Thursday, August 21, 2014

Old locomotive stars at Tucson nuseun

Wheel of Locomotive #1673
The Southern Arizona Transportation Museum is a small museum located at the former Southern Pacific Railroad depot in central Tucson.

The star of the museum is Locomotive #1673 that was built in New York in 1900. It was converted from burning coal to oil in 1906, and put into service by Southern Pacific Railroad. It racked up about a million miles hauling freight, mostly in the southern Arizona region.

The locomotive also starred in the movie Oklahoma when it was made in 1954, as well as in Tucson’s celebration of the 75th anniversary of the arrival of Southern Pacific in Arizona in 1955.  The locomotive was given to the City of Tucson following the celebration.

China used in dining cars
Today it has been cosmetically restored and inside a chain link fence on depot grounds.  The gate is locked, but if you ask at the museum, an attendant will unlock the gate so you can climb onto the engine. Today’s wannabe train engineers, he says, have it much cooler than the original men who drove the train. That’s because temperatures inside the cab could reach up to 150 degrees going down the tracks. This is why people always saw the engineers hanging out the side windows, he explains.

The museum proper is located in a small building known as the records building. It contains memorabilia, including china dishes used in dining cars and signal equipment. A miniature train circles the room from just below the ceiling.

The museum is open limited hours every day but Monday. Admission is free, though donations are suggested. It is located at 414 N. Toole Avenue. Parking is limited. The museum’s website says parking is free, but we only saw parking meters there.

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