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Texas city decides to keep troubled Ten-Wheeler NEWSWIRE

By Hayley Enoch | March 6, 2018

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KCS503inPortArthurTexas
KCS503inPortArthurTexas
PORT ARTHUR, Texas— The Port Arthur City Council voted Tuesday night to keep troubled Louisiana & Arkansas 4-6-0 No. 503, despite a last-ditch effort by preservationists to save the locomotive from scrap that would have meant taking the engine out of this Gulf Coast city.

After hearing comments from about half a dozen citizens, the city council approved a motion to pay for remediation efforts where No. 503 is on display and pay for cranes to lift the locomotive during that process if necessary. The motion also directed the city manager to open requests for proposals from citizen-based groups to remediate, cosmetically restore, and preserve the locomotive. The City Council will reconvene to approve final plans for the locomotive after the proposals are received.

“We are going to delay a final decision on how we’re going to do this until a group of citizens can get together and get a proposal together on exactly what the plans are,” says Councilman Harold Doucet. Sr, “Everyone will understand what [the citizens] are asking for and what [the council is] approving. This way we know what exactly we are going to spend right now.”

No. 503 became the center of national attention in mid February after the Port Arthur News reported that the city had decided to scrap the engine due to concerns that flooding had caused it to leak oil and asbestos into the surrounding soil. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality raised concerns that the contaminants might wash into nearby homes and businesses and instructed the city to remediate the problem by April.

It is unclear what will come of fundraising efforts launched by railway preservationists Jason Sobcynski and Nick Hovey. The two raised more than $67,000 through a Go Fund Me account to purchase the locomotive and move it off site. When questioned by the council and by citizens, Sobcynski said that he did not think he could transfer the money to locally-based efforts to preserve the locomotive in Port Arthur due to Go Fund Me’s rules stipulating that the money raised can only be used for what is explicitly stated in the campaign. At the time that Sobcynski and Hovey began the fundraiser, they believed that ownership of the locomotive had been transferred to the environmental company contracted by the city. They stated on the Go Fund Me site that its owner wanted to preserve the locomotive and was willing to sell it for them for scrap value.

Sobcynski told the council that his eventual goal of moving the locomotive to the Orlando & Northwestern Railroad in Florida would give people a chance to see what No. 503 was actually designed to do, not just wonder about it when they saw it in a park. However, members of the city council as well as citizens who spoke at the meeting uniformly rebuffed the suggestion that the locomotive should be taken out of Port Arthur.

“If we get rid of that train and send it to another city, where is our history?” said citizen Felicia Alexander Branch. “We’ve changed the names of so many buildings so we don’t have that history. I have a grandbaby who’s three. I want her to come back to see the history of this city.”

“[The 503] has been in Port Arthur,” added Councilman Thomas Kinlaw III, “When I had my first birthday, the party was in that park. If we take it to Rusk, how are we preserving history in Port Arthur?”

Several people said that despite the city facing a host of problems after Hurricane Harvey, they considered keeping No. 503 and preserving Port Arthur history to be money well spent. Citizen Geraldine Hunt said that the locomotive was an icon at the city’s Gulf ports, which she called its “front door.”

“When people visit a city they don’t visit the mall, they want to see how a city was established,” she said, “Save it by all means, all of our history is important. I know we have bad streets, but it’s important to preserve our history as well.”

Sobcynski and Hovey declined to comment Tuesday night.

10 thoughts on “Texas city decides to keep troubled Ten-Wheeler NEWSWIRE

  1. This is an interesting turn. A little upsetting and selfish I think. Keep it proper up cold and hard as it’s part of the history, yet 2 week’s ago you were ready to scrap it. Only when the city saw people were interested did they realise it could be a good asset. This is such a shame, a loco thatbhad a chance to run, remaining stuffed. If they want to keep it, try to find a place for it to run locally. After raising the price when they saw people were donating, now they want to keep it since they see it is bringing attention. Typical politicians, in my opinion.

  2. As aggravating as these turn of events are, at least the 503 will continue to exist, and not as a pile of recycled metal. That being said, any City that cries “Keep Our History” has very little sympathy from me when they were all gun-ho about tearing their “history” to pieces just a couple of weeks ago.

  3. Well Mr. Sobcynski has surely by now learned that no good deed goes un punished. The locomotive is stuffed instead of scrapped, so it’s not the worst outcome, but it’s close. The people of Port Arthur – particularly the City Manager – look like a bunch of fools. It really is difficult to imagine how a city could have dealt with this in a more ham-handed way.

    I hope the people who were behind keeping it in Port Arthur have deep pockets – i’ll be forwarding my donation to 2926 in Albuquerque, there’s some professionals over there who I know will put it to good use.

  4. Went to see this locomotive in Port Arthur a couple of weeks ago. They can’t afford to restore this locomotive. There is not one store open on the downtown of Port Arthur four blocks away. No one is going to see this locomotive as no one wants to see Port Arthur. There is nothing there to see and no attractions in downtown. History has passed this place by!!’

  5. Actually that citizen in Port Arthur is wrong, when people do visit a city they invariably end up at one of the malls sooner or later…even if they’re going to see a city for it’s history.

  6. Looks like they licked their finger, stuck it in air to see which way the ‘opinion’ wind was blowing. Especially since they say some cash that they might be able to “accept”. Six citizens??? changed their minds??? Nah, the chance of getting their hands on $60 or 70 thousand dollars changed their minds. I would to to get approval to donate the money somewhere else, that city does not deserve it. Typical back stabbing politicians.

  7. Port Arthur seems like a toddler who doesn’t want to eat his food until someone tries to take it away. Sad because they will probably do a half-assed restoration and in 10 years we will be right back at the same place.

  8. A City that did not care about this locomotive a moth ago and planned to have it scrapped. When they saw there was interest in the Locomotive and $67,000 raised to save it, their eyes started seeing $$$ signs. They were thinking the Community would get the money, to pay for the cost of the clean up and some to pay the move, to another location in the City.. If not for the people, that got involved, there would have been no locomotive to discuss, just a pile of Scrap Metal. The Community never made a effort to keep the Engine in good condition, never built a shelter for it and did nothing about all the vandalism. Here was a chance to really restore the locomotive and have it run, yet the Community has never made a effort to keep it up nor willing to raise the money to preserve it the right way. I see it in the future, the locomotive being cut up, because the Community has no interest nor resources to backup their claims. Sad very sad. You are not the only city that has done this, there has been other greedy communities that cause Railroad History to be lost. Shame on all of you.

  9. Too bad. Now all of that money raised has to be refunded since it can’t be purchased. Seems to me if the city signed a contract with the scrapper, the cities vote doesn’t count and they can’t renig. If you sell your car for scrap at a junk yard. Do you think you have any right to demand it back after two weeks? Nope. Sorry Port Arthur, but you don’t own it anymore. You only get to vote if it can be displayed in city limits by the real owner and that’s it.

  10. So they were okay with scrapping it until someone wants to save it and move it elsewhere. Now the city wants to save it? WTF

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