On track for forward progress

Published 7:51 pm Friday, April 27, 2018

By Ken Stickney


The city of Port Arthur’s contractors put heavy equipment to the test on Friday and moved the Kansas City Southern Locomotive No. 503 onto some temporary tracks and off contaminated soil mandated for clean-up.

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Trans-Global TGS AmeriTrac worked the Bryan Park site on Gulfway Drive all week, building 40 yards of track so that the KCS 503, which has been displayed in Port Arthur for six decades, could be coaxed forward and off contaminated soil. Then the clean-up can start.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality determined last autumn, in the wake of Tropical Storm Harvey flooding, that the soil beneath the locomotive and tender was contaminated and must be removed. Neighbors were concerned about asbestos and oil on and under the engine and tender.

TCEQ gave the city a March 6 deadline, then pushed it back to April 20. The second extension gives Port Arthur until May 11 to complete the work.

Juan Carmona, Trans-Global’s site supervisor, was awaiting the arrival of additional heavy equipment Friday afternoon.

“The goal is to do it today,” he said.

He said he expected to encounter initial trouble when his crew attempted to move the locomotive and tender Thursday and early Friday. That’s why he sent for extra equipment, which he said was “Plan B.”

Port Arthur Councilman and Mayor Pro Tem Cal Jones was at the site Friday.

City leaders are uncertain what they will do with the KCS 503 after that. Preservationists in Florida have offered to move the steam engine, about 100 years old, to Florida, where they have promised to make it operational as part of a tourism train. Some local people are seeking to raise funds to repair the 503 and display it again in Port Arthur.

City leaders have not made a final decision.