Railway Preservation News

Trying to save the 503
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Author:  wgcrush [ Wed Mar 07, 2018 3:00 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Trying to save the 503

For those who missed the Port Arthur City Council meeting about KCS/L&A 503, here's a link to view it. Warning, it's 80 minutes long...but worth it. Get your popcorn out!


Author:  Richard Glueck [ Wed Mar 07, 2018 9:10 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Trying to save the 503

Somebody who watched it, please give us the Readers Digest summary?
What is the status of the Council's decision making? Is the locomotive going to be preserved? Is it going to be restored? Is it going to be scrapped?

Author:  ebtrr [ Wed Mar 07, 2018 9:13 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Trying to save the 503

I am not convinced that this story is over yet. The unilateral decision by the city deprives Inland of a substantial chunk of income upon which their bid was based. I would not be surprised at all if there is another chapter to this in the courts which could drag out a lot longer than anything else so far.

For my part, Jason and Nick are welcome to keep my donation until ALL the dust settles and 503 is deemed completely safe for at least the near term. At this point I certainly do not see that as the case. As I noted before, I do not want my donation going to the city for anything. If they are selfish enough to insist on keeping 503 from a better future than they can provide for it, then they should fund that future themselves.

Author:  ArtS [ Wed Mar 07, 2018 9:44 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Trying to save the 503

Jason & Nick,

Don't rush in returning funds or giving up. Let's see what happens. When bills and quotes start coming in, the mood of the majority may shift the other way. It may take some time. Just be ready when it does. I've acquired some rare pieces (of similar size) this way.


Art S.

Author:  co614 [ Wed Mar 07, 2018 11:52 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Trying to save the 503

According to Jason's remarks during the Council meeting the GoFundMe organization has very tight regulations on how the raised funds can be used. He said it was his opinion that based upon the Mission Statement on the GFM page used to solicit the donations the funds could NOT be used to assist keeping the engine in PA as the vast majority of donors were motivated to give by the appeal of eventually seeing her back in steam.

I think Jason is correct. Therefore the only proper thing to be done is to refund the donations IMHO .

Ross Rowland

Author:  Scranton Yard [ Wed Mar 07, 2018 11:56 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Trying to save the 503

A link to the latest from Port Arthur News. Everyone has now had the opportunity to make their Opening Moves. Now this is into the Middle Game so it is likely too early to predict the outcome of the End Game. Especially without knowledge of the Grounds Rules in Port Arthur. So what is the dynamic here? Is former Councilmember John Beard vying for Councilmember Doucet's seat (which is Mr. Beard's old District 4 seat)? Or for Mayor Freeman's? How does Councilmember Moses' productive and clear-headed analysis fit in? Lastly, and unfortunately, how does race play into this? Was Mr. Beard trying to use some sort of race code when he suggested that selling 503 (presumably to Mr. Sobczynski) was like "Selling" one's children "into bondage"? If he is, is the City Council in Port Arthur sophisticated enough to see this thinly veiled ploy for what it is and reject it? All of the pieces are now in motion but two parameters have not changed. Port Arthur has limited financial resources and lacks the expertise to do what it needs to and Mr. Beard sees this as an opportunity to raise his standing in the community. Those who have been around steam locomotives for any length of time know two things: It is not as easy as it looks and Mr. Sobczynski's plan represents the best possible preservation outcome for 503. So perhaps it is best to let Mr. Beard succeed or fail on his own. It matters not if 503 stays where it is for a couple of more months.


Author:  David Notarius [ Wed Mar 07, 2018 1:15 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Trying to save the 503

Hi Guys,
Time to stop the bickering and finger pointing. Let get a bit more constructive and proactive here! So far, we helped stay off the oxygen acetylene torches, and perhaps started the 503 down the road to restoration and possible operation. Has anyone come up with or started thinking about a working compromised or solution with the city and citizens of Port Arthur? Since the PA citizens do not want 503 to go to Florida, can the 503 stay or operate in Port Arthur at least part of the year?

