This oil-burning steam locomotive is the 819. It was built way back in 1942 in this very building, which was the Cotton Belt Route machine shop for the St. Louis Southwestern Railway Company. This very building, by the way, is just off highway 65B at 1700 Port Road in Pine Bluff, and it now houses the Arkansas Railroad Museum. The locomotive was donated to the city of Pine Bluff in 1955. The Cotton Belt Historical Society (Inc.) acquired it in 1983, and restoration to operating condition was completed in 1986.
The 819 is 100 feet long, weighs 368 tons, is capable of cruising at highway speeds; and if you feed it twelve gallons of oil, it will take you and a thousand tons of your carry-on baggage one mile. This is an old picture I took for the original posting of this page. As of this writing the 819 is being restored, refurbished, readied, inspected and re-resurrected. Here's what it looks like today. They've peeled off the skin and exposed the boiler to test the strength and integrity of the metal.
Although the 819 and the museum's other steam locomotive, the 336, are both being restored, there's still plenty to see.There's railroad equipment, memorabilia, other locomotives, snowplows, swithchers, cabooses, passenger cars, touring cars and private cars in addition to the hundred-year-old building itself. Most of their stuff is postwar.
They've got displays of lanterns, telegraph gear, service pins, ephemera, bells and whistles, uniforms, tools, model train layouts, and on and on and on.
I do need to clear up something related to the original article I wrote back in 1997. They no longer accept crankcase oil for use as fuel in their steam locomotives and haven't for many years, especially since both steam engines are down and are likely to remain so for the indefinite future. It seems people were bringing in not only engine oil, but other waste fluids as well. So rather than let their museum become a recycling center, they discontinued the practice.
Admission free, donations accepted. Hours 9-3 Mon-Sat. Phone 870-536-7660. Every April the museum hosts an annual Railroadianna show and sale. This year the date is Saturday, April 4th. Admission is charged for special events.
RTJ -- 1/22/2009