The historic 1924 Shay logging locomotive is 70 percent reassembled and looks like a train again, but it probably won't reappear on the Longview Library lawn until next summer at the earliest.
Long-Bell Lumber Co. presented the city of Longview with the 50-foot-long locomotive in 1956 to display as a tribute to the city's logging roots, and the city placed it next to the Longview Library. And there it sat, unprotected from the weather and thieves until the mid-1990s, when the city gave the nod to Longview history buff John Chilson to restore it.
Chilson and Longview businessman Jeff Wilson disassembled the rusting hulk into 700 pieces in 1998. The restoration work was finished by 2005, but the parts remained in storage because there wasn't a practical place to reassemble and display the locomotive. The Chilsons and Wilsons entirely paid for the restoration job, which has cost "tens of thousands" of dollars, Wilson said.
Last year, the City Council approved a plan to return the engine to the library grounds. For the last six months, Wilson and a crew of skilled volunteer laborers, including longshoremen, have been putting the locomotive back together at Chilson's house on Columbia Heights.
Friday, Wilson said he expects to finish reassembling the engine by March using old photos, memory and books.
"It's not been an easy task, I assure you," said Wilson, whose family restores old military equipment such as World War II amphibious trucks.
The 64-ton locomotive will need to be brought to the library in three pieces and lowered with a crane onto a railroad bed that will prevent the engine from sinking into the earth.
However, before that can happen, a detailed site plan needs to be prepared for the city Historic Preservation Commission, Library Board and Parks Board to approve, and that's the city's responsibility, Wilson and Chilson said. Also, someone will need to design, fundraise for materials and construct a covered shelter to protect the restored locomotive from the elements, Wilson said.