The ‘5 Spot’ choo-choo chooses Los Gatos
Judy Peterson | San Jose Mercury News | May 6, 2013 | link
When boys get new toys they often gather together to gawk at their playthings, which is exactly what’s been going on this past week at the Billy Jones “Wildcat” Railroad.
A shiny new steam engine arrived April 29, built for the Oak Meadow Park railroad for about $350,000. The money was raised through train fares and donations.
The new “5 Spot” will replace the 107-year-old “2 Spot” that is being retired due to its age.
“This is the engine for the next 100 years,” railroad CEO Peter Panacy said.
Volunteer railroad board president Doug Sporleder added, “We want to remain a steam railroad. We have a diesel engine we can run as a back-up that can pull five cars filled with 20 kids of all ages.”
That’s the load the new 5 Spot is expected to carry, too, when it officially takes over the tracks this summer. In the meantime, many of the 60-plus train volunteers have been gathering at the car barn at Oak Meadow Park where the locomotives and train cars are stored.
The 5 Spot was built by Merrick Light Railway Equipment Works in Marshall, Wis.
“It took four years to build it because the owner has an amusement park, so he could only work on it in his spare time,” railroad safety officer Brandon McCracken said.
McCracken towed the 5 Spot from Wisconsin to Los Gatos on a flatbed truck.
“I had to pay attention because I didn’t want to scratch it. There was a lot of money rolling behind me,” McCracken
joked.McCracken tied down tarps to cover the engine while it was in transit, but he said people still recognized what was underneath as he maneuvered west.
“I had to go around Utah because they wouldn’t give me a permit to go through the state,” he said.
Even so, McCracken made the trip to Los Gatos in three days.
Once home, McCracken worked with the equipment works owner to train four of the railway’s 26 certified engineers.
“We’ll teach people how to fire it and how to engineer the locomotive,” McCracken said. “You don’t drive a locomotive; you engineer it.”
The 5 Spot carries 83 gallons of diesel fuel and 209 gallons of water.
“It burns diesel fuel to start a fire that boils the water and creates steam,” railroad chief engineer Bill Church explained.
The engine weighs approximately 18,000 pounds when it’s fully loaded.
The 5 Spot has many features that the old 2 Spot didn’t have. For instance, the 2 Spot has a headlight and a cab light, but the 5 Spot has all kinds of lights, including red and green markers that tell people which way the engine is moving. Green means it’s in reverse, red means it’s moving forward.
The 5 Spot will likely make its public debut in late July, after state-required safety permits and certifications are obtained.
But once all the paperwork is in order and the full complement of engineers is trained, the railroad plans to host a “Billy Jones Day” with free rides for everybody.