THINKING OUT LOUD - If only rail car really was under courthouse

The other day, I was planting flowers and unearthed a very handsome piece of quartz. I have no particular use for it, but still I took it indoors. It could be thousands of years old. Less attractive, but more interesting, is a rusty blade from an old farm disc harrow I found in what is now a part of my back yard. I did not bring the disc in the house, but neither did I discard it.
Norwalk Reflector Staff
Jul 25, 2010

The other day, I was planting flowers and unearthed a very handsome piece of quartz. I have no particular use for it, but still I took it indoors. It could be thousands of years old.

Less attractive, but more interesting, is a rusty blade from an old farm disc harrow I found in what is now a part of my back yard. I did not bring the disc in the house, but neither did I discard it.

I have that rusty disc leaning up against a tree trunk not far from where I found it some years ago. Every time I see it, I think: I wonder what farmer used the harrow that lost that disc. I wonder how many years ago it fell off. I wonder what this outdoor space looked like when someone was farming it.

Such is the effect on the imagination of finding something buried in a familiar place.

I love that kind of stuff.

So you can imagine the thrill I felt when I read a couple of weeks ago that perhaps a railroad car had been found beneath the Huron County Courthouse.

On the outside chance you missed it, contractors are doing some extensive renovation at the courthouse. And, while digging to do some electrical work in the space between the courthouse and the old jail, they clanged into a big metal thing. The initial report was that it was a railroad tanker car, about 30 feet long and eight-to-ten-feet in diameter.

County commissioner Ralph Fegley said the thing was still mostly filled with fuel oil, which was formerly used to heat the building.

Oh, how I wanted that story to be true.

In fact, if that initial report of a buried rail car had been accurate, then I would probably rank the most exciting underground finds of the past hundred years this way:

1. Tutankhamen's Tomb (1922)

2. The 8000 life-size terracotta Chinese army figures found "guarding" the Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor (1974)

3. A rail car buried under the Huron County Courthouse (2007)

That would have been so cool.

Now, it turns out that the big container of oil they found was not, in fact, a railway tanker car but simply a big oil tank: 18 feet long, eight feet in diameter, 8,000 gallons capacity.

Say it isn't so!

I was so excited and full of questions at the thought we had found a train car under our courthouse.

How could we not have known about this, I wondered.

Was it customary once upon a time to bury railroad cars under public buildings?

If the thing was full of oil, why did they not use it up before installing the alternative fuel source?

Was it really cheaper in those days to buy a railroad tanker car than to just put in a plain old oil tank?

Does it still have the wheels under it? And, if so, can they just roll it down the hill to the railroad tracks and have a freight train tow it away?

Those are the kind of fun things I was speculating about before the cold, hard truth came out last week.

Best of all, I had speculated that if they kept digging in front of the buried tanker car perhaps they would find the train's engine and coal car underneath, say, Kenilee Lanes.

I thought perhaps we were looking at a real tourist attraction here: Norwalk's Phantom Buried Train.

Alas, all we had was a big tub of fuel oil. They are pumping it out and filling it with concrete.

The Pet-N-Pup Parade is a better tourist attraction than that.

I'm bummed.