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.

Front Truck Wheelsets Receive Turn on the Lathe

A quick update on the Chicago & North Western #1385. Earlier this week, one of the front truck wheelsets was being turned on a lathe. Work on these wheels is being carried out by Harvey Diversified Trades. (Pictures via Harvey Diversified Trades LLC Facebook page). The job prompted the Harvey Diversified Trades Facebook page to write “I used to think this lathe was big until we put a locomotive axle and wheels on it.”

Machining C&NW 1385 pilot wheel

“Finished up the week machining on the front wheels for the 1385 steam locomotive for Mid-Continent Railroad Museum. Certainly kept the machine firmly on the floor….they are heavy.” — Harvey Diversified Trades Facebook

Two of the four 28″ lead truck wheels (pictured) are being retained and machined to specification, while the other two wheels were worn enough to necessitate replacement with brand new wheels. The new wheels were produced at a forge in Pennsylvania and delivered to Milwaukee, WI to be pressed onto the axle by NRE Wheel Works.

Both wheelsets will return to SPEC Machine in Middleton, WI where they will be united with the front truck assembly which has been undergoing repair work there.

1385 Status Overview

Jeff Bloohm, President of Mid-Continent, has shared a brief overview of the Chicago & North Western No. 1385’s status.

Here is an update as to where the 1385 is towards completion:
Frame work including driving boxes save fitting the boiler mounts and furnace bearers, brake cylinders and valve gear pivot points is finished.

Work on the drivers is finished. Work on the rods save the wristpins into the crossheads is finished. The cylinders are finished. One valve cage is finished, the other about 40% done. Work on the drive wheel suspension is finished. The cab is 75% finished.

Work is now concentrating on the front truck and that is about 60% finished. The axles have been inspected and journals polished. The bad set of wheels has been pressed off and the new wheels are being machined. The wheels on the other axle are also being turned. The boiler design is within weeks of being ready for 3rd party review.

Work yet to be done:
Final teardown, cleaning, inspection and repair plan for the valve gear, pistons, valves, and brake rigging. All appliances still require inspection and repair planning. The superheater header, ash pan, and stack require close inspection and repair planning. The fountainhead and all valves need inspection/repair/replacement.

After delivery of the boiler, the jacketing will need repair/refitting/rework.