By Morgan Bryce
The return of Opelika’s Rocky Brook Rocket has been put on hold until further notice. Originally scheduled to return on July 1, the miniature train’s restoration process is moving slower than expected.
Opelika’s Municipal Area Supervisor Matthew Battles and Assistant Parks and Recreation Director Tommy Agee recently took a trip to California to check on the train’s progress. Despite the project lagging behind schedule, Battles said he believes it will be worth the wait.
“Even though we’re really disappointed that it wasn’t finished on time, I believe that the impact of having the Rocky Brook Rocket back in Opelika will be huge, and that the crowds riding it again will be even bigger,” Battles said. “It is such an integral part of our community, and everyone has been pitching in to help out.”
The Rocket was part of a civil project constructed in Opelika at Monkey Park in 1955. Over time, different city organizations and clubs provided the necessary funds for maintenance and repairs to the train, but more than 60 years of use took a toll on the engine.
According to Battles, the train ran off the tracks at last year’s Garden in the Park event. The train tore a driveshaft, and Battle replaced that with one of his own to act as a temporary fix. That was just one of the train’s many problems, and after an inspection in August, it was determined that it needed to be completely restored if it were to ever run again.
After searching for an outfit capable of such repairs, the city of Opelika selected RMI Railworks Industries, based out of Oxnard, Calif. In January, the train and its cars were shipped for the restorations.
“It’s been a slow, lengthy process, but we’re getting weekly updates about the train, and whenever they call us up and tell us it’s ready, I’ll be headed out there to get it and bring it back to Opelika,” Battles said.
Though no clear time table has been set for the restoration completion, Battles said he has big events planned for the Rocket’s return after it has been tested and approved to ride again.
“We are going to have a big reopening event, which I believe will draw in hundreds if not thousands of people,” Battles said. “Then after that, we will be planning on having the Reindeer Express event, which is similar to the program at Callaway Gardens. Those are just some of the early ideas we have, but there will be more in the future once we know when we’ll be getting it back.”