Tracks Laid, Depot Being Renamed in Donor’s Honor
PLANT CITY, Fla. – November 12, 2013 – The train tracks were laid yesterday outside Plant City’s old train station at 102 N. Palmer St. downtown. They are set to welcome a train engine and caboose donated by retired engineer R. W. “Bob” Willaford, due to arrive Thursday afternoon, Nov. 14.
Brewington’s Towing Service, Wetherington Tractor Service and Sims Crane & Equipment are scheduled to move the switching locomotive and caboose to the depot. Their estimated arrival is between 1:30 and 1:45 p.m.
For many years, Willaford has had the engine and caboose on display outside his home north of Plant City. He became known for opening his property and his train cars for visits by local families at Easter and Christmas. In addition to tips on railroad safety, the Easter Bunny and Santa would share goodies with the children.
Willaford is also donating other equipment and memorabilia, a collection he has amassed over the past 50 years with an estimated value of $200,000. His collection will be housed and on display at the Union Station Depot Welcome Center, which the city is renaming the Robert W. Willaford Railroad Museum.
The historical equipment and railroad collectibles museum is a complement to the new train viewing platform being constructed south of the depot. It is scheduled to open next month.
Plant City is a growing mecca for train watchers and rail fans because two major CSX lines cross there, providing them with plenty of railroading action.