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Brass whistle taken from history buffs

Crime: Local thieves steal valued alloy from historical society exhibit

Posted: July 22, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: July 22, 2011 1:55 a.m.
 

Thieves scavenging the night for valuable metals have stolen the brass train whistle from the SCV Historical Society’s steam locomotive.

The theft joins a long list of others involving metals, including catalytic converters taken for their minute quantities of precious metals and copper wire pulled out of vacant, foreclosed homes, sheriff’s investigators said.

“I used to see them take coils of copper wiring and instead of stripping off the plastic sheath, they just poured gasoline on the coils and set the whole thing on fire,” said one Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station deputy who asked not to be named.

The train whistle was part of the 75-ton Mogul steam locomotive built in New York more than 100 years ago. Now, it sits permanently parked at William S. Hart Park on a rusty section of track with grass poking between the railroad ties.

It was a gift to the society from Western actor Gene Autry in 1981. Autry bought it in 1957 for use at his Melody Ranch in Placerita Canyon. The Mogul appeared in TV series such as “Gunsmoke.”

Since the Historical Society acquired it and moved it to Hart Park, society members have been sprucing it up, polishing it and cleaning it in an effort to present it proudly as a fixture of Santa Clarita Valley history.

Six weeks ago, thieves crawled through a hole in the wire fence, boarded the train and snipped the brass fixture from its engine.

It hasn’t been replaced, and according to museum officials, may never be replaced.

“We have another train whistle on display, but we’re kind of hesitant to put it up,” said Pat Saletore of the society.

“We have brass gauges for the train as well, but we won’t be putting those out either,” Saletore said, calling the whole incident distasteful.

Society members are now worried about the train’s big brass bell atop the engine.

“The bell is still out there,” Saletore said. “It was probably too heavy for them to steal.”

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