It Takes A Village

A steam engine at The Route 66 Historic Village took several years to restore. Photo by Vernis Maxwell.
A steam engine at The Route 66 Historic Village took several years to restore. Photo by Vernis Maxwell.

There’s an intriguing, blue-collar grit to west Tulsa – the same west Tulsa where Route 66 is called “Southwest Boulevard” and where Martin Scorsese filmed iconic 1980s movie scenes at Daniel Webster High School.

These days, just across the street from the Webster campus, is the Route 66 Historic Village, an ever-evolving open-air museum featuring restored train cars and a 154-foot-tall oil derrick. Mother Road travelers from all over the world make tracks to explore and make memories at this unique rail-roadside attraction.

The Village has brought a community together to create something remarkable, putting abandoned trains on a new track through grants, some donated funds (including some Vision 2025 monies), a great deal of hard work and bucket loads of persistence and perspiration.

Mike Massey, Village board president, was among the first to foresee the appeal of renovating train and travel objects. Like many other west-siders, his fascination was borne of a generational family culture immersed in the rails.

Massey knows the timeline of the project well.

“First, we built the derrick in 2009. Renovating the Frisco 4500 Steam Engine took six years – from 2004 to 2010 – and we installed it at the Village in 2011, and that same year, we built the ‘Tulsa 66’ photo-op shield,” he says. “Between 2011 and 2012, we brought in more than 750 dump truck loads of fill dirt to raise the ground level, and we spent the next two years clearing the property of trees and brush on the east and west sides, and demolishing four old houses.”

More recently, Massey says efforts have included installing permanent electrical wiring at the train, which powers up decorative Christmas lighting, four large “Route 66/Oklahoma Centennial” signs that will top the oil derrick, and a Blue Star Memorial Plaque at the Oklahoma-shaped yard display to honor war veterans.

Later, three still-operating vintage oil field pump jacks will be displayed underneath the derrick and a nostalgic cottage-style “gas station” will serve as a visitor’s center. A locomotive cab – with all parts installed – will join the existing bright-red caboose; the interiors of the passenger cars will be renovated and restored. A security fence will surround the entire project.

Many Village Project volunteers have generously contributed their physical and/or professional efforts to keep the project rolling, and many businesses, including Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad, have played vital roles. The Route 66 Historic Village is located at 3770 Southwest Blvd., in Tulsa.