City buys three historic coaches for its Grapevine Vintage Railroad

Posted Monday, Apr. 22, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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The Grapevine Vintage Railroad is moving forward while stepping back in time with the city’s recent purchase of three vintage railroad coaches that summon up images of Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr.

After hearing a presentation April 2 from a city official, the council voted 6-0 to approve the purchase of the rolling stock for $60,000 from the estate of an East Texas former train steward who kept them in museum quality.

The appeal of these coaches is their link to the past, according to Michael Woody, Grapevine Convention and Visitors Bureau assistant executive director.

He spoke of the “unique” history of the coaches, saying “it has a story.”

“These coaches operated between Los Angeles and San Francisco in the ‘40s, ‘50s and ‘60s,” he said. “Legends such as Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr., among others, rode and entertained on these coaches that were designed with performance areas and, of course, a dance floor.”

“The purchase of this rolling stock will greatly enhance our ability to expand our special event and charter business,” Woody said.

“This acquisition allows us the opportunity to increase revenue as it provides a collection of coaches that our customers and prospective customers are looking for,” he said. “In addition, this consist will provide us the opportunity to operate our regular schedule during special events like Thomas the Tank and North Pole Express.”

The purchase from an estate liquidation was made in mid-April. Woody said there are no tracks from the site they are on, so arrangements will be made to transport the train cars. With minor work necessary to get them working again, he said the coaches should be able to make their debut during the Christmas season.

The idea to purchase the coaches was presented to the Convention and Visitors Bureau board of directors at its March 21 meeting.

“For the past couple of years, we have been trying to identify the right coaches to expand our offerings,” Woody told the City Council on April 2. “Through those searches we found several coaches, but they either needed too much work or were priced well out of our range. These coaches struck the perfect balance. They were priced right and will require very little work to have them in full operation.”

He said the $60,000 offered was “well under their appraised value” of $75,000.

Most of the work will be air brake rehabilitation, which will be done using the Grapevine Vintage Railroad mechanics and crew under the existing roundhouse operations.

Woody told the council the coaches belonged to B.B. Garrett, a former Cotton Belt steward and railroad enthusiast. As popularity of train service declined in that corridor during the late 60s, the coaches were taken out of service. Once decommissioned, Garrett purchased the set and moved them to his ranch in East Texas where they have been stored for more than four decades

Over the years, he bought used railroad cars and began a collection that has become a wealth of railroad history, according to the Bullard Banner News.

“I started out with the plan to buy one or two cars,” Garrett told the News in 2007. “But when I got home, somehow I had 15. And that’s when I decided to get into the used railroad car business.”

Marty Sabota, 817-390-7367

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