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July 22, 2019

Kaycee Lagarde

Local Boy Scout Gives Historic Pensacola
Locomotive New Life

Refurbishing and repainting an 84-foot-long, 588,890-pound, 107-year-old locomotive is no small feat, but that didn’t stop 17-year-old Zachary Panici from taking on the challenge as his Eagle Scout project.

The Tate High School graduate and Boy Scout chose to spend part of his summer fundraising, gathering volunteers and planning workdays to spruce up Engine 1355 of the St. Louis-San Francisco Railway Co., which has been resting on Garden Street since 1957.

Panici coordinated the project with the City of Pensacola Parks and Recreation Department, selecting Frisco Locomotive No. 1355 from a list of available volunteer projects in the city. Since starting the project in May, Panici has held five workdays with volunteers, logging approximately 200 hours of labor. He expects to wrap up the project by the end of the summer. 

“I just saw the state that the train was in, and when I talked to residents of the city, they said they didn’t like the state it’s in and it needed to be fixed up,” Panici said. “We know it’s never going to run again, but we can at least make it look as good as possible.”

The work included scraping rust off the locomotive, cleaning and repainting the entire body, and repainting the stenciled numbers. Despite some rain, Panici and a group of Navy volunteers had a productive workday on Saturday, July 20, with  Mayor Grover Robinson stopping by to thank him and the volunteers for their hard work restoring the historic landmark. 

“It’s fantastic to see Zach’s ambition and the level of dedication he has poured into this project,” Mayor Robinson said. “The Frisco 1355 is an important part of Pensacola’s history, and I can’t thank him or his team of volunteers enough for their efforts to bring it back to life and make it something we can all be proud of.”

Frisco Locomotive No. 1355 was built by the American Locomotive Works in 1912 and was rebuilt by the Frisco in 1944. It was presented to the City of Pensacola March 4, 1957 by the St. Louis-San Francisco Railway Co.

Before arriving in Pensacola, the freight locomotive traveled 1,148,535 miles – the equivalent of 46 times around the world.

Despite choosing one of the most challenging volunteer projects on the city’s list, Paul Pipes, the outdoor pursuits and volunteer coordinator for City of Pensacola Parks and Recreation, said Panici has gone above and beyond everyone’s expectations.

“He’s done phenomenally,” Pipes said. “He’s been a pleasure to work with, and he’s definitely earned his Eagle Scout rank. This was a very ambitious project.”

Panici has been involved in Scouts since he was in first grade, and he said he’s excited to complete this project and take the next steps toward becoming an Eagle Scout.

Panici said he was drawn to the Frisco 1355 not only for the challenge it presented, but also because of his love of antiques and history. What’s really made it special for him, though, is the feedback he’s already received from residents and passersby.

“My favorite part about the project, I would say, is how the community reacts to it and the good it’s done for the city,” he said. “Because we’ve had people stop by and express their gratitude for what we’re doing. Some of the people who stop by are older and were around when the train was brought here and will tell us stories about it.”

Mayor Grover Robinson shakes Zach Panici's hand to thank him for his work on the historic Frisco 1355 locomotive on Garden Street
Zach Panici works on the historic Frisco 1355 locomotive on Garden Street Saturday, July 20
Zach Panici works on the historic Frisco 1355 locomotive on Garden Street Saturday, July 20
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