|
|
|
MailTribune.com
  • Train engine set to end 123-year trip

  • JACKSONVILLE — A locomotive that pulled the first train into town in 1891 is coming home to be displayed permanently on tracks set in the original railroad right of way below the old high school at Bigham Knoll.
    • email print
  • JACKSONVILLE — A locomotive that pulled the first train into town in 1891 is coming home to be displayed permanently on tracks set in the original railroad right of way below the old high school at Bigham Knoll.
    Mel and Brooke Ashland, owners of the Bigham Knoll site, purchased H.K. Potter Company locomotive No. 1236 and will donate it to the Jacksonville Heritage Society. A crane is scheduled to lift the 10-ton unit off a trailer and set it on rails this morning.
    "It's been a long time coming. We had sort of given up on it and actually put grapes in that area," said Brooke Ashland. The grapes came out to make way for rails.
    The Ashlands brought the engine to town on a flatbed in June 2009 as part of the city's 150th anniversary parade.
    Purchase discussion had been going on for six years with owner Dave Wilkinson of Fillmore, Calif., and when another serious buyer emerged, Wilkinson contacted the Ashlands to see if they wanted to make a deal. The purchase price was not disclosed.
    "He really wanted us to have it," Ashland said. "He really thought it should be in Jacksonville."
    The engine left Southern California headed for Southern Oregon on Wednesday.
    Workers have installed two rails that were donated by a Medford railroad club for the display. Railroad ties were located Thursday after it appeared there were none available locally, said Ashland.
    A rare wood burning unit, the locomotive served for about three years on the route but was replaced by a more powerful unit to help trains get up grades between Jacksonville and Medford. Rogue Valley Railroad Company had been created to link the town with Medford after the main railroad line bypassed Jacksonville. Operations ceased in 1925.
    The locomotive, built in 1890 in Pittsburgh, has been used in movies, as have others Wilkinson has at his Fillmore and Western Railway. After leaving Jacksonville, it served at several sites in Oregon and was salvaged following a 1913 fire. In 1946 it was purchased and moved to Fillmore.
    A walking tour between the engine's new home and the original depot on Oregon Street, now the Chamber of Commerce information center, will be developed, Ashland said.
    Jacksonville Heritage Society was formed in 2010 by then- President Carolyn Kingsnorth, the Ashlands and others to preserve the former Jackson County Courthouse and other historic properties during a transition period for the county-owned buildings. Jacksonville's city government took over ownership of the buildings in 2012.
    "We are continuing because we want to continue to bring history back to Jacksonville," said Ashland, who is now society president. "Now that will include a train."
    Planning commissioners approved locating the engine at Bigham Knoll when a campus master plan was approved in 2008. The Ashlands have developed a restaurant, business offices and other facilities on the eight-acre site. They have approval to develop additional buildings.
    "People tend to forget we had a railroad for 35 years, so this brings back an important part of our history," said historian Larry Smith. "How often can history be recreated on the same spot where it used to run in 1891?"
    Tony Boom is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach him at tboomwriter@gmail.com.
Reader Reaction

      calendar