Historic locomotive will have to be moved back
The Old 886 hasn’t moved for more than 20 years.
But soon, the 131-ton Rock Island steam locomotive outside the Wheels O’ Time Museum will take a little trip.
Construction plans to widen Illinois Route 40 in front of the museum from two to five lanes are forcing the museum to move its trademark locomotive 25 feet back from its current location.
That may seem like no big deal, but, in reality, the short move is no easy feat.
Because of the locomotive’s heft, the railroad ties in the new location first must be reinforced, which is done by Rail Works, a St. Louis company specializing in rail repair.
The work crews were out Monday repairing the track to prepare for the big move.
"We have to make the track more stable so it could support (the locomotive)," said Bill Trent, one of the founding members of the museum, 11923 N. Knoxville Ave.
That will take a couple of days.
Once that is done, one or two big "wreckers" — which are cement mixers converted into wreckers sporting all-wheel drive and a heavy-duty 30,000-pound winch — will pull the locomotive on the reinforced tracks down to its new location.
That’s if the wheels of the locomotive will move.
"We’re hoping they will turn, we don’t know because they haven’t been moved for more than 20 years," said Gary Bragg, co-founder of the museum.
The wreckers are from the same company, Balagna House Moving Inc., which moved the locomotive to the museum from its previous location at Detweiller Park in 1985, he said. For that move, the locomotive — which had ended its working career in 1952 — was jacked up onto wood cribbing and then onto house-moving dollies with hand-operated hydraulic jacks and moved seven miles through Detweiller Park to the museum.
"(The wheels) moved the last time, we think they will this time," Bragg said.
The big move is scheduled to take place sometime around Oct. 9 if all goes as planned.
If the wheels don’t turn, they may be able to slide the behemoth down the tracks, Bragg said. But if all else fails, Bragg said he just might take up a suggestion from a witty tipster who gave him this piece of advice:
"Just put a bar of soap under each wheel and they will slide," he said with a laugh. "But I hope the moving of it will be anticlimactic. It’s the other work beforehand that’s a lot of work."
The locomotive is owned by the Peoria Regional Museum Society and is housed and maintained by the Wheels O’ Time Museum.
Built in 1909, the train has been a museum exhibit since 1985, a donation from the Peoria Park District, which displayed it for years at Detweiller Park. It became the last steam locomotive to operate into Peoria on the Rock Island lines.
Anita Szoke can be reached at (309) 686-3248 or email@example.com.