New York has the Statue of Liberty, St. Louis the Gateway Arch. In similar fashion AT&SF Steam Engine No. 3417, better known as the Spirit of Cleburne, serves as Cleburne’s iconic symbol of pride while at the same time reflecting the city’s railroad history and heritage.
A birthday bonanza of family friendly activities, all free, are planned from noon to 3 p.m. Saturday at Hulen Park in celebration of the engine’s 100th anniversary.
The steam locomotive, built in 1919, is one of five still existing from the 50 built by Baldwin Locomotive Works for Santa Fe.
Donated to the city in 1955, the engine was moved to Hulen Park where she remains today.
“Engine 3417 has been a part of all our lives,” Cleburne Mayor Scott Cain said. “Many recall when it was moved to Hulen Park. Others recall the Christmas lights that cover it every year or the chance to blow its horn.”
So emblematic is the engine, Cain said, that he chose it as the backdrop when he announced his first run for mayor.
“Nothing says Cleburne more than No. 3417, appropriately named The Spirit of Cleburne,” Cain said.
Layland Museum Manager Stephanie Montero, who also oversees the Cleburne Railroad Museum, billed the celebration as a fun time for all.
“Just a big fun birthday party with something for everyone,” Montero said. “We’re going to have a lot of activities for kids and the whole family not to mention the historical aspect. H-E-B [Grocery store] donated a beautiful cake. We’re going to have games, crafts, train rides, a train shaped bounce house.”
Cleburne businessman and railroad enthusiast Sam Walls said he plans to set up a model train in the park’s pavilion.
“At 2 p.m. we’ll have a short program and unveil two plaques,” Walls said. “One is from the Johnson County Historical Commission. The other is from the National Railway Historical Society. That one is a nice bronze plaque designating the engine as a historic landmark.”
Cleburne banker Guy James, who is penciled in as one of the event’s musical performers, urged all residents to attend.
“It’s a huge milestone and a huge event,” James said. “The railroad put Cleburne on the map and Engine #3417 played a big part of that. So I think everyone should come out, enjoy the day and the party.”
“I hope many in our community will come out ot celebrate the Spirit of Cleburne’s 100th birthday as we all celebrate Cleburne,” Cain said. “It will be a great day in Cleburne.”
Caps and T-shirts will also be available proceeds from which will benefit the Cleburne Railroad Museum Group, a 501(c)(3) non profit, which raises money for the Cleburne Railroad Museum and Engine No. 3417. The group’s current focus is raising funds to improve the landscaping and replace the fence surrounding the engine.
Donations are tax deductible and may be mailed to Project No. 3417, 201 N. Caddo St., Cleburne, TX 76031-4903. Checks should be made payable to CRRMG Project No. 3417.