HAYS — Pete Felten’s train sculpture doesn’t have a name, but it’s modeled after the historic Union Pacific Locomotive 6072, a decommissioned coal steam engine on permanent display at Fort Riley.
This week Felten was putting finishing touches on it, having heard from friends that the buyer, Hays attorney John Bird, had donated it for installation at the Downtown Pavilion, 1200 Main, beside UP’s railroad tracks. It will be the latest sculpture to go up in town, where many of Felten's pieces tell the story of Hays' frontier history.
“I just finished it up,” Felten said Monday morning from his office, noting the piece had been in the works for several years. “It looked done, but there were some things I wanted to refine on it.”
Made from an old native limestone fence post like those common along the roadsides of Ellis County, Felten’s train weighs in at about 300 pounds, he said.
As limestone goes, the block was a nice piece to carve, with no quirks or surprises.
With two kinds of limestone used commonly around Hays, Felten explained that limestone was formed from shells accumulating at the bottom of the prehistoric sea that once covered Kansas millions of years ago.
“I can’t imagine a million years myself,” Felten said. “But it gets layer after layer, and all the pressure and the heat on it turns it into stone.”
Felten sculpted the train from an old slab of what is called Fencepost Limestone, which is harder and lighter in color than Fort Hays Limestone, so called because it was quarried in the 1870s from the bluffs near Fort Hays.
Both limestones were the common building material locally for schools, courthouses, hospitals and churches.
Fencepost Limestone is found about 15 feet beneath the surface, he said.
“It crops out here when you come to the Smoky Hill River by Schoenchen, and It’s called Fencepost, because it’s about 8 to 9 inches thick,” he said. “The pioneers had to keep their cattle in and the buffalo out, but there were no trees for fence posts. They found they could drill holes in this layer and break off these, and stand it up for a fence post.”
There isn't much demand for it anymore, he said.
“It’s under the ground, all the way from Dodge City to Concordia,” Felten said, “150 miles by 50 miles.”