Woulda, Shoulda, Coulda Engine 503

Published 8:04 am Monday, March 19, 2018

Going from having nobody care, to everybody care would be an emotional roller coaster for any person. But we are not talking about a person; we are talking about a train engine.

The saga of Kansas City Southern 503 has been well documented over the previous months and followers of the story know all too well about the mistakes made during the decision-making process of what to do with it.

So let’s not get into all that again. What’s important now is how to handle it, where it will go and who will pay for it. It’s been rotting away for years, just like Rose Hill. Is Port Arthur really going to revive the engine? Will residents really pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to restore it? If not, let it go to someone who will.

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During a special meeting at City Hall on March 6, held specifically for citizens to voice their opinions on the train, some individuals claimed it was a part of our city’s history and urged City Council to try to find a way to keep it. Others theatrically threw out a $100 dollar bill stating, “Here’s a start.”

Sadly this little train engine that could have was never given a chance here in Port Arthur. And quite honestly it needs to be handed over to a group that will take care of it on their own dime.

During the special meeting Position 7 Councilwoman Charlotte Moses, who was unable to attend, wrote a memo that was shared.

Due to a family emergency I am not able to attend tonight’s meeting. However, I would like for these comments to be read as a matter record for tonight’s meeting concerning 503 Locomotive. 

 As a lifelong Port Arthurian, I appreciate the donation of Locomotive 503 by KCS to our city in 1957. We are thankful that 503 has been a part of our community for the past 60 years. The locomotive has served as a monument since the date of its arrival. While in its heyday 503 has served our community as a place where generations have visibly toured and played, the time has come for the city council and citizens to make a wise, conscious decision to do what is best to preserve the remaining lifespan of this locomotive.

 With that being said, our city is not in a position to address the long-term issues to preserve 503 to a state of excellence that it deserves. We have significant issues facing our city such as deteriorating infrastructure, deteriorating streets that are not drivable. These are only two of many of our city’s issues. A decision to spend taxpayers’ dollars to only halfway preserve the 503 is shameful and selfish on our part. The 503 locomotive deserves better. As of now, it is important adn imperative that 503 be transferred into the hands of those that have the capability & resources to restore it to its rightful condition.

 Respectively submitted,

Council member Charlotte Moses

When a council member is wrong about something, I will be the first to say so. But when they are right as rain, I will say so too. And the views expressed by Councilwoman Moses are “right on the money.”

Our community continues to struggle with growing cost for infrastructure repairs, street repairs that never happen, drainage issues that continue with every rainfall, Rose Hill that continues to look older by the day, a downtown that has yet to see its promised revitalization, struggles within the Port Arthur Police Department, trash pickups that are not yet back to normal, citywide debris from neighborhoods still working to recover from the flooding by Tropical Storm Harvey, the most murders to start off a year in a very long time, and a city hall coping with its recent change.

Let me be clear, I’m not saying that the 503 is not important, because it is important to someone. But the “right” someone. By prioritizing the above items of need, I’m certain that the hundreds of thousands of dollars needed to keep and maintain the 503 would not be anywhere near the top of this list.

Port Arthur has had 60 years to show this train how much it meant to the city. Unfortunately that became 60 years of rotting decay and did not become important until Texas Commission on Environmental Quality forced the move.

Had the flood not happened, and TCEQ not told the city of Port Arthur it had to be moved, 10 years from now it would still be sitting there becoming more rusted and decayed than it is today. As it would still not be taken care of.

The city of Port Arthur has many more important issues that should be their focus and need their continued attention. A group of 1,259 train enthusiasts from across the nation came together and raised nearly $70,000 dollars in just a few days. Heck, we can barely get that many registered voters to the polls on Election Day. Let those that truly want the train, have the train.

Richard Macke is publisher of the Port Arthur News.