The tender car from Engine No. 1023 in Schlanger Park now rests at its new home at the Heart of the Heartlands railroad museum at Carona.

The tender car from Engine No. 1023 in Schlanger Park now rests at its new home at the Heart of the Heartlands railroad museum at Carona.

Members of Tilton and Sons House Moving lugged the 20-ton fuel car from Pittsburg to south of Cherokee early Wednesday morning on a journey that lasted more than an hour. The route went from Rouse Street to Centennial Drive, then south on U.S. Highway 69, east on Highway 400 and then south again on Highway 7. Officers from the Pittsburg Police Department, Crawford County Sheriff’s Department, Kansas Highway Patrol and crews from the Kansas Department of Transportation helped control traffic along the way.

The engine has been located in Schlanger Park since 1955, when the Kansas City Southern railroad sold it to the City of Pittsburg. But the locomotive has slowly been rusting away, and city officials said there was no money to maintain it — nothing has been done to it since 1995. So Pittsburg City Commissioners voted unanimously in December to let Heart of the Heartlands take it over.

The actual locomotive weighs about 120 tons and will take another month to prepare to move. At 200,000 pounds, the Tiltons had to find special 60-foot long, 36-inch thick beams that weigh 300 pounds per foot to construct the trailer. It will be the heaviest object mover Darrin Tilton said he has ever moved.

“The heaviest house I’ve ever lifted weighed 160,000 pounds, and that was with the fireplace in it,” Tilton said.

The addition of the locomotive has been highly anticipated by members of Heart of the Heartlands. The museum possesses the first engine ever purchased by Watco, as well as a small internal combustion engine built in the 1930s that was used in area coal mines. Adding Engine No. 1023 is a milestone in the museum’s history, said Vice President John Chambers.

“We now have a piece of rolling stock from every major Class 1 rail line that served the Four State area,” said Chambers, who also works for Watco, which largely funds the museum. Those lines are the Kansas City Southern, Missouri Pacific, Missouri-Kansas-Texas (MKT), St. Louis-San Francisco (Frisco) and the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe (ATSF) railroads.

It will be a while before the train is ready to display properly, Chambers said. To prepare for it’s arrival, crews from Freddy Van’s laid more than 80 feet of large gravel across the yard in front of the museum. That included removing more than a foot of soil to find a solid foundation for the train — because the ground is constantly wet in Schlanger Park, the tracks were settling and the train was listing to one side. Watco donated the 75-foot tracks on which the train will sit.

Once the train has been situated at its new home, volunteers will sand blast the engine and tender car, removing paint and rust. Fifty years of constant exposure to rain, snow and sun has taken its toll on the workhorse.

“It’s like a cancer,” Heartlands member Dane Carlile, of Neosho, Mo., said as he poked at a piece of bubbling rust on the tender car, which illustrated his point by promptly flaking off and leaving a pencil eraser-size hole. “It just keeps growing. To survive another 10 years, it needs to be here.”

Where possible, rusted steel will be replaced. Then, a coat of special weather-resistant paint will be applied. The museum eventually will construct a shelter over the engine to protect against the elements. The paint likely will cost more than $20,000, but, protected by the shelter, will last for more than 20 years.

“Once we get the water and sun off it, it’ll last,” Chambers said. “The next generation will have to worry about it.”
Ideally, museum volunteers would be able to restore the train to operational condition. But over the years parts have been taken from the train, parts that are nearly impossible to obtain, Chambers said. The engine, which was used to move freight cars around rail yards from Kansas City to Shreveport, La., already was in bad shape when it was parked in Schlanger Park.

“The frame has patches on it,” Carlile said. “It was a workhorse. It got banged around a lot.”

Chambers and Carlile estimated a complete renovation would cost more than $1 million.

But the train eventually will look cosmetically new, and volunteers are already working on bringing parts of the train back to like-new condition. A Heartlands member from Gainesville, Texas, is restoring the train’s headlight and backup light.

“They’ll look like they did when they came from the factory,” Chambers said.

Another member from Miami, Okla., is doing the wood work. Another member from Wichita is donating a whistle nearly identical to the one originally mounted on the train.

“We’ll be able to get some gauges to replace the ones that were stolen or broken, but they won’t be exact,” Chambers said.

Chambers said anyone who has pieces they know are from the train can return them to the club.

“If anyone has pieces still sitting in their attic that they took off 20 years ago, we’ll take them back no questions asked,” Chambers said, adding that a newspaper in San Bernardino, Calif., put out a similar call when Santa Fe Engine No. 3751 was being restored and that residents returned a multitude of parts. “You never know what will come back.”