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New Howarth Park locomotive arrives in Santa Rosa

Sorry, Engine No. 74, your days are numbered.

Your replacement, Engine No. 392, arrived Thursday at Santa Rosa’s corporation yard, its golden bell gleaming in the morning sunlight and a shine on its red, white and blue paint.

Fuel-injected and water-cooled, this beauty purrs with the turn of a silver key. And the whistle? The phrase “waking the dead” comes to mind.

But don’t worry, No. 74, no one will forget the joy you brought to hundreds of thousands of riders over 47 years pulling the load at Santa Rosa’s Howarth Park.

Your replacement may be all that and a bag of charcoal, but you’re still the top dog - at least until next spring, when the youngster takes over.

In 2013, the Santa Rosa Parks Foundation began raising money to replace the Howarth Park locomotive, which, like the new engine, is a replica 1863 C.P. Huntington steam engine. Nearly a half-century of ferrying passengers has taken its toll on old No. 74, which has missed work days because of age-related maintenance issues and difficulty finding parts.

“The last time the fly-wheel went out, we found a replacement one in a guy’s garage in Texas,” said Jeff Tibbetts, the city’s recreation coordinator for Howarth Park.

Tibbetts marveled Thursday at the new locomotive, which has a modern four-cylinder engine and amenities, including plush seating for the engineer.

“It’s got a gas gauge!” Tibbetts said.

“I didn’t know they had those on trains.”

The Parks Foundation raised $220,000 to purchase the locomotive and parts. Nearly half of that amount - $100,000 - was donated by David Codding, who owns Montgomery Village and whose name will grace the new locomotive.

Additional fundraising is needed to buy a coach that meets accessibility requirements under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act. The Parks Foundation is about $50,000 shy of meeting that goal, said Anita Anderson of the foundation.

Delivery was included in the purchase price of the new train. Travis Wells transported the locomotive from Wichita, Kan. to Santa Rosa, covering 1,773 miles in less than three days. Following a rainstorm in New Mexico, he stopped at a truck stop in Arizona and paid to have the engine washed.

“I try to keep it clean for when I drop it off,” said Wells, who lives in Arkansas City, Kan.

Thursday’s challenge was getting the 6,100-pound locomotive off the flatbed and into storage without scratching it or worse. That job fell to Greg Dambrogi, a veteran city utilities worker and Santa Rosa native who has fond memories of riding the Howarth Park train as a kid.

If Dambrogi was nervous, he didn’t show it as he deftly slid the forks of his front-loader beneath the locomotive.

Wells drove the truck forward, allowing Dambrogi to lower the locomotive to inches above the ground, still attached to a short line of rail.

After more maneuvering, Tibbetts hopped aboard the locomotive and slowly backed it into the storage unit.

As he did so, the red cattle-catcher on the front of the engine ever-so-slightly kissed the ramp, leaving no margin for error.

As for Engine No. 74, life will chug along as usual until Oct. 30, when K-Land at Howarth officially closes and winter sets in. City officials say they are exploring auctioning off the old locomotive or donating it to a museum.

To everything there is a season. And when your number’s up, it’s up.

You can reach Staff Writer Derek Moore at 707-521-5336 or derek.moore@pressdemocrat.com.

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