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The Little Engine That Couldn't

Speaking of playgrounds, the little locomotive at Fort Lauderdale's Holiday Park has been inspiring games of the imagination, to say nothing of exercising youthful climbing muscles, for more than 30 years. Kids take one look at the 1936 switcher engine, parked next to a playground in the park, and they want to climb aboard. (Adults too. Tailpipe can testify.)

So it was with shock and a little anguish that Tailpipe the other day discovered a sign on the little engine that read: "Please Do Not Climb on Train." The stairs leading to the engineer's station were boarded over.

Frumious day, as Lewis Carroll might have put it. What a calamity!

Tailpipe's pipette bitterly pondered the decommissioned engine, shaking her head. "It's like painting a mustache on the Mona Lisa," she said.

Well, sometimes, for cosmetic reasons, a mustache is necessary. The 'Pipe got in touch with the city's Parks & Recreation Department, where officials were all suitably regretful, acknowledging the engine's "nostalgic value."

"But as it gets older, it's been deteriorating quite a bit," said Assistant Director Terry Rynard. "After an inspection, our playground safety inspector decided it was beyond repair." The problem? Rust. "It's rusted out," Rynard said. "There's structural rust."

True enough, there's corroded sheeting, crumbling the edges on one side and eating away at some of the engine's underworks. But the cockpit seems fit enough, with its skidproof floor.

Isn't the sign just a challenge to kids? Won't they just derive inspiration to climb on something they're not supposed to climb on?

"Certainly without the right amount of supervision, that would be correct," Rynard said. (One parent, Jeff Fox, a regular at the park, confirmed that this is already happening. "I already see parents throwing their kids up there," he said.)

But the city sees an "educational value" in leaving the engine where it is, Rynard added.

Seems like the easy way out. "Kids don't get to pretend anymore," Mrs. Tailpipe observed ruefully. "It's all about scheduled activities, like T-ball and soccer. The easiest solution [with the engine] is to slap a two-by-four on it and shut it down."

Hey, Parks & Rec, ever heard of Rust-Oleum?

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