Magic City Express ready to roll

In addition to the barbecues, fireworks displays and assorted Independence Day diversions, today should mean full-steam ahead for the Railroad Museum of Minot’s 3/5 scale steam engine, with its three cars and caboose ready to roll around Roosevelt Park.

If everything is ready, it will be the first run for the Magic City Express since the 2011 Souris River flood.

“With any luck we’ll be running tomorrow,” museum president James Huston said Wednesday. He was busy putting the finishing touches to the locomotive Wednesday afternoon with his wife, Jany. Odds and ends aside, they only needed to shore up the shoulder around the rail switch at the track’s northeastern curvature. The main obstacle has been clearing the overgrown tracks, helped along by the city’s maintenance department.

“They’ve been really helpful,” he said, adding that their services are generally high in demand at this time of the year.

“They did most of it,” said maintenance superintendent Brian Mathson, when asked. “99.9 percent of it. We helped where we could.”

Living in Minot the past 20 years, Huston has spent 12 of those volunteering with the museum. Enjoying both the trains themselves and history in general, Huston said “the Railroad Museum of Minot is a great place to bring both those things together.”

Fortunately for enthusiasts, the museum itself was undamaged during the flood, suffering only some sewer backup. But like much else around the city’s riverside parks, the engine and cars were all submerged in water, the shoulders and foundations around the track eroded and overgrown. The wooden platform by the Roosevelt Park sundial was also rendered unusable, and will be replaced by the City of Minot with a larger one built from concrete. Huston believes work on that should be finished by the month’s end.

Rewired, repainted and given a renovative going-over, the 3/5 scale Great Northern F8 model steam locomotive is in working order. “It runs like a Bobcat,” he explained, actually operating on diesel power but with the appearance of a steam engine. Built in 1989, it runs along a track about 7/8 of a mile long, which takes about 12 minutes to circumnavigate.

Admission to ride the locomotive is $3 for adults, with children six and under riding for free with an adult admission. Proceeds go to the museum, which does not charge admission for visits. “This pays for that, basically,” said Huston.

Located downtown at 19-1st St. NE, the museum is open Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Parties can schedule visits most any time, however, by calling 852-7091. “It’s not a problem for someone to come down,” Huston said, with volunteers available to accomodate everything from school trips and reunions to weddings. He even has heard someone considering it for their funeral service.