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.

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