Anacortes City Councilman Anthony Young expressed concern during Monday’s meeting about internal discussions regarding the Tommy Thompson Train, spurring a discussion that was ruled “out of order” by Mayor Laurie Gere.
A council discussion of the fate of the train, scheduled to be on the agenda Monday, was postponed by Gere, citing public response to the possible sale of the train to an entrepreneur who wants to operate it as an amusement ride in Northern California.
“It felt rushed,” she told the Anacortes American earlier Monday. “We want time to bring everything to the council — public comment and the history of the train — and have them look at the whole package.”
During council committee reports, however, Councilwoman Carolyn Moulton said she and the council’s planning committee — she and council members Christine Cleland-McGrath and Ryan Walters — met regarding the train with Planning Director Don Measamer, Parks Director Jonn Lunsford and Museum Director Bret Lunsford.
“Just very general conversation about where it would it go, what would it cost in land and parking and construction” should it stay in Anacortes, Moulton said. “Just very broad strokes because it’s something that’s been on everyone’s mind lately, and there’s been a lot of public support for keeping it in Anacortes.”
In response, Young said such discussions should take place in public before the entire council.
“My concern about having a closed discussion is, we’ve already had three discussions before council about the train, and in each of those three discussions we were urgently trying to move forward an issue that obviously, because it’s not on the agenda tonight, it was decided it needed to rest and then come back to it.”
Continued comments by Young, Moulton and Cleland-McGrath spurred Walters to ask the mayor to declare the discussion out of order because the train issue was not on the agenda. Gere did so, and the council moved to the next agenda item.
Young has said the possible sale of the train has not been transparent. Designer and vintage restorer Bret Iwan of California submitted a purchase offer to the city in July 2019; the Anacortes Museum Advisory Board reviewed the offer two months later and recommended the city accept it, although the museum does not own the train and no written record of the board’s recommendation was presented to the council. In addition, Young has argued that the train must first be declared surplus property and sold to the highest bidder.
Meanwhile, the Anacortes Railway Group, a local nonprofit, wants to build a climate-controlled display space for the train and someday operate the train between Ben Root Skate Park and 34th Street.
Iwan has offered to buy the train from the city for $117,500, according to documents on file with the city. Proceeds would be used to “memorialize the legacy” of Thompson and “support the work of the Anacortes Museum.”
There are some loose ends: Iwan doesn’t yet own land for the train, and city officials in Lincoln were not familiar with the proposal until an inquiry by the Anacortes American. It’s unknown when the train would be in operation.
The late Thomas G. Thompson Jr., a mechanical engineer and train enthusiast, bought and restored the 1902 steam engine, built three early 1900s-style passenger cars, and operated it here as Anacortes Railway from 1979 until his death in 1999. His family donated the train to the city in 2012 for public display. It is stored in the train barn at The Depot Arts and Community Center.