Vandals attempt to de-rail Trolley Park; Donations needed to help with repairs

Eight windows were broken in this PCC car at Iowa Trolley Park, along with seven windows in the nearby depot. - Reporter photo by Chris Barragy.

by Marianne Gasaway

The community is rallying to help a local non-profit which was a recent victim of vandalism.

Clear Lake police are searching for who is responsible for 15 broken windows at Iowa Trolley Park, operated by the Mason City & Clear Lake Electric Railroad Historical Society at 3429 Main Ave.  The damage, estimated at over $2,100, is thought to have occurred the weekend of Aug. 16-17.

Stan Gentry, president of the non-profit group, said more than half of the $861 needed to replace broken windows in the historical train depot has been donated and that work has been completed.  However, another $1,300 is needed to replace eight windows broken in the PCC rail car which sits on exhibit at the trolley park.

“We will not start that work until the money is raised,” said Gentry.  “And when we do, we are not going to replace them with original glass.  We will use Lucite, which would be harder for vandals to damage.”

Gentry noted that although the park appreciates the PCC car for its educational value as an interesting exhibit, the rail car is not a local artifact.  It was purchased for $1 from Wichita, Kan., and transported here back in the mid-1990s with the idea it would be restored and run on the park’s interpretive track.

 “We don’t have the funding to get it running and I don’t anticipate getting funding for it.  So to put it back to its original condition is not a priority,” he said.

Instead, volunteers are committed to building “The Lyon,” an exact replica of a locomotive built in 1869 by Union Iron Works in San Francisco, Calif. The 22 ton engine is a wood-burner which still runs on standard gauge rails.  From the point of its pilot to the back of its car carrying timber and water, the finished locomotive will measure 46-feet.

Gentry started the Lyon project 28 years ago and believed it would be finished by now, but diversions have derailed the effort from time to time.

“We keep plugging away at it.  Every part takes hours,” he said.  “The society has about 20 volunteers nationally— just seven or eight local.  It takes time and money.  We still have to make the cab, which could be free to costing us $36,000.  It just depends on who is making it.  Much of the cash needed to make it has been donated, which is a big help.”Despite his disappointment about the recent vandalism, Gentry said the trolley park has not previously been targeted for destruction.  In fact, he said the public was supportive of him when he re-established non-profit status for the park in 2006 after the original founding group disbanded in 2002.

The park has remained open Saturdays, Memorial Day to Labor Day, for visitors to explore railroad history.  Guests can learn to run a diesel locomotive or pump an old-time hand car.

Those who have not visited Iowa Trolley Park may have seen Gentry sharing his love of all-things railroad at Thursdays on Main.  He and other volunteers set up a pedal train for kids to enjoy downtown Thursday evenings in the summer.  Donations received for the ride support Iowa Trolley Park.

 Last week, in the wake of the vandalism incident, a

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