ABILENE (KSNT) – A train over a century old will undergo a special overhaul for the next 18 months to help extend its life.
According to officials with Abilene & Smoky Valley Railroad, the antique locomotive Santa Fe 3415 will be taken out of service for the next year-and-a-half for a complete safety check of the engine’s boiler and so that other improvements can be made. This is part of routine maintenance that must be conducted every 15 years as mandated by the Federal Railroad Administration.
A&SV President and General Manager Ross Boelling said that while the railroad’s volunteer crew does regular, day-to-day maintenance work on the train, the task ahead requires more effort than usual. The engine will need to be taken apart completely so each component can be examined to determine the extent of needed repairs before actual work can begin.
“Steam locomotives are just like your automobile. These big engines are subject to normal wear and tear,” said Boelling. “But unlike your car, steam engine parts cannot simply be purchased and installed. They must be made from scratch, and that takes time.”
According to Boelling, the procedure can take up to 18 months.
The Santa Fe 3415 logged over 1.8 million miles from the time it was built in 1919 until it was officially retired in 1953. The engine ran regular routes between Kansas City and Chicago initially and, later, the engine was used on southwestern routes between Kansas City and Fort Worth.
The engine was donated to the City of Abilene in 1955 where it sat in Eisenhower Park for almost 40 years. In 1993, the A&SV was founded and the city agreed to donate the engine to the organization where it was to be rebuilt. In 1996, the engine was moved from the park to the former Rock Island track now used by the A&SV.
An estimated 12,000 hours of volunteer labor was conducted to complete the restoration project. The engine was introduced to the A&SV lineup in 2009 and has only been used on holiday weekends and other special occasions.
The steam engine will power the A&SV’s normal Abilene to Enterprise excursion runs on Friday and Saturday at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. while Sunday’s trains will run at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. The engine will also power dinner trains on Friday and Saturday evenings at 6 p.m.
The Friday train will be catered by Lucinda’s Katering of Abilene and will feature a brisket dinner. The Saturday train will be catered by Legacy Kansas of Abilene and will feature the Brookville Hotel’s famous fried chicken dinner. All excursion and dinner trains will depart from Abilene’s historic Rock Island Depot.
Steam excursion tickets are $40 for adults and $20 for children ages three to 11. Dinner train tickets are available for $85. All tickets can be found by clicking here.
According to Boelling, on Saturday the A&SV will run short rides from the Heritage Center to Jeep Road between 10 a.m. until 1 p.m. as part of the Dickinson County Historical Society and Museum’s Heritage Days celebration. This will feature the railroad’s vintage 1945 diesel locomotive pulling the railroad’s prized 1902 MKT wooden passenger car. Passengers can buy lower-cost tickets on the Heritage Center grounds for $10 for adults and $5 for children ages three to 11.