The iconic 100-year-old steam engine that rested alongside Church Street Station for decades has made its way to its new home – the Florida Gulf Coast Railroad Museum.
The switch engine was built around 1911 by Baldwin Locomotive Works in Philadelphia for the St. Louis & San Francisco Railroad and spent its early life in a switchyard. Later, the train was featured in the film "The Wings of Eagles" starring John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara.
It was in service for the Frisco Railroad until its retirement in 1952. After another two years of work in a prison, it was officially put out of service in 1954 and sold for scrap. The engine was never scrapped and found a home at the Church Street Station entertainment complex resting at the city's historic Old Orlando Railroad Depot in 1976.
"There are millions of people, literally, who have had their pictures taken in front of that locomotive," Church Street Station founder Bob Snow said Wednesday. "It's an icon down there, an important piece of history."
In its heyday, Church Street Station was the fourth-largest tourist destination in the state. In 1985, attractions such as Rosie O'Grady's and the Cheyenne Saloon & Opera House drew 1.7 million to the entertainment complex.
After the Church Street Station closed, the engine was acquired by the City of Orlando and donated to the railroad museum near Bradenton. The locomotive, coal tender, a domed passenger car and two club cars have all made their way to the museum and will now be on exhibit.
The Tampa-area museum, about a two-hour drive from downtown Orlando, is open every Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. year-round except for a two week holiday for Christmas and New Years. The highlight of the museum is a 13-mile, 90-minute excursion on historic rail equipment that departs from the Parrish Train Station at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Cost is $14 for adults, $10 for children age 3-11. Children under 3 are free.
Special events such as themed train rides including a train robbery, World War II re-enactment, trip to the North Pole and Thomas the Tank Engine trips are scheduled throughout the year. Costs for those can be around $45 per person. Some of those events have different schedules. Call 941-776-0906 or check the website frrm.org for details.
The museum is located 25 miles north of Sarasota and 35 miles south of Tampa off Interstate 75 at exit 229 at 12210 83rd St. East in Parrish, FL 34219.
Orlando Sentinel March Schleub and The Bradenton Herald (MCT) contribute to this report.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times