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Relocation of Engine 209 gaining steam. This is why Gainesville wants to move icon
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The historic Engine 209, pictured in December 2018, is located in a small park just off Jesse Jewell Parkway in Gainesville. - photo by Scott Rogers

For years, the city of Gainesville has been looking for a more secure, more interactive home for its red-and-black locomotive, Engine 209.

Those plans are finally gaining steam.

The city of Gainesville is looking for a vendor to move the iconic Engine 209 from its Jesse Jewell Parkway location to the proposed Midland Wye area at the intersection of Grove and Davis streets. A wye is a railroad junction.

City officials hope that its new location will allow visitors to have more interaction with the engine.

“We want the train to be something you can walk up to, touch and interact with, not just see from the car as you’re driving by,” Christina Santee, spokesperson for the city, said to The Times. “This piece of beloved history will be much more approachable and accessible for residents and visitors, including those who are out walking the greenway.”

Santee said the future home also has some “historically accurate” significance.

“This gets the train on the old rail line wye — part of the Gainesville Midland Wye Project,” Santee said. “In railroad terms, a wye is where three rail lines are with a railroad switch, so the planned location is still fitting.”

The city announced April 22 that it has opened the bidding process for Engine 209’s relocation. 

Santee said that safety is also a major factor for relocating the train, citing the busy Jesse Jewell Parkway as a pedestrian concern.

“We want the community to enjoy Engine 209, but safely,” Santee said. “Engine 209’s proximity to a major roadway makes it less desirable for families to visit and explore the train because it doesn’t feel safe.”

The eventually relocated Engine 209 is set to be a centerpiece in a new park that is a part of an estimated $2 million two-phase renovation effort for the Midland Greenway area

The project will include the installation of a new plaza with playscape elements such as a playground, swings and possibly a splash pad at the intersection of Grove and Davis streets.

The city is set to receive proposals for the project April 29. Gainesville Parks & Recreation is redeveloping the wye portion of the trail and planning for the train to be moved.

City officials said that relocation will require a large crane to put the locomotive, tinder box and caboose on trailers for transportation.

Another aspect of the relocation effort is the timing of the move, as city officials prefer to move the train during off-peak traffic hours, Santee said. 

The second phase of renovations for the Midland Wye project could take place during the next fiscal year, with improvements to the park’s 682 Grove St. entrance.

According to the city’s Parks and Recreation officials, details for the second phase of improvements have not been finalized; however, a large-scale ADA-compliant playground has been discussed.