Gift to railroad museum will bring working steam locomotive back to Frisco

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FRISCO — The steam locomotive that led to the founding of Frisco more than 100 years ago is returning to this booming suburb.

Frisco residents Phil and Geda Condit donated a mini custom-made steam locomotive to the Museum of the American Railroad, which recently put it on display.

A fundraising campaign will kick off soon to build mini tracks and buy three to six mini passenger cars. The plan is to run the locomotive in a loop around the nonprofit museum’s rail yard to showcase its collection of full-size locomotives and passenger cars.

Think of the 16-foot-long, 5,000-pound locomotive as the baby brother to the museum’s prized Union Pacific Big Boy No. 4018. That behemoth steam engine is 133 feet long and weighs 600 tons — 1.2 million pounds.

Third-graders from Frisco ISD’s Tadlock Elementary look at the miniature steam locomotive as part of theour tour of the Frisco Heritage Museum.

The one-fourth scale replica — to be named later — includes all the bells and whistles of an 1880s- era steam locomotive: a boiler, cylinders, pistons and, yes, even a vintage train whistle.

"It’s a wonderful educational piece," said museum CEO Bob LaPrelle, who hopes to have the mini train running within six to 12 months. "This is a really great opportunity for us to demonstrate steam."

‘A lifetime love’

Phil Condit’s name may be familiar to some. He’s the retired chairman and CEO of Boeing Co. who moved to Texas about 13 years ago. So how does the former head of an aerospace company get hooked on trains? For Condit, it’s been a lifetime love.

"As a kid, there were two things that fascinated me: airplanes and trains," said Condit, who fondly recalls the model train he had as a boy.

His career fed his appetite for aviation. And trains became a side hobby. His home in Frisco, for example, includes an operating G gauge model train.

Condit originally ordered the miniature steam locomotive from Mammoth Locomotive Works in Palisade, Colo., for private use. He had planned to install tracks on his farm outside Seattle and have his own little railroad.

Then came a bit of nudging from his brother-in-law, former Frisco mayor Maher Maso. He shared the city’s plans that brought the railroad museum from Dallas’ Fair Park several years ago. Its new home is on about 15 acres behind the Frisco Discovery Center.

"We decided it would be even better to donate it down here," Condit said of the 10-year process to get the mini train built. "There’ll be a chance for lot of people to ride it and enjoy a real steam locomotive."

City’s origins in steam

There’s nothing quite like the signature chuff-chuff-chuff of a steam-powered locomotive. The city of Frisco can trace its founding in 1902 to a watering hole created to feed the steam locomotives that traveled through the area.

Condit said he did his research before commissioning the hand-built mogul type engine. It was considered a workhorse for the railroads more than a century ago. He estimates the value of his gift at more than $100,000.

"To have something that had historic value as well as just fun is really what I wanted," Condit said.

The Frisco Community Development Corporation has set aside about $40,000 to help pay for the 15-gauge tracks and passenger cars. And the mini locomotive will remain on display at the city’s Heritage Museum until it gets up and running.

"It’s a cooperative effort," Frisco deputy city manager Henry Hill said.

Maso reached his term limit as mayor earlier this year and now heads the Prosper Economic Development Corp. He said the steam locomotive offers another unique attraction for the area.

"It preserves the history of Frisco and reminds everyone how we got here," Maso said.

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