Guilford County’s $600,000 never-ending kiddie train saga has now come to a sad end.
The county has sold the train and tracks at Northeast Park on a government surplus auction website. The kiddie train, known affectionately as the Little Engine That Couldn’t, was purchased in 2011 and meant to delight kids of all ages at the park. However, despite trying for over eight years, Guilford County could never get the train running right.
Between the purchase price and the money spent trying to get the train running over the years, the county has pumped an estimated $600,000 into the train, but the train has seen one problem after another including engine issues and a propensity to jump off the tracks in alarming fashion. The engine that was sold as surplus – along with the train and tracks – was actually a replacement engine provided to Guilford County two years ago.
Chairman of the Guilford County Board of Commissioners Alan Branson was elected as commissioner a year after the county purchased the train, and he, like many members of the current board, inherited the problem. Branson said this week the train is now “gone but never forgotten.”
Guilford County hasn’t responded yet to a public records request on the price obtained for the train and the tracks, but Branson said he believes the county may have gotten about $65,000 in the sale. He said that, if that is the sale price, then the county at least recouped the money allocated a couple of years ago in the most recent effort to fix the train.
County commissioners haven’t talked about the train in public in nearly two years; however, county staff have discussed the matter with the commissioners in closed session.
Over two years ago, former Guilford County Facilities Director Robert McNiece came before the board with a plan to fix the train for about $60,000, and at that time he vowed that he would never ask for more money to fix it again. He said that instead he would get up under the train and work on it himself. Since McNiece resigned last year, that wasn’t an option.
The original engine in 2011 cost about $170,000 while the tracks cost nearly $200,000.
The last official word from Guilford County to the Rhino Times regarding the train was in response to a question in the summer of 2018. At that time, staff stated that the county had purchased a “like new” engine at a big discount, and that the cars had been repaired in California and the train had to be “calibrated” with the tracks.