Another idea to be considered, what about working with the city rebuilding the 503 for operation? I used to live in Sabine Pass, south of Port Arthur, back in the late 70’s and early 80’s when I was working on a ship I the offshore oil industry. The area was full of skilled oilfield and refinery workers, and supporting heavy industries, many now out of work. Rebuilding the 503 in Port Arthur could be a catalyst to creating jobs and new rail related industries. The 503 could operate in the area, along the port. There is an abandoned railroad right of way between Port Arthur and Sabine Pass, which follows the shipping channel that could be rebuilt and have the potential of a short excursion line. These are just ideas or suggestions to work with. We started the bowling ball rolling, and we shouldn’t give up because we bowled a gutter ball.

Have fun guys, David Notarius, Cambridgeshire UK, one time patron of the The Boudain Hut in Port Arthur (try their BBQ Link!)

Author:  co614 [ Wed Mar 07, 2018 1:33 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Trying to save the 503

David thanks for your upbeat ideas. I feel duty bound to report to you that had you watched last nights 90 minute Port Arthur Council meeting I dare say you would not have come close to submitting your ideas.

It was I'm sad to say an incredible show of total incompetence. The City Attorney struggled to put 2 sentences together and the Mayor had zero idea of how to conduct a proper meeting. The 3 citizens who spoke in favor of keeping the 503 in PA were even further out there. One of them likened letting the 503 leave PA was like " putting your children into bondage". I kid you not.

It's plain to see that the City will now fiddle fart around with this for months and months, then realize that the citizens haven't a ghost of a chance of raising the needed monies and by then Jason will have had no choice ( by the GFM rules) but to refund the donations and PA will be back to square one.

PA is basically an insolvent City with a terrible credit rating. After witnessing last nights meeting I don't wonder why.

Sad but true. Ross Rowland

Author:  Ron Travis [ Wed Mar 07, 2018 2:22 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Trying to save the 503

I watched the whole meeting, and at 15:21, it seems that the point is made that the Council did not know about the original contract to demolish 503 because it was based on an emergency order, and therefore was able to bypass the Council on a sort of “fast track” basis.

This seems to be confirming the City’s previous claim that they had no intention to sell or move the locomotive, or to scrap it.

I don’t know what to make of this newest explanation of the City’s motives in this matter. However, I do believe they are correct in saying that they now own the locomotive and have always owned it since 1957.

Apparently, to make the deal to rescue 503, Jason approached Inland, thinking they had become the owner of 503 with the advent of the remediation contract with the City.

This is a fine point because, the contract did give Inland the right to scrap 503, and apparently the right to keep the proceeds of the scrap value payment. So it would seem that the locomotive essentially belonged to Inland with this contract in place.

However, the City apparently had the right to stop the contract performance, and they did so when they learned of Jason’s rescue drive. At that point, 503 was still intact and on site; and its ownership had never been specifically transferred to Inland. So the City still owned the engine.

Author:  John Risley [ Wed Mar 07, 2018 2:36 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Trying to save the 503

The big success of course is we stopped the shears from cutting up #503. Hurray for our side with many thanks to Jason&Nick and the donors who put out some donation. The primary goal was reached, the final ending obviously not to everybody's joy. If indeed there is a chance things will turn around maybe waiting to refund might be a good idea. My thoughts if changes happen and the transfer of ownership happens it will be down the road some and not anytime in the near future. But anything is possible I suppose, stranger things have happened. The tax payers will bear the burden of paying for this, not the city of PA. Let us not forget it is their locomotive {until courts agree or disagree} to do what they want with. Not a whole lot different than some foamer making the proclamation that a locomotive in NJ belongs in WA because it spent 30 years there a 100 years ago. No matter that the locomotive is legally owned by some one else.

Think David Wilkins and others are correct in what good can be taken and what can be avoided next time is a lesson that would be productive. Most of us demand transparency in our home organizations. I for one have been both "sinner and saint" and most of us have been in this department. The transparency was necessary as time was short and this was an emergency situation. Not sure if it is just an accepted Internet thing {Thanks Al Gore}for every one out there to give commentary on every detail and then mix in private thoughts. We all have done this at one time or another, me included. The point I try to make is when we start demonizing the scrapper who was on our side, demonizing the city for unknowingly making a choice that was not in OUR best interest and many of us acting out like "back ally lawyers" might not be in the best interest of trying to save or change ownership of a park engine. I cannot and am not throwing stones at anybody. I can't without throwing them at myself from past behavior. Trying to open some sort of positive dialog on what works and what might be destructive despite our good intentions. Just because we as preservationists did not get our way is not reason to demonize those who are opposed to removing the #503 from PA or covering their backsides for attempting too. The grandstanding emotional heart rendering pleas of heartbreak of keeping or disposing of a historical artifact I think should be saved for the political satire we are subject to on TV every night. When attempts to sway public opinion demand putting the current owners down or to shame, or call into concern of ethics and intelligence I think the good intentions are then marginally helpful if at all. I ask this,:If you were on the city council and read this entire thread "what would you think about the effort to transfer ownership"? I am not suggesting anything here, but ask anybody that wants to form an opinion this is where to start maybe?

