1907 - 1928

The Lowry Park "Choo-Choo train" was a steam locomotive type 0-4-0T built by the Vulcan Iron Works foundry in Wilkes-Barre, PA.   In 1907, the Florida Phosphate Mining Corp. in Green Bay, Fla. ordered three Vulcan locomotives, one of which was our Lowry Park "Choo-Choo."

Railway Age, Vol. 44, p.131

Industrial Development and Manufacturer's Record, Vol. 52, p.26, July 18, 1907.

Green Bay was an early phosphate mining community starting around 1907.  It was located about 6 miles southwest of Bartow and about 5 miles southeast of Mulberry.  Typical of a company town like many others in Polk County,  it was designed for workers and their families.

In those days the phosphate mines were isolated and usually there were few if any good roads leading to them, and even fewer workers with automobiles to get there. Employers had to provide housing for their workers or found it impossible to find help.

People assembled for group portrait in the fields, 1916 - Polk County, Florida
This gathering took place at the home of Frank Jones in the area of Old Green Bay Mine, located about 6 miles south west of Bartow.  L-R: Laura Register, Callie Waters, Beulah Mizell, Jennie Mizell, Nettie Taylor, Owen Mizell, George Reynolds, R.M. Waters (Behind Reynolds), Frank Reid. In the buggy are Joe Peeples and Sam Mizell.  State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory.


By the 1950s the situation had changed, with phosphate and chemical operations filling the area. The industry no longer needed to offer housing and the company owned phosphate communities all disappeared.

This photo of phosphate workers at Green Bay posing for a picture is courtesy of the State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory project.

Phosphate workers posing for a picture, Green Bay, Fla. 1907 - Far left: Joe Reid. Seated (L-R): Frank Mans, Sam Mizell.
Courtesy of the State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory.

The Lowry Park engine went into use in Green Bay originally as "Florida Phosphate #2."

It does not appear to be in this photo; the two shown are similar yet have clearly visible differences with the Lowry Park engine.  A reliable source (Steel Rails, Jan. 1953) states that our Vulcan locomotive left the Vulcan plant in Sept. 1908.  If the year of this photo is correct, this photo predated the arrival of our  Lowry Park loco.

Our Lowry Park loco was used by the Florida Mining Co. until 1928 to haul phosphate to various areas and probably into Tampa where the phosphate docks were located on the west side of Seddon Island.


In 1928 Florida Phosphate Mining Corp. sold the Vulcan locomotive to Dantzler Lumber Co. in Tampa and it was renumbered 1147.  (Steel Rails magazine, Jan. 1953)


View of Roux-Askew & Dantzler Lumber Yard on Seddon Island, April 29, 1925.
Burgert Bros. photo courtesy of the Tampa-Hillsborough County Public Library System

The L. N. Dantzler Lumber Company had its beginning shortly before the American Civil War, when William Griffin acquired a sawmill at Moss Point, Mississippi. Griffin's daughter married in 1857 to Lorenzo Nolly Dantzler who purchased the sawmill from his father-in-law in the 1870s.  Dantzler persuaded two of his sons, John Lewis Dantzler and L.N. Dantzler, Jr., to join the company, and the three incorporated as the  in 1888. The lumber company became the first privately chartered corporation in Mississippi.  

L. N. Dantzler, Sr.
Photo from the Melvin Byrd collection at Mississippi Rails

For 20 years, the company relied on contract loggers to supply their sawmills, but in the 1890s, the company began buying large tracts of land to insure a more reliable source of timber. 

L. N. Dantzler, Jr.
Photo from the Melvin Byrd collection at Mississippi Rails

By the 1920s, L.N. Dantzler Lumber Company had leased the shipbuilding plant on the property of the Tampa Shipbuilding & Engineering Company in Tampa where it was in the business of building and repairing wooden ships. 

