This weekend, Roaring Camp will offer local history aficionados and railfans a chance to ride from the Felton to near Wilder Ranch, as the former Santa Cruz Portland Cement Company Engine No. 2 will be pulling a series of special excursions.
It's very much a homecoming for the small locomotive, which was built in 1909 for the Santa Cruz Portland Cement Company, and was used to haul raw limestone and other materials to the company's Davenport cement plant from the nearby quarry until it was sold in 1924.
“It's kind of a 'Cinderella' story — pretty incredible,” said Stathi Pappas, the owner and operator of Engine No. 2.
Pappas said that, by the time he purchased the locomotive 8 years ago, it had spent nearly four decades as a billboard — sitting outside a fried chicken restaurant in Stockton for children to play on.
“I played on it as a kid,” he said. “I bought that locomotive in 2006 on a whim ... for a price that was less than scrap value.”
For most of the ensuing 8 years, Pappas said, he worked to try and restore the venerable engine — the first model of its production series — to working condition.
“I stripped it down trying to figure out what was wrong with it — it turned out the answer was everything,” he said. “Sixty to 70 percent of the engine is new.”
Finally, on Aug. 3, 2013, a fire was lit in Engine No. 2's boiler for the first time in decades. Three months later, on Nov. 24, the locomotive moved under its own power.
For Pappas, who is currently the Curator and Chief Mechanical Officer for the Northwest Railway Museum in Snoqualmie, Wash., returning to Santa Cruz County with his newly restored locomotive is the perfect homecoming.
“I started my career right here at Roaring Camp,” he said. “It all started right there.”
Following an experience as “Engineer for the Day,” Pappas said he spent a year in 2008 working with the Engine House crew at Roaring Camp, learning how to restore, rebuild, and operate steam locomotives.
Bringing his restored engine to Roaring Camp, he said “it's something that’s been in the back of my mind since I was there.”
On Saturday, July 12 and Sunday, July 13, Engine No. 2 will have departures at 10:30 a.m. and at 2:30 p.m.
For more information, visit www.roaringcamp.com