Locomotive goal amount goes up due to miscalculation

Published 10:09 am Thursday, February 22, 2018

There was some social media chat as to why the goal amount was raised from $50,000 to $65,000 by a group trying to save the historic Louisiana & Arkansas steam locomotive No. 503.

The group started the GoFundMe page to save the 503 from imminent dismantling at Bryan Park in Port Arthur. Some think the contractor, Inland Environments, however, raised the amount after they saw how much was raised in a short amount of time.

As of 5 p.m. Wednesday, $62,280 of the $65,000 goal was raised.

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Cameron Wolk, of the National Railroad Historical Society, said Inland Environments, which he calls “the scrapper,” came back and evaluated the locomotive at $65,000 and to make the job harder to do.

“They saw how much was raised in a short amount of time,” Wolk said. “In my opinion the city has not handled this properly. The scrapper is obviously taking advantage to get some money out of this every time we come near. They don’t care about the history.”

The 503 suffered for 60 years from exposure to the elements, especially salt air. Concerns about the engine arose recently in connection with Hurricane and Tropical storm Harvey, mostly because there was a fear that flooding would carry asbestos and oil into neighboring yards and houses.

Jed Landrey with Inland Environments, environmental and demolition contractors, said they were not taking advantage of the situation and raising the goal amount. He attributed the upswing because Jason Sobczynski of Next Generation Rail Services, which plans to move the locomotive to Florida, and the manager of the GoFundMe page didn’t realize the costs associated with moving the train.

“We pulled off the project to remediate (remove asbestos) from the train in order to remove the train,” Landrey said. “We were under a certain contracted amount. It’s only partially done.

“We want to see the train salvaged as well. The city may have second thoughts.”

Landrey said he’s not an expert on railroad locomotives, and though the locomotive looked weathered, it appeared to be “in pretty decent condition” upon a cursory glance.

“We want whatever is best for the community. The city may change its original plan,” he said.

Sobczynski said Inland Environments didn’t have anything to do with the goal amount rising from $50,000 to $65,000.

“I was under the assumption the absolute value of the scrap metal was at a different amount. It was negotiated at a rate higher than I thought due to my lack of understanding,” Sobczynski said. “I’m looking forward to moving forward. I enjoy the idea this thing will be operating instead of just sitting in a park.”

He added that Landrey has been more than nice and helpful to him.