In 1924 the lumber interests of E. T. Roux and Harry Lee Askew were purchased by Lorenzo Nolly Dantzler, Jr., and the name changed to Roux-Askew-Dantzler, Inc., one of the biggest and most successful lumber exporting companies in the Southeast, with  E. T. Roux and Harry Lee Askew as copartners. As the Roux-Askew Dantzler Company, they had docks and a lumber yard on Seddon Island.  L.N. Dantzler, Jr. ran the company in Tampa with Harry Lee Askew as Vice President.  Later they became the Dantzler Lumber & Export Company.  In 1951, L.N. Jr. died suddenly of a heart attack in Tampa.

Lumber World Review, Volume 49    Askew Family website    America's Maritime Progress By George Weiss

Tampa Shipbuilding & Engineering  (now Gulf Marine Repair) was founded in 1917 and was a merchant ship builder. The yard built ships under the United States Maritime Commission's pre-war long-range shipbuilding program. Shortly after starting work on its initial USMC contract, it got into financial difficulties and was sold to George B. Howell.

The new company was called Tampa Shipbuilding Company, or TASCO.  At its peak, the yard employed 16,000 people and was the largest employer in Tampa.  TASCO closed at the end of WWII and few traces remain of its facilities.  The area is now Gulf Marine Repair, a Hendry Marine Industries Company, at 1800 Grant St.


Tampa Shipbuilding & Engineering - The new company was called Tampa Shipbuilding Company, or TASCO.



The Burgert Bros photo at right from the Tampa-Hillsborough County Public Library is titled "Sailors and civilians along with military band celebrate E-Day at TASCO construction yard" and is dated July 7, 1944.

When the Tampa Shipbuilding Company won an "E Award" for its war construction efforts in 1944, Governor Spessard Holland joined in the celebration. The Army-Navy "E" Award was an honor presented to companies during World War II whose production facilities achieved "Excellence in Production" ("E") of war equipment.

Information provided by Kermit Nelson from the book Tampa Bay Throughout The TIMES - St Petersburg Times, 125 Years


The configuration of the buildings at the upper right of the photo correspond to those shaded in gray on the 1931 Sanford Fire Insurance Map at left.


Aerial view of Tampa Shipbuilding Company (TASCO) in 1946.

Burgert Bros. photo from the Tampa-Hillsborough County Public Library System.


This Burgert Brothers photo is from Hampton Dunn's "Yesterday's Tampa" where he says "Vintage of this old locomotive is not determined, but it's an interesting reminder of the past.
She's in great shape here, so probably from the very early Dantzler years, 1928-1930.

1935 at the Port of Tampa
Dantzler lumber yard
In the early years at Dantzler, before the engine number was added and the star was added to the front.
Burgert Bros. photo courtesy of the Tampa-Hillsborough County Public Library




Our "Choo-choo's" career with Dantzler is best explained by this 1953 article in Steel Rails

Special thanks to Kimi Lau-Costanzo for locating an actual copy of this magazine on eBay, purchasing it., and scanning it.  The only library that had it was located at Stanford University in California, and they were less than cooperative when asked to send TampaPix a scan of this article, a "teaser" of which was found on Google Books.

A PDF scan of the article can be seen and downloaded here in a TampaPix DropBox folder.

FLORIDA’S WOOD BURNER by C.C. Campbell - Steel Rails magazine, Jan. 1953
Florida’s shortest railroad is the mile-long tracks on Seddon Island in Tampa Harbor, on which an antiquated wood burning steam locomotive is still holding its own in these days of the modern diesel.

Switching cars of lumber and empties back and forth between the Seaboard Air Line tracks and the Dantzler Lumber Company’s Export Docks, this short, stocky old wood burner was built by the one hundred year old Vulcan Iron Works for the Florida Phosphate Mining Corporation of Green Bay, Florida and left the Vulcan plant in September, 1908. Purchased from the Phosphate Corporation by the Dantzler Lumber Company of Tampa in 1928 at a cost of $2,000, this old locomotive has given them nearly a quarter century of constant, faithful service. With proper care, the locomotive apparently will be useful for many years to come.

