Fundraising Campaign for Santa Fe 3415 Steam Locomotive Underway

By Ryan Duey

An Abilene fundraising campaign is underway to complete the federally mandated-rebuild of Santa Fe 3415, the state’s official steam locomotive. According to Abilene and Smoky Valley Railroad officials, the engine overhaul is required by the Federal Railroad Administration and is a process that must be completed every 15 years. The engine is currently out of service and will not operate until workers and consultants complete the inspection and rebuild of the engine’s boiler and flue system. Other components of the running gear and tender car will also be examined, repaired, and/or replaced.

Given the fact that steam engine components are not in stock commercially and must be locally manufactured, the cost of rebuilding the 105-year-old engine is expected to approach $600,000.

“We’ve already raised funds to pay for the initial phases of the project, and our efforts to reach our goal will continue,” said A&SV President and General Manager Ross Boelling, who added that the railroad has established a 3415 Fund at the Community Foundation of Dickinson County in Abilene. Boelling said that the fund will hopefully collect enough revenue to complete the current rebuilding project and provide funds for future repairs once the engine is operational again.

Boelling said that the project has caught the attention of a well-known railroader who has agreed to chair the fundraising effort. Former Burlington Northern Santa Fe President and CEO Carl Ice of Manhattan is working with the A&SV Board of Directors in leading the massive fundraising project.

“The ATSF 3415 is a big part of the A&SV’s success,” said Ice, who noted that the engine symbolizes the impact of railroads in building the Kansas social and commercial infrastructure.

The Santa Fe Railroad gave steam engines to many communities when the ATSF converted from diesel to steam power in the early 1950s, and the city of Abilene was a lucky recipient. The engine sat as a stationary exhibit in Eisenhower Park for nearly 40 years before the engine was given to the A&SV by the City of Abilene.

The iconic locomotive was initially rebuilt under the leadership of A&SV founders Joe Minick and Fred Schmidt, who led a community-wide effort that began in 2006. The project was completed in 2009, when the antique engine began powering excursion and dinner trains on the Abilene and Smoky Valley.

Santa Fe 3415 is one of a handful of ATSF locomotives in service today. In fact, the Abilene engine is one of four reanimated Santa Fe engines in the United States, a factor that caught Ice’s attention.

“This is a wonderful story of a community stepping up and making the 3415 not just something that you see in a park but instead, a piece of living history.”

Boelling said that each of the seven members of the A&SV Board of Directors has made individual contributions to the 3415 Fund. Ice and his wife Mary have already made a donation, and Board members will be working with Ice in the region to secure financial support. After reaching a certain level of contributions, the A&SV will launch a massive public fundraising campaign, but for now, anyone wishing to contribute may do so at the railroad’s website,

Boelling said that the railroad is documenting the massive task of rebuilding the engine through a special Facebook page, “ATSF Fans and Friends,” which contains photos and a description of the process.

The engine overhaul is being supervised by A&SV volunteers Steve Schwarting and Todd Walter. Consultants from the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad and Heritage Rail Management of Durango, Colorado, are assisting in supervising the project.

Boelling added that persons wanting to volunteer to be part of the steam crew may fill out an application at the A&SV website.

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