Locomotive 223 will undergo cosmetic restoration by local volunteers under a plan approved by the Utah State Board of History.
The effort will start with improvements to a shed that now covers the engine that has been located behind the old Denver & Rio Grande Depot since 1979. The fate of the rusting hulk has been the focal point of much debate by the history board this past year.George Pitchard, who has been organizing local volunteers for the project, estimates it will cost about $6,000 to make the cosmetic restoration. He also believes the shed covering the engine, which was installed to allow removal of asbestos from the engine's boiler area, can be converted into a display facility.
The board action effectively puts on hold proposals by museum groups in Colorado and Salt Lake City to move the engine from its present location for display elsewhere. The board has been reluctant to give up ownership of the engine but has also expressed concern over its ability to raise the money needed for restoration. One estimate put the cost of making the engine operative at $1 million. Estimates for cosmetic restoration have ranged as high as $250,000.
The engine, a narrow-gauge locomotive that was believed to have served gold and silver mining operations in eastern Utah during the 1890s, was donated to Salt Lake City by the D&RG railroad in 1952 and was displayed in Liberty Park until its move to its present location. Evidence uncovered during the past year indicates Locomotive 223 never operated in Utah but spent its time in the Colorado mine fields. Local railroad history buffs believe the engine should remain in Utah because it is representative of engines that did serve the Utah mining industry.
Phil Notoriani, museum curator for the Utah Division of State History, said he supports the plan by Pitchard's group and believes local businesses can be persuaded to donate money and material for the restoration project.
Pitchard said he has been in contact with people who have some of the main components that would be needed for restoring the engine itself. He said most appear willing to donate the parts if the project is legitimate.