Originally built as a coal burner, Dantzler converted the old engine to a wood burner by the installation of a cabbage head stack,** furnished by the Vulcan Works, and a set of wood type grates. A standard tender from a scrapped Seaboard engine, with the top of the tank portion cut away made an ideal wood tender and completed the conversion job. The boiler is equipped with a saddle type water tank. Thus their fuel problem was quickly solved. In normal times there is always enough scrap wood and lumber around the yards, which costs nothing extra, to supply the needs. About two cores are required for the average day's work.

**Regulations provide that all wood-burning locomotives must be equipped with a spark arresting stack, commonly known as the cabbage head type.

No. 1147 has not always burned coal or wood. During the Second World War, when fuel was scarce, the old timer had a vital part in handling millions of feet of lumber and heavy timbers which went into large Naval and Air Installations in the West Indies and other foreign points. During that period the engine was regularly fired on coconut shells, very likely the only locomotive in the world ever fired on such a fuel, or at least in the United States. This fuel was obtained from a near-by candy factory which processed thousands of coconuts each day. If you want a rip-roaring, hot fire just try a few shovelfuls of the "monkey fruit" shells!

Not only does the old wood burner handle eighteen to twenty cars of heavy lumber per day and drag out the empties, but it also unloads them. By the use a of gin pole and an arrangement of pulleys and cables, the engine pulls forward lifting the heavy timbers above car level where they are skidded onto the docks ready for the ship's winch to take them aboard.

Nor has it always hauled phosphate and lumber. In the pre-war years when some of the foreign countries were buying all the scrap iron they could get, the engine was earning a nice income for its owners by switching and providing power to unload thousands of tons of scrap for a large salvage company. The scrap was loaded aboard various foreign and domestic vessels.


During the period of dual service a crew was unloading a car of scrap and something with a familiar look showed up, it proved to be a cylinder, piston, crosshead guide and brake rod from a sister engine of the 1147. Just where the pieces came from was never determined, but they were saved and some have since been used and the rest are in the spare parts stock. What a break during the struggles of war time! In the way the scrap later reacted against us, it is very unlikely could the old engine express herself, that she would be proud of that part of her accomplishments. To the serious minded rail fan it is sad to think that eventually the time will come when faithful old 1147, even with all her colorful career and usefulness to mankind, will succumb to the cutter's torch. One of her race will indeed be exceedingly hard to find.

The dock superintendent, who has controlled the locomotive operations for these many years, holds an engineer's license. Repair parts though seldom needed are still available from the builders. The inspector reports the boiler in the best condition of any burner or boiler in his territory. According to city code it is inspected regularly once each month. Originally designed for 200 pounds pressure and inspected at the plant by The Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company, the working pressure was 180 lbs., but the present working pressure has been reduced to 120, though she operates nicely on 80 to 100 lbs. with light load.

Vulcan locomotives carry a boiler serial number and date as well as a construction number, which in this case is 1155, 7-30-07, stamped in the boiler head and is as plain as the day it was made. The engine stands 10'4" high, spreads to 8'6" wide and stretches to a length of 23'2" to weigh 29 tons, in working order. The 0-4-0 wheel arrangement has a 6'0" wheel base measurement. Two 13" x 18" cylinders through 2 inch diameter piston rods and Stephenson link motion valve gear transmits the force to move the 36 inch drivers.

A bronze name plate bears a shop number 1147, which has been adopted by the Dantzler Company as their road number. The Company's rolling stock consists of the 1157 [sic] and three ex-A C L flat cars of the old 4700 series. Of course loaded cars, flat, box and gondola from almost every road in the country find their way to the yards via the Seaboard Air Line interchange. It is not uncommon to see 30 to 40 cars on their tracks at one time.

This old engine operates almost as quietly and smoothly as when new. It is cleaner than the average locomotive and if you think the days of the wood burner are over, because most of them have headed for the rip track or museum, the owner quickly tells you that the 1147 is still a good engine. If you go over to the island several years hence she will still be puffing away, with only minor new parts and tires needed to keep her in efficient operating condition.


THE SOL WALKER YEARS Sept. 1954 - circa 1964

Some of the information in the next two sections was provided by a former employee of Walker, Robert Bolesta, in a 2017 conversation with Kimi Lau-Costanzo.   Special thanks to Robert and Kimi.

