Full steam ahead

CNJ staff photo: Benna Sayyed A wire company worker raises telecommunication cables to allow the locomotive a clear passage on West Grand Avenue.

Benna Sayyed

A 105-year-old locomotive retired in Hillcrest Park since 1954 was moved Thursday to its new home, one day ahead of a funding-based deadline.

The 144,000-pound steam-engine relic had to be moved by Dec. 31 as a condition of $21,512 in offsetting grants for the move.

The move to the Clovis Depot Model Train Museum on First Street took two hours. The Clovis Area Train Society plans to restore the locomotive.

“We’re kind of in uncharted territory,” said Joe Bennett, owner of Bennett House Movers, seconds before jumping into the driver’s seat of the train’s tow truck. “We’re gonna enjoy the day. Everything’s been just like we thought it would be. The weather has been a killer but we’ve had a few good days and we got to get her finished. Let’s go do it.”

Adults and children watched with excitement from nearby parked cars, snapping pictures as the rusty locomotive was towed out of Hillcrest Park for the 3-mile drive. The procession crawled through city streets at less than 4 mph.

“It’s exciting. The (city) commission started working on this several years ago so it’s exciting to finally see it come to fruition. It’s a perfect day for it,” said Clovis Legislative and Community Relations Director Claire Burroughes, who caught a glimpse of the train leaving the park.

CenturyLink, Suddenlink, and Xcel workers zoomed ahead of the train, raising cable and power wires.

“The job was pretty cool. I’m glad I helped,” said Daniel Tapia, a broadband technician for Suddenlink. “You never see a locomotive move off of the tracks. It’s like once in a lifetime to see something like this. I’ve been seeing it at the park for 20 years since I’ve been here in Clovis.”

Tapia said all wires had to be at least 18 feet, 6 inches above the ground.

Clovis police had the task of keeping the public safe by detouring traffic from the train’s route.

“It’s always fun,” said Daron Roach, the CPD community relations office. “The train was such a historic piece of Clovis history. It’s been really entertaining for us to help out and just be a part of it.

“I was in traffic for several years. We have a lot of experience in road design, traffic, traffic features. Our experience in traffic helped them get through town a lot easier.”

Bennett House Movers crew spent nearly a week preparing the train for the move.

“I don’t know any house mover in the state of New Mexico that’s ever moved a steam locomotive,” Bennett said.