Union is trying to get a nonprofit that provides rides on small trains to pull into town.
After having phone and email conversations for several months, Parks Director Chad Pohlmann on Thursday, April 8, showed potential sites to six of the eight board members of the St. Louis Live Steamers organization, which is looking to relocate its large-scale model railroads from Eureka. He said the Steamers want to set up their trains and store them as soon as possible because they now must pay to keep them in storage, though it was unclear where.
The Steamers have been listed as a tax-exempt nonprofit organization since 2005, according to the Nonprofit Explorer website. The group is classified as a “history museum.”
Steamers Treasurer Bob Richardson could not be reached for comment by phone. The group also did not respond to an email at the address listed on its website.
Along with construction of large-scale model railroads, the Steamers are interested in teaching steam railroad history and operations and steam technology, according to their website (stlouislivesteamers.org). The name is taken from the industrial term “live steam,” which is steam under pressure capable of doing “real work.”
One site shown in Union was on a flood plain along Grant Street east of the dog park, and the other was near the Jaycees Pavilion in the Franklin County Fairgrounds. Pohlmann said the organization, which accepts donations but provides the rides for free, is not requesting financial support from the city.
The Steamers had been looking at a site near High Ridge, but Pohlmann said those plans fell through.
“They have a lot of restrictions based on their machinery, with elevations, that they can and cannot do,” Pohlmann said. “They are looking for a potential long-term agreement with wherever they go. They told me they are looking at $60,000 to $100,000 worth of infrastructure to be able to build what they want to build to have tracks.”
That could include building bridges across creeks and putting in tracks that could be easily moved from streets.
“They might come back out and pay for some more in-depth surveying of potential elevation of how things may or may not work,” he said. “They seemed pleased, and it seemed like either one of the sites had potential.”
Pohlmann said he did not know if the Steamers were still considering sites in other communities.
At the April 5 city personnel, finance and public works committee meeting, Alderman Bob Schmuke, the committee’s chairman, said the trains, which children and adults can ride, could bring people to the city. “It’s neat,” he said. “Maybe that would be something that we could put on a piece of our land that you can’t really build anything else on.”
The Steamers were first registered in 1968. Pohlmann said they have been in Eureka about 10 years and were in several locations before that.
The Steamers run the trains about nine times a year, Pohlmann said. Although he said they can run when they want, it would be beneficial if the trains ran at the same time as large city events.
Schmuke asked about building a parking lot so customers would not have to park on residential streets. City Administrator Jonathan Zimmermann said they might need permission from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to build a parking lot in a flood plain.
The Steamers also want to be able to store their trains in shipping containers on site when the railroad is not in use.