Having carried an estimated 2 million passengers over 47 years of service, the little locomotive made its final laps Saturday at Santa Rosa’s Howarth Park, taking riders who had made reservations weeks in advance for a final trip aboard the miniature choo-choo.
Among those taking the day’s first trip was 3-year-old Caleb Moeller, decked out in a striped “Sonoma TrainTown” cap, striped train overalls and red bandanna.
“He definitely loves trains,” said his mother, Cadence Moeller of Santa Rosa. “We’ve been here before.”
The city’s Recreation and Parks Department set up Saturday’s farewell excursions before the replica C.P. Huntington steam engine enters retirement.
“This train has been part of our community,” Jeff Tibbetts, Saturday’s engineer, told the first group of riders. He said the little locomotive had created memories for those who came to the park for parties and recreation.
Tibbetts, whose regular job is recreation coordinator, provided the estimated ridership count for the train, affectionately known as No. 74. He also asked whether any of the first riders had as teenagers driven the engine. None had, but he added, “We have some coming out” later in the day.
Three hundred riders reserved a spot for Saturday’s train rides, excursions that came with their own souvenir tickets.
The city started taking reservations for the rides in early October and sold out within a week, said Adriane Mertens, the department’s marketing and outreach coordinator.
The cost for a reserved ride remained the regular fare of $2.
Mertens told inquiring passersby without tickets that they’ll still be able to ride the replacement engine, No. 392, when it begins service early next year.
The new locomotive, shiny blue with red and white trim, arrived in July at the city’s corporation yard after the Santa Rosa Parks Foundation raised $220,000 for its purchase.
Next week the old engine, still handsome in its blue-gray paint, is slated to be lifted by crane off the tracks at Howarth Park and placed in storage, Mertens said. It eventually will be put up for auction, though a date has yet to be set.
Meanwhile, the replacement engine is scheduled to be brought to the park in January for a period of testing before public rides begin in February, weather permitting.
On Friday, young Caleb’s first ride on old No. 74 wasn’t his last. His mother said she had reserved two trips, adding that one seven-minute rolling adventure wouldn’t be enough to satisfy her son.
On board, seated directly behind the engine in the red-topped passenger car, Caleb enjoyed the whistle, the tunnel and the search for the fake alligator in the pond along the track — a stationary creature Tibbetts said is named “Alfred.”
Cadence Moeller said when the city is ready with Engine No. 392, Caleb will be, too.
“We’re going to be here,” she said, “when it opens up the new one.”
You can reach Staff Writer Robert Digitale at 707-521-5285 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @rdigit
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