I applaud all those who worked with Jason and Nick to stop the scrapping and offer a solid legitimate solution to the city of PA. As Ross mentioned about "leading a horse to water.............". To those involved, take a well deserved bow.

Author:  parktrains [ Wed Mar 07, 2018 3:09 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Trying to save the 503

6 months tops and this thing ends up on RailServe for sale for six figures and the description details how they just recently turned down a $65,000 offer.

Author:  superheater [ Wed Mar 07, 2018 3:16 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Trying to save the 503

co614 wrote:
One of them likened letting the 503 leave PA was like " putting your children into bondage". I kid you not.

Good thing I wasn't there. The temptation to say "the children that a couple of weeks ago you were going to kill with an acetylene torch?" would have been irresistible.

Author:  PMC [ Wed Mar 07, 2018 4:24 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Trying to save the 503

If sending it out-of-state is a nonstarter, offer to move it to the TSR temporarily (which I believe was the original plan anyway) until the local group can get its plan in place (which they won't), that will give the yocals in PA the chance to lose interest. On the bright side, the group won't need to make what was essentially a $35k kidnapping ransom payment, which rankled a lot of us.

Author:  co614 [ Wed Mar 07, 2018 4:27 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Trying to save the 503

Good point Superheater. There were many points during the 90 minute agony that I too wished I could participate.

I had a very interesting conversation with the senior reporter of the PA News today.

After WW 11 PA like so many American cities experienced a mass movement of whites to the suburbs leaving the core city with a majority minority population, shrinking property values, rising crime and many abandoned properties. As of 2018 its population is made up of approx. 29% whites, and 71% Hispanic and black. Approx. 1/3 of residential and 40% of commercial buildings are derelict and/or abandoned. The City's credit rating is below junk.

In the mid 80's began a pattern that exists to this day wherein only minorities run for public office. The current Council is comprised of 1 white and 8 minority persons. In the last several decades the city has suffered from a long list of natural and man made disasters. The current City Attorney and City Mgr. are cronies of the current Mayor. If you had witnessed the City attorneys performance last night I assure you that you would have asked yourself how she ever passed the Bar exam.

Anyone who sat through last nights display of abject incompetence has to have come away thinking " this is the Council that runs this place". No wonder its insolvent.

My strongest advice to Jason is accept the thanks of all steam lovers for saving this engine from being cut up as that's the major victory. Walk away ( no run as fast as you can) from this sad scene, refund the donations and don't look back.

In my 40 year commodity futures trading career the hardest and most important lesson to learn was when to take a loss and leave a bad trade behind.

Trying to deal with this sorry collection of incompetents can only lead to sorrow.

IMHO-Ross Rowland

Author:  David Dewey [ Wed Mar 07, 2018 4:43 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Trying to save the 503

I don't disagree with Ross' assessment of the situation, but I can tell you that even better-run cities usually end up with the same "locomotive stays" decision. I was campaigning for preservation work on my hometown's locomotive (after I had moved away) and a group of senior citizens had formed to fight anything being done to the locomotive--except by them! I learned much later that the leader of the group was setting ground work for his campaign to run for a county supervisor position. None-less, what happened at the meeting when that group actually stated, "We don't care if it rusts into the ground, the locomotive isn't leaving town." and the city council said, "What David wants to do is the right thing, but this is your town." That sentence is burned into my memory. At the time I was so shocked that I didn't think to ask them to table the issue until their next meeting--one seldom expects to be "Tarred & Feathered" from their hometown! That was decades ago, and the engine is still there, looking much sadder and having had parts literally cut off of it by vandals.
The option of taking the engine to the Texas State RR to allow remediation of the sight and return to a new display is a great idea, and might be presented as a low-cost alternative to moving it within the park. And we all know that once that's done, it might not return to its future grave site!

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