Sophie was built new in 2001. Texas Bells and Whistles designed Sophie to reflect the locomotives of the 1870s-1880s era when railroads were busy building our country across the wild frontier. It was a time when railroads were regarded as magical and powerful and the locomotives on those railroads were built to reflect opulence and power with graceful, gleeming architectural lines that perfectly showcased their marvelous mechanical motion. Ken's favorites such as the William Mason No. 25 (now in the B&O Railroad museum) and the Virgina and Truckee's Inyo (now in the Nevada State Railroad museum) were most used as inspiration for Sophie's look.
Since he was about 5, Ken spent much of his time drawing locomotives on paper and not surprisingly, most of them resembled the look of Sophie. It is no accident that Sophie turned out the way she did. It was very important to him that Sophie have details that made her look, move, and sound as much like a real steam locomotive as possible, which at the time was very unusual to have in a locomotive of her size. She is not like other simple box trains with a lawn mower motor inside; she is a fully detailed, uniquely powered, high-tech driven, hard-working locomotive with first class personailty and style!
Sophie was originally built with a gasoline-hydraulic drive system that frankly distracted from the graceful appeal of the steam locomotive she represented. In 2011, Ken fully removed the old gas drive and replaced it with an entirely new battery-electric drive using a unique drive control system that Ken developed to safely and precisely control Sophie's new power and allow her to operate much more like her full-sized locomotive sisters. She is extremely unique as a pioneering large scale electric locomotive pulling passengers on rails in a park.
Sophie is a fantastic little locomotive to watch and hear as she pulls loads of passengers around the park -- so come on out and see for yourself!
"There's no hot exhaust!"
"There's no smell!"
"I can't hear any motor!"
"Is this a real steam engine?"