News Article: Big (and Expensive) Period for Steam Locomotive Begins

Wisconsin State Journal reporter Barry Adams dropped in for a visit to SPEC Machine late last week to see what was new on the Chicago & North Western No. 1385’s restoration since his last visit to see Mid-Continent’s flagship steam locomotive one year ago. You can read the full Wisconsin State Journal article and view the numerous photos at Madison.com.

A few highlights from the article:

  • Steel for the new boiler will be cut this week (February 20, 2017) at Continental Fabricators in St. Louis.
  • Additional steel will be cut and shipped to Tennessee Valley Railway Museum where the new firebox is to be crafted.
  • The firebox will be delivered to Continental Fabricators in St. Louis, Missouri, attached to the boiler, then shipped to SPEC Machine in Middleton, Wisconsin where it will join the running gear and cab for final assembly.
  • Arrival of the finished boiler is now expected for June 2017.
  • This is the most costly phase of the locomotive’s restoration. The new boiler and firebox will cost roughly $700,000. (Please consider visiting our donation page!)
  • SPEC Machine is building a 1,500 square foot expansion to their shop to facilitate final assembly of the 1385 on-site.
  • Other upcoming projects at SPEC Machine include refurbishing brakes, installing pistons, rehabbing the superheater header, refurbishing the sand dome, and the many other parts that are yet to be installed.
  • Mid-Continent’s goal is to have No. 1385 fully assembled and returned to the rails in 2018.

 

C&NW 1385’s Boiler Design Review Meeting Held

A design review meeting was held at Continental Fabricators in St Louis, Missouri on Tuesday January 24, 2017  Members of Mid Continent’s 1385 Task Force were in attendance as were Gary Bensman of Diversified Rail Services, Steve Roudebush from SPEC Machine, and Brett Morley of Performance Engineering. The meeting covered all of the details necessary to build the new boiler as well as provided a platform for everyone involved in the design process to review the fabrication plan with the team at Continental.  It was a very productive meeting with everyone having input into the planning of the new boiler and Continental coming away with some clear direction enabling them to proceed with the task at hand.

Action items to come out of this meeting include the development of Continental’s final production schedule. Fred Steinkuehler, Vice President of Plant Production at Continental is currently developing their schedule. He is basing the plan on Mid Continent’s detail drawings and expects to be finishing up within a few days. While the production department work out their timeline, the engineering department will continue the preparation of internal shop drawings. We expect Continental to be wrapping up their engineering phase over the course of the next few weeks.

With the boiler process well underway with Continental Fabricators, and the major parts of the running gear and cab near completion, the Task Force identified the many remaining accomplishments still needed. Completion times were assigned to each and a general schedule was outlined. It has been determined that, excluding any major unforeseen concerns, the 1385 can be returned to Mid-Continent next year (2018).  Timing can be determined more accurately as these projects move along.

 

CNW 1385 Boiler Drawing 3D View

CNW 1385 Boiler Drawing 3D View

At this juncture of the 1385 restoration, it was decided to forgo hosting an Open House this year. The many hours otherwise required by Mid-Continent volunteers and staff to organize and host the event will instead be spent toward expediting the completion of 1385. In place of the Open House, there will be additional volunteer work day opportunities during the year.

The Task Force is very enthused and motivated, and thanks everyone for their support.

C&NW 1385’s Cab Rejoins Rest of Locomotive

The rebuilding of Chicago & North Western No. 1385’s cab is largely complete. Work was done in the shop of Loren Imhoff who volunteered his time and expertise to finish the job. The task required working closely with SPEC Machine in regards to fabrication of missing or broken hardware such as window slides and latches. 

On October 21st the cab was loaded on a trailer for transport from Cross Plains, Wis. to SPEC Machine’s facility in Middleton, Wis. where the frame and running gear of the locomotive are continuing to undergo restoration. The front of the cab rests overtop the boiler backhead which means it cannot be permanently mounted to the frame until the boiler is delivered and installed onto the locomotive frame.

Forklift carrying locomotive cab

C&NW 1385 cab departing for SPEC Machine. Photo courtesy SPEC Machine.

Cab on trailer for transport

C&NW 1385 cab departing for SPEC Machine. Photo courtesy SPEC Machine.

Cab on trailer for transport

C&NW 1385 cab departing for SPEC Machine. Photo courtesy SPEC Machine.

Lettering could only be completed on the fireman’s side due to shop space constraints in Imhoff’s shop. Lettering of the engineer’s side and application of the waterproof roofing material will be completed at SPEC Machine in the near future.

At SPEC Machine, work is currently spread across several tasks. With the recent placement of the front truck under the frame, efforts on the locomotive have now centered on the valve gear, cross heads and cross head slides.

