Restoration Department 2020 Progress Report

Volunteers in car shop

As 2020 draws to a close, the Mid-Continent Railway Museum Restoration Department is pleased to look back at this challenging year with a sense of teamwork and accomplishment. All things considered, we had a good year but volunteer work at the museum was shut down from mid-March through early June, reducing our annual planned work sessions by 25%. On June 6th volunteer activity resumed at the museum, and thanks to savings funds and the generosity of donors we were still able to make headway on projects without using any of the museum’s operating funds.

To help navigate the pandemic more frequent work sessions were held to spread out the work and the volunteers. The level of dedication was impressive as volunteers were working in the Car Shop with great regularity up to the end of October. Even with the museum closed to the public and pandemic occurring a total of (28) different volunteers took part in the work sessions and collectively put in over (265) man-days of work at the museum throughout the year. An equal amount of time was put in by volunteers working on projects at home throughout the year.

Thank you to everyone that helped us by volunteering and/or by donating to preserve and restore the historic railroad equipment at Mid-Continent. The accomplishments listed in this report could not be possible without the dedicated group of volunteers. Summarized below is a list of the progress and accomplishments for the Restoration Department in 2020.

East Jordan & Southern combine #2

The west side letter board was completed with the filling of screw and nail holes, sanding and priming. The east side letter board required patching, installation and fabrication of the north end extension which was missing. That was followed by filling, sanding and more priming to complete the letter board. The north end drip boards were also installed. Three of the four platform steps have been taken apart and are in the process of being rebuilt. Work was also started on cleaning up the trucks. Remnants of pinning striping were uncovered, likely dating back to the 1902 refurbishment by Hicks Locomotive & Car Works.

In the second half of the summer work moved to the interior of the car. The east side wall boards had previously been removed from the car. The paint was stripped from these boards and the wall is in the process of being rebuilt. Much of the paint on the west side wall has also been removed although the wood needs to be cleaned up with chemical stripper. Also work was done on the floor to replace some bad wood and missing boards. Finally, all the clerestory windows were removed. The stained glass will be remounted in new frames during the winter months.

Related Links:
EJ&S # 2 Restoration Updates
EJ&S #2 Roster Page

Duluth South Shore & Atlantic DULUTH Sleeper

The year kicked-off by successfully meeting the fundraising goal for the “Buy A Berth” fund drive. These funds enabled the contractor to replicate the missing berths for the car. By late summer the new upper berths and lower berth seat ends were all constructed. In addition replacement cast brass claw feet were made and polished for the new seat end. With the new berths completed efforts turned to stripping the old finish (shellac) off

of the original upper berths and seat ends. Presently all of the berths and seat ends are awaiting the application of the stain and varnish.

Inside the car volunteers focused on working in the sleeping compartment by removing 9 of the 10 veneer headlining ceiling panels that were water damaged and couldn’t be salvaged. In addition all interior hardware (i.e. berth pulleys, latches, roller shades) was removed so the parts can be cleaned and restored. A prototype of the mahogany berth partition trim piece (an overlay) was developed and test fit in the car. Also all of the existing seat cushions (backs, bottoms and head rests) from the sleeping compartment of the car were removed. In early fall samples of missing woodwork in the sleeping compartment were removed from the car so the parts can be replicated as part of the 2021 work.

On the exterior of the car the window sills on both sides of the car were removed as all of it was rotten and couldn’t be salvaged. In addition, volunteers started to remove the existing rolled roofing material off of the roof. Plans call for removing the balance of the rolled roofing in 2021.

Under the car significant progress was made on the air brake system as the brake foundation plan was finalized. With the design set volunteers proceeded to reposition the air cylinder and complete all of the air piping under the car. The next steps will be to fabricate and install the brake levers and rods to the trucks.

Volunteers working at home made significant progress of restoring hardware for the car. Work completed ranged from restoring oil lamp roof vents to over 300 pieces of berth and sleeping compartment hardware.

Related Links:
DSS&A DULUTH Restoration Updates
DSS&A DULUTH Roster Page

Goodman Lumber Co. Shay #9

The water tank was bolted to the frame and the tank was re- lettered. The rear sand tanks were restored and re-installed as were the rear steps. The whistle was removed and a new lever (previously missing) was replicated. The wood tool box that was mounted on the rear of the Shay was constructed (to be installed in 2021). Main air reservoir and the front head light removed for restoration and re-painting. Lastly, a pair of Lima gauge lamps (for the steam gauge and water glass) were acquired and restored.

