The past pulls up in Tyler | News
TYLER, TX (KLTV)- It was supposed to be here on what is usually tax day, but the 844 wasn't on time. Due to mechanical problems, one of the last running steam locomotives arrived a day late to the Cotton Belt Depot Museum in Tyler.
It's big, it's black, it's loud, and it was late. One of its wheels had a worn spot, so until they could make the wheel round again, it didn't go anywhere. It sort of had a flat.
But it was worth the wait.
Paul Royal is a Cotton Belt Depot Museum volunteer. His dad and some of his uncles worked for the railroad, but he never did. He's really looking forward to seeing the locomotive.
"This will be my first time for the 844. I saw the Freedom Train down in New Orleans back in 1976 when I was down there with the Navy, so we're eagerly waiting for the steam engine to come through. My grandfather built steam engines in Paducah Kentucky with the superintendent of the Paducah shop, so steam is in my blood, "Paul said.
Pete Martinez has lived in Tyler since 1947 and he used to spend so much time around the tracks he wound up helping out.
"The engineer would sometimes drop change out of his pocket and we'd have enough money to go to a movie and have popcorn and a Coke," Pete said.
All the reminiscing really made me want to see that train. The crowd grew restless. Time passed. Pete wondered if there was that big a hurry, getting up on his ladder for a better picture above the crowd
Then, there it was: the 844.
In 1944, it was the last steam engine built for the Union Pacific. For over a decade it was used as a passenger train.
In 1957 it was assigned to hauling freight since diesel trains had taken over. The 844 was nearly scrapped in 1960 (I'd hate to have to do that job), but was saved and put into special service; a decision many are grateful for.
"Without the steam engine we would not be anywhere close to where we are today," Paul observed.
The 844 stayed long enough for plenty of pictures and some routine maintenance. Then it was time to roll on down the tracks so the past will stay alive in the future.
If you didn't get a big enough dose of railroad today, you can check out the Cotton Belt Train Show at The Harvey Convention Center April 28 and 29.
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