ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – The tilled soil and fresh concrete outside Abilene City Hall will soon be home to the Key City’s newest storybook statue. Texas sculptor Steve Nieves crafted two key components of city culture into one public display. This $170,000 installation is the passion project of former City Council member Donna Albus.
“This project really has been a labor of love… We will feature a train engine. Which is the reason we’re all here,” Albus told the city council at Thursday’s meeting.
The statue comes straight out of Author Brian Floca’s beautifully illustrated children’s book ‘Locomotive,’ a sincere look into the history of train transport and travel in America. Abilene’s founding in 1881 along the Union Pacific Railroad and current status as the Storybook Capitol of the world will be dually represented in this new installation.
“In fact, Union Pacific has donated to this project twice because we are a railroad town,” Albus said.
The $170,000 price tag was completely donor-funded by private individuals and larger entities like the Union Pacific. Those funds were raised in just more than a year by Albus, Jack Rentz and their local team of project members. Abilene Cultural Affairs Council Executive Director Lynn Barnett said she was glad to help see this project through.
“It was a big undertaking, and they just kept at it and made it happen, and so here we are, almost ready to see it come to life… And the fact that it is a locomotive just made so much sense,” Barnett shared.
With the addition of this engine, Abilene is near 40 storybook statues. Its placement at city hall will expand the city’s cultural footprint farther than it’s ever been, bringing a little extra charm to Walnut Street.
“We are a railroad town, and our buildings signify that we as a people are, we are strong, we are sturdy, we are there for our neighbors, and I hope that everybody that sees that train engine will get that message, that we are Abilene and we are all going down the tracks together,” said Albus.
The city did mention that while no taxpayer money has been used to commission or ship the sculpture, the city may incur the ‘minimal cost’ of redoing the irrigation and flowerbeds around the train sculpture.