Southern Pacific Engine No. 2355, which has been at Pioneer Park since 1958, is about to get a massive makeover. Work is expected to begin the week of April 10 to remove asbestos and lead paint from the iconic train. The process involves constructing eight-foot high hard wood panels around the train and encasing it in double layers of plastic, giving it a “bubble wrap” appearance, according to a press release.
The city of Mesa has strict asbestos abatement procedures to ensure the process is completely safe to those inside and outside of the work area. An oversight consultant will be there to make sure procedures are followed. Air leaving the site is filtered with HEPA vacuums so no asbestos or lead can escape.
Once the abatement work is completed, a project to repair and restore the train is scheduled to begin in mid-May. The restoration is expected to take at least a year. The restoration work is being funded through private donations.
“We are happy to partner with the City of Mesa to refurbish the train to its former glory. I think people will be very happy with the final restoration,” Save Our Train Committee Chair Jim Ruiz said.
Once restored, the train will have an elevated platform, stairs leading to the cab, new lighting and a new elevated walkway that will be ideal for “selfies.” The train’s bell, whistle and front and rear headlamps have already been restored. The elevated platform will be patterned after the old Southern Pacific Depot in Mesa and will include benches, interpretative signage and a small picnic ramada.
Southern Pacific Engine No. 2355, built in 1912 and donated to the City of Mesa for exhibit, delighted children for decades at Pioneer Park and holds cherished memories of days gone by. Fenced in since 1993, the train has been deteriorating from the elements. The Save Our Train Committee, which is funding the restoration, continues to accept donations at www.saveourtrain.com.
A massive project to begin improvements to Pioneer Park, 526 E. Main St., is expected to begin in early May. The construction will involve closing the park for several months. The target for reopening the park is Thanksgiving 2017 with the start of Merry Main Street.
In addition to the train restoration, park improvements will include a new water play plaza, installation of an iconic play structure with multiple connections provided by way of an elevated walkway, remodeling and ADA upgrades to the existing restrooms, relocation of two basketball courts, new landscaping in multiple areas, new plazas to enhance the train area and historical monuments, expanded Wi-Fi coverage, expanded infrastructure to support special events and new site furnishings and LED lighting fixtures throughout the park.
“Pioneer Park will feel like a new park with state-of-the-art amenities while, at the same time, we are preserving and improving the historic assets. One of the exciting elements is that we are activating the space around the train so that the train is highlighted, not hidden,” Mesa Parks, Recreation and Community Facilities Director Marc Heirshberg said.
Mesa Feastival Forest, which offers a variety of gourmet food trucks and live music every Saturday evening at the southwest corner of Pioneer Park, will end after Saturday, April 29 because of the pending construction work. It will resume in September.
Funding for the Pioneer Park improvements is from the 2012 Parks Bond approved by Mesa voters.