In June of 2014, I discovered a hidden treasure alongside Route 66.
I was driving home after a two-day trip; it was the first time I’d traveled Route 66 west of Oklahoma City. I only went as far as the Texas border, but it was enough to know I wanted to explore the rest of the road. It was an eye-opening journey in many ways; I was less than an hour from Tulsa when I saw something out of the corner of my eye. I slammed on the brakes and scared poor Samantha half to death.
Close to the Lincoln/Creek county line east of Stroud, a rusty child-size locomotive peeked out of the bushes. It was impossible to see when traveling westbound and I’d been lucky to notice it as I was heading east. The patina on the metal helped it blend in with the environment. I giddily took photos of the train and a few surrounding metal sculptures (a cow skeleton, a cactus). When I got home, I was surprised to learn that its existence was a surprise to quite a few roadies.
I returned to the little train many times over the years. Summer, Winter, Spring. Sometimes it was engulfed in foliage, other times the words Lincoln County Express on the side were visible from the road. After sharing one of the photos on Facebook, I received a message from the daughter of the man that built it. Paul Hicks was a pipeline welder that built the small roadside attraction in the 1970s for his grandkids and interested travelers. After he passed in 2001, it all fell into disrepair.
I wrote a blog post about the Express in 2015; it led to my first published article that appeared in This Land Press and Route 66 Magazine. Over the years, I waved at the little train every time I drove by even when I didn’t have the time to stop. It was like a member of the family.
A few weeks ago, I received another Facebook message; this time it came with a picture of a freshly-painted train. Town Talk, a local group of volunteers in Stroud, worked with the city to purchase the train and fix it up. Local oilfield company Service King restored it over a two week period & it was installed in the small park next door to the Rock Cafe. The eventual goal is to use this as a part of a miniature golf course.
I am overjoyed that this little train has a new life in full view for all to see. I’m sure if Paul Hicks was still around today, he would be proud that his little project will bring joy to a whole new generation of locals and travelers alike.