PROVO — Janet Clements was out taking pictures Monday morning as twin cranes lifted a 50- to 70-ton steam engine and its coal tender onto a pair of industrial-strength lowboy trailers.

Braden Wulfenstein, 12, and Derek Roylance, 15, balanced on their bikes as they watched the massive black locomotive sway on its cables and finally settle heavily onto the transport that would take it to a new home on the tracks of the Heber Valley Railroad.

But most of those watching were unhappy about the relocation of what's been a popular park playtoy for more than 45 years.

"My kids grew up playing on that thing. My grandkids have played on it. This is just a shame. It just makes me sick to see it go and the park developed," said Clements. She has lived on 900 North across from the Geneva Recreation Association Park for 35 years.

The association recently closed the park because there's no more revenue coming in now that Geneva Steel has shut down.

GRA officials offered to sell the park to Provo city, but Provo officials declined the offer. The land has since been donated to Utah Valley State College, which intends to sell it to developers and use the money to create a scholarship fund.

"We hope the developer keeps the stream and the big trees," said Monte Burke, GRA's attorney. Burke said the 8.6 acres are probably worth several hundred thousand dollars.

Burke said the association felt a scholarship fund would benefit the entire county and serve the future children and grandchildren of those who created the park.

While park neighbors say they'll try to persuade UVSC to keep the park as usable public open space, school spokesman Derek Hall said it is unlikely the college will keep the land.

In any event, Engine No. 300 is getting a new lease on life as a working steam engine.

The engine began service in 1925 as a single 0-6-0 switch train for Columbia Steel Corp. located in the Ironton area of the city.

The engine was donated in 1956 to the GRA Park, where its stood as a park showpiece and served as a giant playtoy for area children. Engine No. 300's sister engine was scrapped in the 1960s.

Once the engine is back on the job, it will rejoin another engine that also worked at Ironton, Engine No. 618.

Before it is put back into service, the engine will undergo a $250,000 restoration that will include replicating some of its missing parts like the bell, the whistle and the boiler.

Ken McConnell, Heber Valley public relations spokesman, expects the locomotive to be back on track as early as 2005.

McConnell said the Heber Valley Railroad is an independent, self-sufficient enterprise dedicated to preserving Utah's rail history.

"Last year, we carried 77,000 passengers. This year, we expect to do 10 to 12 percent better," McConnell said.

"The best way to maintain a train like this is to run it as opposed to letting it dust and rust," said John Rimmasch, Heber Valley Railroad's chief mechanical officer. Rimmasch said he's hoping to get federal and state grants to help pay for the restoration.

Wulfenstein and Roylance will miss the no-holds-barred games of tag they played on the old engine.

"We were having competitions, climbing up the sides when I fell off," said Wulfenstein. "I wasn't hurt too bad."

Roylance said it was always fun to play on the train. "If you were small enough, you could hang on the bottom of it," he said.

Clements said losing the park will hurt because it's lush and green and unlike any other park in Provo. The hillside provides a natural buffer against the outside world and the stream keeps it cool and fresh.

"My daughter wanted to have her wedding reception here," she said.

Provo City spokesman Michael Mower said it would be imprudent for the city to buy the park when it already has four other parks in the area while other areas have none.


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