RR rep unsure of city of Port Arthur’s locomotive intentions

Published 10:50 am Thursday, March 1, 2018

The latest word from the city of Port Arthur about the Kansas City Southern Louisiana & Arkansas No. 503 locomotive at Bryan Park is that there’s a special Port Arthur City Council meeting at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 6, at city hall to receive public comment.

Jason Sobcynzski of Next Generation Rail Services, a railroad maintenance and repair company located in Avalon, Kentucky, started a GoFundMe Page to raise funds to move the locomotive to Florida. They’ve raised $67,079 of their $65,000 goal.

Prior to moving to Florida, the 503 will be temporarily housed at the Texas Railroad Museum in Rusk. The locomotive will be operational on a tourist railroad when it reaches Florida.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Sobcynzski said he’s unclear what the current plan is for the city. He added that they didn’t look for a new home for the locomotive.

“After natural disasters and the amount of homes, infrastructure, traffic lights, etc. that were damaged, the city has no money to do anything with the engine. Particularly with the state mandate to remediate,” he said.

He believes the city addressed the locomotive issue at the last City Council meeting Tuesday night for two reasons: one, it rained and the possibility of oil and asbestos being carried into houses and, two, he contacted the salvage contractor, Inland Environments, to raise money for the train, get extra time and come up with a plan.

“If it wasn’t for my interjection, they would have had to cut up the locomotive last Monday,” Sobcynzski said. “I find it insulting these Monday morning quarterbacks want it to stay in the park and have it rotting away.”

The 503 suffered for 60 years from exposure to the elements, especially salt air. Concerns about the engine arose most 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 after the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality inspected the locomotive.

Sobcynzski said he’s been reading and hearing rumors he’ll make a quick buck off the 503. He said nobody is making money off of this.

“The ethics guideline for GoFundMe says if I don’t follow their guidelines, it’s a misappropriation of funds and they will go after me legally.

“Shouldn’t it go someplace where it will best be treated?” he asked. “There are two options for the 503: put it in an environmentally controlled building and nobody has money for that or restore it and operate it.”

He compared it to a car that’s been laid up for a long time. It will stay limber as long as it’s running.

Moreover, a 501c3 nonprofit organization would take six months to establish.

Sobcynzski, additionally, said he’s not on contract with the rail line in Florida. He’s using “his own dime” to save the locomotive.

“I’ve never worked for them,” he said.

He added that the deteriorating condition makes it mandatory to display it someplace else.

Another rumor he addressed was that someone wanted to offer the city of Port Arthur a considerable amount of money to buy the locomotive, but they were unable to contact the city.

Sobczynski said “it takes no brain power” that Inland Environments now owns the locomotive and why would anyone contact the city to purchase it?

A surveyor told the city it would cost from $200,000 to $250,000 to keep the locomotive, move the locomotive forward and remediate the soil underneath and abate the lead paint. Sobcynzski estimates it would cost upward to $300,000 to build a shelter that is hurricane rated. The shelter alone would cost $200,000.

Proceeding from this point onward, the ground won’t be remediated until March 20.

“The clock is ticking,” he said. “The city cut a week out with their semantics. They will have to get the locomotive out immediately (per TCEQ guidelines) unless they have an extension up their sleeves.

“Because this unfolded, the locomotive’s future went from being scrapped to operating. People won’t have to wonder what this was. It would be a shame to rob this opportunity and rob this experience of history.”