Shay engine on display in Picayune

Published 7:00 am Friday, April 24, 2015

LOCAL LANDMARK: The Shay Engine sits majestically on Highway 11 alongside the Greater Picayune Area Chamber of Commerce. The engine was donated to the city in 1960 by L.O. Crosby Jr. Photo by Ashley Collins.

It’s difficult to miss the Shay locomotive while driving down Highway 11. The wood-burning locomotive sits majestically underneath a protective cover at Shay Park alongside the Greater Picayune Area Chamber of Commerce.

Picayune Main Street Director Reba Beebe said the locomotive is a rare sight in Mississippi.

“In this state, there are only 12 Shay engines in existence and 11 of them are on public display, including the one in Picayune,” Beebe said.

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The locomotive is more than a local landmark; it’s a tangible recollection of the past.

The Shay locomotive was used in local logging operations during the early twentieth century after being built in 1925 by Lima Locomotive Works, according to information from the Greater Picayune Area Chamber of Commerce website.

The locomotive could go as fast as 19 mph and pull a load as large as any modern freight train, Beebe said.

The gear-driven wood-burning locomotive operated on hundreds of miles of feeder tracks spread throughout the county’s pine forests. However, as society advanced, motorized trucks replaced Shay engines, according to the website.

For many years, the engine that sits in Shay Park was used by the Batson-Megehee Lumber Company in Pearl River County. In 1946, Crosby Forest Products purchased the engine and used it until the early 1960’s when L.O Crosby Jr. donated the locomotive to the city of Picayune, according to the website.

Beebe credits community members for preserving the engine over the years.

“Picayune’s locomotive is by far the best maintained and prettiest of those displayed in Mississippi and it’s thanks to the local Boy Scouts and Lower Pearl River Valley Foundation members for painting it and taking care of it,” Beebe said.

The locomotive is located at 201 Hwy. 11 N.