We appear to be closing in on the final chapter in the saga of the stolen train bell at the Yaquina Pacific Railroad Society in Toledo. The bell, which sat atop the 1922 Baldwin “One Spot” train engine that was donated by GP to the city in 1959, suddenly went missing. Somebody cut it clean off the top of the old steamer and nobody could figure out who might have done it. Some theorized it might have been somebody who grew weary of pranksters ringing the bell at all hours of the night. Others thought it was just a mean thing for somebody to do.
For as long as the railroad historical society has been stewards of the old locomotive, they’ve had a standing offer of a reward for the return of its bell – no questions asked. Just return it and you get your money.
Back in late 2012, the phone rang down at the society’s caboose at the museum. It was somebody from Eugene offering to return the bell for a thousand dollars. The caller claimed he’d bought on Ebay and would let it go for what he had in it. The society told the caller they are a non-profit with little chance of raising a thousand dollars. “Okay, $700,” came the reply.
After some back and forth, the man agreed to meet with a society contingent at a campground off 101, just inside the Lane County line. And sure enough, it was the bell from the old “One Spot.” It looked rather bedraggled and pock marked like somebody had used it for target practice. But there it was after over fifty years of illicit captivity.
The man got his money and the society got their bell back, or “ding dong,” as it was affectionately referred to.
Since then, restoration artist Marlyn Kaps has brought the bell back from the trash heap of history to a new lease on life – and perhaps a continued long future atop the old “One Spot.” But whether it’ll ever go back up on top of that venerable old engine, or be displayed in some other arrangement, has not yet been determined.
The final paragraphs of the final chapter of the “One Spot’s Stolen Bell Caper” have yet to be written.