By Don McAlavy
Early in 1954, Clovis City Commissioner Roy Walker wrote a letter to Earnest S. Marsh, vice-president of the Santa Fe Railroad in Chicago. In so many words, the city of Clovis was asking the railroad for a locomotive that would be displayed in Hillcrest Park.
Walker and the other commissioners knew Clovis had an ace in the hole: Earnest S. Marsh had come with his parents and siblings to Clovis in 1909, at age 6. In 1918, he went to work as a file clerk at the railroad and rose in rank to become the head of the railroad in 1957. It didn’t take much for Marsh to say yes to the city’s request.
And the request came at the right time as the railroad was changing to diesel engines. All the locomotives were removed from Clovis by 1957. The locomotive chosen by the railroad to donate to the city was one of the railroaders’ favorite engines. It was called the “Goat” as it pushed rail cars around in the yard and was better known as a switch engine..
This particular locomotive is No. 9005, a smaller steam locomotive than the main line locomotives. It was built by Baldwin Locomotive Works in 1906. It was probably brought to Clovis around 1918. In 1944 this locomotive was converted to burning oil instead of coal.
By mid-June in 1954, all the arrangements had been made to transfer No. 9005 to Hillcrest Park. The only moving outfit that could handle the job in Clovis was the Homer Bennett Moving Company. First the locomotive and then the tender had to be moved. Together the two sections weighed 144,600 pounds. The length of the entire engine, including tender, was 51 feet and 11 1/4 inches. In her prime the old engine carried eight tons of coal and 3,900 gallons of water.
On June 23, 1954, the engine was loaded on a flatbed trailer that had 24 tires, pulled by a 10-ton truck. With many bystanders watching, Homer Bennett began the move the next afternoon from the Santa Fe Railroad grounds.
They went east to the Portales Highway, then south to Brady Avenue and then east to Norris Street and turned north. They were halted at the railroad crossing at Mabry Drive and Norris Street due to a local train from Texico that came into town. They continued north across Highway 60-70-84 and north on Norris Street to about Grand, or Fourth, or Fifth Street (nobody remembers exactly) and turned west to Sycamore Street. Then they went north to 10th Street and east into Hillcrest Park where a concrete slab and a set of rails were ready for the engine and tender.
The trip took 3 1/2 hours. The difficult job of unloading the engine was postponed until the next morning. The tender arrived the next day.
The workmen on the job with Bennett were Claud Lee, L.B. Bryan, A.M. Jordan, Evaristo Gonzales, Gary Bennett, Billy Bob Black, Divern Roberts, and young Buddy Bennett, age 12.
Buddy Bennett, now 61, said they moved the engine early in the morning while it was cool, otherwise the tires would sink into the asphalt by noon.
A “handing over” ceremony was conducted with Superintendent of Santa Fe RR Pecos Division T. W. Goolsby. He gave Mayor O.G. Potter a document stating No. 9005 was now officially owned by the city. Yes, Roy Walker was there too with a big smile on his face.
“Old No. 9005,” said Goolsby, “will serve as a monument to early day railroading and the fast passing ‘steam engine,’ in wake of the powerful diesels.”
Now the sad part. For nearly 50 years No. 9005 has been exposed to the elements and neglect. And someone stole the bell on the engine.
Enter Phil Williams, who owns the old Santa Fe Depot (the oldest building in Clovis) and has made it into a train museum, The Clovis Depot Model Train Museum.
Williams and the Clovis Downtown Revitalization Program, and the Clovis Area Train Society, all volunteers, hope to restore the old engine and move it to the open area between the depot and Highway 60-84.
Hopefully, a coach car and a caboose can be added to the old engine. It could be a fine tourist attraction.
The estimated cost of restoring and moving the engine is $10,000. Donations will gladly be accepted at the Chamber of Commerce, 215 Main.
Don McAlavy is a history buff who lives in Clovis.