C&NW 1385 Open House Held for Mid-Continent Members

Yesterday, April 5, a special C&NW 1385 open house was held at SPEC Machine for Mid-­Continent Railway Historical Society members. The much larger public open house held in February took place during Mid­Continent’s Snow Train weekend and thus prevented numerous museum volunteers from being able to see the 1385’s progress for themselves at that time. This members-only open house was scheduled in the hours before Mid­Continent’s spring member meeting and banquet.

With the driving wheels already shipped out for repairs at Strasburg Rail Road’s specialized shop, what currently remains behind at SPEC Machine has perhaps become difficult for the casual observer to still identify as being from a locomotive. Recall that the original boiler remained behind at Mid­Continent’s engine house (and construction of the replacement boiler has not yet begun), the tender which holds the locomotive’s coal and water was completed last year and is on display near Mid­Continent’s depot, and the cab is being worked on separately in a shop in Fond du Lac, Wis. While it can be difficult for many people to see one of their favorite locomotives in such an advanced state of disassembly, it is the ideal point from which to begin a “from-the-rails-up” complete repair job that is currently underway and will once again make the 1385 a mainstay of Mid­-Continent’s operating fleet for many years to come.

People viewing open house

Mid-Continent members look around the SPEC Machine facility on April 5, 2014. Brian Allen photo.

View more photos of the open house on Brian Allen’s Flickr album.

Open House Exceeds Expectations

The C&NW No. 1385 Open House event held, Feb. 15-16, was a smashing success. Leading up to the event, the 1385 team was hoping for an attendance of 300 for the weekend. To their surprise, an estimated 1,100 people made their way to the open house at SPEC Machine outside of Middleton, Wis.

Locomotive parts were arrayed throughout the shop to facilitate easy viewing. The team did an excellent job of turning an assortment of locomotive parts into an impromptu mini-museum. Major components of the locomotive were labeled, a poster and slide show provided visuals of work on the 1385 completed elsewhere, artwork was on display, and 1385’s headlight was illuminated, giving the disassembled locomotive an almost subtle prescience of the renewed life it is about to receive.

Visitors in the foreground watch a slide show about the 1385 and its restoration to-date while other visitors view the locomotive’s various parts spread throughout the SPEC Machine shop and speak with project leaders. Steve Roudebush photo. Click the photo for more images from the day.

Representatives of Mid-Continent and SPEC Machine were spread around the shop, answering questions and explaining the locomotive’s ongoing work, its history and its future. The steady stream of people proved interest in the locomotive extends beyond just dyed-in-the-wool railfans. Mike Wahl, C&NW 1385 project manager notes, “It was great to see that a lot of the visitors were just general interest people who had seen it in the paper. This event has opened the door to a new group of people interested in the restoration of the locomotive.”

Bobbie Wagner of the Wagner Foundation and a Mid-Continent director, was impressed by the experience. “The enthusiasm of the crowd was amazing. I heard several remarks like ‘I never thought I would see the 1385 running again in my lifetime, and now I am looking forward to it.'”

While excitement certainly centers on the locomotive’s return to operation, the chance to learn about the restoration process was also greatly appreciated. “There was much reminiscing, but also a huge interest in the logistics of the project itself. They were especially grateful to have the opportunity to see a project such as this first-hand and up-close,” Wagner says. “They were very appreciative of the information that Mike [Wahl], Pete [Deets] and Steve [Roudebush] were able to give them.”

Aside from the knowledge of steam locomotive restoration gained, visitors who made a $5 donation were offered another keepsake from their visit. A computer numerical control (CNC) milling machine has been utilized during the disassembly stage of the restoration to produce durable part ID tags, allowing for the easy identification and reassembly of all parts when the time comes. Only a slight modification to the ID tag design produced a unique souvenir that could be machined right before the eyes of their new owners. “The medallions were a big hit,” says Wagner. “There was a line waiting for them most all day long.” Over 150 medallions were produced during the weekend.

Media outlets also picked up on the open house event. Here are some news links discussing the open house:

Television Station Video:

WISC-TV 3 (Madison, WI)

WMTV 15 (Madison, WI)

Newspaper/Magazine Coverage:

Trains Magazine

The Waunakee Tribune

Wisconsin State Journal (and others via Associated Press news wire)

Online Video Coverage:

Madison.com YouTube Page


Midwest Zephyr Media YouTube Page


C&NW 1385 Open House Announced

Mid-Continent’s 1385 Steam Task Force is pleased to announce an upcoming open house session Saturday and Sunday, February 15-16, 2014 from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The open house will take place at SPEC Machine’s Middleton, Wis. location where the 1385’s running gear is currently undergoing restoration work. Restoration team members will be on hand to explain the process and answer questions. This event is completely free.

The open house coincides with Mid-Continent’s annual Snow Train weekend taking place as usual at our North Freedom, Wis. location. SPEC Machine is approximately 45 minutes driving time from North Freedom and is only minutes away from the Madison area.

View the full MCRM C&NW 1385 Open House 2014 Brochure