Guilford County’s kiddie train at Northeast Park was declared dead at 2:33 p.m. on Monday, March 25. Efforts to resuscitate the train were unsuccessful –as they have been for nearly a decade.
Chairman of the Guilford County Board of Commissioners Alan Branson made the declaration at that time in response to a question on the status of the train.
“I don’t think you are ever going to see it run,” Branson said. “I think we will have to sell it off as scrap metal.”
For nearly a decade, Guilford County has tried to get a kiddie train up and running at Northeast Park – something that’s been done successfully by many cities, towns and parks around the country, including the cities of High Point and Burlington. But, in the end, a kiddie train at a park proved to be the nut that Guilford County simply couldn’t crack. Guilford County has pumped money, time, and effort into the project for eight years with nothing to show for it other than a train that just sits in a shed.
The last time commissioners approved money, about $60,000 two years ago, to try and fix the train – now known as the Little Engine That Couldn’t – many commissioners made it clear that that was likely the last money staff would ever get for the train.
“They’re not going to come back to us and ask for more money,” Branson said of county staff.
The park is in Branson’s district and he said a lot of people over the years had been hoping that the train would become operational but now it looks like that will never happen. Of course, by now all the people who wanted to ride that train years ago have grown up and they have no interest in kiddie trains anymore.
Branson said county staff never ever mentions the train and he hasn’t heard anything of note about it since the last time the board approved the attempt to fix it in mid-2017.
“I don’t know where we went wrong,” Branson said. “It has turned out to be a money hole and a nightmare.”
An employee at Northeast Park told the Rhino Timeson Monday that the kiddie train has not been discussed by parks’ staff in a long time.
Branson, who joined the board in December of 2012, inherited the problem, as did four other commissioners who came on after the county’s decision to purchase the train. There are no certain explanations as to why the train never ran for any length of time but many people speculate the main cause is that the train was cursed in some way, perhaps by a witch whose family member was hit and killed by a train.
The Guilford County Board of Commissioners approved the purchase of the kiddie train for the park in 2011. The engine cost about $170,000 while the tracks cost nearly $200,000. Over the years, there have been so many attempts to fix the train and the tracks that it’s difficult to say exactly how much the county has put into the effort, but the best estimate based on available information is that Guilford County has spent over $600,000 on a train that doesn’t work.
The last official word from Guilford County to the Rhino Timesregarding 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, that the cars had been repaired in California and the train had to be “calibrated” with the tracks.
The problem with the train is not that it is cursed. The problem is there was no coordination between the engine purchase, the gauge of the tracks, the curvature of the tracks, and the length of the entire train. Instead of having someone in Guilford County Government with absolutely no knowledge of the subject being placed in charge, this should have been turned over to people with experience—like train companies. They likely would have been able to make the correct assessment and provided insight as a public service. But not in Guilford County. Our staff is expert on everything. That is why we are so successful!!!!!!
u hit it on a nail…wonder where some of the money went…sounds fishy to me…