By Laurel Callaway
The Rocky Brook Rocket restoration project, which will fully restore the 1955 G-16 model train that has entertained locals for decades in Opelika Municipal Park, continues to gain speed as financial support comes rolling in.
According to Matthew Battles, Opelika Parks and Recreation Municipal Area Supervisor, the project has raised around $20,000 from all fundraising sources, including sponsorships and donations. The vast majority has come from the contributions of local banks, businesses and area civic clubs, he said.
One business that has been on board with their support of the project since its announcement is Winston Smith T Building Supply.
“I don’t know if any other city has something like this train. It’s a jewel that we need to keep going,” said Dozier Smith T, owner of Smith T Building Supply.
In fact, Smith T is correct in his assessment of the locomotive’s uniqueness to Opelika. The Miniature Train Company produced over 240 train sets; however, fewer than 100 are still in existence. Of those, only 50 are currently operational in the U.S.
One of the reasons the train still runs today is due in large part to the financial support and services of the Scott Bridge Company, which is also a sponsor of the current restoration project. In 2007, when the train received its most recent repair, Scott Bridge replaced the engine and reworked other mechanical issues.
According to Battles, having Scott Bridge on board with the restoration as a sponsor is enormous since they have been involved with almost every project on the train in the past.
A number of other businesses and organizations have generously signed on to be sponsors, including the Rotary and Kiwanis clubs. However, the city still needs more in financial contributions and gifts.
The estimated total cost of the restoration is $100,000, a goal the city would like to see met by January 2015. This includes the complete train restoration by Rick’s Restoration in Las Vegas, the shipping of the train, upgrades to both the train depot and train shed and new loading and unloading platform with extended walkways.
In addition to corporate sponsorships, The ‘Rocket’ restoration lies heavily in the hands of the community’s individuals.
One of the most significant ways that people can donate is by purchasing engraved brick pavers. These will be part of a walking path near the train depot to commemorate the undertaking. The pavers are available in three different sizes, and the price for a standard 4-inch by 8-inch brick is $50.
Brick pavers can be purchased at the Opelika SportsPlex or the Denson Drive Recreation Center. They can also be ordered online at www.polarengraving.com/opelikaparksandrecreation.
Donations to the “Wall of Fame” have three levels – bronze, silver and gold – and range from $1,000 and up. For information on becoming a Wall of Fame donor, contact Matthew Battles at the Denson Drive Recreation Center.
Also, Victory Designs in downtown Opelika is selling T-shirts to commemorate the Rocky Brook Rocket. The cost of the shirt is $20, and all proceeds go toward the restoration.
No matter how great or small the amount, citizens are encouraged to give in any way they are able. It will preserve this historic treasure that has brought joy to Opelika for decades.
“Even now I still enjoy riding it. I use my kids as an excuse,” said Smith T.
One day, thanks to this restoration, his children will be able to do the same with their own children.