Delaney Park Locomotive 556 Improvement Project
Engine 556 was a steam locomotive built in 1943 for wartime service. Outnumbering other war-time railroad engines, they were simple to maintain with the close clearance required for the narrow bridges and tunnels on European railroads. They were stripped down for war action, and acquired the nickname"Gypsy Rose Lee" locomotives after the famous burlesque dancer. Instead of being shipped to Europe, twelve of these locomotives were sent to Alaska by the U.S. Army to become Alaska Railroad Class 550. All twelve locomotives saw service over the 460 miles of the Alaska Railroad. For 13 years, No. 556 hauled passengers and freight from Seward through Anchorage and on to Fairbanks. In 1959, No. 556 was taken out of storage and moved to its present location, where it has been an educational display and object of play for three generations of Anchorage youngsters. Of the thousands of USRA Consolidation Type locomotives originally built for war service, only three remain in North America, and only this one is publicly owned.
The locomotive is currently off-limits to the public and is considered a safety hazard. In 2012 the MOA received a Legislative Grant for $250,000 to restore the locomotive to a safe condition, including asbestos abatement and site landscaping. The intent of the project is to restore the locomotive as a “static display”.
The reason for restoring the locomotive to a “static display” rather than its original condition is that the available funding did not allow for the Parks Department to abate the engine to a level of safety that would be adequate enough for accessibility and for children to safely climb into the engine’s cavity. The degree of degradation and asbestos contamination is far too excessive, as based on the environmental engineer’s assessment, thus a static display is the most feasible and safe option. Once the clean-up is finished, the landscape will be restored to a park-like setting consistent with the Delaney Park Master Plan.
Phase 1: Hazardous Cleanup
The objective for this first phase of the improvement project is to abate the engine of all toxins (lead paint, asbestos, oil, etc.), and turn the engine into a “static display” as advised during our engineering assessment. Construction is scheduled for spring 2013 on phase 1. A contractor has been selected and the project is scheduled to begin May13, 2013 with an estimated completion of July 3, 2013**.
Phase 2: Landscape and Signage Improvements
The main goal is to improve site, including adding an aesthetic safety fence around the static display, improve signage describing the history of 556, and improve the landscape around the display. We have not finalized the phase 2 landscape plan, as we were waiting to see how much funding would be available, if any, from the phase 1 contract. Now that the bids are in, Parks Staff is proceeding with the landscape design. The concepts will be presented for final approval by the Downtown and South Addition community councils. We anticipate the construction to be completed in mid to late summer 2013.
(Posted 10/18/13 at 1:30pm): The construction fence came down today! We will continue to make lanscape improvements next spring, including upgrading the interpretive signage and improving the circulation. Enjoy!
(Posted 9/9/13 at 5:30pm): The hazmat tent came down today! Here is a video clip of the finish product. Next Step: Landscape Improvement Phase!http://www.magisto.com/video/blZCIUsOEGE-DwRhCzE
(Posted: 9/6/13 at 2:30 pm):Phase 1 of construction is ALMOST COMPLETE! The engine has just passed all of its environmental clearances and we are on our way to the final detail of painting! Rumor has it the contractor will be done with the abatement early next week and the tent will come down! The next step will be to install the landscape, perimeter fence and interpretive signage. We will be racing the weather to get this done this fall but when it is complete "Ol' 556" will shine again! Here is a fun video clip of the pre-paint progress inside the tent: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1hS_u8HIUPw
(Posted: 5/24/13 at 10:15 am): Phase 1 of construction has begun, the perimeter fencing and safety structures are being installed this week and after Memorial Day the hazardous clean-up will be well under way. The locomotive will be completely encased in a wooden box structure for safety during the clean-up process. There will be 24 hour security on site. The crew will be wearing protective clothing including face masks and head-to-toe protection. Please do not be alarmed, this is part of the safety protocal for this type of project. Thank you for your patience as we proceed with this exciting project.
(Posted 3:45 pm on Wednesday, 7/24/13): The engine is very close to completion, the crew has passed all of their environmental approvals and they are now cleaning up the contaminated soils under the engine. We are getting closer to seeing under the tent. Thank you for your patience and stay tuned as we get closer to unveiling the locomotive really soon.
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