The Mighty 819
Awaits another Resurrection.
The crown jewel of the Arkansas Railroad Museum is Engine 819, which was built in the early forties not far from where it sits today. After its first retirement, the locomotive rested at a park in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, for several years until a local non-profit group, “The Cotton Belt Railroad Historical Society,” undertook the project of relocating and restoring it.
After its successful restoration, the fully operational engine pulled special passenger trains as far west as Dallas and as far north as St. Louis. The locomotive was removed from service for inspection in the early nineties. When it came time to reassemble and return the locomotive to service, the price of steel had escalated past local affordability. So Old 819 was idled, and that’s where she stands today. See our previous 819 story for more details and pictures. If anyone out there has $350,000 or so in loose change and wants to do something cool with it.… That’s what it will take to get the mighty machine up and running. The Historical Society is ready to chat.
Sunday, October 20, 2013
Pine Buff, Arkansas
The first spade of dirt for the building that houses the Arkansas Railroad Museum in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, was turned in 1882. The building reached its final form in 1894 as a full-fledged railroad shop and has been in continuous use since. The originator of the building was the St. Louis and Southwestern Railroad, aka “The Cotton Belt.” Building occupants have changed over the years. The Southern Pacific Railroad, which eventually became part of Union Pacific, was the last occupant with rolling stock. When Union Pacific moved out, the Arkansas Railroad Museum moved in.
A Brick of a Different Color
After taking a few steps into the museum, observant visitors will notice sections of unusual flooring. What they are seeing are wooden “bricks.” At one time these “bricks” covered most of the floor area in the building. The rest was good ol’ dirt. The wooden “bricks” created no sparks when workers dropped tools on the floor.
The Snow Didn't Stand a Chance.
After you are amazed by wooden “bricks,” you look up and see a giant machine that would have been right at home in George Lucas’ motor pool of unlikely machines in Star Wars. This is a 1953 railroad snowplow, formerly operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. While the museum makes no bones about not messing with the plow end, they have the latch string out for visitors to climb aboard the back of the machine and peruse the spartan interior, including the cab where the operators sat. The snowplow's cab windows are best described as “peek-a-boo” slits. The red thing in the lower right of the picture is the front left fender of an antique hook-and-ladder fire truck. Space was cramped, requiring me to position one of my camera's tripod legs between the bumper and the grill of the truck. The wide lens grabbed the fender at an angle that discouraged cropping out.
When you first enter the Arkansas Railroad Museum, your lips begin to form the word huuuuuuuuuuuuuuuge! I’m guessing the building is, give or take a few standard deviations, every bit as long as a city block. The first thing you see is a lineup of rail cars and locomotives standing at dress-right, dress. That line runs well over 75 per cent of the length of the building. Across the way from the car-locomotive line-up is a collection of miscellaneous large and small objects that I’m thinking numbers deeply into the thousands.
If you have at least a scintilla of appreciation for rail history, you’ll find something you like in the Arkansas Railroad Museum. If you are a certified, card-carrying railroad nut, you may need sedation to abate your excitement to a manageable level. If you are like the rest of us, you will spend more time in the building than you had originally budgeted. It’s that good.
Top, front of Engine 819, Nikon D300, ISO 400, tripod mount, Sigma 10-20 f4-5.6 EX DC HSM -Base exposure for hdr blending, firstname.lastname@example.org; Bricks, Nikon D7100, tripod mount, ISO 200, AF S Nikkor 18-200mm f3.5-5.6 VR, .6 sec. @ f3.5; Snowplow, Nikon D7100, tripod mount ISO 200, Sigma 10-20 f4-5.6 EX DC HSM, base exposure for manual blending, email@example.com; Interior wide shot, Nikon D7100, tripod mount ISO 800, Sigma 10-20 f4-5.6 EX DC HSM, base exposure for manual blending, firstname.lastname@example.org.
But wait, there’s more at
Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind.
See another shot of the 819,
plus inside the 819 cab,
the driver’s seat
of a diesel-electric locomotive,
an old switchboard,
and a bunch of other cool old stuff.
Click, go and enjoy!
It’s low-fat, all-natural, and approved by my Momma.