Moving the Mercy Train to Depot Park is no longer a pipe dream, but something that is expected to happen on Sept. 8.
The Ardmore Main Street Authority has been talking about moving the train, to be a focal point of its new Depot Park, for a couple of years now. That dream has become a reality as Main Street Authority Board Chairman Todd Yeager has worked out the route and announced the date for the big move.
“This has been a long time coming and now the realization is setting in that it’s finally here,” Yeager said. “The train is really going to set the park off.”
In order to move the nearly one hundred ton locomotive, the use of a specialized trailer will be utilized. The trailer has specialized hydraulics that make sure the train is constantly level so as not to put too much pressure on one side of the road, or make the train flip over. The trailer also has wheels that turn independently of one another, allowing it to make turns that would not be possible in the average semi truck.
A crane will load the train onto the trailer the night before. The morning of the move, the train will be leave its current location at Hardy Murphy Coliseum and make its way south on Lake Murray Drive. The truck will turn east on Springdale Road and travel to P Street SE. Once there, the route will move north on P Street SE and continue until it turns west on White Street. Then the train will travel to either N Street SE or K Street SE, Yeager said he’s not yet sure which will be the best path to follow. The truck will use either of those streets to make its way to Main Street where the truck will travel west until it reaches Depot Park.
Ardmore city employees will also be traveling along the route to clear out any trees that may be in the way as the train tries to pass. Yeager said the authority doesn’t want to mess with anyone’s trees if they don’t have to. Oklahoma Gas and Electric will also be traveling ahead of the train to lift power lines and make sure the train clears the planned route.
Yeager said the move is expected to begin early in the morning and take around five hours.
“We want to take our time and be safe with this,” he said. “It may go quicker, but until we get going all we can do is guess. Right now we’ve estimated the truck and trailer will move about three miles per hour.”
Earlier this week, crews finished up the platform for the iconic train at Depot Park by laying the railroad ties and rails. But, the work isn’t done. After the train is situated on the track, crews will the work to fill in rocks in-between the railroad ties to give the track an authentic feel.
Afterwards, cement will be poured around the platform to smooth out the sides and create a safer approach to the train for citizens. Once all the concrete work is done, crews will replace the wood paneling on the inside of the train, put the conductor’s seat in, and seal off the cabin with plexiglass. Yeager said this is to ensure no one can crawl in the train and get hurt.
All of the work to create the platform, and the moving of the train were donated to the Main Street Authority.
“We are elated that the work was donated,” Ardmore Main Street Authority Director Jeff DiMiceli said. “It has been a great project with great people working on it. This is the first phase of the Depot Park project and we think the rest of the park will follow.”
The next phase for Depot Park, DiMiceli said, is to put in the infrastructure for the rest of the park. DiMicili said the infrastructure is estimated to cost a little over $1 million.
The Mercy Train has a unique history in Ardmore. In 1915 an explosion downtown left some dead and many wounded. The Mercy Train brought aid workers from north Texas to Ardmore in order to help the wounded. Yeager said Main Street plans to add a plaque next to the train that tells the complete story of the explosion, and explains how the train became such an icon in the city.
Yeager said the train will be moved as planned so long as weather permits.