ANACORTES — Kyle Irving shoved a log Monday into the Tommy Thompson train’s furnace. Burnt logs crackled and hissed inside as he closed the furnace door.
Irving and others involved in bringing the historic train back to life — it ran through downtown Anacortes from 1979 to 1999 — spent several hours in the morning meticulously preparing the steam engine for a safety test by the state Department of Labor & Industries.
By midday, the train rumbled down a 50-yard stretch of track before reversing back down the track to the delight of about 25 onlookers who snapped photos and recorded video.
The Tommy Thompson train is ready to roll again.
“It’s been sort of a mystery if the viability of the engine is still there after sitting there for 16 years,” said Per Kefgen, who has helped spearhead the efforts to get the train running again. “It’s amazing that it still runs so well.”
Kefgen, Irving and Brooks Middleton formed the Anacortes Railway group, and have worked for several months to get the train up and running. This was the last step to make sure it could run again.
The train last ran in 1999 when its builder, Tommy Thompson, died. After spending 13 years at a Seattle museum, the train was returned to Anacortes in 2012. It is maintained by the Anacortes Museum.
Passing this state test means the group can move forward with rebuilding a half-mile long track along an existing route next to the Depot Arts Center, Middleton said. Rebuilding the track will take volunteers, donations and city approval.
Though no timeline was given for the next steps in the process, Kefgen suggested work might begin this summer.
Prior to starting the test Monday, Irving, a steam enthusiast from Montreal, spent several hours bringing the engine to 150 pounds per square inch for the test.
“It’s not quite like running a car,” he said.
Irving pulled and twisted the various levers and knobs inside the train’s cabin as the engine slowly warmed up, heating the cabin comfortably.
Irving came for the test at Kefgen’s request, since Kefgen said running steam engines is a lost art.
After the first test run, Irving gave free rides to spectators, including Shelby Pratt and her daughter Rowan.
“Do you want to go together?” Pratt asked her daughter.
The two hopped in, with Rowan in charge of ringing the train’s bell.
For Kefgen, seeing the train run again reminded him of growing up in Anacortes.
“The sights and sounds of everything, it’s extraordinary in the sense that it conjures up these memories that you have of this thing,” Kefgen said. “It’s amazing.”