After sixteen years of hibernation, narrow-gauge Fidalgo Island steam is circulating once again. Now, as means of active preservation, a small group of citizens from various backgrounds have joined forces to revitalize the steam locomotive infrastructure that was, up until 1999, the Anacortes Railway, AR.
The AR today is dedicated to preserving the city’s unique rail history by creating a platform for steam operation and education.
At the center of the AR is the Forney type locomotive built by the Railway’s founder, Tommy Thompson Jr. With Tommy’s passing in 1999, what was once a vibrant part of the downtown Anacortes experience suddenly vanished. Our hope, with your help, is to recall this experience by placing the engine and passenger cars in operation once again. After much work and planning, the engine is once again a state certified boiler as of November 30! However, we are still far from selling tickets and giving rides. The next task is to refurbish existing rail and re-locate the engine house next to the active rail.
Most feasible is the stretch of existing standard gauge rail (below in blue) that reaches from 4th street, south to the intersection of 9th and “R” Avenue. Two existing turntables from the railway’s former line would be outfitted at either end to create approximately one quarter mile of active track. At either end, the engine is decoupled, rotated 180 degrees and moved to the front of the passenger cars. Those that remember riding the original AR line enjoyed almost one half mile end to end. While this new line is comparatively short, the hope is to demonstrate sustained interest and operation that might naturally extend to longer circuits in and around the downtown core. Early ideas include extensions out Rotary Park to the gazebo at the Cap Sante Marina breakwater. The Tommy Thompson trail [PDF map] gathers its name from Tommy’s ambitious vision to connect different parts of Fidalgo Is. via alternative modes of transport. While the AR’s mission doesn’t have specific end goals in mind, it does support and aim to continue Tommy’s enthusiasm for steam preservation via public right of way.