- Posted October 21, 2010 by
Fort Pierce, Florida
This iReport is part of an assignment:
iReport boot camp: Putting it all together
All Aboard Steam - Locomotive #253
- katie, CNN iReport producer
My family loves trains! We have made tracks to ride from Miami to Detroit. However, there is a special train that we visit just about every Saturday, Steam Locomotive #253.
Nestled among railroad cars just east of Highway U.S. 1 in Fort Pierce, it is a slice of train heaven. Young and old alike will enjoy seeing one of Florida’s few remaining steam locomotives. For a suggested donation of $3.00 you can pretend you are the conductor, explore the tool shop, walk through the dining car or imagine what it might have been like to prepare a meal in the kitchen. I like to call it “Imagination Station!”
Below are a few fast facts about Locomotive #253:
Where: Fort Pierce Florida - from Orange Avenue, take U.S. 1 to Avenue H. Turn east across the railroad tracks. At the bottom of the hill turn north and head .4 miles to the Steam Locomotive Association #253.
When:Every Saturday morning – for more information visit their website: www.slafec253.org
What: The American Locomotive Company in 1924 built the #253 for the Florida East Coast Railway. She is an 0-8-0 road switcher that was designed to assemble and move whole trains in the yard and do light work.
The #253 weighs 108 tons and is 70 feet long. She has 7 foot diameter oil fired boiler that develops 200 PSI of superheated steam which can pull a 5,100 ton train at 25 mph. Her driver wheels are 51” in diameter. She carries 8,000 gals of water and 2,000 gals of fuel oil.
Engine #253 is one of 6 remaining former Florida East Coast Railway locomotives on earth out of the 275 total steam engines owned by the FEC Ry, Co. She is the heaviest 0-8-0 (which means she has no wheels in the front – 8 driving wheels in the middle – and no wheels in the back) type engine remaining on this continent. She is also the only full size steam locomotive to be operated in the state of Florida and the only example of her type to be operating in the USA.
When the FEC went diesel, she and her sisters were retired and sold. Most fell to the torch, but the #253 and a few others escaped to work for some smaller railroads throughout the country. The #253 was “put on the back burner” in 1952 and retired in 1956 and put on display in Texarkana where she remained until the late 90s.
Various groups tried to move her and restore her with no success and she was once again facing the torch (30 days from the torch) when Steve Spreckelmeier and Bob Bates got word of her possible fate and purchased her outright and arranged for her to be returned to her home in South Florida.
The #253 was fairly well cared for and therefore after several inspections was deemed a prime candidate for complete restoration to operating condition. Of course it is going to take a long time to do this depending on the number of volunteers we have to do the work of restoration.
The #253 is a part of our nation’s and particularly Florida’s past and our legacy. Steve and Bob’s and the rest of the crew’s reason for doing such a big project is not just for the sense of personal accomplishment but also to be able to create something that is so much a part of our legacy to share not only with South Florida but throughout the country. The restoration project of the #253 is supported by the State of Florida Historic Preservation Department and will be showcased for decades to come. Steam Locomotive #253 is waiting to receive the designation as a National Historic site.