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

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Midwest Zephyr Media YouTube Page

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