Steam Engine Back on Track

June 23, 2006 - Posted at 4:49 p.m. CST

BATESVILLE, AR -- It was built in 1927 and has been used in Mexico, Louisiana and Arkansas. But nearly 80 years after first being put in service, the H.K. Porter Wood Burning Steam Engine, located in Batesville's Riverside Park, was in need of a major facelift.

After working hard for over 30 years for a number of companies, including Batesville White Lime Company, this Porter steam engine retired to Batesville.

"The city of Batesville was given this engine. The Batesville Jaycee's took the responsibility of moving the engine to the park and that was in 1960," said restoration committee chairman George Bentz.

Since then, the engine has been synonymous with Riverside Park and has seen generations of Batesville residents grow up.

"Whenever I was a child I played on this train," said Chris Bolin of the restoration crew, "I have memories of getting on this train and using my imagination for a thousand different ways."

However, almost 80 years after being constructed, the train was in rough shape and that's when the H.K. Porter Restoration Committee decided to step in and get the project back on track.

"You really couldn't tell it was a train," said Bolin, "It was rusted. Some of it beyond repair. It was just in horrible shape after years and years of neglect."

Six months ago, the Porter Restoration Committee set a date of July 4th to have the project complete...the date when a number of former residents come back to town to visit family, friends and relive memories of their past.

"It's the focal point, it's a primary part of the park for children and a number of adults," said Bentz.

The project cost around $10,000...a small price to pay to restore this antique that still has over 90% of it's original parts.

"I wouldn't have it any other way. You see the pleasure and joy of those kids who come to the park here," said Bentz.

Now that the engine is looking better than ever, the residents of Batesville are planning on it being part of the Riverside Park for another 40 years.

"I am sincerely grateful to see this engine in the condition that it is now and hopefully we can keep it there," said Bentz.

The money raised for the restoration was generated by current and past residents... in addition to private donations from as far away as Alaska.