C&NW Lettering on Tender Set to Begin

In the next few days, the tender (fuel and water car) for steam locomotive Chicago & North Western No. 1385 will have lettering prepared and applied by volunteers Richard Dipping and Owen Hughes. The tender is anticipated to be returned to North Freedom and placed on display in November.

The 1944-1957 era C&NW “SYSTEM” monogram has been selected and a stencil prepared [see photo]. This was the monogram style in use when the locomotive was removed from C&NW’s active roster in 1956 and was still on the locomotive when sold to Mid-Continent in 1961. C&NW went through a few other variations before returning to this monogram style from 1981 until purchased by the Union Pacific Railroad in 1995.

For an in-depth history of C&NW’s trademarks/monograms, read the article “The Ball, the Bar, and the Badge: The Evolution of the Chicago & North Western Railway Company Trademark” in Volume 2013, No. 1 of the Chicago & North Western Railway Historical Society’s publication “North Western Lines.”

Stencil prepared for lettering the C&NW 1385 tender.  Photo courtesy Richard Dipping.

Stencil prepared for lettering the C&NW 1385 tender. Photo courtesy Richard Dipping.

Tender Nearing Completion

Back in May, members of the C&NW #1385 Steam Task Force inspected the tender tank (the car that carries the locomotive’s fuel and water) progress at DRM Industries in Lake Delton, Wis. for what turned out to be the last time before it was to be sandblasted, cleaned & painted inside and out. The last details to be completed will be the addition of anti-slip dots on the steps and shoveling deck, drilling of an anti-siphon vent in one water fill pipe and attachments for the brackets for the electrical conduit. This will culminate over 15 months of work on the tank.

There are still other goals to accomplish which will be much easier with the tank out of the way. These include repair work on the drawbar pocket and pin, draft gear pocket and fitting of the white oak decking that goes on the frame under the tank.

The replacement trucks purchased for the tender are in Lake Delton, waiting to go under the frame so any necessary adjustment of height can be made where the tender can be more easily handled. When the tender is ready to roll it will be shipped back to North Freedom to receive lettering and go on public display. It is planned for this to occur around the end of August 2013.

Meanwhile, fundraising efforts continue. The Wagner Foundation’s $250,000 challenge grant has now been over 70% matched through the generosity of many, many donors. That positive momentum and spirit of generosity will need to continue for the C&NW #1385 project to progress. With the tender rebuild nearing completion, the boiler represents the next major hurdle and it will most certainly be the single most expensive portion of the 1385’s restoration.

C&NW 1385: 106 Years Young

Today is the locomotive’s 106th birthday so we are celebrating with a restoration update!

The R-1’s tender tank is complete and ready for paint. The gallery below shows the construction of the new tender tank.

The frame is also done and is in primer paint. In mid-February 2013, Mid-Continent volunteer Jim Connor delivered the deck tender boards to DRM Industries.

One item of debate had been over whether to attempt to salvage the trucks. The trucks had largely sat idle with the tender since 1973 when the tender from steam pile driver X263579 was substituted for use with the 1385. Most people’s image of the appearance of the 1385 tender is actually the X263579. The old tender was stored at end of track for nearly 30 years at Quartzite Lake where it eventually became buried in mud and debris caused by flash flooding in 1993. The trucks remained largely buried until the tender’s rescue in April 2002 [see December 2011 issue of Mid-Continent Railway Gazette for the rescue story]. With guidance from Steve Sandberg, new project consultant, it was determined that seeking “new” used trucks during the current restoration was a better option.

Two used serviceable trucks were purchased in mid-February 2013. They had previously been used on a freight car. One truck had all four casting marks and the other had three. This tells us how many times the trucks have been rebuilt. When all four casting marks are removed, the truck is scrap. The wheels will be pressed off and new ones pressed on.

The draft gear resides inside the coupler assembly of the tender to help dissipate the shock of coupling into a string of cars or trying to start them. It also helps smooth out the forces through the coupler as when going down the track. In late 2012, Mid-Continent was seeking a replacement for the tender’s draft gear. As it would turn out, Miner, the manufacturer of the original draft gear used on the tender, was seeking old draft gears for their corporate museum. The draft gear found on the 1385’s tender was a model which they lacked in their collection. Discussions between the Steam Task Force and Miner led to a trade arrangement in which Miner supplied a more modern style draft gear in trade for the old one.

The plan is to finish the tender and move it to North Freedom for display. This will offer a visible sign of progress on the project. With most ongoing work either taking place off-site or being of the engineering and design variety, there has been little thus far for visitors to Mid-Continent to actually see.

As for non-tender developments, the Steam Task Force is continuing to work on boiler engineering with nothing specific to report at this time. Meanwhile, work on the cab has picked up. Boards have been milled for the cab roof. Investigations are also taking place into finding a suitable replacement for the original Lehon Mule Hide covering for the cab roof.

As for overall project status, there is still much work to do. The biggest cost area, the boiler, still lies before us. Work is also yet to begin on the running gear. Roughly 70% of the Wagner Foundation’s $250,000 challenge grant has now been met by matching donations since the challenge began in June 2011. Despite this progress, the project will still require roughly $1 million in additional donations in order to cover the estimated total cost for the project. That is why YOUR help is needed. The sooner we are able to meet this fundraising challenge, the sooner everyone will be able to enjoy seeing 1385 under steam. Anyone wishing to make a gift to the 1385 restoration can do so directly on our donation webpage or can find instructions there for how to mail your donation. Finally, THANK YOU to everyone who has already donated! We couldn’t have gotten this far without your help!

