Citizens’ turn: Port Arthur people can weigh in on locomotive

Published 4:48 pm Monday, March 5, 2018

Residents thought they could make their thoughts known last week on Locomotive No. 503.

Instead, the Port Arthur City Council scheduled a 5:30 p.m. Tuesday meeting at City Hall to discuss the abatement, remediation and related matters for the Kansas City Southern locomotive located in Bryan Park. Public comments will be received.

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

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Short weeks ago, it appeared the locomotive would be scrapped. Since then, Next Generation Rail Services in Avalon, Kentucky, has raised money through a GoFundMe account and made plans to acquire the locomotive and move it first to Rusk, Texas, for rehab and ultimately to a tourist railroad in Florida, where it would be operational.

District 4 Councilman Harold Doucet — the locomotive has been deteriorating most recently in his district — said last week the City Council has made no decision about the train’s fate.

“The train ain’t going nowhere until Council makes a decision,” Doucet said.

He said a decision must be voted on in the open. What was discussed behind closed doors was information on what to do about Texas Commission on Environmental Quality violations.

“We need to decide what we need to do and where we are,” he said.

George Newsome, with SOUTEX Surveyors, said he spoke with Trans Global Solutions, a railroad contractor, and the Texas Railroad Museum in Rusk about what to do with 503, particularly about immediate concerns with TCEQ to move it and remediate the soil underneath.

Newsome said one of the least expensive ways is to lay some track and move the engine forward toward Houston Avenue. The cost to do that would be $45,000. Remediation is another cost altogether.

If the city wants to keep 503, remediate the soil and abate the lead paint, it would cost between $200,000 and $250,000.