January 24, 2020: Paris Engine #2522’s Last Run

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Paris Engine #2522 is Prepared for Its Final Trip (Vintage-Style Photo Taken by Jim Best, Resident Press)

On a cold, wet, January day, the town of Paris turned out in large numbers to witness a little bit of history. On this day, their beloved steam locomotive, Engine #2522, was moved to its new home at the Paris / Logan County Coal Miners Museum. The locomotive that had been displayed at the Paris City Park since 1963, was moved in grand fashion through the town of Paris. Along the way, many people of all ages and generations turned out with cameras and video recorders to document the historic event.

The train’s final route that took it to the museum began at the city park where it was moved in two pieces. One truck and trailer pulled the coal car and another the locomotive. In a carefully orchestrated move that was obvious of the many hours of planning and taking into consideration the many factors and obstacles along the way, the locomotive first went north along the park, turning left toward the swimming pool, and then again south as it proceeded toward Paris Elementary School.

In front of many school children from Paris Elementary who stood outside along the front of the school with their teachers, the engine turned south and paraded in front of the school, blowing the engine’s train horn that had been reworked and attached to its tow truck. Because of the length of the truck and trailer that was used to move the engine, work crews worked quickly to move sheets of plywood ahead of the truck to cover curbs and other obstacles at intersections to protect the streets and curbs from the weight of the engine. This was a process that slowed the procession greatly as a significant amount of time was taken at each intersection in the vicinity of the school to protect the surrounding property before the engine was moved.

After passing Paris Elementary School, the engine made a left turn to proceed past the Paris softball field and the back of the Paris Wal-Mart store. The next obstacle would be a very tight right turn to finish the leg of the trip that would intersect with Highway 22. In fact, the turn was so tight, that the truck had to go past a drainage ditch for the trailer to clear the rear obstacle, and then use a bobcat tractor and tow chain to help pull the truck to the right to clear the ditch.

Once the truck and locomotive cleared the sharp turn, the engine proceeded uphill toward Highway 22. Paris police and Logan County Sheriff’s Department cleared the way by blocking the intersection onto Highway 22 for a right turn to proceed west on Highway 22. If a visitor to Paris were driving into Paris from the east on this day, they may have been surprised to see an early 1900’s era steam engine in the middle of the highway!

The processional that included both the locomotive and coal tender then proceeded west on highway 22, passing Paris landmarks along the way. Many community patrons lined the highway to see the impressive sight as it moved toward the town square.

Ahead of the procession and part of the pre-planning, parking spots surrounding the Logan County courthouse were blocked off and police were ready to re-direct traffic. As the engine and coal car approached the town square, one could not help but to be taken back by the sight of two landmarks, the engine and the courthouse, coming together with many of the towns citizens out to witness the historic event.

Once again, carefully negotiating the stop lights, power lines, and other obstacles in the town square, the engine proceeded to a point alongside the courthouse before then backing up and turning onto south Elm Street to make the final leg of its trip to the museum.

Once cleared of the intersection of Elm and Highway 22, the two trucks proceeded down South Elm Street on its final leg to the museum. Another crowd waiting across the street from the museum awaited the two historic pieces of early 1900s engineering marvels.

Once the two trucks arrived at the museum, the two aligned themselves for the delivery to the new rails that were installed at the museum for the locomotive. The coal tender arrived first at the museum and drove past the rails to await the locomotive that would have to be backed up to the rails to be aligned in proper position with the coal car.

At the end of the day, the two pieces were in place at the museum, but the crew’s work was not done. The next day, crews were at the site, carefully lowering the two massive pieces on to the track at the museum.

The addition of Engine #2522 completes a project by the museum that continues its commemoration and historical record of the coal mining industry in Logan County and pays tribute to all of the men and families who worked and had their lives influenced by coal mining in Logan County. Adjacent to the train is a memorial display depicting a pile of coal and a replica of Engine #2522.