Related Links:
Goodman Lumber Co. #9 Roster Page

Lake Superior & Ishpeming coach #64

All of the seat castings and cast heat guards were de-burred and painted. All of the upper and lower sash (inner) windows were stained, varnished and glazed. The lower roof repairs were completed on the NE corner of the car and the lower roof repairs in the NW corner of the car are in process.

Related Links:
LS&I #64 Roster Page

Soo Line stock car #29667

Installed a new steel roof on the Soo Line stock car.

Related Links:
Soo Line #29667 Roster Page

Soo Line caboose #203

The old rolled roofing material was removed off of the entire roof. More siding repairs and replacement were made and the side windows were removed (for restoration). A replacement oak end beam (for the north end) was purchased and is in the process of drying out so it can be cut and installed in 2021.

Related Links:
Soo Line #203 Roster Page

Milwaukee Lake Shore & Western coach #63

An original Dayton Mfg. Company side lamp was restored and installed in the MLS&W #63 coach. This is the first of eight side lamps needed for the car.

Related Links:
MLS&W #63 Restoration Updates
MLS&W #63 Roster Page

Duluth South Shore & Atlantic coach #701

Portions of the east side of the DSS&A #701 coach were restored and repainted so the original style numbers could be painted onto the car.

Related Links:
DSS&A #701 Roster Page

Badger Fish Car #2

Restored and installed (8) window guards in the car. Installed the missing step trap latch and in the process of installing the blind hardware (lifts and springs) on the wood blinds (8 of 21 completed).

Related Links:
Badger #2 Roster Page

Car Shop/Miscellaneous

  • Scaffold Upgrades made and the elevated work area was
  • Electrical service provided to the large ventilation fan (south end)
  • Electrical service provided to the south end work deck area
  • Restored and repainted the two vestibule doors for the Soo Line #2017
  • Installed tarps on the CB&Q #1490 and the KGB&W #76 baggage cars
  • Applied clear coating to the: DSS&A #18052 (box car), DSS&A #996 (gondola) and the east side of the Soo Line #99085 (caboose).
  • Applied deck preservative and installed a new covering over the crate on the DM&IR flat car. Moved several pallets of passenger car parts from the Car Shop to the new Storage Building
  • Cleaned and organized the interior of the C&IM business car
  • Continued to work on removing deteriorated sills from under the C&NW #1099
  • Repaired and sealed gaps under the west side wall of the Car Shop
  • Added ballast and sealed the south end doors of the Car Shop
  • Made (3) new display sign bases
  • Made bases for the (2) new donation boxes

Related Links:
Soo Line #2017 Roster Page
CB&Q #1490 Roster Page
KGB&W #76 Roster Page
DSS&A #18052 Roster Page
DSS&A #996 Roster Page
Soo Line #99085 Roster Page
D&IR #5537 Roster Page

At-Home Work

With the pandemic keeping volunteers at home more than normal, many of the volunteers stepped up to work on restoration projects in their home workshops. Following is a list of some the off-site work completed during the year:

  • EJ&S #2: Made, stained and varnished new mahogany window stops (20), made, stained and varnished blind stops (42), Purchased, polished and installed (10) window blind catches, Installed 10 window blind lifts, Finished construction of southeast corner all wood steps and seat castings sent out for machining and de-burring,
  • DULUTH: Restored coach lamp roof vents, restored sleeping compartment berth hardware (in process), and a Barney & Smith corner
  • Goodman #9 Shay: Designed and constructed the rear tool box and restored the Lima gauge lamps
  • LS&I #64: Stencils cut for lettering the car, windows refinished
  • Badger #2 Fish car: Restored the window guards for the car, restored the blind hardware (lifts and springs).
  • DSS&A #701: Stencils developed and cut for the car numbers
  • GN #3261: Machined, de-burred and polished baggage rack
  • Created drawings for the: DULUTH, LS&I #64, Soo Line #203, EJ&S #2 and the Goodman Shay #9.

