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When the narrow gauge's usefulness came to an end and its high carbon steel rails that had traveled across the ocean from England and Holland were being uprooted and stacked like cordwood, a lot of people felt sad. Among them was Anna Kelley, who might be said to have a little steel in her veins, because the ties that bound her to the railroad went further than her immediate family; her mother's parents, Charlie and Anna Recker, were also railroading people. So when her friend, Independence librarian Bessie T. Best, gave her a gentle prod ("Anna, we have to have something left of the railroad ... You go get us an engine"') Anna set herself the task of securing for her town and posterity a locomotive as reminder of a nostalgic era reaching back to 1880 when the white tents of railroad surveyors began to cluster in Owens Valley throughout its green (then!) length.


Could she do it?  Persuade the SP to give Independence an engine of its very own? Well, she certainly could try!


When Anna's friend Bessie told her "You go get us an engine," her first move was to write a letter to Mr. Russell, president of Southern Pacific: 'We would very much like to have a locomotive. You'll just sell it to Disneyland anyway, and I promise you it will be well taken care of here in Independence, because I will see to it."


Carson & Colorado Route


Anna never received an answer from Mr. Russell, but one fine day she was pumping gas at the O.K. Kelley Service Station, which she and her husband still operated, when customer Richard Torres, who was also a dear friend, said to her: 'Anna, can you keep a secret?  You're going to get your engine!" As Anna related to interviewer Kathy Barnes, Richard, a section crew foreman over at Kearsarge, had just got orders from SP headquarters to go through all his track and pull the oldest rails and oldest ties: 'You see, the rails are dated; the ties also. When they are put in the ground, there is a special zinc nail that has the year on the head; that tells foreman and crew how old the tie is. They weren't pulling them for anybody else; they were pulling them for me!"


Anna's engineering of that project, getting engine #18 into its now-familiar location in Independence's Dehy Park, was the "most fun thing I ever did in my life."


The engine was sitting at Owenyo when the order was given to turn it over to Anna. First, the Southern Pacific "loaded it on a broad gauge flatcar and took it to their car barns in Bakersfield and gave her a real good cleaning and a good paint job and then loaded her on another flatbed and brought her back to Lone Pine."


What now?  Where to put the train?  Anna went to see Sid Paratt of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, which owned the land at Dehy Park: 'I've got a problem. I've got a narrow gauge locomotive on my hands but I don't know where to put it." The decided where in the park the train should go; the railroad supplied a crew from over at Kearsarge station and another form Lone Pine. "I arranged to use the County's low-bed truck and tractor to pull it. There was a winch with a lot of cable... I went to Jimmy Nick (Nikolaus) in Big Pine; he had a low-bed like the county's... so he loaned it to me."


Everything fell into place; Anna had all the people, machinery and good will she needed.


We did it all in one day. The track was already in because Richard Torres and his crew had done that. After the locomotive was in, Kelley (Anna's husband) brought the tow truck and hooked the cable on to the front of the locomotive and gently pulled it to the front where it belonged."


And there today sits old engine #18 on its narrow gauge tracks, for all who pass to see and admire - and wonder. The Slim Princess lives again!

THE ALBUM Times & Tales of Inyo-Mono Vol. IV, No.4 pp.22-23


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