Robert Noles/Opelika Observer
Rocky Brook Rocket to be unveiled to the public tomorrow after year-long restoration project
By Morgan Bryce
Boasting a tradition spanning more than 60 years, the Rocky Brook Rocket is set to make its return Thursday afternoon at Municipal Park.
According to Municipal Area Supervisor Matthew Battles, the train’s driveshaft was torn during last year’s Garden in the Park festival, and after an inspection of the train in August 2015, it was determined that a complete refurbishing was needed if the train were to ever run again.
After a nationwide search, the city of Opelika selected RMI Railworks Industries of Oxnard, Calif. to make the repairs, and shipped the train and cars there in January.
In the following months, Battles and Assistant Parks and Recreation Director Tommie Agee made three trips to California to evaluate the train’s restoration, which according to Battles, included a complete overhaul and was retrofitted with a new diesel engine and hydraulic drive system, modern braking and electrical system and paint.
The train made its return to the park on Monday, as Battles and his staff unloaded the train and readied it for its unveiling event, which is set for Thursday afternoon.
Besides a completely restored Rocky Brook Rocket, the city also expanded the train loading area, renovated the depot and enlarged the hangar area, all ways of enhancing the train-ride experience, according to Opelika Mayor Gary Fuller. Fuller said that Battles played a pivotal role in the success of the project.
“Matt has been our champion on this project. He had my full support and encouragement along with the city council, park board, Sam Bailey (director of Opelika’s Parks and Recreation Department) and Tommie Agee,” Fuller said.
In addition to the city’s support and assistance, Battles said that many Opelika residents and businesses contributed to the Rocket’s restoration.
“The train renovation was funded through the donations from many Opelika foundations, businesses, corporations, civic clubs and individuals. Very little public funds were used in this project, which shows how important the Rocket is to the community,” Battles said.
Fuller said that the train’s return is special not only for children, but for those that first rode the train when it first traveled around the track more than 60 years ago.
“Several generations have made memories with trips to Monkey (Municipal) Park to ride the Rocky Brook Rocket. I’m confident the entire experience of riding the completely restored Rocket will be special for kids of all ages,” Fuller said.
Battles said he hopes that the Rocky Brook Rocket remains a tradition that holds dear for decades to come.
“The Rocky Brook Rocket has been a staple of the Opelika community since 1955, and to have this iconic train back means that the memories of riding the train through Monkey Park will continues for generations to come,” Battles said.
The Rocket’s unveiling ceremony will be tomorrow at Municipal Park, starting at 3:30 p.m. The annual Rocky Brook Rocket Reindeer Express Event will run through the weekend, with train rides being offered Dec. 1-3 from 5-8 p.m. Rides are $1.