Delaney Park Locomotive 556 Improvement Project (Completed 2015)
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.
Access onto the locomotive will remain off-limits to the public as it 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 was to restore the locomotive as a “static display”.
The reason for restoring the locomotive to a “static display” rather than as climbable display is that the available funding did not allow for the Parks Department to restore 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. The landscape also was restored to a park-like setting consistent with the Delaney Park Master Plan.
Phase 1: Hazardous Cleanup
The objective for the first phase of the improvement project was 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 was completed in spring 2013 on phase 1.
Phase 2: Landscape and Signage Improvements
The main goal was to improve the existing site, including adding an aesthetic safety fence around the static display, update informational signage on the history of 556, and improve the landscape around the display including the addition of an ADA accessible walkway.
Additionally, in the fall of 2015 a TIME CAPSULE was buried in the eastern flower bed, not to be opened for 100 years! Click here for more information about the ceremonial burial of the time capsule.
The "Engine 557 Restoration Company" collaborated with the Municipality to remove operational components from the 556 engine in exchange for replicas as a method for them to rebuild their original 557 model steam engine. This exchange was a critical element of their authentic restoration project's success and the MOA is pleased to be able to help our "sister engine" get back up and running. For more information about the 557 Restoration project, please visit their website:http://www.557.alaskarails.org/index.html
or their Facebook page.
This project was completed in 2015, see below for related videos from the construction process.
Here is a fun video clip of the pre-paint progress inside the hazardous tent: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1hS_u8HIUPw
Video clip of the finish product: http://www.magisto.com/video/blZCIUsOEGE-DwRhCzE
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