According to the website “rgusrail.com”, the engine, “located in the City Park, Paris, AR, lettered as Fort Smith, Subiaco, and Rock Island #2522 is the former Missouri Pacific #2522, a Ten Wheeler (4-6-0) type locomotive. It is one of ten built for the Saint Louis, Iron Mountain & Southern in 1900 (#763-#774) by the Cooke Locomotive & Machine Company in Paterson, New Jersey, later a part of Alco. A 2516 Class, it was out-shopped as #771. When the SLIM&S was consolidated into the Missouri Pacific in 1917, it was renumbered #2522. Equipped with Stephenson valve gear and 20″x24″ cylinders, it has an engine wheelbase of 50’5″” and a driver wheelbase of 23’4″. Weighing 147,300 lbs., it weighs 109.600 lbs on its 61″ drivers. With a 29 sq ft grate, 160 sq ft firebox and total heating surface of 2,086 sq ft, it operated at boiler pressure of 190 psi delivering 25,419 lbs tractive effort. The tender weighs 93,700 lbs light and has a capacity of 4,000 gallons of water and 9 tons of coal. At some point, #2522 was sold to the Fort Smith, Subiaco & Rock Island Railroad. In 1963, it was then sold to the scrap dealer Malvern Iron and Metal Company in Paris, Arkansas.”

Doug Harley, Curtis Varnell, and Joyce Friddle pose in front of Engine 2522 at City Park before the train began its final trip to the Paris / Logan County Coal Miners Museum

The Coal Miners Museum will now embark on some restoration of the engine that will include a permanent stairway that will allow visitors to access the cab of the engine for visits to the museum and for photo opportunities.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Joyce Friddle of the Paris / Logan County Coal Miners Museum on the day of the move. Beaming with pride for her community, Mrs. Friddle gave Resident Press the history of the locomotive and the project to move the locomotive to its new home. “This is the last train of its kind in the United States. The city bought it for scrap price. They were going to scrap it, and people all around said no, no, no, and I think John Paul Wells’s dad (Robert Wells) was one of the ones who helped save it. The city moved it from behind Wells Furniture Warehouse to the park in 1963. Then it was a long time before the city built a top over it. It was painted and looked beautiful, but it’s been sitting pretty much unattended for several years.”

Friddle and her “railroad man from Logan County”, Doug Harley, have a number of pictures of the engine he has collected over the years. Harley stated that the #2522 was typical of the type of locomotives that serviced the Paris area during its time. “Locomotives of its type and similar sizes were common. The Arkansas Central had similar sizes and had quite a few and Subiaco about eight.” Friddle added, “Originally, the coal tender, and I don’t know if it is this same one, had “Subiaco” on it where it says “Paris” today. It was the name of the railroad.” Harley also added, “When Paris bought it they changed the name to “Paris” on the coal tender, which irked me a little.” Friddle said the museum is contemplating putting “Paris / Subiaco” on the top and that way it would identify both communities.”

According to Friddle, the Coal Miners Museum has available funds to perform some restoration of the engine and coal tender. “The Coal Miners Museum started about ten years ago, and we had phases 1, 2, and 3, and the train was three. We wanted the coal miners recognized, so, that was our first project. We began to quickly collect information from surviving coal miners while we could. We decided early on that we wanted all of the miners to be recognized at the museum, and not just those who could afford to have their name put up. And the mining industry, I wanted the ones who were the coal haulers, the owners and operators, the ones who just had an interest in it; so, I wanted it all to be part of the museum. So, we just had fundraisers to raise money to get things done, get the building up, and it just keeps going. We got the little coal miners house donated, so that was another project.”

Shane Cantrell of Combs Home Builders & House Movers in Ratcliff, Arkansas donated all of his time, equipment and company’s labor to move the engines. According to Friddle, “All of his donations are worth thousands of dollars. Friddle indicated that originally, the Department of Transportation was going to charge the museum over $9000 for just the permit to move the two pieces. She said that through the help of state representatives, the fee was waived. As late as the morning of the move, Cantrell and museum representatives were still awaiting final approval and confirmation of the permit before the engine could be moved. At approximately 10:30 a.m. on the morning of the move, the final confirmation of the awarding of the permit was received and the move was permitted to take place.

As of the publication date of this story, Engine #2522 and its coal tender are now being installed on its new tracks at the museum. Crews continue their painstaking work to carefully move the two pieces onto the rails and begin removing all of the materials and equipment that were used to make the move.

Quite an operation. The Paris community owes Mr. Cantrell and the museum a big thank you for their donation and work to keep this historic piece in Logan County for community members and their children of future generations. And one day, all of those children who lined up in front of Paris Elementary school will tell people 20 years from now and into the future of the day they saw Old 2522 make its last run in front of their school, blowing its iconic whistle.

Yes, it was truly a big day for Paris and the surrounding communities.

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