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May 29, 2012

Keller Old Town railroad car scrapped for parts during Memorial Day weekend - merchants who wanted it restored cry foul

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Updated at 2:40 p.m. with comments from the Keller mayor:

"It's a shame to destroy a vintage car." -- Keller Mayor Pat McGrail, who toured the scene Tuesday (photo above)

A handful of Old Town Keller merchants is livid that a vintage passenger railroad car the group had hoped to restore was instead partly scrapped for salvage parts during the long Memorial Day weekend. This afternoon the group is standing guard over the old rail car, saying they're willing to go to jail to stop any further scrapping of the car, and are seeking a court injunction. 2012-05-29_12-12-38_288



"We have been railroaded in Keller," said Terry Thomas, who owns Memories and Treasures Antique Mall in Keller. "Over the weekend, somebody came out and decided to start cutting it up."

But Edward Kirkwood, a Keller insurance agent and president of the Old Town Keller Merchants Association, said the decision to scrap the rail car was reached by a majority vote during a meeting in May. A majority of members, he said, believed restoring the car wasn't a wise use of funds.

"It's obvious this car has already been scrapped," Kirkwood said. "It's an eyesore. It's a hazard."

A contractor was hired to remove metal and other parts from the car, Kirkwood said in a phone interview. The work was done over the holiday weekend simply because that's when the contractor could do it, he said.

On Tuesday afternoon, advocates of restoring the car showed pictures of the car's condition before someone entered it over the weekend and began removing parts. They said ceiling fan motors had been taken, metal chunks had been removed -- apparently with industrial tools -- and duct work had been ripped out.

The group posted flyers on the rail car windows warning others not to enter the car, and saying they would seek a cease and desist order to prevent further salvaging.

The vintage rail car, which was believed to be in operation until the 1930s, was bought and moved to the city's historical center last year year using proceeds from five years worth of Crawfish Krawl events in Keller, Thomas said. The total cost was about $18,000.

However, Kirkwood said, other merchants want no further crawfish event funds used on the project.

But the leadership of the merchants association is even now in question. Thomas and association secretary Pat Fisher said Kirkwood was removed as president during an emergency meeting Monday night. They said vice president Mike Lloyd had been voted in as new president. But on Tuesday Kirkwood maintained he was still president, saying only he could call such a meeting.

The city authorized the merchants association to display the rail car on city-owned land along the Union Pacific Railroad tracks, just a block west of Main Street - also known as U.S. 377 or Denton Highway. That part of Keller has become a popular evening and weekend destination, with restaurants, bars and other retailers creating a bit of a parking shortage. Some members of the merchants association have talked about the need for additional parking near the railroad tracks.

But the city also has supported promoting Keller's railroad history, and gone along with the merchant association's plans to create a train-watching area along the line. The city owns a diesel locomotive and two other rail cars that are displayed on the same spur as the scrapped rail car.

On Tuesday afternoon, Keller Mayor Pat McGrail toured the scrapped rail car and shook his head.

"It's a shame to destroy a vintage car," McGrail said. "We can't allow the city to be in the middle of this. But if nothing else, if this car can't be restored here, it needs to be sold and relocated, not destroyed."

@gdickson

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Comments

Skip Waters

This is appalling! They just got this car... if you don't want it, at least offer it to a museum or group that does. It is never a good idea to just cut up a piece of railroad history. What are they thinking?

A. Lynch

What a shame! We need these vintage items to bring the stories we tell our children to life.

Brian Tindle

I am disgusted by the actions taking place in Keller. I wrote an article for a national publication on the purchase, transport, and expected rennovation of the car.

The car was, and still is, in good shape for being 80+ years old. It is also an exceedingly rare car, as only a handful of these double door commuter cars were ever made(less than 30). There is only one other that has been restored, and the museum that restored it was/is willing to help with detailed plans.

The steps needed to be rewelded, but that isnt a huge priority, seeing as a platform around the car was planned to be put in place.

As to the complaint about it being an eyesore, that laughable. Last time I was in Keller people didnt go to that rail spur to watch sunsets over a sub-division.

City of Keller, you had a great thing going here, and you've all but ruined it. There is still some hope though. Help stop this travisty from taking place. Do it for your city, do it for you

Earl

"The work was done over the holiday weekend simply because that's when the contractor could do it, said."

I suspect that if I was trying to scrap something, with nobody finding out until it was too late, I might just pick a holiday weekend. Of course, that isn't what happened here.

Terry

This is strictly the results of a couple of peoples power grab. It is destroying a piece of irreplaceable history that will only bring a small fraction of what was paid for it. The citizens of Keller should rise up and express their feelings. Keller has a signifcant railroad history and there is and engine and other pieces of equipent on display. The power grabbers don't want it donated they want it destroyed. Don't let them.

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