Stories from intrepid reporters attending the Illinois Press Foundation Journalism Workshop at Eastern Illinois University
By Kristyna Kresic
On Webster Street near Manners Park in Taylorville, a chain-link fence, unkempt grass and railroad tracks leading off in the distance encompass the home of rusted Frisco locomotive 1352.
Currently, the American Steam Railroad is restoring the Frisco Locomotive to operating conditions. So far, the total cost of the restoration is about $1.5 million. The restored locomotive will be in the B&O Roundhouse in Cleveland, Ohio. Overall, this change may have a positive effect on the town and people of Cleveland.
“The effect will be very, very good. We’ve been able to get a good response from our Cuyahoga Valley National Park,” said Steven Harvey, president of American Steam Railroad, Inc.
American Locomotive Co. built the locomotive at its Schenectady, N.Y., works in 1912 as No. 1352 of the St. Louis-San Francisco (Frisco) Railroad. In 1956 when the freight locomotive retired, it was presented to Swoop Park in Kansas City, Mo., to be on display.
Because of flooding and vandalism in the 1970s and ‘80s, the locomotive was then donated to Smoky Hill Historical Society.
During the 1990s, Ted Lemen invested in it after it display site flooded once again. His ultimate goal in bringing it to Taylorville was to reinstate the locomotive to working condition. But lack of funding brought the project to a halt.
Meanwhile, Harvey and his mechanical officer were driving around searching Illinois to find different possible locomotives they could restore. After hearing about the locomotive in Tayorville, they knew instantly that they had to find it
“It was a little difficult,” Harvey said. “We didn’t know where it was and we had to use the Internet to help us.”
During the cold and blustery Illinois winter, Harvey and his colleague found themselves at the BP gas station in downtown Taylorville.
“I asked the local clerk where we could find it and she knew where it was,” Harvey said. “Then we contacted the owner of the locomotive and made our arrangements.”
They agreed on a purchase price with Lemen, who then owned the locomotive, and completed their purchase in December 2011.
After being refurbished, American Steam Railroad hopes the train will not only run train trips, but also be used as an educational mechanism for all people to show them how important these locomotives were during the during the age of industrialization.