When the newly restored Shay locomotive is finally reassembled, it will go on display with old fire engines, calliopes and other artifacts in a downtown museum dedicated to Longview's history.

For now, though, the 82-year-old engine remains in pieces.

All 700 parts are restored after eight years' work by Longview historian John Chilson, local businesses and other members of the Longview Public Service Group.

The group has spent the last year scouting out potential downtown sites where the engine can be housed indoors.

At the engine's previous location on the lawn outside the Longview Public Library, exposure to the elements had so corroded the engine that rust had eaten completely through some of the steel.

"Having watched the thing deteriorate, it's important to have it inside," Chilson said.

Shay locomotives, only manufactured until WWII, were used by loggers to drag logs out of the woods. This engine was presented to the city of Longview as a gift from the Long Bell Lumber Co. in 1956.

Only about 3,000 Shays were manufactured, and hard-to-find Shay parts are in high demand from train enthusiasts and metal thieves. Several of the train's parts, including the headlights and bronze nameplate, had been stolen while it was on the library grounds.

Chilson tracked the stolen nameplate to a home in Indiana, where its owner, unaware it was stolen, refused to sell it back to Chilson. So a new nameplate was cast from a photo provided by the tipster that alerted them of its whereabouts.

Chilson and the Service Group have spent about $100,000 in cash and donated serves to restore Longview's Shay. About $40,000 of that came from local businesses, including Wayron Inc., which donated sandblasting services, and Cloverdale Paint, which donated $10,000 worth of painting.

Other donated services came from Cowlitz Clean Sweep, which removed asbestos, and King Crane, which lifted and relocated the locomotive several times.

"There's been a lot of community support put into it," Chilson said.

The Service Group initially hoped to place the locomotive in the building that houses Reid's Pit Stop, but an ownership dispute was settled on behalf of the current owner, Chris Reid.

Chilson said he is now interested in three other potential sites for the museum: An empty parking lot near Guse's Gourmet Coffee at 1208 Commerce Ave., the empty Elk's building at 12th Avenue and Hudson Street are both potential candidates, and an empty lot at the corner of Commerce and Maple Street.

Chilson could not give a time frame for selecting and purchasing a location for the museum.

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