To move an historic train in Mesa will take a little more than the “I think I can, I think I can,” attitude demonstrated in the children’s book The Little Engine that Could.
According to members of the Save Our Train Committee, it will also require time and cooperation of the community to move Engine #2355 the desired 300 yards to the south end of Pioneer Park.
Southern Pacific Co. donated the 1912 locomotive to the city of Mesa in 1958. It was placed in the northeast section of Pioneer Park, at 626 E. Main Street, across the street from the Mesa Temple Visitors’ Center. The train quickly became a favorite attraction for children to climb and play on.
According to the website at SaveOurTrain.com, Engine #2355 has served as “a stark reminder of a past technology that helped to build this great country” while it has “delighted kids of all ages for several decades and thus holds many cherished memories of days gone by.”
When the train failed to meet national playground safety standards, it was fenced off in 1993. Since then, it’s “slowly losing its war with the elements,” the website says.
Save Our Train committee member Max Cox, of the Windsor Ward, Kimball East Stake, played on the train as a child and, for his Eagle Scout project, wanted to paint and fix it up.
“No one wanted to touch it back then,” he says.
Fast forward to 2007 when several Mesa City employees caught wind of the fact that the city was considering selling Engine #2355 for scrap metal. By 2008, concerned city employees and other Mesa residents who grew up with the locomotive had formed the Save Our Train Committee. Today, that committee, led by volunteer president Jim Ruiz, and with Linda Abbott as secretary, is dedicated to cosmetically restoring and relocating the train.
“We want to see it cleaned up and moved to the southwest corner of Pioneer Park so it is more of a monument,” Max says.
With the completion of the light rail extension last year, the route now ends at Pioneer Park. Changes and upgrades to the park’s landscape are underway.
“It’s the perfect time to complete this project and have the train visible from Main Street and from the light rail,” Max says.
He explains that a primary goal of the Save Our Train Committee has been to raise the estimated $75,000 to move the engine the 300 yards they are proposing along with additional funds for restoration. After seven years and numerous fundraising efforts, Ruiz notes, “The move is as close as we’ve ever been with it.”
The train was designated as an official Centennial Legacy Project by the Arizona Historical Advisory Commission and was named the “Best Vintage Train” by the New Times editors.
Engine #2355’s whistle and headlight are currently on display at the I.D.E.A. Museum at 150 W. Pepper Place in Mesa.
Max says anyone interested can participate by attending meetings of the Save Our Train Committee and other fundraising events, all of which are listed on the website (SaveOurTrain.com). The committee has also started a “Buy the Yard” campaign. A donation of $250 secures one yard of movement, and donors will receive special passes for the move day event and a certificate with the official yard number they sponsored. Donors’ names also will appear on the progress board and on the finished monument plaque honoring contributors. Go to www.SaveOurTrain.com to learn more or to make a donation of any amount.
Also visit the SaveOurTrain Facebook page, where there are pictures, articles, announcements of coming meetings and other helpful information.