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.

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.

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.

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!