TAKE 5: Railroad House train undergoes restoration

Mar. 03, 2013 @ 04:58 AM

This week, we Take 5 with Woody Seymour Jr., who is a lifelong resident of Sanford. He is a 1968 graduate of Sanford Central High School, a 1972 graduate of Davidson College and a 1975 graduate of Wake Forest University School of Law. Since 1975, he has practiced law in Sanford, and he has been a member of the Railroad House Historical Association since 1978. He is married to Anne Smith, and they have been adopted by one cat, Katie.

For those who aren’t aware … give us some background about the history of the train located at Depot Park and how it went from the hands of the Atlantic & Western Railway to the possession of the Railroad House Historical Association.

The locomotive in Depot Park was built in 1911 for the Raleigh and Southport Railway Co. by the famous Baldwin Locomotive Works of Philadelphia. By 1914, the Norfolk and Southern Railway had absorbed the R&S and the locomotive was operated by the Norfolk and Southern until it was replaced by diesel locomotives in the late 1940s. It was acquired by the local office of the Atlantic and Western Railway shortly thereafter, and it was renumbered Atlantic and Western No. 12. The steam locomotive saw service on the line between Sanford and Lillington until Oct. 7, 1950, when it was replaced by a new diesel engine. No. 12 never saw service again and was officially retired by the Atlantic and Western at the end of 1955. On Nov. 26, 1966, old No. 12 took a “piggyback” ride on a flatbed truck to its present location. It was donated to the Railroad House Historical Association by Mr. E.T. Ussery, President of A&W Railway Co. The locomotive and its accompanying tender was sandblasted, repainted and restored by the Sanford Jaycees. Over the years, the RRHHA has watched over these venerable symbols of Sanford’s rail history. When Depot Park was created, the RRHHA entered into a long-term lease agreement with the City of Sanford in which the city assumed responsibility for the maintenance of the locomotive and tender. The two now partner on matters pertaining to these important icons of Sanford’s rail history.

What’s been involved in the restoration of Locomotive #12 and what has been the cost?

The Railroad House board and the city have been communicating for a couple of years about the deterioration of the locomotive and tender. We determined that there was a need for some welding and other repairs, painting and a fence placed around the engine and tender. We are grateful to city staffers Steve Stewart and Tim Shaw for their long, diligent efforts in the planning of the restoration. The city appropriated $28,000 in the current year’s budget for the repairs, painting and fence, and once the project is completed, the expenses will have stayed within the budgeted amount.

Part of the restoration has included the installation of a fence (complete with a locked gate) around the train. Talk about why that was necessary.

Once the locomotive and tender were restored in the late 1960s, they were in relatively good shape. Over the years there was limited visitation to the area around the Railroad House and the train. After the creation of Depot Park and the installation of its fountain, this area became a destination for families. Unfortunately, the historic locomotive and tender became used as a piece of playground equipment rather than revered as an iconic symbol of Sanford’s storied rail past. The number of climbers on the rail artifacts have increased each year at the same time that the level of parental supervision has decreased. This increased activity has caused an accelerated deterioration of No. 12, creating safety and preservation issues.

What’s been the reaction to putting the locomotive “behind lock and key,” as it were?

So far, the response has been overwhelmingly positive. Once we explain our reasons behind the move, there is a lot of understanding as to why the fence was necessary. The railroad enthusiasts in the community are excited and proud to have Sanford’s railroad gems freshly repaired, painted and protected.

How does the RRHHA balance the need to preserve the historic locomotive and its desire to use the train as an educational exhibit and tourist attraction?

We believe that it is possible to slow down the deterioration from natural and human causes while still allowing the people of Sanford, Lee County and visitors to our area to enjoy educational opportunities involving our historic No. 12. We hope that rail enthusiasts from all over will be excited by the restoration and improvements and that the historic No. 12 locomotive and tender will be able to be enjoyed by future generations.