Two New C&NW 1385 Displays Up, More Planned

Just in time for Snow Train visitors, two new displays about the C&NW 1385 have been put up in the depot. One new display breaks out all the parts of the locomotive and describes the restoration status for each element. The second display discusses the importance of the 1385 to the museum as its “Ambassador of Steam,” traveling around the Upper Midwest in years past providing a chance for thousands of people to experience steam railroading in their own cities and towns.

Additional displays on the 1385 (and other equipment) are planned for the 2014 season as well. Special thanks goes to volunteer Randy Long (Long & Associates Creative Services) for doing the lion’s share of work on getting these together!

Speaking of the Ambassador of Steam, a new 1385-exclusive special edition of the Mid-Continent Railway Gazette is at the print shop and is expected to be going in the mail to Mid-Continent Railway Historical Society members sometime next week. At 52 pages, it is the largest Gazette ever and covers the locomotive’s 1983 travels over the Chicago & North Western system to events at Butler, WI, West Chicago, IL, Boone, IA, Marshalltown, IA, Marathon, IA, Duluth, MN and many other points along the way that year. Once it arrives from the print shop, the issue will also be made available for sale to non-members by calling the Mid-Continent office.

Cover of Mid-Continent Railway Gazette No. 46, No. 4. The issue recounts the C&NW 1385's travels around the Upper Midwest in 1983. Cover photo by Brian Allen shown is the 1385 leaving the Wisconsin State Capitol behind on Sept. 6, 1983.

Cover of Mid-Continent Railway Gazette No. 46, No. 4. The issue recounts the C&NW 1385’s travels around the Upper Midwest in 1983. Cover photo by Brian Allen shown is the 1385 leaving the Wisconsin State Capitol behind on Sept. 6, 1983.

In-Depth Running Gear Inspections In Progress

The completion of sandblasting on the C&NW 1385’s running gear last month has cleared the way for detailed inspection work to begin. Without the years of paint, grease, and rust interfering, clear views of the condition of various running gear components can now be had.

On February 3 and 4, 2014, project members gathered at SPEC Machine to inspect the locomotive. While in its disassembled state, this will be the best opportunity to find and correct any existing or developing issues. With any luck, it will be another 107 years (the locomotive’s 107th birthday is next month) before the locomotive would be disassembled to such an extensive degree again. Aside from inspecting for signs of defects and fatigue, the inspection included taking many measurements of the frame, driving wheels, driving boxes, and other components and comparing the current measurements with the original Chicago & North Western specifications to examine the amount of wear.

Today, the Wisconsin State Journal published a nice story about the C&NW 1385’s restoration work. Unfortunately, there are a few items in the story in need of clarification. They include:

  • The article gives 2016 as the 1385’s “likely” completion date. That date is a goal among the those working on the engine and depends on keeping a tight project schedule as well as being reliant on the continued success in fundraising at a pace faster than the restoration work expends those funds. The latter is an especially difficult challenge. Because of the inherent uncertainty in fundraising timelines along with the chance for unforeseen delays, Mid-Continent Railway Museum does not have an official estimated completion date for No. 1385. The best way to help finish the restoration in a timely fashion is to make a contribution.
  • The article states “In 1998, the last year the 1385 ran, about 50,000 visitors made the trek to North Freedom. The following year, without operating steam, attendance plummeted to half of the previous year.” There are two errors here. The first is that 1998 was not the last year of steam at Mid-Continent – it was the last year the 1385 ran. Steam engine Saginaw Timber Co. No. 2 actually continued to operate until Feb. 2000 before it too had to be pulled from service for repairs. The second is that while attendance has fallen by half, that drop has occurred over the span of 13 years during this period in which Mid-Continent has been without steam, not one year as the article suggests.
  • Phrasing of the article suggests the original 1907 boiler is being repaired. Rather, a new boiler is being manufactured. Engineering work is ongoing. Look for further information on the boiler in future updates.

Don’t forget – the C&NW 1385 open house takes place this coming weekend (Feb. 15-16) at SPEC Machine (see previous post). Mid-Continent Railway Museum’s Snow Train special event also operates Feb. 15-16.

Mike Wahl, C&NW 1385 project manager provides light for the group as they comb the locomotive’s frame for any possible defects that need to be addressed. Inspecting up close is Steve Sandberg. chief operating officer of the Friends of the 261, the group responsible for returning Milwaukee Road No. 261 to operation. Sandberg has been brought on as a consultant for the C&NW 1385 rebuild. Mid-Continent’s Ed Ripp and Kyle Gehrke along with Steve Roudebush of SPEC Machine also look on. Feb. 3, 2014. Brian Allen photo. Click on the image to browse more photos from the day on photographer Brian Allen’s Flickr album.

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 fullĀ MCRM C&NW 1385 Open House 2014 Brochure


Chassis Sandblasted, New 1385 Displays Taking Shape

Following a premature end to sandblasting on Friday due to cold weather conditions causing equipment hiccups, Howard Grote & Sons’s Surface Preparation Division was back on site at SPEC Machine in Middleton, Wis. on Monday, January 20th. While last Thursday’s sandblasting featured work on the driving wheels, Monday’s work centered on clearing grease, paint and rust form the chassis.

Sandblasting of C&NW No. 1385’s running gear continued on Monday, January 20th. This time, efforts centered on the locomotive’s chassis. Click on the image to browse more photos from January 20th on photographer Brian Allen’s Flickr album.

Not all work on the C&NW 1385 involves grit and grime. There has been a great deal of work lately on 1385 in the non-mechanical realm. A meeting date later this month has been set with officials from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation and the Village of North Freedom to inspect the rebuilt tender and associated display. The 1385 project has had the fortune of being aided by a TEA-21 grant administered through WisDOT and the Village. The successful completion of the tender rebuild and its subsequent display is anticipated to release the final set of funds from the grant which began during the locomotive’s initial overhaul work shortly after being pulled from service in 1998.

Design work on additional displays about the 1385’s career and current restoration efforts has been an ongoing effort with members of the restoration team and volunteers coordinating their efforts. A special tip-of-the-hat goes to Randy Long of Long & Associates Creative Services. Randy and wife Lynn have been a boon to the 1385 project since joining Mid-Continent in 2013. The Long’s have been crucial in the creation of the new display sign created for the 1385 tender and is currently making headway on new 1385 displays planned for inside the depot. The 1385 project team is putting forth a great deal of effort to not only put 1385 back under steam, but also make sure museum visitors are able to appreciate why the locomotive is worth restoring.

Sandblasting of Running Gear In-Progress

Sandblasting of C&NW No. 1385’s running gear began on Thursday, January 16th at the SPEC Machine shop in Middleton, Wis. All three sets of drivers were sandblasted along with one pallet of parts. Work was done by Howard Grote & Sons of McFarland, Wis. The chassis was to be sandblasted on Friday the 17th, but Mother Nature intervened with temperatures in the teens causing the hoses and air lines to freeze up. The unfinished sandblasting was rescheduled for Monday, January 20th, but as of the time of writing this post, temperatures are predicted to be similar to that on the 17th.

Sandblasting is used to help remove all the past accumulated rust and layers of paint. Exposing the bare metal makes inspections of the parts much easier and more accurate as as layers of rust, paint and grease can serve to hide cracks and other defects which need to be identified at this stage of the restoration.

A Howard Grote & Sons employee works through the snow and cold to sandblast the a set of drivers belonging to C&NW No. 1385. Click on the image to browse more photos from January 16 on photographer Brian Allen’s Flickr album.

BEFORE (photo taken January 11, 2014)

AFTER (photo taken January 17, 2014)