Blaine Hadfield, of Arrowhead Models, met with Sheridan, WY Mayor and City Council on Monday night to advocate and discuss strategies for the restoration of Burlington (CB&Q) steam locomotive #5631. Furthermore, he pledged financial support from Arrowhead Models.
Burlington #5631 is a O5A class Northern that was donated to the city of Sheridan by the CB&Q in 1962. The locomotive has been held under the auspices of the Sheridan Rotary Club. However, asbestos abatement requires a capital investments well in excess of the club's budget, and they have gone in search of alternative solutions that may include the sale or scrap of the locomotive.
The O5 Northern locomotives is the last class of steam locomotive acquired by the CB&Q. 36 were built, and #5631 is one of only four that have been preserved. The others are in Golden, CO, St. Joseph, MO, and Douglas, WY.
In addition to pledging our support to the project, part of the conversation with the mayor and city council was an attempt to connect our perspectives as a business owners, historians and enthusiasts with historical pieces and the real history they represent.
Among these perspectives, I spoke to how the historic depot, the original wood frame station, Sheridan Inn, the turntable, and the locomotive represents all of the pieces to properly tell the historical narrative for how the railroad served Sheridan City. These things still exist and within close proximity. To move the locomotive off-site is to divest oneself of a key piece in this narrative. And, the combination of these pieces--collated as they are--is more rare and more valuable than any of the pieces in isolation. As such, I laid out an argument for how the relocation of the locomotive represents a less ideal outcome than having the locomotive properly restored and displayed onsite.
Sheridan has historic and cultural reasons to take the restoration of locomotive seriously. The Wyoming State Historical Society writes on the state historical website that the arrival of the Burlington & Missouri River railroad "sealed Sheridan’s destiny as the center for this region of Wyoming." Local farmers and merchants did so much railroad-related business in the month following the arrival of the railroad that they paid off bank loans and set off a 20-year boom for Sheridan.
Additionally, Wyoming is unique as a railroad state. In all of America, there is no state where such a high percentage of the population live in towns so entrenched in railroad history. We hope that city leaders view this opportunity to contribute where the railroad and the lore of the frontier West are intrinsically entwined.
The preservation of CB&Q #5631 is a long way from sure. But, we are grateful that the Mayor and City Council met with us. We are an enthusiastic and willing partner in the effort. If you would like to contribute to saving this historic locomotive, please feel free to reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org. At this early juncture, even something as simple as lending your voice as a concerned individual has merit.
Finally, we would like to thank the Burlington Route Historical Society for their input as we crafted our message for this important meeting. We look forward to working more with them as the preservation effort takes shape.