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Area man aims to restore train using only 19th century tools

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Posted: Tuesday, November 28, 2006 10:00 pm

Stathi Pappas received his first toy train set when he was three years old. By the time he was 10, he had a sit-on-top, one-eighth scale steam engine that he would ride around his north Stockton house.

Last April, the 28-year-old finally bought the real thing.

Ten days ago, Pappas moved his train, a 1909 Porter steam locomotive, from its resting place at the now closed Pollardville Amusement Center to the Central California Traction Company yard in Stockton.

Pappas, an industrial archeologist who studies technology as it relates to industrialization, said he has always been interested in rail roading.

"I've always liked steam technology," he said. "I thought it would be nice to have a full-sized locomotive."

Pappas, who bought the engine from former Pollardville owner Neil Pollard, wouldn't say how much it cost, but added that he has seen similar inoperable engines for sale for $5,000.

He said he wants to restore the engine to working conditions, using the tools of a century ago.

"I want to use the old technology," he said. "The industrial archeologist in me wants to do it the old way."

He said it could take 10 to 20 years to restore the train this way, and he plans to document the project and write a book about it.

His father, John Pappas, a retired San Joaquin Delta College English professor, said he used to work on trains with his son when he was younger.

"We've had trains around the house for awhile," he said. "It's something we do together. He took it up a notch. In that way, he's an inspiration to me."

The father and son are members of the Sacramento Valley Live Steamers club, a group of steam engine enthusiasts.

Stathi Pappas, of north Stockton, loads his recently purchased locomotive onto a truck at the Pollardville Amusement Center. (Mitchell W. Podraza/News-Sentinel)

Cynthia Stanton, Stathi Pappas' aunt, who lives in Lodi, said there have always been trains around the family house.

"He's always collected trains," she said. "This one wouldn't fit into the front yard."

Stathi Pappas, who was born in Lodi and graduated from Lincoln High School in Stockton, said he had a wide-load semi truck ship the train to the rail yard.

If all goes well, Pappas will graduate this spring with a Ph.D. in anthropology with a concentration in industrial archeology from University of Nevada, Reno. He said he hopes to teach or write books on the subject.

"My nuttiness for trains started when I was three," he said. "It would be really great if I can turn it into a professional job."

Contact reporter Matt Brown at mattb@lodinews.com.

Pollardville train at a glance

Type: Porter steam locomotive.
Built: 1909.
Weight: 45 tons.
• Used by Santa Cruz Portland Cement Company in Davenport.
• Sold to Kaiser Gravel Company in Oroville in 1924.
• Bought by private investor in 1947.
• Bought by Pollardville owner Ray Pollard in 1967.
• Bought by Stathi Pappas of north Stockton in April, 2006.
- News-Sentinel staff.

First published: Wednesday, November 29, 2006

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