After the death of L. N. Dantzler, Jr. in Tampa in 1951, the company moved most of its operations to Jacksonville.  Old No. 1147's career hauling lumber and switching rail cars for Dantzler Lumber was over, and it was sold in 1954 "for a few hundred dollars" to Sol Walker & Co., a huge scrap metal salvage business.  The engine remained on Seddon Island where, according to Bob Bolesta, they nicknamed her "The Little Engine That Could" because of its power and excellent running condition.  Walker used the old Vulcan wood-burning engine for a few more years to haul his scrap to and from the shipyard docks and onto ships to be sent all over the world.  But on the east side of Sparkman Channel, Walker used an old switch engine and cars that were already there because the tracks were too narrow to accommodate the old Vulcan.


1147 STILL CHUGS ALONG--This old wood-burning engine goes about its daily task of hauling freight cars loaded with scrap steel on Seddon Island.  Built in Pennsylvania in 1907, it is six years older than an inactive relic recently found in Bradenton.

TRIPLE THREAT - Henry Mickens, engineer of 1147, is also her fireman and conductor.  Here he throws pieces of pine wood into her old firebox. (Trib photo by Ed Sessions).






Solomon "Sol" Walker was born in St. Louis and came to Tampa in 1925 at the age of 10.  He was a successful business owner and operator of Sol Walker & Co. for 55 years, the owner of Stalnaker Farm and Ranch Supply Limited, and the owner of Gulf Coast Recycling. 

Walker began his scrap iron business by March, 1942, using the Dantzler docks and the docks at the shipyards to load and unload his scrap and would  send what wasn't being shippedto his scrap yard on Adamo Dr. at 34th St. 

On Jan. 2, 1948, he incorporated as "Sol Walker & Co."



Groundbreaking for new synagogue. 1968, Walker wearing sunglasses.
L to R: Elizabeth Berger, Leo Levinson, Manuel Aronovitz, Sol Walker, Elaine Levinson, Bob Levinson.   State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory.


By 1958, "The Little Engine That Could" couldn't anymore.  It sat rusting away on Seddon Island.  In late November, of that year it was discovered by Ernest V. Reed, Jr. who suggested it should be saved and placed at Fairyland in Lowry Park.



In May of 1959, another "discovery" of the locomotive was made by "Frog" Smith and once again, it is suggested that the "grand old wood-burning locomotive" be rescued and preserved--"What a pity to let such a venerable old engine rust away when its rightful place is some park." "Old 1147 is standard gauge of four foot eight and a half inches, and would make a fitting monument anywhere, being six years older than old No.2 in Bradenton.  Already in Tampa, it can still run."  He goes on to say that this engine must have had some excellent care in its day; her firebox was still in good condition, and that was the part that suffers the most.



Although it is not mentioned in this brief 1963 article about Seddon Island's past, our "Little Engine that Could" can be seen in the lower left corner, captioned "Old locomotive testifies to 195-acre island's past as a railroad phosphate terminus."  (This locomotive wasn't used to haul phosphate, it was used by Dantzler to switch lumber-laden cars.  Afterward it was sold to Sol Walker who used it to haul scrap metal.)



In December of 1964, Tampa model railroad hobbyist Chester Holley mentions the old locomotive when he became frustrated with the high prices of getting one of his own locomotives moved.

"ACL, truck companies and house movers want too much money for the moving job... "  So he planned "to ask Mayor Nuccio how he had Lowry Park's Fairyland locomotive moved from Seddon Island."

This could mean that the locomotive was moved during Nick Nuccio's term as mayor of Tampa. His 2nd term started Oct. 1, 1963.  By the time of this article, it had been moved.

So the move to Fairyland would have been between Oct. 1, 1963 and Dec. 17, 1964.

THE LOWRY PARK YEARS circa 1964 to 1989

Sol Walker was in business with his half-brother Irving "Izzie" Oster, who gave, loaned or sold the locomotive to the City of Tampa for placement at Lowry Park by December 17, 1964.  Early brochures of Lowry Park don't mention the locomotive.

