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Progress on 457 Cannonball on-going; volunteers needed

This news story was published on January 22, 2013.
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457 Cannonball restoration is on-going

457 Cannonball restoration is on-going

From: Dennis Wilson: Chairman Friends of the 457 –

MASON CITY – In 2003 the Friends of the 457 took on the challenge of restoring the M&StL 457, better known as the Cannonball, located in East Park. In 1912 the locomotive was built and used throughout the Midwest until 1950. Sold to the American Crystal Sugar plant, it switched car loads of sugar beets and coal until 1957 when a leaking boiler caused it to be sidetracked. In 1959 the plant donated the engine to Mason City and the Rotary Club instituted a campaign to move the 457 to East Park.

Fast forward to 2003. The old Cannonball is a rusted out pile of junk that many considered should be gotten rid of due to it becoming an eyesore in East Park. The Friends of the 457 were formed and a restoration of the locomotive began, barely saving it from the scrap pile. What originally was a project to only clean and paint the Cannonball turned into a full scale restoration project to bring the hundred year old artifact back to its original 1912 appearance. Also a shelter, platform and railroad interpreter center were constructed thanks to local foundations, businesses, service clubs, and individual’s generous donations.

The process has been slow, almost ten years. Some thought the restoration was complete, but anyone familiar with railroad steam engines would realize that the most important part of the Cannonball was missing, which was the boiler jacket, having rusted out and disappeared long ago. First the Friends had to wait until they had the funds to start the jacket project. Second we had to find someone who knew how to do it. In 2011 we had enough funds to start, and found someone who had the machinist skills to do it.

Today what you see is the cab and smoke box sandblasted and two coats of primer applied. The boiler jacket has one coat of primer, which is the reason for the different colors. The Christmas decorations were not put up past Christmas due to the electricity in the engine being disconnected and piping, ladders and appliances which we tie the decorations to, have been removed. We promise the best display you’ve ever seen next Christmas.

Soon as the weather warms up, we’ll start painting and replacing the parts removed for the jacket installation. Also working from pictures and historical descriptions from museums, we are trying to reproduce many pieces that are missing. Our goal is to finish the project by May 15th depending on our funds and the weather. But there is one important factor we need. People with a passion and desire to preserve a piece of history for generations to come. Unless we find volunteers to care and preserve the Cannonball, it could easily go back to what it was in 2003.

We Need:
A volunteer Coordinator to line up volunteers for the season: May through Oct.
Volunteers to work the season on weekends: 1-5:pm and special days.
Volunteers to care for the site: Water flowers, trim bushes, clean platform.
Coordinator to organize Cannonball Day. (Day is held on the last Sat of June.)
Please contact Mason City Volunteer Coordinator: Rachael Pike 421-3372

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