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Wednesday, 27 February 2019 23:56

Stillwater, OK, Automotive & Collision Repair Students Restore Amusement Park Relic

Written by Galen Culver,

It might be an old Ford tractor engine, but it comes from a very unique piece of history.


"This one has a production date of 1952 on it," said Rick Carlisle, an instructor at Meridian Technology Center in Stillwater, OK.


This hunk of metal and gears is a lot like the other engines that come through the vo-tech's auto repair center.


But this one came off a train---a 24-gauge amusement park ride on its last legs before Carlisle's students started cleaning it up.


"Had a lot of leaks on it. We've taken it apart, resealed everything, and now, we're in the process of putting it back together," explained Carlisle.


Following the history of this locomotive requires going back 75 years to the heyday of the original Craterville Amusement Park near Lawton.


"This train hauled lots of kids at Old Craterville," said Frank Rush.


Rush's dad bought the little train and ran it even after the old park closed.


As far as anyone can tell, Hydro Free Fair organizers took it home and ran it every summer beginning around 1960.


Free Fair President Charlie Wieland brought it last fall for its first comprehensive maintenance.


"It's going to look brand new again," he gushed. "We're really excited."


Automotive and collision repair students had never repaired a train before, but they cleaned up the engine and stripped down the body.


There were also many hours of sanding, stripping and soon-to-be painting.


"We took it apart. We're going to put it back together. We're going to paint it. We've done all the body work on it," said Racheal Sappington, a collision repair student.


Another student, Garrett Leal-McBride, said, "It's mostly the same stuff, but it's a train."


Rush, who grew up with the train, riding and driving it, had to travel from Texas a couple of times to see his old friend get a new lease on life.


"I'm just tickled to death," he smiled.


When the Hydro Free Fair comes around again in August, this train will run again just like always---a cherished memory for another generation of kids. This time, it will have been repaired by kids happy to have the experience of touching a piece of history.


Meridian Technology Center faculty members are hoping to have the train project completed by the end of the spring term in May.


We thank for reprint permission.

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