May 19, 1965 - Old #1147 proudly displayed at the Fairyland Railroad Station
Photo by TBT archives


Local band "The Rovin' Flames--Ready for Action" on the Lowry Park fire truck.

The locomotive can be seen at the left of the photo.


The Glades, circa 1970
Right to Left -- Tommy Mullins (vocals), Lynn Burnette (drums), Dennis Clark (trumpet), Alan Hoak (alto sax), Jim Morrison (guitar), Tom Brown (bass/Hammond B3), Bill Orr (tenor sax).
Dr. Bill Orr was a Chamberlain Grad who was the principal at Hillsborough High for a number of years.
Photo and description provided by Robert D. Floyd.


This rare photo of the Choo-choo dressed up for the USA bicentennial in 1976 was provided by
Cecilia M. Pope at the "
Save Fairyland" Facebook group.

Sometime after the 1976 photo, the Choo-choo was repainted in black and renumbered 6090; it is not known why.

The Tampa Catholic High School Dancerettes on the choo-choo train,  Fairyland, 1982.
(L-R) Michelle Barreiro, Aileen DeArmas, Jama Coley, Anna Vito, Jenny Sincell, Candyce Forrester,
Lori Giglio, Myra Pita, Nga Nguyen, Christina Vasquez, Celeste Liccio.
Thanks to Kimi Lau-Costanzo for providing the names from her TC yearbook.
Photo by Ralph Owen Dennis.


By the 1970s, the Humane Society called Lowry Park's zoo “one of the worst zoos in America.”  In 1981 the parks department and Citizens Advisory Board called for improvements, so Lowry Park Zoo Association was formed in order to raise awareness of the Zoo and promote funding the renaissance of it. Soon afterward, the Zoo Association started on a $20 million capital campaign, and the City of Tampa committed $8 million.

In 1984 a master plan was developed, and in 1988 the Zoo Association became the Lowry Park Zoological Society, a private, independent, nonprofit organization dedicated to the management and ongoing development of a superior zoological garden--it was no longer owned by the City of Tampa Parks Dept.

After several years of fundraising, the original Lowry Park Zoo closed with a ceremony on Monday, September 7, 1987 at 6pm for its $20 million reconstruction. 

About a year into the renovation, it was announced that the old Choo-Choo had to go.  It was deemed an impediment to the progress of the zoo expansion. The zoo development director said she hoped someone would take it and restore it, but if not, it would be destroyed in order to build a parking lot.

The 80-year-old steam locomotive at right blends into the scenery at Lowry Park Zoo, but it's in the way for officials planning a $7 million expansion.  They would like it restored.


The president of the Florida Gulf Coast Railroad Museum wanted it, but their facility would not be opening for another 6 months.  He estimated it would cost around $2,000 to have it moved to Parrish, Fla. where the museum was being prepared--funds he didn't have.  The zoo director discussed possibilities with the museum president, who said he wanted it because it is a steam locomotive, and because it was part of Tampa's history.

A little over a year later, a plan to save the Choo-Choo was developed.

The 81-year-old locomotive that sits near the entrance of Lowry Park will be moved Saturday (Feb. 4) by the Florida Gulf Coast Railroad Museum, which plans to restore the 30-ton train.

It was decided that for $1,000, they would have the engine moved from Lowry Park to Sol Walker scrap metal company, then when the museum in Parrish, Fla. was finished, they would spend another $1,000 to move it to the museum from Walker.  So "The Little Engine That Could" was back with Sol Walker, but this time on his salvage lot on Adamo Dr.

At the time the locomotive was sent to Lowry park from Seddon Island, it was rusty, but still in operable condition.  But when it was removed from Lowry Park and was sent back to Sol Walker, the engine was no longer usable.  It was covered with rust, missing bells, whistles, and both steam and brake gauges. The brass fittings and valves, along with various other vital parts, had been stripped. 



