As Abilene observes the 75th anniversary of D-Day, on Thursday June 6, this week, the Abilene & Smoky Valley Railroad is celebrating an anniversary of its own.
Its steam engine, Santa Fe 3415, it turning 100 this month.
In addition, the engine’s re-dedication and first run was 10 years ago Memorial Day, said Mary Jane Oard, director of the railroad and museum.
To celebrate, the engine will make special runs at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, Oard said. There will be cake and beverages in the old Rock Island Depot, across Buckeye Avenue from the Eisenhower Center.
Both the depot and the engine are on the National Register of Historic Places, said Oard.
The steam engine’s next scheduled run will be Fourth of July weekend, July 4, 5 and 6.
The route from Abilene to Enterprise is regularly run by a diesel engine.
The steam engine will run this weekend, Minnick said, and he hopes it will be able to go all the way to Enterprise.
Water over the tracks with the recent rains and floods took out some of the ties and washed out holes underneath a few more, Oard said.
Volunteers Minnick, Craig Rose, Chris Rush, Steve Schwarting and Paul Hettenbach have spent the past few days repairing the damage.
They replaced 30 ties and still have to make sure the track is level.
Minnick, who is 83, talked to several of his friends about replacing their gym workouts with hauling ties, and he offered to let them do it without charging them, he said, but he couldn’t find any takers.
The A&SV RR has rail-banked the track from Abilene to Woodbine, said Joe Minnick, Abilene historian and who has been involved with the engine since the city donated the 3514 to the railroad in 1996.
At that time, it was moved from the city park in Abilene, where it had sat since the Santa Fe Railroad donated it to the city in 1954.
The engine was built in June 1919 and converted to run on fuel oil, instead of wood or coal, in 1931, Oard said.
When Midwest men got that notice from Uncle Sam to report to boot camp during World War II, chances are they took a steam engine like the 3415.
As a Santa Fe engine, it was a high-speed passenger train, pulling the Santa Fe Chief between Kansas City and Albuquerque, New Mexico, Minnick said. If you’re not careful, the engine will creep up over the 10 mph speed limit on the A&SV RR tracks, he said.
Water boils at 212 degrees, Oard said, but to build up enough power to move the engine, it has to reach 380 degrees. It takes 2,500 gallons of water and 215 gallons of fuel oil to make the round trip to Enterprise and back.
Restoration began in 2005. Volunteers spent 10,000 to 12,000 hours and 4½ years to take the 3415 apart and put it back together, Oard said. Some of the pipes were wrapped in asbestos, which created additional problems.
“Everyone said we couldn’t do it,” Minnick said.
They’ll have another chance to prove everyone wrong in the next four or five years. According to federal regulations, steam engines have to be overhauled every 15 years, he said. The railroad has two operable diesel engines to ensure the train rides continue and two that are currently inoperable.
Contact Jean Bowers at firstname.lastname@example.org.