Almost two years to the day of its first test to evacuate equipment in case of a hurricane, a BNSF train of important Galveston Railroad Museum rolling stock headed off Galveston Island in this morning’s wee hours.
The museum’s two F7A Santa Fe “Warbonnets” and four Amtrak-ready Budd passenger cars were escorted off the island under BNSF power at 2:15 in preparation for Hurricane Harvey, which is expected to hit the Texas coast tonight. Nos. 315 and 316 and chair cars “Alonzo A. Harder” and “George H. Gould,” diner “City of Galveston” and sleeper “Donald Harper” were towed about 50 miles inland to Pearland south of Houston.The rest of the museum, which Hurricane Ike severely damaged in 2008, was boarded up and sandbagged, Executive Directory Morris Gould said.
Earlier this week, a tropical Gulf depression became a hurricane bearing down on Corpus Christi. The National Weather Service says Harvey could reach winds of 125 mph and dump 20-30 inches of rain along the Gulf Coast late Friday and early Saturday. It could be the largest hurricane to hit the middle of the Texas coast since 2003.
Today, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott encouraged evacuations in the storm’s path and said he’d requested a presidential disaster declaration to trigger help from the federal government. He said Harvey, which is rated a Category 3 hurricane, will be “a very major disaster.”
Gould got an email yesterday from BNSF asking if GRM wanted to put the evacuation plan in action. He quickly got approval from the museum’s board to remove the equipment.
Museum officials swiftly prepared GRM inside and outside as much as they could. Important files and documents were placed on tables, hopefully high enough to avoid flooding, and the museum was sandbagged.
“It’s come up so quick, and there were some things we just couldn’t do,” said Gould, who believes the museum isn’t in harm’s way like it was nine years ago. “Hopefully we’re only going to get some rain out of it. I don’t think it’s going to be the center point like Ike.
“It’s another good drill for us. We talk about this every year.”
Ike hammered Galveston with 110-mph winds and a 15-foot storm surge that caused extensive flooding and equipment damage at the museum. Parts of GRM were under eight feet of water, and its two Texas Limited F7A locomotives were destroyed. The storm caused $22 billion in damage from Galveston to Houston.
After Ike, GRM and BNSF developed an evacuation plan that includes removing road-worthy rolling stock and annual test runs. In September 2015, BNSF’s first “First Responder Express” moved the F units and four passenger cars off the island in a special train recognizing area police and fire responders. Each car and locomotive is certified to run on Amtrak’s rail network.
Gould said he has fielded numerous calls from concerned fans since the hurricane began heading toward Texas.