A choo-choo in the park

Not every place has one

Old locomotive Warren AR

Engine 123 came to the Warren, Arkansas city park by way of Mexico, some corporate generosity, and a lot of local ingenuity and sweat equity.

Engine 123 of the Southern Lumber Company in Bradley County, Arkansas  started life as Engine 11 for the Morelia & Tacambaro Railway Co. of Guanajunto, Mexico. The 112 ton locomotive was built by the Baldwin Locomotive Works of Eddystone, Pennsylvania in 1907.

From Mexico to Warren

We’re not certain exactly when or what circumstances precipitated the sale and transfer of the locomotive from Mexico to Bradley County, and further, we have found no one more enlightened on the subject than we are. We are certain that this train story started on the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer dot Com, where you will find still yet more pictures and another story of an old locomotive. Click here to go there and see the start of this treatise.

Move and restore

By 1955, the 123 had outlived its usefulness for the Southern Lumber Company. Company officials and the newly formed Kiwanis Club of Warren got their mutual acts together and hatched up a plan to save and restore the engine, which by that time had seen better days. The company agreed to move the locomotive to the Warren City Park where Kiwanians would be responsible for restoration of the iron beast. The company laid a temporary track and huge bulldozers pushed it to the park. It’s been there ever since and gives evidence that is well appreciated.

locomotive drive wheels

The steam cylinders which sent power to these massive 54" wheels are 18 inches in diameter with a 24 inch stroke. The tractive power was 18,288. Don't ask me what that means.

Kid magnet

There were a number of children (with attending parents) playing in the park when I arrived and started to shoot the old engine, just a few were playing on the old engine. Once I began to shoot, a few more gravitated to the iron horse, then a few more, you get the drift. When I climbed in the cab to get the shots below, it became a kid attack. Let me pause to say, this is not a bad thing. Curious kids crawling around on an old locomotive which was put there for, well, kids to crawl around on − it’s natural and expected behavior.

Engine 123 cab interior

Imagine yourself as an engineer or fireman in these spartan conditions. This is not the actual configuration and most of the controls are long gone, however, the space is about the same. Just a few seconds before I fired this series of shots, a platoon of kids was swarming in the close confines of the cab. Thank goodness for attention span swings,

Of course a crowd of squirming kids is the antithesis of circumstances conducive to tripod photography. Fortunately, there is the attention span syndrome. These kids manifested the behavior magnificently, so I got several two minute shooting breaks between kid attacks. I had to bite my tongue to keep from laughing.

An encouraging observation

I noticed as the kid crowd grew, so did the proximity of the parents to the engine. I was a stranger and their kids were close by. They (the parents) were doing what they were supposed to do under those circumstances. Even though I was viewed with some suspicion, it was encouraging to see this display of parental responsibility, There is something to be said for small town America.

Engineer's view

Get a load of the engineer's view as the train would have sped on its way. Under the best of circumstances, there would not have been a National Guard Armory across the tracks.

Great track record

Engine 123 is a good example of how individuals can make a difference. Think about it. Here’s a 104 year old locomotive which has provided fun and entertainment for families for more than a half-century − all because somebody had an idea. That somebody recruited some friends and put legs on the idea. Now thousands have benefited, and since the engine is about as portable as the Rock of Gibraltar, there’s a high probability that the trend will continue. How refreshing.

Parting shot


An armadillo grazes around on a levee for ants or other treats on an unusually balmy February afternoon last week. The well-acclimated critter was nice enough to hold the pose.

When I told a friend an armadillo was making a cameo appearance on Weekly Grist this week, she allowed as how she formerly harbored admiration for the cute little things with the funny ears. Then a few of the varmints rooted through and decimated her pansies. They, the armadillos, immediately fell from grace in that household. Since I have no pansies or other vaunted vegetation, I harbor no such enmity for this benign creature. In fact, every time I see one, I recall Jerry Jeff Walker mentioning them favorably as he warbles Gary P. Nunn’s classic London Homesick Blues. Here’s a version with Gary P. explaining how the song came to be. That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it,

See high-res pictures of all this week’s shots

Click here to see a gallery of this weeks pictures in a great looking format, not all all of which made it to Weekly Grist or Corndancer.

Thanks for dropping by,

Joe Dempsey,
Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind

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