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Man who helped restore local history dies

Posted: February 4, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: February 4, 2013 2:00 a.m.

Norm Harris, left, poses for this 1998 photo with his wife, Cynthia, and their son, Howard.

Norm Harris did more than most to preserve all that’s great about the Santa Clarita Valley.

Now the things that were great about Norm himself are being remembered by those who love the man and the work he did preserving local history.

Harris died last week, leaving behind his wife Cynthia. The two were married in 1972.

The former president of the SCV Historical Society worked tirelessly to restore the society’s steam locomotive.

“What Norm really wanted to do was he wanted to fix the train so that it ran again,” said the society’s Pat Saletore.

“He wanted it to run up and down, maybe a few yards up into the campground,” she said.

The 75-ton Mogul steam locomotive which was built in New York more than 100 years ago remains on display at the society’s William S. Hart museum thanks in large part to the efforts of Norm Harris.

The train 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.”

But, Harris repaired and polished it to the point of making it a gift that keeps on giving to the Santa Clarita Valley.

Since the Historical Society acquired it and moved it to Hart Park, Harris and his band of volunteers 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.

In the summer of 2011, thieves crawled through a hole in the wire fence, boarded the train and snipped the brass fixture from its engine.

“It stung him,” Saletore said. “That somebody came to respect us (the society) so little to do that.”

For the hundreds of visitors that come to see the locomotive, Harris’ ongoing efforts were not in vain.

Harris found a lot of joy in restoring old pieces of the Santa Clarita Valley, and the valley found a lot to be grateful for that work, said the society’s past president Leon Warden.

“Norm was passionate about our valley and our history,” he said Sunday. “We’re fortunate that he was able to find so much enjoyment in helping the society to restore the locomotive.”




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