After a series of mechanical problems befell the Liberty Land Flyer during the past few weeks, the miniature antique train traversing Liberty Park is now back on track.
The Sunrise Optimist Club operates the train, pulled by a gas engine and a steam engine on weekends at Liberty Park. While the gas engine is still “in the roundhouse” so to speak, the steam engine is now operational and ran during the weekend.
“We just got it working after many, many series of not working,” said Dennis Scholl, of the Sunrise Optimist Club.
The original steam engine was placed in the park around the 1950s. Originally run in a park in Benton Harbor, Mich., Sedalia was its second home and it made rounds of the park until the early 1960s when it was taken out of service and fell into disrepair. In the 1990s, the Sunrise Optimist Club began restoring the train.
“I moved to Sedalia in 1980 and the steam engine itself was sitting out underneath a shelter rusting away,” Scholl said. “In the 1990s, they started working on it to repair it to get it back into shape. It had minimal success at that time. I don’t know the exact reason why it was retired. It was coal-fired and had little problems that go along with that.”
The gas engine was purchased after the steam engine was taken out of service in the 1960s and has offered rides until recently, when age began taking its toll. While one mechanical issue on the gas engine was fixed last week, now it has a transmission problem.
“As old as it is, in the last five years we’ve had several problems,” Scholl said. “We’ve had broken axles and different things have gone bad on it. We’ve tried to keep it running, but there have been times when we couldn’t run it very much. We just keep going back after it and trying to get things to work.”
Another problem the Sunrise Optimists often encounter in making repairs is a lack of miniature antique train mechanics.
“With the transmission problem we just found out about, I know it had been repaired before. Right now, we are trying to figure about who can work on it again,” Scholl said. “The true railroad people from way back are no longer around, so those of who are working on it now have to recreate all that information again. It’s not like we have a great big log book of what happened.”
When the engine is fixed, the Sunrise Optimists offer rides from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. However, until the gas engine is fixed, the steam engine may not be able to operate for the full four-hour schedule.
“We’ve just been working to recover it. If you’re going to run it from 12 to 4 p.m., you have an hour start up before and an hour after that. It’s too much for one person in my personal estimation, I ran the gas engine for a long time. So, I’m unsure how long he will run it at this point,” Scholl said.
A train ride costs 50 cents, but the money collected is not for profit and goes back toward the operating costs of the train. While the train belongs to the Sedalia Department of Parks and Recreation, the Sunrise Optimists have used their own funds several times to repair the train.
“We are not making profit on it. It’s really for the kids, that we do this,” Scholl said. “We have paid for portions of repairs, always. We have had support from the Parks Department. In essence, this is theirs — we do not claim that we own it or anything. We are just interested in operating it, because we know how important it is,”