Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Revival at Nut Tree Driven Home

Revival at Nut Tree Driven Home
By Reporter Staff

About 75 invited guests were on hand for a ceremony marking completion of the newly renovated locomotive Engine No. 5 and its new track. (Rick Roach/The Reporter)

With two strikes of a gold-painted sledge hammer, revival of the landmark Nut Tree was driven home Tuesday morning in Vacaville.
On the second swing, Mayor Len Augustine solidly induced the final spike to take its place along 1,700 feet of Nut Tree Railroad track. Master developer Roger Snell then proudly proclaimed, "I declare Nut Tree Railroad done."

It was a pronouncement not unlike the historic 1869 golden spike "Wedding of the Rails" ceremony at Promontory Point, Utah, when the telegraph message sent across the country reported completion of the intercontinental railroad by simply noting: " Done!"

Nut Tree Family Park inched closer to its late September opening Tuesday morning when a collection of dignitaries gathered on the covered siding to watch the last spike be put in place.

The family-oriented amusement park will provide the home course for Engine No. 5, the newly refurbished locomotive that carried visitors around the Nut Tree for more than three decades.

The train not only transported pilots from the adjacent airport to the Nut Tree's acclaimed restaurant, but provided affordable amusement for riders of all ages.

State Assemblywoman Lois Wolk, D-Solano, recalled spending Thanksgiving and Christmas vacations visiting the Nut Tree in the 1970s and helping her two young sons - now 29 and 30 - aboard the Nut Tree Railroad. She said she will recreate those memories when she brings her new grandchild to ride the train.

Clad in period costumes, members of the Vacaville City Council joined Snell and his associates to pay homage to the centerpiece of the redevelopment of the 76-acre former Nut Tree site.

In addition to the 3.7-acre Family Park, the mixed-use project will include a plethora of restaurants and shops, two hotels, a conference center, 180 town homes, office space, and even a bocce ball grove.

It is being developed by Snell & Co., in conjunction with San Francisco-based developer Westrust and private real estate investment firm Rockwood Capital Corp.

The Family Park is meant to link the present project to the site's past, by incorporating classic Nut Tree icons.

The Nut Tree founders' original home will be at its center, serving as a museum of Nut Tree and California history; the original ice cream pavilion will function as a ticket booth; hobby horses and honey cookies will abound; and of course, Engine No. 5 will once again delight visitors.

"People say history cannot be repeated, but we're seeing it first-hand here today," Augustine told the gathering. Tuesday's ceremony was much like a local one held in 1962 when Engine No. 5 replaced the original Nut Tree locomotive.

The former Nut Tree - which began as a humble roadside fruitstand in 1921, and blossomed into a national attraction over the following seven decades - was the genesis of many family traditions, creating lasting memories for young and old alike, Augustine said.

Like Wolk, Agustine hopes the first train rides on the restored Engine No. 5 will create a whole new generation of remembrances.

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