Historic steam locomotive returns to Cedar Park for restoration

A 97-year-old steam locomotive will begin its journey to Cedar Park in late April, the Austin Steam Train Association announced April 18.

The engine, a Southern Pacific 786, is being restored by the ASTA after sitting in an Austin park for more than three decades. The steam locomotive powered the association's excursion trains for seven years before being sidelined for necessary repairs in 1999.

The 143-ton engine was disassembled, and components were sent to contractors around the country skilled in rebuilding steam locomotives. Ben Sargent, a founding member of the Austin Steam Train Association, said the parts from the 33-foot machine will slowly make their way from a shop in Alabama to Cedar Park for assembly.

"Right now, we are looking at the middle of next week for the trucks to pick up the engine components in Alabama, then the schedule becomes a little more uncertain," Sargent said in an email. "The trip will most likely be several days."

ASTA staff and volunteers organized the transportation of the 786 engine's components back to Texas. Once in Cedar Park, the association will determine if the train needs more work before it opens to the public.

The ASTA's mission is to preserve, interpret and re-create the firsthand experience of historic steam railroading. Passenger rides based out of the Railyard Shopping Center in Cedar Park continue on a weekly basis using diesel-electric locomotives.