Steam Legends Meet

The Mid-Continent Railway Museum in North Freedom, Wisconsin, and Steve Sandberg, president of North Star Rail, Inc. in Minneapolis are joining forces to further the restoration of the museum’s premiere steam locomotive, the Chicago & North Western No. 1385. Sandberg will serve as project consultant, bringing to this project a love of trains and an expertise in steam locomotive restoration which began for him at a very early age.

“My mother and father were founding members of the Minnesota Transportation Museum,” Sandberg says. That was in 1961. “In addition they were instrumental in the formation of the Tourist Railway Association in the early 1970s,” an organization that is best known for uniting the various recreational railroads for mutual support.

“My own experience working with steam locomotives began in 1975 when the MTM pulled former Northern Pacific No. 328 from a park in Stillwater, Minnesota. From 1975 to 1982 I worked closely with the MTM on the locomotive’s overhaul and eventual operation.”

“In 1982 I went to work with Diversified Rail Service in Fort Wayne, Indiana to work on the former Chicago, Burlington & Quincy No. 4960,” Sandberg says. In 1983 he went to work for the Strasburg Railroad, a popular tourist railroad located in Pennsylvania. “My duties included working in the back shop, performing daily inspections, filling in as locomotive fireman, engineer, and hostler.”

In 1985 he returned to the employ of Diversified Rail Services and worked on projects that spanned the country. Steam locomotives are commonly known by initials and numbers and listening to Sandberg talk about the many locomotives whose repair and maintenance he was able to assist invokes a long list of confusing combinations, such as NKP 765, OC 1551, LS&I 18 & 19, GT 4070 and SP 4449.

For most of the people who visit rail museums to see or ride behind the locomotives stamped with these identifying marks they are little more than hieroglyphics. But they are the proof of the dedication of Sandberg and others like him, who have worked hard to keep these vestiges of America’s dynamic railroad heritage in operation and on display for the rest of us to enjoy.

Sandberg himself is best known for the revival of the former Milwaukee Road No. 261 as a functioning steam locomotive. “From 1991 till the present I have been the primary person behind the overhaul, maintenance and operation of No. 261. We have operated over 35,000 miles in 21 different states from 1992 through 2008.”

Sandberg and his volunteer shop crew have just completed a major overhaul on his locomotive and expect to resume offering excursions in 2013, leaving him time now to bring his experience and expertise to the C&NW No. 1385 project.

No. 1385 is the museum’s best known locomotive. “It was the first locomotive used when Mid-Continent first offered its steam-powered train rides in North Freedom in 1963,” says Mid-Continent’s president Jeff Bloohm. “But it attained its popular status as the Midwest Ambassador of Steam when it headed up excursions throughout the Chicago & North Western rail system during the 1980s, including three successive years pulling the Great Circus Train between Baraboo and Milwaukee.” It has since been listed on both the National and State Registers of Historic Places.

The locomotive has been out of service since the summer of 1998 and the museum’s early attempts to restore it to operating condition stalled due to the high cost such ancient machinery requires to meet current standards. Work resumed in June 2011 when Mid-Continent received a $250,000 challenge grant from the Wagner Foundation of Lyons, Wisconsin, but at a pace far slower than desired.

“I am very excited that Steve is joining our team. His background and expertise gives another dimension to the project to further insure its success and timely completion,” says the Foundation’s president, Bobbie Wagner.

Meeting the Wagner Foundation’s challenge is just a start, however. The estimated total cost of No. 1385’s restoration is expected to exceed $1.5 million. “The ultimate benefit to Mid-Continent’s train operations makes the investment worth every cent,” Bloohm says. “The museum’s attendance has dwindled since the last steam train ride was given in 2000 as part of the popular Snow Train weekend.

“Having a steam locomotive at the head of the train is appropriate for our mission, Bloohm states, “but it is essential to the financial success of our organization as well. Having Steve on board will move the 1385 project along more quickly. His track record with the 261 proves he is very capable.”

Both locomotives share a common ancestry. They were built by the American Locomotive Company in their Schenectady, New York shops. No. 1385 is older, with a builder’s date of 1907, while No. 261 came much later in 1944. The younger locomotive is far larger, weighing in at 460,000 pounds, dwarfing the more diminutive No. 1385 which weighs a mere 164,000 pounds.

“For the record,” Sandberg says, “the first locomotive on which I ever sat at the throttle and operated was the 1385.” Contributions to help the railway museum meet the Wagner Foundation’s challenge may be made to the Mid-Continent Railway Museum, PO Box 358, North Freedom, WI 53951 or on-line at www.midcontinent.org.

For more information about Steve Sandberg and the operations of Milwaukee Road No. 261 visit http://261.com.

Upcoming Work Session May 25-26, 2012

A C&NW 1385 steam locomotive restoration work session has been announced for May 25th and 26th. That is the Friday and Saturday of Memorial Day weekend. One of the individuals leading the work that day, Al Joyce reports:

“We are continuing to take measurements for the studs and other points on the boiler. Again I could use some younger members to go to the harder to get to places. The train rides will be running, so you can be seen by thousands, well maybe many, working on a STEAM ENGINE. You will attain hero status in the publics’ eye.

We are in fact getting to the parts of the boiler that are some of the hardest to measure. Any and all help will be gladly accepted. If you can help, please stop by.”

No advanced sign-up, prior volunteer experience or great knowledge of steam locomotives is necessary. What is necessary is gloves and clothing you don’t mind getting dirty. Al and the other regular volunteers are happy to share their knowledge of steam locomotives with first time volunteers.