A designer and vintage restorer proposes giving the Tommy Thompson train a new life in Lincoln, California, a city 30 miles northeast of Sacramento.
A local nonprofit organization proposes getting the train up and running again in Anacortes, where it operated for 20 years.
The Anacortes City Council will consider the competing proposals on Sept. 8. The council will meet Tuesday because Monday is the Labor Day holiday.
Thomas G. Thompson Jr., a mechanical engineer at the Shell Oil Refinery who had restored and operated other steam locomotives, operated the narrow-gauge locomotive and three passenger cars as the Anacortes Railway from 1979 to 1999. After his death, the train was stored in Seattle. It returned to Anacortes in 2012 when Thompson’s widow, Anne, donated it to the city.
The 2012 agreement, signed by Anne Thompson and then-Mayor Dean Maxwell, specified that the train would be on “static display for the enjoyment of the community.”
But Anne Thompson and a son, Headen, now want the city to sell the train to Bret Iwan, who proposes operating it on land he owns in Lincoln. Anne Thompson and Mayor Laurie Gere signed a new memorandum of agreement on Dec. 12, considered as revision of the 2012 agreement, allowing the city to sell the train.
Iwan is owner of Bungalow Modern, a design and vintage restoration company; and Iwan Locomotive Works, which restored a 15-inch gauge train that operates on private property.
Iwan proposes buying the Tommy Thompson train — the locomotive, three passenger cars, and rail and equipment — from the city for $117,500, according to documents on file with the city.
City Attorney Darcy Swetnam said Iwan proposes using Thompson’s “Anacortes Railway” name and retaining the train’s historic look and markings. Proceeds from the sale would be used to “interpret and memorialize the legacy of Thomas G. Thompson, Jr. and his Train and support the work of the Anacortes Museum,” according to the Dec. 12 agreement.
“Our family’s only wish is to see this train run again, and inspire and delight future generations to the awesome power and beauty of steam railroads that my father saw,” Headen Thompson wrote to the city in support of Iwan’s acquisition. “The train stored in its current building with a proposed window cut in one wall as a static exhibit, in our opinion, offers little inspiration.”
In a letter to the city, Iwan wrote that riding on Tommy Thompson’s train as a child influenced his love of railroading.
“As my collection of hand-punched tickets grew, so did my fascination,” he wrote. “From the color scheme of the locomotive, to the corbels of the engine shed, no detail went unnoticed. I would love nothing more than to help provide a location for Tommy’s creation to continue having fun, while celebrating the heritage of a community I treasure.”
Dave Sem, president of the nonprofit Anacortes Railway Group, said his organization has the resources and support to operate the train here — and warned that the train cannot be replaced once sold.
According to Sem, the team of supporters includes Ryan Handel, an engineer on the Mount Rainier Railroad and, formerly, the Anacortes Railway; three local construction companies; and local service clubs and nonprofits. The proposed train route is the Ben Root Skate Park to 34th Street using the right of way on the Tommy Thompson Trail.
With the exception of the approved route, which would require a right-of-way use agreement with the city, the nonprofit “can satisfy every requirement” of the Dec. 12 agreement allowing the sale of the train to another party. The agreement between Anne Thompson and the city states a potential purchaser must “demonstrate the requisite skills and knowledge to operate the Train”; “demonstrate plans for a location for the Train as an attraction open to the public”; make “a commitment to the City not to significantly alter the Train other than as needed for its maintenance and care”; and make “a commitment to care for the Train and provide for its regular maintenance and upkeep.”
Sem and Councilman Anthony Young said they believe the train, as city property, must be declared surplus property and sold to the highest bidder. But Councilman Ryan Walters said Anne Thompson specified in the latest agreement with the city “that we have to send it to a good home,” he said — that could mean the city can transfer ownership to the most-qualified bidder, not the highest bidder, he said.
Walters said he expects the council will have clarification on whether the train is subject to surplus property and bidding requirements before the council votes on selling it.