Like many of your experiences, 2020 has been filled with struggle and surprises for the Austin Steam Train Association (ASTA). As a non-profit organization that focuses on making memories-- closeness and relationships are at the heart of who we are. So, when the pandemic came, and our operations were temporarily sidelined, we knew we had to find a way to return. And we did, pivoting our focus to safety and security. Less than 3 months after our closure, we were back up on our feet and making new memories with you.
But we needed help to get here. And you rallied to make it happen. Donations poured in to support our staff, volunteers showed up to donate time and labor, and passengers bought train tickets and gift certificates.
Today as we look forward to 2021, we need your help again. Though we stayed on the rails this year, and have exciting rides scheduled for next year, we have a major capital project that cannot wait.
As you may know, our entire fleet is vintage, showing the best America had to offer in rail travel from the late 30’s to early 50’s. This requires meticulous and costly historic restoration. This project is no different. We currently have a generator under one of our lounge cars that provides power to 6 cars. While this has worked for us for many years, the power needs keep this generator working at 95% of its capacity, when 80% is ideal. The resulting strain is hard on the generator and limits the number of cars we can power. When the generator fails, we experience a near system-wide electrical outage, which does not allow us to give our passengers the best we have to offer. We must upgrade our power system to provide the safest, most reliable experience for our passengers.
With support from the Burdine Johnson Foundation and PEC Community Grant, ASTA has purchased a 450-kilowatt Cummins diesel generator, and a former Amtrak (Santa Fe) baggage car to house the generator. Despite the good condition of this 1953 Budd built train car, some work will need to be done to upgrade the car and fit it for the generator. General Superintendent Chris Hoff estimates costs will total $45,000 for the fuel tank, radiator, exhaust system, re-wring of the controls, floor reinforcements, and building of a sound muffling enclosure.
Will you rally again for us today? Every donation brings us closer to a more reliable and safer 2021 for our passengers!