Keller Merchant Group at Odds Over Restoring Railroad Car

Members disagree about future of 1917 rail car

A Keller merchants group is divided over whether to save a vintage passenger railroad car or dismantle it for salvage.

The 1917 rail car sits off the road at Vine Street and Highway 377. The Old Town Keller Merchants Association intended to renovate the car into a viewing station where people could watch modern trains on the tracks right next door.

Earlier this year, the group bought the rail car with money from five years of Crawfish Krawl festivals. The nearly 28-ton car was moved to Keller at a cost of about $18,000, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported.

But some members say it is too expensive to restore the car. They authorized salvage work that began Memorial Day weekend.

Metal railings were welded off, beams were cut through like butter and ductwork was undone.

"It needed a good paint job and a good cleaning, but it would have been safe, and now we have to go back and re-install the bead board," said Becky Harness, the association's treasurer. "They cut steps and rail and original pieces off. They broke out some of the original glass in the doors. It just didn't need to come to that."

People who support restoring the rail car say the decision to scrap the rail car was the result of a last-minute vote called at meeting earlier this month.

"We just felt that a majority of the members were not informed," Harness said. "The vote was not on the agenda, and it should have been handled differently."

She and other supporters of the rail car said more people would have attended the meeting if the vote was on the agenda. No major business was scheduled for that night, Harness said.

But Edward Kirkwood, Old Town Keller Merchants Association president, told the Star-Telegram that most members believe restoring the rail car is not a wise use of funds.

Kirkwood did not return calls from NBC 5 for comment.

Harness said a group of people at the meeting unsuccessfully tried to delay the vote until the next meeting. They also tried to buy the car from the association for $3,500, but Kirkwood would not allow it because the motion on the floor was to scrap the train, not save it, Harness said.

Some of the people in favor of keeping the rail car held a special meeting to remove Kirkwood as president of the Old Town Keller Merchants Association. It is not clear if they had enough votes at the meeting to do so.

Kirkwood said in a printed email that is taped to one of the rail car's windows that he is still president of the group.

Harness hired a lawyer and got a temporary restraining order to stop the salvage work on the rail car, which is now locked.

The Old Town Keller Merchants Association will hold another vote Monday on the future of the rail car.

"We don't want any of this to get out of hand," Harness said. "I would like those who would like to save the train be allowed to save the train and those that don't can make the formal motions and do what they need to do, but do it through the guidelines so everyone is aware."

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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