Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Model-train exhibit encourages restoration of 1912 locomotive

From Model-train exhibit encourages restoration of 1912 locomotive
An intricate display of lifelike model steam engines chugging around a loop may help the Save Our Train committee gain some traction in their drive to restore the 1912 locomotive that continues to sit behind a metal fence at Mesa's Pioneer Park.

Model-train enthusiasts such as Michael Temenski of east Mesa and Jim Ruiz, who loves the 100-year-old locomotive, will come together for a unique train lover's exhibit at the Mesa Public Library in August.

"It's model trains but there's some heft to them," said Temenski, president of the Arizona Big Train Operators, who also built a more-detailed permanent exhibit at Banner Children's Medical Center.

"We love our trains. We like to show them off to everybody," he said, but the weeklong exhibit represents a chance to discuss trains and educate people about their role in Arizona history.

Temenski said the traveling exhibit will feature two or three trains running on a large loop at the same time, including steam engines and diesels with sound effects. He said the display will not be quite as detailed as the one the group operates at the children's hospital in west Mesa.

The group hopes to add dioramas of Arizona scenes that would depict trains passing through various parts of the state, including such historic railroad towns as Winslow, Holbrook and Flagstaff, he said.

The free exhibit will run Aug. 1-6 in the Saguaro Room of the Mesa Public Library, 64 E. First Street. It will spotlight the history of rail in Arizona, librarian Larry Lee said.

"I want to keep the history alive," he said. Those who attend the free exhibit could obtain two free tickets to ride The Grand Canyon Railway to the Grand Canyon.

For Ruiz, the exhibit represents another chance to show off the whistle, light and bell that his group has painstakingly renovated at a cost of $8,000. The group has $30,000 left, but needs to raise another $35,000 to $40,000 to move the train to a more high-profile location.

The committee would like to move the train to the southwest corner of Pioneer Park, where it would be visible from Main Street and the Metro light-rail extension planned to open through downtown in 2016.

Engine 2355 has delighted Mesa children since it was donated to the city in 1958 by the Southern Pacific Railroad. Many residents tell stories about playing on the train, but that is no longer allowed because of fear of injury. The old steam engine also contains asbestos.

The engine made trips for decades between New Mexico and California, but no records are available to document whether it passed through Mesa or other parts of Arizona during its journeys.

"Both groups are interested in bringing awareness to trains, large and small," Ruiz said. "It goes hand and hand that both groups participate."

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