Eau Claire City Council advocates to bring back historic train

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Rebecca Mennecke

More stories from Rebecca Mennecke

Bad Feminist
May 13, 2019

Eau Claire focuses attention on railroad safety, returning historic train

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Eau Claire City Council advocates to bring back historic train

ECCC allocated funds to bring back the historic 1920s coal-powered train, the Soo Line No. 2719, to Eau Claire.

ECCC allocated funds to bring back the historic 1920s coal-powered train, the Soo Line No. 2719, to Eau Claire.

Photo by Volume One

ECCC allocated funds to bring back the historic 1920s coal-powered train, the Soo Line No. 2719, to Eau Claire.

Photo by Volume One

Photo by Volume One

ECCC allocated funds to bring back the historic 1920s coal-powered train, the Soo Line No. 2719, to Eau Claire.

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Making railroads safer

Early last month, Eau Claire City Council approved a plan to allocate money for making railroads safer.

The vote passed 8-1.

According to The Leader Telegram, three railroad crossings are slated for much-needed safety updates, but Councilwoman Emily Berge said four more should be addressed, in part due to a recent fatality at a railroad crossing.

The issue, according to city Manager Dale Peters, is that the revenue for the council is not equaling the amount that they need in order to take care of all of the projects the council hopes to achieve. Despite growth in the community, Peters said, taxes have stayed the same.

Case in point, in order for all of the train-related things that City Council wanted to happen to happen, according to The Leader Telegram, they had to put off adding a “lily-pad walk” to Fairfax Park and put off painting portions of the Hobbs Ice Center.

Historic train comes home

In addition to making railroads safer, City Council hoped to gain funds to bring a historic train from Eau Claire back from Duluth, Minn. — the Soo Line No. 2719. According to Volume One, it would cost about $31,000 to move the train and an additional $59,500 to shelter it.

Volume One also reported that the train is from 1923 and chugged along between Minneapolis and Chicago until the 1950s. The train used to be housed in Carson Park until 1996 when a private company bought it to restore and was put in use until the early 2000s. It was then leased to a company in Duluth, who also ran it, until it needed repairs.

Now, we have the opportunity to bring the train back home.

Train safety in Eau Claire

As a former resident of the Chicago suburbs, trains have played an enormous role in developing who I am and how I view public transportation. Every fourth of July in Arlington Heights, the suburb where I grew up, we would watch people inevitably make the decision to cross railway lines at idiotic places at the Metra station near our home. Every year, we’d hear about some railway death because of poor safety and education about railroads. While Eau Claire is obviously not a Chicago suburb, I don’t see why the focus on train safety should be any different.

Every week, according to Scientific American, in 2014, approximately 16 people died from train-related accidents. And, according to numerous sources, the number of deaths annually by railway accidents and injuries is on the rise. It’s crucial to have railway safety be a priority for Eau Claire to avoid such tragedies.

Historic train? Yes please.

I think that one of the most important things about Eau Claire and its community is the charm that the city has. From the old-school Micon cinemas, the portrait of Mona Lisa on the side of a building, antique-looking brick buildings, small art stores, all the way to the new Pablo Center at the Confluence, having a sense of uniqueness in a community is vital in making Eau Claire “home” to its residents.

What better way to invoke a cool sense of community than bringing in a piece of Eau Claire’s history?

Putting my passion about trains to the side, I think there are so many legitimate reasons that the Soo Line No. 2719 should be back in Eau Claire already and that the funds should be, and continue to be, allocated to this project. Eau Claire is not some middle-of-nowhere place; having some piece of our history and where we came from as a city is so important to our sense of community, and I think that this train is exactly the type of piece we need.

I mean, if we had the option to have a historical train in our very own city that looks a little bit like either the Hogwarts Express or the Polar Express, why wouldn’t we take it?

Mennecke can be reached at [email protected]

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