Sunday, January 30, 2011

"Trading History on Rails" (The Burlington Hawk Eye, 1/27/2011)

From the Burlington Hawk Eye, Burlington IA, USA, Iowa's Oldest Newspaper, published Thursday, January 27, 2011. Republished here with permission of the author, Jeff Hunt, and newspaper.


MOUNT PLEASANT, Iowa - Matt Crull walked into the main building of Midwest Central Railroad next to Museum B at the Old Threshers Grounds and took a second to shake off the cold and catch his breath.

"It looks like I'm going to be busy all day," Crull said.

Crull, president of MCRR, was in the process of making last-minute preparations to ship MCRR's locomotive No. 9 - the Shay - to Colorado.

MCRR, Historic Rail Adventures and History Colorado, formally known as Colorado Historical Society, have agreed to temporarily trade locomotives.

MCRR's No. 9 will be heading to the Georgetown Loop Railroad to pull trains between Georgetown and Silver Plume in Colorado beginning later this year.

"We started this project last July," Crull said. "We're taking part in a whole new concept in tourist railroads in the country. "

Crull said MCRR and History Colorado are, in effect, "marrying" the two railroads in a working relationship. He said History Colorado operates the Georgetown Loop west of Denver, but organizers have a problem with their company.

"They have a beautiful little engine, but it's too small for their operation," Crull said. "They are losing a lot (of business) because they have had to go to a 'reservation-only' type train. They sit right on Interstate 70, so they are missing out on a lot of walk-in traffic."

Crull said the two companies started working together on the possibility of leasing the Shay to History Colorado, as well as Engine No. 1, which is not currently operational.

"No. 1 would be ideal for them once it's restored," Crull said.

Crull said No. 9 will be leased to History Colorado for seven to 10 years. While it's there, the engine will be completely overhauled at History Colorado's expense.

"In the meantime," Crull said, "around the end of July we will be loading up Engine No. 1 and shipping it to Colorado. While we're out there, we will pick up their Engine No. 12, and it will operate here in place of the Shay while the Shay is out there."

Crull said bringing Engine No. 12 to Mount Pleasant will be a homecoming.

"We used to own it at one time," Crull said. "We sold it in 1988 to a theme park in Athol, Idaho, and it ended up back on the market."

Crull said the Shay will be missed, but he is excited about the deal. Once Engine No. 1 is fully restored, a title swap between engines No. 12 and No. 1 will take place.

Crull said the swaps are in keeping with the MCRR mission.

"(The mission statement) is to preserve and commemorate our railway heritage for the education and benefit of present and future generations," he said. "In my opinion, an engine just sitting there stored is not preservation. Yes, it saved it from the scrapper's torch, but preservation is having it out there operating in its glory.

"We are a small operation, and we're not flush with funds. If Engine No. 1 stays here, it will always be a static display. And through this deal, we will end up with the funding to finish Engine No. 2."

Engine No. 2 is in parts on the Old Threshers Grounds, awaiting attention from MCRR members.

Anderson Tooling Inc. of Fairfield and North Prairie Inc. of Mandan, N.D., have been contracted to move the Shay No. 9 to Colorado.

The West Side Lumber Shay No. 9 was purchased by the Midwest Central Railroad in 1966 and has operated on the Old Threshers Grounds since.