Rebuilt Tender Arrives at Mid-Continent, Restoration Moves on to Next Phase

This past weekend featured a buzz of activity on C&NW 1385. The tender tank, new (former freight car) trucks and frame were loaded first thing Friday morning (11/15) at DRM Industries. It was then trucked to Mid-Continent where a crane was waiting to place them under the rebuilt display structure north of the depot which also houses the Shay and narrow gauge boxcar.

While the wheels and frame were being placed, a second tractor-trailer arrived with the rebuilt tender tank. Beginnings around 11:30 a.m., the tender tank was moved into position and lowered onto the frame. Even though the tender is at North Freedom, is not quite done. Grab irons need installation, the rear headlight needs to be installed, the tank hold-down brackets need to be installed and bolted tight, and the tank interior needs the protective coating applied. Final touches will need to be completed when the tender is married to the locomotive. For now, it will enjoy prominent position under a covered display area while it waits.

Tender tank hoisted by crane

Photo by Brian Allen. Click on image to browse Brian’s entire Flickr album from the day.

The work on C&NW 1385 continued throughout the weekend. On Saturday loose parts were rounded up from their storage places and placed on shipping pallets. Then on Sunday, the crane was at work again, this time lifting the C&NW 1385’s running gear onto trucks for delivery to Spec Machine in Middleton, Wisconsin for restoration work there. The frame and two sets of driving wheels were loaded onto the first trailer around 2:00 p.m. The immense weight of these components required that one set of driving wheels and and the leading truck (i.e. the small wheels in the front that help steer the locomotive through curves) be separated, temporarily converting the 4-6-0 locomotive into a 0-4-0 wheel configuration. Project volunteer Pete Deets explains:

That conversion wasn’t by choice… On the day of the pick, the operator quit lifting at 84,000 lbs. and the running gear hadn’t budged from the rails yet. They dropped the front truck and the operator stopped again at 79,000 lbs. without lifting off. The #3 rods and driver were dropped and the lift was made at about 72,000-74,000 lbs. The truck and driver came in at 10,000 lbs. apiece.

The first tangible evidence of restoration progress returning to Mid-Continent was enough to entice reg in al media to come report on the 1385’s restoration, including a story by Capital Newspapers (publisher of Wisconsin State Journal) which includes interviews with Mike Wahl, Project Manager, and Don Meyer, former General Manager and now serve ring as the project’s fundraising consultant. There is also a nice video report by NBC 15, Madison’s NBC affiliate in which Pete Deets and DRM Industries’ Matt Hillmer do a great job conveying the challenges of the restoration and uniqueness of the 1385.

Our Steam Task Force team deserves a hand for delivering on the first major component of the restoration. They have put in countless hours in the nearly 2-1/2 years since the Wagner Foundation grant was announced, resuming the restoration. There is an even greater amount of work yet to do as the tender is only the first step in the returning of the 1385 to service. Aside from the running gear work alluded to earlier, the cab is about half done at a Fond du Lac woodworking shop. The new boiler will begin to be built after all the required calculations are complete to create the Federal Railroad Administration Form 4.

For things to continue humming along, continued financial support is needed. Please consider visiting our donation page to learn how easy it is to support the C&NW 1385 restoration.

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Tender Tank Lettering In Progress

This week featured more easily visible evidence of restoration work on C&NW No. 1385. Countless hours over the past year have been going into engineering design and review of the tender and boiler, but that is not something that produces nice pictures to share on Facebook. Lettering a tender, on the other hand, makes for a great photo opportunity and just so happens to be what took place this week.

After the tender returned from the painting contractor’s shop early in the week, Mid-Continent’s Owen Hughes headed over to the DRM Industries shop to begin lettering the new tender tank with the familiar Chicago & North Western System trademark.

Meanwhile, the tender deck was also being prepared. As indicated by the original C&NW drawing and specifications sheet, 2″ white oak boards are being used. The timber was locally hewn by James Frazier & Sons Logging of Blue Water, WI. The decking still needs to have preservative treatments applied before the tender tank can be mounted to the deck.

Other final details are also in the process of being finished. The lower left photo shows the new bushing installed in the drawbar pin hole. The drawbar is what connects the locomotive to the tender (and the rest of the train).

CNW 1385 tender progress photos

Tender Back at DRM Industries for Lettering and Final Assembly

The shiny new tender tank for Chicago & North Western No. 1385 moved recently from the paint shop back to the construction contractor’s shop near Wisconsin Dells in preparation for final assembly. Lettering began being applied today and is expected to take about three days to complete. The tender is on schedule for a November delivery to the Mid-Continent Railway Museum grounds.

C&NW tender tank after painting. Photo taken Oct. 22, 2013. Photo courtesy of Mike Wahl.

C&NW tender tank after painting. Photo taken Oct. 22, 2013. Photo courtesy of Mike Wahl.

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!