Anacortes architect Brooks Middleton has been quietly attempting to gauge community interest in resuscitating Tommy Thompson’s train, which provided rides here for some 20 years a route from the Depot south to Ninth St, then west to Commercial Ave.
Middleton acknowledges the difficulties in getting the narrow gauge train running again. The locomotive has sat idle since the last century and much of the track has been ripped up or covered over. The old route is no longer viable.
Thompson build the locomotive by hand in the 1960s and ’70s. He converted a compressed-air mining engine into a steam engine powered by tree bark. When he died in 1999, his family looked for a museum to store the engine and cars and settled on Georgetown in south Seattle.
The train was back to Anacortes and donated to the Anacortes Museum three years ago and appered in the July Fourth parade on flatbed trucks in 2012.
Middleton, working with architectural intern Per Kefgen, have met with city and port leaders, as well as leaders of an antique machine club.
Middleton said has has found warm community feelings in what he calls a “complicated venture,” but no solid volunteers to help in the effort. Nevertheless, he thinks reviving the train could be a hit with tourists and locals alike.
Middleton and Kefgen have done an informal survey of existing track and have outlined two potential routes. In the map above, the dashed yellow lines consist of existing track. Blue and green represent track additions. The train house would be at the south end, represented by red.
One route would be easier to start with by placing a turntable at each end of a north-south route along Market St. and up to Fourth St. A longer, second route would head around the north end of Cap Sante Marina and out to the gazebo on Cap Sante. That route would cross both city and port property and might take time to get everything cleared.
Tommy's son Tom Thompson came across a VHS video featuring narrow gauge trains and, with permission, pulled the segment on Tommy's train and posted it on YouTube.
Middleton wondered aloud if anyone here knows how to lay track or if someone would be willing to get greasy and working on cleaning up the locomotive and maintaining it. He said steam locomotives take a lot of maintenance.
Middleton sees the next steps as do a more formal track inventory; check the locomotive condition and decided on a route. He thinks an organization will need to step forward to help take on these tasks or a new group will need to form.