasts came together with one mission: Get it running again.
“That’s the ultimate outcome,” says Steve Jones, a longtime volunteer in the restoration project. “We’re sort of weekend warriors, so progress has kind of been slow, but we’re getting there.”
The group works for a few hours nearly every Saturday morning. They rely largely on private donations to fund the project and have created a GoFundMe page to help.
Witten says that over the decades, the locomotive’s cab has been completely reconstructed and painted, with new number panels built into the sides. Restoring the tender is nearly finished, and now the crew is focused on the boiler and running gear.
In April, Witten said the group’s project director Maynard Morris convinced Wagstaff Crane Service in Salt Lake City to donate time to remove the locomotive’s smokestack and transport the heavyweight boiler and running gear to temporary work spaces.
Witten said the running gear still needs to be detailed, and efforts are being made to raise money to have the boiler inspected and re-tubed.
Jones said if everything goes as planned, the locomotive will be running by May 10, 2019 — the 150th anniversary of the driving of the Golden Spike that connected the rail lines of the Central Pacific and Union Pacific, completing the first transcontinental railroad across the United States.
Witten said there will be a massive convention at the Union Station for the anniversary.
“It’s going to be quite a day for railroad enthusiasts,” he said. “I hope (the running 223) can be part of it, but finishing this project by then is a pretty lofty goal.”
Jones also said completing the project in fewer than three years is an imposing challenge.
“I can’t think of a better time frame to unveil this project,” he said. “But being a cash-strapped group of volunteers — can we achieve it? I don’t know. I hope so.”
Information from: Standard-Examiner, http://www.standard.net