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Passengers enjoy a chilly ride on the Snug Harbor Railroad in this undated photograph. Leonard Hall operated the miniature train in Charleston in the 1950s and 1960s.

Photo courtesy of Oregon Coast Historical Railway

The Oregon Coast Historical Railway will unveil the newly acquired locomotive and cars of the Snug Harbor Railroad on Oct. 31, but the group must surmount some obstacles before it can actually run the miniature railroad that used to be a Charleston attraction.

Built in 1946, the miniature train began its career as a tourist attraction near Malibu, Calif., before it was purchased and brought to Charleston by Leonard Hall, a commercial fisherman and train buff. Hall built a track in Charleston near what is now the Oregon Institute of Marine Biology and offered rides on Sundays in the 1950s and 1960s.

The train consists of a locomotive, a tender that carries diesel and water, three open gondola cars with seats, and a caboose. The locomotive is fueled by diesel burned in a steam engine, rather than in an internal-combustion engine.

“Following Leonard’s passing, the train was sold, and after being on static display for several years at Alton & Pacific Steam Railroad in Humboldt County, Calif., it was purchased and set up on a private ranch,” said OCHR secretary Tom Bakke in an announcement about the train’s acquisition. “In 1988 it was acquired by David Stare, owner of Dry Creek Vineyard in Healdsburg, Calif., who did some repairs with an eye toward running it.”

Local rail fans have coveted the train for years. At one time, Rusty Shield, who organizes the annual model railroad display at the Charleston fire station, had 40 acres set aside for it in Charleston, but was unable to reach a deal with the train’s owner, he said last week.

But this year, Bill Moe of Coos Bay arranged for OCHR to acquire it from Stare for $10,000. Chuck Bracelin Trucking and a team of volunteers brought the equipment from California.

OCHR will show off the train Friday, Oct. 31, at the OCHR Museum at 766 S. First St. (US Highway 101 North) in Coos Bay. Holly Hall Stamper, Leonard’s daughter, will be on hand to talk about the train.

The train will also be on display at the Pony Village during the Christmas season.

OCHR acquired some track with the train, and the group hopes to set up the locomotive on a track — possibly on land adjoining the museum on the downtown Coos Bay waterfront — and offer rides. But the fact that the locomotive is powered by a steam engine is the biggest obstacle to that. Insurance for steam equipment is very expensive, said Dick Jamsgard, OCHR’s president. He said the group is working with other steam-power aficionados to pursue options for lowering that cost. For instance, other railroad museums have avoided the insurance problem by converting locomotives to run on compressed air.

Meanwhile, OCHR is pursuing grants from local foundations and donations from the community to recoup the purchase cost and pay for repairs needed to make the train operable. A Snug Harbor Railroad account has been established at the Coos Bay branch of Banner Bank, and donations can also be made via Oregon Coast Historical Railway’s Facebook page. Call Dick Jamsgard at 541-297-6130 for information.

Staff writer Gail Elber can be reached at 541-269-1222, ext. 243, or at gail.elber@theworldlink.com.

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