Train to move to Hillcrest Park parking lot

CNJ staff photo: Gabriel Monte David Ortiz of Joe Bennett Trucking Co. sets a piece of wood under the No. 9005 train engine on Saturday at Hillcrest Park. Crew members worked to prepare the locomotive to be moved to the Clovis Train Depot on First and Main streets.

Benna Sayyed

The first movements of the 105-year-old locomotive retired in Hillcrest Park since 1954 were made on Saturday at 3 p.m.

“We put the wheels under it and we had it ready to lift and ready to go. We’re just running out of daylight today,” said Joe Bennett, owner of Bennett House Movers.

Bennett originally planned to move the locomotive from its current location to the parking lot, a distance of about 150 feet. Eventually, it will be moved to its new location at the Clovis Depot Model Train Museum.

Bennett resembled a symphony director as he and his crew scrambled around the train Saturday making sure all the necessary steps to move it were taken.

The job required workers to get on their hands and knees on the cold ground under the jacked up train. Workers moved wooden blocks to and fro, making sure everything was in place to lift the train.

Bennett said his crew had to undo some steam engine parts and place steel under the frame. House-moving beams were set on top of the steel.

Two 8-wheel converter dollies were placed underneath the locomotive’s rear. The front of the train will be hooked to a tow truck so the train can be towed on the converter dollies.

“We’ll be waiting on the wire companies to tell us when, but we’ve got a snow coming so we’ll probably finish it after the snow dries up. But we’re going to have to get it off this dirt in the morning,” Bennett said.

Bennett said a major water line from a nearby well that feeds the Hillcrest Park Zoo runs directly behind the locomotive. The city does not want the locomotive to back up and run the risk of the train’s weight crushing the pipe. To tow the locomotive forward, the concrete wall separating the parking lot from the grassy park area will be trenched around and temporarily removed with a backhoe. The train will take a hard turn to get into the parking lot.

Five tow trucks surrounded the train Saturday: One parked at each corner of the front side of the tow platform and another parked in the middle to lift the front side of the train and get it hitched for the tow.

“I’ve moved about everything but I’ve never moved a train. I’ve moved boxcars; I’ve moved grain cars, flat cars, but I’ve never moved an engine. My father moved it and my brother and my nephew are here so it’s kind of a family deal. I’ve enjoyed it, it’s been fun,” Bennett said.

“There is no move like this in a book. After 40 years of doing this kind of thing you get an idea of what it takes to make it happen,” Bennett said.

Bennett said the move from Hillcrest Park to the Clovis Depot Model Train Museum at 221 W. First St. will take place when the ground at the museum is solid and dry. Bennett’s crew is planning to work Sunday and try to move the 144,000-pound engine just to the parking lot of the park. It’s an attempt to get ahead of a snow being predicted by the National Weather Service.

Mary Lou McAnulla, a zookeeper at the Hillcrest Park Zoo, snapped pictures of the work and was happy to see progress being made.

“I’m glad to see it actually moving. I’ve lived in Clovis for 20 years and I’ve always loved this train and the history of this train. I’ve been watching it every step of the way, inch by inch by inch,” said McAnulla, who is originally from New York where trains or prevalent.

“When they said they were going to take this historic locomotive out of here and restore it to its former glory, I was very excited because without trains there would be no Clovis and without this particular engine there would be no Clovis,” McAnulla said.