Volunteer Restoration of our Historic Engines

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Kerry Klarr is doing what we generally don’t appreciate at a museum–taking a grinder to one of our exhibits — but in this case we are really grateful.

It’s for a good cause and will ultimately be for the best.

Klarr, a member of the Railway Historical Society of America’s Salt Lake City chapter, is restoring the paint on the front of Union Station’s Rio Grande No. 5731, our Tunnel Diesel.

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The engine was built in 1975 and spent much of its life hauling coal and freight between Ogden and Denver. Its final years were as a helper engine in Helper, Utah. It was retired to Ogden and the Utah State Railroad Museum in 2008, a prime example of the industrial might that built this state.

Like anything that is 40 years old, its paint is a bit worn. Klarr said the RHSA provided a $2,500 grant to restore the paint on it’s front end and the engine next to it, our Southern Pacific SD-45.

The work is tedious because it pretty much all has to be done by hand. The paint has to be a perfect match, too, and because using a spray gun without messing up neighboring rail pieces would involve moving the engine, it’s simpler to just do it in place using spray cans of specially formulated paint.

Matching the paint was a big problem, he said. He and his brother, Derrick, found a model train paint maker that had the original Rio Grande “gold” paint perfectly, so they sent a sample of that to a paint manufacturer. They, in turn, loaded it into spray cans and Screen shot 2015-10-13 at 11.13.46 AMshipped the paint back.

Neither Kerry nor Derrick are getting paid for their work. They’re volunteers, sharing a love of trains they gained from working for Utah Transit Authority on FrontRunner. Union Station couldn’t survive without volunteer work like this.