Meanwhile, another important matter is also being attended to. SPEC Machine’s facility was never designed as a railroad backshop (and is located four miles from the nearest railroad line). With the planned delivery of the boiler in 2017 and the installation of the cab, the height of the locomotive will grow beyond the size of the overhead door in SPEC Machine’s shop (see photo). In a show of commitment to the project, SPEC Machine has initiated construction of an addition to their shop building with the new bay designed to meet the needs of the 1385 project. The new shop bay will provide adequate clearance for the assembled locomotive to be easily rolled in and out of their shop as needed during the delivery of the boiler and the locomotive’s ultimate departure to Mid-Continent Railway Museum.

Donations continue to be needed to keep the C&NW 1385 project rolling into the project’s latter stages. Please consider contributing by visiting our donation page.

Order Placed for C&NW 1385’s New Boiler

New Boiler Ordered

A purchase order has officially been issued to Continental Fabricators in St. Louis for the construction of a new welded boiler for Chicago & North Western No. 1385. Delivery is anticipated to occur at the beginning of March 2017. Once completed, the cab will be delivered directly to SPEC Machine where the boiler will be mounted on the frame.

Continental Fabricators has previously built a boiler for a similar-sized coal burning steam locomotive at another midwestern railway museum with good results. Their experience and the positive reviews received played a large part in the change from the previous plan to use a Minnesota-based company to construct the new boiler. Continental Fabricators is excited to join with us in making this happen.

Project Funding Update

With the boiler manufacturing – the single-most expensive portion of the locomotive rebuild – now underway, the war chest of cash that Mid-Continent has built up in advance for this stage of the project will begin to disappear very, very quickly. In order to allow work to continue toward completing the  rest of the locomotive, we need your help! Please consider donating to the “C&NW #1385 Fund” by visiting our Donation Page.

We’ve come a long way since the 1385 project was revived in 2011! We’ve collected nearly $1 million for the project since then. While we’ve benefitted from several major grants, the project has succeeded thus far because we’ve also had strong support from individuals like YOU. Half of all donations received for the 1385 were $100 or less.

Upon completion of the boiler, the C&NW 1385 will become the single most expensive restoration project Mid-Continent has ever undertaken (surpassing Badger #2). With a project as large as the C&NW 1385 which spans years and has encompassed many steam status updates, it is easy to get lost in terms of where the project stands overall. The below graphic should help with provide a quick overview. Click the image to see it in full resolution.

1385 diagram view with date labels

C&NW 1385 Project Progress Overview, September 2016

We thank you for helping us get this far and hope you’ll join us in getting C&NW 1385 under steam once again!

C&NW 1385 Front Truck Complete, Cab Receiving Finishing Details

Work continues at a steady pace on Mid-Continent’s Chicago & North Western No. 1385 steam locomotive. SPEC Machine’s Steve Roudebush took some time out of his day on August 24, 2016 to show off the latest progress on the locomotive’s rebuild for this report.

The change most instantly noticeable upon walking into the shop was the shiny, like-new front truck sitting in the center of the shop floor. Like-new may not be a fully appropriate term, as considerable portions of the front truck are new. One wheel set had a goodly amount of life left in it and merely required machining to bring it into proper profile. The second wheelset had been worn quite thin and needed to be replaced with a brand new wheelset forged in Pennsylvania for the 1385. Binders, spring hangers and truck equalizers were also created new to replace heavily worn originals.

C&NW 1385 completed front truck

C&NW 1385 completed front truck

Additional work on the front truck included pouring Babbitt, lining the pedestals with bronze, and polishing pins and bushings. The front truck is fully complete and ready to be rolled under the locomotive, which is anticipated to happen sometime in September.

Above where the front truck will be rolled under, the pistons have been fully bored and the valve cages nearly completed. One of the valve cages that was found to have cracks is being replaced with a new one. The new valve cage is anticipated to be machined on SPEC’s CNC machine in the coming weeks. Work has also begun on the crosshead guides and valve gearing. After those tasks are complete, brake rigging and appliances will be next on the task list.

The two major components missing from the 1385 as it sits in the SPEC Machine shop is the cab and the boiler. To see the cab, we took a short drive to the shop of Loren Imhoff. Imhoff has graciously donated all his time spent working on the cab. Inside was a nearly complete cab. Already quite sharp looking with a bright green interior and a black exterior, another coat of paint will be added inside and out. The ceiling vent, which had proven to be a challenge due to limited available drawings, was complete and functioning. A few items remained to be completed: the ceiling needs a few boards painted and installed yet, the windows need a few hardware items remade to replace lost or broken originals, the seatboxes are not yet constructed, but all is expected to be completed by October and the cab brought to SPEC Machine so it can be made ready to mount to the frame and the roof weatherproofing material applied.

The other major component on which the 1385 Task Force has focused a great deal of attention on lately is the boiler. It has taken longer for the boiler to reach construction phase than was originally anticipated, but this was one area of the locomotive rebuild that was not to be rushed in any way. As the single most expensive component of the project, there is no room for error. Finally satisfied that the boiler design is ready for production, the 1385 Task Force has now begun gathering quotes for manufacturing of the new boiler. Once a vendor is selected and the order signed, production is expected to occur fairly quickly.