Nov. 1987 - Earl Minniefield is the Earl of Iron at Sol Walker and Co's scrap metal field at the Port of Tampa. Since the age of 21 - he is now 60 (in the photo) andstill carries a torch.
No further information concerning the locomotive has been located after the January 1989 articles.  It appears that the plan was delayed for reasons unknown to TampaPix.

The locomotive sat at Sol Walker for as many as 10 years. According to Bob Bolesta, there was an interest from Caribbean islands and South American entities to purchase it, but when prospective buyers saw the condition it was in, they changed their minds.

*Special thanks to Kimi Lau-Costanzo who spoke with Robert by telephone to get the Sol Walker years story, and with the city of Zephyrhills Library for info on the engine's current location.


Photo from TBT archives

**Sol Walker years info sources: Robert Bolesta memories, Steam Locomotives note by Don Hensley of Taplines, and Steam Locomotive Ownership Info.



According to Tampa businessman Mike Sierra, the old engine spent many years sitting off Adamo Drive at Walker's yard, unable to sell it.  It was finally sent to the Florida Railroad Museum* in Parrish, Fla. around 1997 where it was on display on a small piece of track for a very short time.  If anything was done, it may have been repainted all black.
** also indicates that the engine was sent to the Florida Railroad Museum in Parrish, FL, but when contacted on June 3, 2017, the manager at the museum said he had no recollection of this locomotive being there.

Mr. Sierra didn't recall exactly when, but guessed that "around 10 years ago, or maybe longer," the museum was having some financial difficulties so he reached an agreement for services rendered to the museum.  In lieu of payment, Sierra accepted the old black locomotive.  

In early June of 2017, a librarian at the Zephyrhills library also said it was black when she first saw it and was already at its present location when she moved to Zephyrhills around 1998**.  

 **Florida Steam Locomotives also indicates 1998.


The train in its current yellow (and RUST) color is now located on the east side of US 301 in front of Festival Park. Just about one mile south of Chancey Rd in Zephyrhills. The festival location "Zephyrhills Auto Events" is 2738 Gall Blvd, Zephyrhills, FL 33541.  2012 photo from the Florida Railroad Museum.  Notice the same engine tender car as the Dantzler Lumber photo.

The Zephyrhills Express is located about 27 miles northwest of Tampa on US Hwy 301, just south of Zephyrhills.

TampaPix is grateful and wishes to acknowledge and thank Kimi Lau-Costanzo and Kermit Nelson for their persistence and determination to fill in this "puzzle piece," as well as Mike Sierra for providing the puzzle piece. After researching and determining the owner of the property where the old engine now sits, Kimi & Kermit made numerous attempts to make contact with various individuals and businesses by phone messages and letters.  On Aug. 15, 2017, Kimi received a phone call from Mike Sierra, Tampa businessman and Zephyrhills Express owner.

Mr. Sierra said getting it to Festival Park was no easy or inexpensive task.  A crane was used to lower it onto a lowboy flatbed trailer.  He constructed the small piece of track that it now sits upon at the park and very soon afterward painted it yellow to use it as a sort of landmark symbol of Zephyrhills and to act as a billboard for events at Festival Park.  The old locomotive was a popular hang-out for the patrons of the "Livestock" rock music fest held there in the 1990s to the early 2000s.

Mr. Sierra acknowledged that it has deteriorated over the years, but he has no future plans to attempt to move or refurbish it as it is now in such a delicate and rusted condition.

Photo posted by disneymamom at
June, 2013



Undated photo from Florida Steam Locomotives.  Notice the red wheels and better overall condition.





Undated photo from
Florida Steam Locomotives

Current Google street view from Gall Rd.




Photo dated Feb. 10, 2017 by Bob "Mr. History" at Flickr

Kimi Lau-Costanzo at the Zephyrhills Express, May 27, 2017.



The Choo-choo

The fire truck

On the same property can be found this old decaying fire truck.   Mr. Sierra purchased it as a leftover from an auction and it was operable at the time and driven to it's final resting place.  No chance this came from Lowry Park as one from the park would not have been operable.  

 Read more about the Lowry Park fire truck here at TampaPix.


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