Pioneer students welding a locomotive in the jungle gym, bringing it back to Kelly Park in Crestline

Aaron Cover, a student at Wynford High School, welds part of the jungle gym at the Pioneer Career and Technology Center.

A steam locomotive stood upright as a group of high school students welded part of its chassis inside the Pioneer Career and Technology Center in Shelby.

Welding students have been working on playground equipment since early fall.

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“We have probably 50 hours of work in it,” said Kip Stevens, the class’s instructor.

They will present the completed Jungle Gymnasium to Crestline officials later in May with a ceremony and ribbon cutting. Until then, they still have a bit of work to do.

Save a piece of nostalgia

The project began in the spring of 2021 when Clayton Herold and his friends from the Crestline Community Development team decided to set up a new playground at Kelly Park, near the village pool.

“This train has been at Kelly Park for years,” Herold said.

The only problem was that it had become run down from years of rust and ruin. It was so bad that the wooden seat of the train was completely rotten.

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The community developers knew they couldn’t throw out the nostalgic jungle gym, so they decided to have it fixed. It was then that they contacted Dan Slaughter, a supervisor at Pioneer.

“We kind of talked about what they wanted to do,” Slaughter said. “It is not a rare thing.”

Real-world welding experience

Pioneer students actually work on independent welding projects every school year. Without them, young professionals would have no way of gaining concrete experience in their future profession.

They recently remade a soccer sled, cutting it up and then re-soldering it for a local soccer team.

The class also worked on a 90 year old car that needed a few grips.

“They were little chrome buttons,” Slaughter explained. “(The owner) had one and he needed five more.”

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Students have also built batting cages and trailers and many other items over the years.

School staff are always on the lookout for new projects for students to do, so when Herold called, Slaughter happily agreed.

It was that year that the students finally made their way to Kelly Park in Crestline to collect the playground equipment.

“He was just lying on the ground,” Slaughter said. “It wasn’t even standing anymore.”

“This will be the centerpiece”

This is exactly the kind of challenge the instructor wanted for their students.

“It was a good project,” Stevens said. “We love to have community service projects.”

The students sanded the train, then welded the troubled areas. They quickly learned that the chimney was too rusty to be salvaged, so they placed an order to make a new one.

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The school’s carpentry class built a wooden seat that children can sit on as they drive the locomotive for years to come.

Finally, the students prepared the train and painted it. The last step was to get a set of decals to add to the train before it was brought back to Crestline.

At the end of the project, Steven said the following welding students will have done the majority of the work: Aaron Cover, a senior from Wynford; Chaase Schoonover, a senior from Wynford; Anthony Hill, an elder of Colonel Crawford; Noah Langston, a senior to Lucas; Matthew Clinard, a junior to Colonel Crawford; and Brian Schifer, a junior from Wynford.

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When the students return the Locomotive Jungle Gym to Kelly Park, it will have a new home in the center of an open field.

“This will be the centerpiece,” Herold said. “The kids will be able to play on it again. It’s nice to be able to reuse and reuse old equipment.”

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Twitter: @zachtuggle

This article originally appeared in the Mansfield News Journal: Pioneer welding students restore jungle train for Crestline Park

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