A purported arson fire Tuesday destroyed an 1899 passenger railcar in Galena, Kansas, slated to begin restoration as a future tourist attraction along Route 66.

Former Galena mayor Dale Oglesby stated in a Facebook post the former presidential railcar from the Kansas City Southern Railway contained hand-laid mosaic tile showers, a kitchen, a dining room, a library and a parlor. 

Oglesby said the railcar soon would have been placed on newly built rails, after which restoration would have been slated to begin “within weeks.”

The railcar sat near the old Eagle Picher smelting plant along old Route 66 on the north side of town.

Renee Charles, a Galena city clerk and co-founder of the landmark Cars on the Route, stated in a text message the railcar would have been converted into hotel rooms.

“It’s a loss for the entire region, and another example of the senseless destruction of irreplaceable history,” Oglesby wrote. “It is a total loss, and equipment will be moved in next week to cut up the remaining metal. So sad …”

Here’s the Facebook post in question:

In a follow-up comment, Oglesby said:

This presidential rail car weighs right at 250,000 pounds. It could not be safely restored until it was placed back on rail. The rail siding had to be built. Everything about this type of work is difficult, expensive, and dangerous. While it is true these cars were moved in three years ago, construction on the siding begin this spring. This was a piece of history I thought was worth saving, and I knew it would likely take me years to get it done. Just moving the car in cost in excess of $30,000.00. I was optimistic restoration work could begin this fall. … I have to admit, I am a bit discouraged today. Someone commented on how long the car was just sitting here and now would be a real eyesore, so I needed to add this explanation.

As mayor, Oglesby shepherded a revitalization of Galena’s Route 66 downtown district that included streetscaping and resurfacing that helped draw new businesses to that once-depressed area.

(Hat tip to Renee Charles)

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