Progress update on switch engine 4420 brings large crowd to museum event
EVANSTON — Local historian Shelly Horne was the guest speaker at the Uinta County Museum’s last brown bag lunch for the season. A large crowd gathered in the Beeman-Cashin building to listen as Horne provided a history of Engine 4420, its life in Evanston and the current project to restore the engine to a working condition.
Horne is a longtime member of the Evanston Historic Preservation Commission (EHPC) and has played a significant part in the return of engine 4420 to the Roundhouse. He worked for Union Pacific as a telegrapher in depots from Ogden, Utah, to Evanston during the time of steam engines.
“I am 88 years old, and am a historic relic myself,” Horne said. “For years we talked about restoring engine 4420 so it would run again. We knew what we wanted to do with the engine but not how to do it. We wanted to move the engine back to the Roundhouse and begin restoring it.”
The first step, Horne said, was to find a way to move it and put it in the Roundhouse where it could be worked on. California resident and engineer Marty Westland who has worked for years on steam engines agreed to help.
Horne said he hoped other volunteers would just appear and finally four local volunteers “magically” appeared. Those reliable and steady volunteers are John Davis, Jim Lacey, Rick Eskelson and Steve Ewing who have all donated time over the last two years to work on the engine every Tuesday and Thursday from 9 a.m. until noon. Other volunteers, includingWayne Morrow and Gavin Wagstaff, have also helped at times on the restoration efforts.
Horne provided the audience with a history of engine 4420. He said the Union Pacific railroad arrived in Evanston in 1868 and, in 1912, the Roundhouse was built with four sections and seven bays.
In 1914, engine 4420 came to the city and, for 43 years, it switched bigger steam engines into the Roundhouse to be worked on. In 1957, UP retired the little switch engine and gave it to the city which placed it on the lawn next to the courthouse.
Engine 4420 stayed there for 27 years, until 1982, when it was moved to the park adjacent to North Elementary School. The engine sat there for almost 38 years. On Dec. 4, 2019, engine 4420 was moved to the Roundhouse and, in March, of 2020 it was moved inside the Roundhouse on rails over a pit, where it sits today.
It took a huge crane donated by the Wagstaff family and several flatbed semi-trucks to load and move both the engine and its coal tender over the course of two days. The Uinta County Herald documented the event with photos and a story.
“After using our funds to pay for the engine’s move from the park, we had very little money left,” Horne said. “We used primitive tools to take it apart and Rick Eskelson was the first to remove something from the engine. We labeled everything as it came off so we would know how to put it back. We now have the boiler apart and raised enough money, with the golf tournament, a $17,000 grant from the Wyoming cultural trust fund, other fund-raising efforts and one big donation from a private contributor, to purchase the 130-foot super heater tubes to go back into the boiler.”
Horne said none of the men except Westland knew anything about how a steam engine worked but they just used common sense and advice from expert Westland. Horne estimated it will take two to three more years and an estimate of $200,000 to finish the restoration of the engine.
“Some of us won’t be around to see it finished,” Horne said. “We will leave our vision to the people coming behind us who will complete the vision.”
Audience members asked if there was a way to set up a rail system so visitors could ride on engine 4420 or even drive it. Horne said the city owns a mile of track but the commission would have to build their own and the goal is to have at least 10 miles of track to run it on.
EHPC chair Jim Davis said the commission is working to gain the support of state and government officials, as the potential for an increase in tourism with a working engine 4420 would be excellent. He suggested that audience members talk to their elected officials and spread the word about the need for funding. The commission has a website, SteamEngine4420.org, and donations can be sent to Roundhouse Restoration Inc. at PO Box 409, Evanston, WY, 82931.