By Associated Press Dec 29, 2019, 1:58pm MST
Mark Shenefelt, Standard-Examiner
article copied from the Deseret News
A 138-year-old historic locomotive sits in pieces at Union Station, consigned to limbo after a local restoration effort was frozen out.
Volunteers with the Railway and Locomotive Historical Society‘s Golden Spike chapter have toiled since 1992 in the Union Station train shop to painstakingly refurbish Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad locomotive No. 223, until Ogden officials locked them out earlier this year.
The components are sealed in the shop — except the rust-caked boiler, which is perched open to the elements on a platform nearby in the rear of the historic depot.
Everyone involved has an opinion about what should be done with the 1881 locomotive, which is owned by the state via its Utah Division of State History.
The city asked the Golden Spike group to suspend its work while officials reviewed the ownership situation and looked into safety and liability concerns related to volunteers working on the locomotive.
City officials at that point said they wanted the state to transfer title to Ogden, where the train has been for more than 25 years. But that did not happen, and now the state is considering eventually moving the locomotive to a new state history museum being planned in Salt Lake City.
The state proposal is in its early stages, Kevin Fayles, the state division’s assistant director, said earlier this month.
“The division is reserving ownership until the building’s new plans are finalized,” Fayles said of 223. “We are waiting to see if this new building will happen or not and how it will be designed.”
With the museum project, much remains to be decided by “the powers that be,” Fayles said, referring to the governor’s office, the Legislature and various interested institutions.
“I don’t really think we’ll have an answer for a year or two,” Fayles said.
While that plays out, no one is working on the locomotive, which chagrins the volunteers who were making slow but steady progress on it.
Steve Jones, president of the Golden Spike chapter, said his group has not given up its overall goal of seeing that the locomotive is restored, even if someone else ultimately does it.
The group is planning to donate its tools and equipment to any other historical preservation association that could use them.
“We’ll probably become more of a ‘Friends of 223’ organization as opposed to the people with the actual wrenches,” Jones said.
“One of the things we are trying to accomplish is to raise the awareness of the historical importance of 223,” he said. “Restoring it to operation is much more than an Ogden city, or even Utah state, issue.”
The 223 is the last remaining Denver and Rio Grande C-16 locomotive built by the Grant Locomotive Works that has the potential to run again, Jones said.
“It is on the National Historic Register and deserves to be taken care of in a way that reflects its historic significance,” he added.
To that end, the chapter discussed 223 with the Colorado-based Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad, which sent a letter of intent to Utah state officials outlining a plan to restore the locomotive to full operation.
Under that plan, the locomotive could be restored within two years and then would be operated on 64 miles of original Denver and Rio Grande track, much more of a role than ending up a static display in a museum.
“That is the historical location where 223 actually worked,” Jones said.
Fayles acknowledged the state received the Cumbres and Toltec proposal, but said any consideration of it would follow decisions made about the Utah museum plan.
Ogden Mayor Mike Caldwell said the city appreciates the contributions of Jones’s group and still hopes 223 can be restored.
“We would love to have it stay in Ogden, or at least in Utah, so that the people here can enjoy it,” Caldwell said.
The mayor acknowledged the local volunteers were “frustrated” by being locked out of the project.
But, Caldwell said, “the last thing anyone wants would be something like solvents not being handled properly and we burn down the building.”