Train rolls into big money

By Laurel Callaway
Opelika Observer

Donations continue to roll in for the Rocky Brook Rocket restoration project. The Rotary and Kiwanis clubs of Opelika have pledged $10,000 each toward the renovation of the iconic 1955 G-16 model train located in Opelika Municipal Park.
The gift agreements were unanimously approved by the city council Tuesday.  The commitment includes the naming rights for 12 years to the train shed after the Rotary Club and the wooden bridge after the Kiwanis Club.
Both civic organizations have been instrumental throughout the years in assisting in the preservation of the Rocket. In 1993 the Opelika Kiwanis Club headed a project that gave the train a facelift and brought it to sound mechanical condition. The Rocket remained operational until parts became difficult to acquire in the early 2000s. For a time, reproduction parts were made; however, mechanical issues continued to plague the train. By 2007 another intensive renovation was needed in order to keep the Rocket up and running, and the Opelika Rotary Club made contributions through financial support and services in this effort, including painting the train and assisting Scott Bridge Company in replacing the engine.
The announcement of this generous contribution comes two weeks after the council approved a $25,000 pledge from Alligare, LLC. In exchange, the train depot will be named the Alligare Depot.
“The City of Opelika and Parks and Recreation are extremely excited to have Alligare as a sponsor. We cannot thank Jeff Welsh and his team enough for the generous donation to the restoration of the Rocky Brook Rocket,” said Municipal Area Supervisor Matthew Battles. “We are truly excited to have local businesses and corporations invest in the preservation of the rich heritage of our local community.”
Opelika City Council President Eddie Smith said, “The quickest way to raise money is to go to organizations and give them naming opportunities.  Last week, Alligare set the pace with a $25,000 commitment.”
The cost of the project is estimated at $100,000, which will fully restore the miniature train to its original state, expand the loading and unloading pad with extended walkways and give a new facelift to the train depot and storage shed.
“The total amount of money raised now is about $85,000. We’re going to have the Rocky Brook Rocket restored, it’s going to be on T.V., and we’re going to get to watch the process,” Smith said.
Individuals in the community can contribute to the project by purchasing engraved brick pavers, which will be part of a walking path near the Alligare Depot.
“The pavers would make a good Christmas gift for a family member,” Battles said.  The cost begins at $50, with all of the proceeds going to the restoration. Brick pavers can be purchased at the Opelika SportsPlex or the Denson Drive Recreation Center. They can also be ordered online at recreation.
Donations to the “Wall of Fame” have three levels: bronze, silver and gold. Donation levels range from $1,000 and up. For more information on becoming a Wall of Fame donor, contact Battles at Denson Drive.