Since 1985, people driving along Sprague Avenue may have noticed a bright orange train peeking out through trees and other businesses that line the street.
The Spokane International Railroad 5808, at 11017 E. Sprague Ave., had been the home of children’s dentist Dr. John Ryan until last year, when Ryan retired and the train was advertised for sale.
“I heard they were going to sell it and take the train off the property,” said Tommy Tomczak, 50, a retired auctioneer and real estate developer.
Tomczak said he remembered seeing the train there as a kid and thought it was fun, so he decided to purchase it. Although he doesn’t have any plans for it yet, he’s hoping to keep the landmark around for the benefit of the community.
He’s tossed around ideas for it, such as turning it into a smokehouse or barbecue joint, maybe a game room for teens or maybe find another dentist to take up residence.
“It’s in immaculate condition,” Tomczak said.
According to Ryan’s website, construction started on the property in 1978 and a search began for train cars to help reflect the region’s rich railroad history. The reception area was constructed from a train engine built for the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1951 by the Electro-Motive Division of General Motors. Ryan purchased the engine – numbered 5808 – from Amtrak in September 1982.
The area where Ryan saw patients was constructed out of a Pullman sleeper car that was built in 1914 and named “Blystheswood.” The car was declared old and it was retired in Hillyard. Burlington Northern auctioned it off in February 1979.
The doctor’s office was in the former Burlington Northern 11389, a 30-foot-long, metal caboose. It includes an early coal caboose stove.
Tomczak said he would entertain the idea of selling the old train, but added that the buyer must use it for the benefit of the community and keep it in Spokane. He hopes that kids in the area will be able to visit the train and be able to touch, feel and see the history of the structure.
The buyer also hopes to keep the website going, since it chronicles how the structure was built and the history of each piece.
“These little attractions Spokane offers is something we’ve got to save,” he said.
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