From Pilot Inline: Oft-derailed Pokey Smokey II out for year for new track
The city's beloved children's train, Pokey Smokey II, will be closed for about a year, this time costing the city $125,000.
The reason? It was never designed to fit the track, according to documents obtained by The Virginian-Pilot.
Now the city must get a new track in the hopes that Pokey Smokey II will be back in commission by next summer.
The train first began chugging around City Park in May 2011,
replacing an older model shut down in 2005 over safety concerns. But it
has broken down five times since then in different locations.
On several occasions, the rear wheel truck of the coach car came off
the track, Deputy City Manager Brannon Godfrey told the City Council in
June. The train closed weeks after it opened last year and ran only a
few days this year, according to city records.
The fix, Godfrey told the council, is to replace the entire track.
The three-quarter-mile track is made of donated 90-pound rail - a type used by full-size trains.
However, Pokey Smokey II is a standard model train designed for a
20-pound rail, according to documents obtained by The Pilot. Rail sizes
are measured by the weight per yard.
The new track will be made of 20-pound rail.
The council approved money for the project in June. About $45,000
will come from the general operating budget and $80,000 from the capital
improvement fund. The city spent almost $30,000 previously to make
other repairs to the track.
According to documents from October 2010, the purchase agreement
between the Southeast Virginia Community Foundation, which raised funds
for the train, and Chance Morgan, the manufacturer, do not mention that
the train must fit a particular rail type. It lists only the C.P.
Huntington locomotive and its coach for a purchase price of $215,970.
The track installation guide provided to the foundation a month later
by Chance Morgan states: "The C.P. Huntington will operate on 12-, 16-
or 20-lb rail. However, it is recommended that 20-lb. rail be used
City leaders said they believe the train doesn't fit because the track is old.
Regardless, Godfrey and former foundation director Judi Luffman said
it was their understanding that all three parties had conversations and
thought the train would fit.
Luffman said she was surprised and befuddled to learn that the train
didn't fit the tracks. She rode on it several times when it opened on
May 14, 2011, and said it felt fine.
Jeff Roth, vice president for administration for the manufacturer,
said that any sales associate would have known to mention the rail size
that the miniature train needs.
The C.P. Huntington train is not a custom design, Roth said. Pokey
Smokey II is the 365th model the company has built and is the same model
that is in use at the Virginia Zoo in Norfolk.
Pokey Smokey II was supposed to be a gift to Portsmouth, a reminder
of its namesake, which had chugged its way into the hearts of locals
over several decades. City leaders had thought it would be easier and
more cost effective to replace the original Pokey Smokey than to repair