A steam locomotive stood on its end as a group of high schoolers welded part of its frame back together inside Pioneer Career and Technology Center in Shelby.
The welding students have been working on the piece of playground equipment since earlier this autumn.
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"We probably have 50 hours of work in it," said Kip Stevens, the class instructor.
They will present the completed jungle gym to Crestline officials sometime in May with a ceremony and ribbon cutting. Until then, they have a little more work to finish.
Saving a piece of nostalgia
The project came to life in the spring of 2021 when Clayton Herold and his friends on the Crestline Community Development Team decided to install a new playscape at Kelly Park, near the village's swimming pool.
"That train has been at Kelly Park for years," Herold said.
The only problem was that it had become dilapidated from years of rust and ruin. It was so bad the wooden seat of the train had completely rotted.
The community developers knew they couldn't throw away the nostalgic jungle gym, so they decided to have it repaired. That's when they contacted Dan Slaughter, a supervisor at Pioneer.
"We kind of discussed what they wanted to do," Slaughter said. "It's not an uncommon thing."
Real-world welding experience
Pioneer students actually work on freelance welding projects every school year. Without them, the young professionals would have no way of getting real-world experience in their future trade.
They've recently refabricated a football sled, cutting it apart and then welding it back together for a local football team.
The class also got to work on a 90-year-old car in need of a few handles.
"They were little chrome knobs," Slaughter explained. "(The owner) had one and he needed five more."
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Students also have built batting cages and trailers and many other items over the years.
School staff are always looking for new projects for students to complete, so when Herold called, Slaughter happily agreed.
It was this school year when students finally travelled to Kelly Park in Crestline to pick up the piece of playground equipment.
"It was just lying on the ground," Slaughter said. "It wasn't even up anymore."
'It will be the focal piece'
That's just the sort of challenge, though, that the instructor wanted for his students.
"It was a good project," Stevens said. "We like to have community service projects."
The students sanded the train down, then welded the troubled areas. They quickly learned the smoke stack was too rusted to salvage, so they put in an order to have a new one fabricated.
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The school's carpentry class built a wooded seat for children to sit on while they drive the locomotive for years to come.
Finally, students primed the train and painted it. The final step was to get a set of decals to add to the train before it is taken back to Crestline.
By the end of the project, Steven said the following welding students will have done the majority of the work: Aaron Cover, a senior from Wynford; Chaase Schoonover, a senior from Wynford; Anthony Hill, a senior from Colonel Crawford; Noah Langston, a senior from Lucas; Matthew Clinard, a junior from Colonel Crawford; and Brian Schifer, a junior from Wynford.
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When the students take the locomotive jungle gym back to Kelly Park, it will have a new home in the center of an open field.
"It will be the focal piece," Herold said. "The kids will be able to play on it again. It's nice to be able to repurpose and reuse an old piece of equipment."
This article originally appeared on Mansfield News Journal: Pioneer welding students restoring train jungle gym for Crestline park