Volunteers Locked Out of Train Restoration, Just Ahead of Golden Spike 150

Apr 30, 2019, 6:31 PM | Updated: May 6, 2019, 10:08 pm

OGDEN, Utah — Trains are part of our history. For Steve Jones, they are his passion and his pastime. He started volunteering to help restore an 1880’s era train car, back in 2004. The restoration project as a whole, started in 1991.

“It’s a very slow, very tedious process,” Jones explained. “We’re a group of volunteers. We meet on Saturday mornings, for about four hours. So we accomplish a little bit each week.”

The group has worked over the years to re-build the Denver & Rio Grand Western Rail’s 223 engine. Many of the parts have had to have been built there in the workshop.

But about four months ago, the volunteers with the Golden Spike Chapter, of the Railway and Locomotive Historical Society say they were locked out of their workshop.

Jones says the changes started shortly after Ogden City took over control of the Union Station building.

“It’s a drastic change for us and this project,” Jones said. “We’ve been working since 1991, with a handshake.”

223 Tender Car Mayor Mike Caldwell 223 Tender Car Steve Jones A view from outside the workshop

While Union Pacific used to let the volunteers in as they needed, Mayor Mike Caldwell said the city has had to take careful inventory of what’s inside of the building, and its safety.

“Last thing anybody in the community wants to see is for the building to burn down, or catch fire, or any of that history to be destroyed,” Caldwell explained. “We recognized that they work with a lot of solvents, and a lot of other things in there, and we just want to make sure everybody understands what the other is doing.”

Caldwell added that city leaders are also eager to allow the volunteers back into the workshop.

“We really appreciate the work that they’ve done for the last 30 years,” Caldwell said. “It’s an amazing asset.”

Caldwell also added that attorneys are now hammering out the final details on a temporary agreement, which would allow the volunteers back inside the workshop to prepare, and show off the 223 over the next couple of weeks.

With the Golden Spike 150 year celebration starting this weekend, Jones says the group is eager to get inside, and prepare their workshop for tours. With an international audience coming to town, it’s a prime opportunity to attract more donors to the project.

“We’re hopeful that we’re going to get a short-term agreement in place with Ogden that we’re going to be able to have open houses,” Jones said. “We’re really at the point where we’ll be changing gears quite a bit, and fundraising to support the things that have to be done professionally.”

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Volunteers Locked Out of Train Restoration, Just Ahead of Golden Spike 150