Fundraising (donations received)

Dailey Foundation, Giving Tuesday, DULUTH Buy-A-Berth and donations to support the Restoration Department projects

Looking ahead to 2021 we look forward to resuming work on the active projects. Unfortunately, funding for the Restoration Department projects will be negatively impacted by the loss of income from the 2020 shut down and the weekend only schedule in 2021. In 2020 the Restoration Department used over $12,000 of designated funds (from savings accounts) and we’ll need your help now to keep the Restoration Department projects moving ahead in 2021! This is where you can really help. I hope you will be able to help the Restoration Department continue to make significant progress in 2021. Won’t you please consider making a generous contribution today?

Donations supporting the Restoration Department can be submitted online or by mail to the MCRM office. Be sure to designate your donation for the “Restoration Department”.

Printable Donation Form (PDF)

Mid-Continent Railway Historical Society
PO Box 358
North Freedom, WI 53951

In closing, many thanks to everyone that volunteered their valuable time and contributed funds towards the restoration work at Mid-Continent in 2020. Have a Happy, Healthy and Safe Holiday and a Happy New Year!!! I’m looking forward to seeing you at Mid-Continent in 2021!! The first 2021 work session will be held on April 3rd.

William Buhrmaster
MCRM Restoration Department


DULUTH Restoration 2020 Year-End Progress Report

The DULUTH’s sleeping compartment showing work in progress as well as the veneer headlining panels that have been removed.

In 2020 worked progressed on several fronts on the DULUTH project but the overall progress was less than planned due to the pandemic. The primary focus continues to be working on restoring the 10-section sleeping compartment. The three month shut down at the museum impacted work on site and the off-site contract work on the berths. While the work onsite was negatively impacted progress on projects being worked on by volunteers at their homes proved to be productive. Following is a brief summary of the progress made on the DULUTH sleeping car during 2020. The list includes work performed on the car (at North Freedom), in contractor’s facilities and by MCRM volunteers at their homes.


  • The “Buy-A-Berth” fundraising campaign that kicked off in 3Q 2019 met its goal in the 1Q of 2020 by raising $25,687.
  • The Giving Tuesday Fundraising Challenge held on December 2, 2020 raised a total of $2,240
  • A total of $10,044 was donated by (19) donors to the DULUTH project in 2020


  • Completed the construction of (6) new upper berths
  • Completed the construction of (4) new lower berth seat ends
  • Stripped the old finish off of (4) original upper berths and (2) lower berth seat ends
  • Removed existing sleeping compartment hardware (i.e.: hinges, pulleys, latches, curtains, etc.) from the car for reconditioning
  • Cast and polished replica brass claw feet (Qty. 8) for the seats ends

Sleeping Compartment:

  • Removed the deteriorated veneer headlining (lower roof) panels from inside the car
  • Removed all of the existing seat cushions (backs, bottoms and head rests) from the sleeping compartment of the car
  • Secured samples of missing woodwork and parts that need to be reproduced
  • Cut and fit the prototype berth partition overlay pieces


  • Removed all of the window sills from the car. The window sills were very deteriorated and in need of complete replacement
  • Removed the wood and vents that covered up the clerestory window openings
  • Began to remove the roof material (rolled asphalt and tar) off of the car. The majority of the wood on the roof deck appears to be in very good condition
  • Removed three of the original oval window frames from the car. These window frames will be used as samples for making a new set (qty. 9) of oval window frames and stained glass inserts

Air Brakes:

  • Finalized the air brake system design
  • Installed the air cylinder in the appropriate location under the car
  • Completed the installation of all of the air piping to the air cylinder
  • Develop prototype levers for the air cylinders


  • Completed the restoration of the nine oil lamp roof vents
  • Acquired and restored a Barney & Smith corner sink that will be used in the Men’s Smoking Room
  • Acquired an Adams & Westlake two-burner oil lamp for the car
  • Acquired berth hardware from an ex-Milwaukee Road sleeping car in Alberta
  • Sourced a door for the stateroom toilet room
  • Cleaned and restored over 300 pieces of berth and sleeping compartment hardware

Men’s Smoking Room:

  • Started to develop the drawings for the missing Men’s Smoking Room walls and partitions
  • Developed the design and size for the missing mirrors (qty.2) to be reproduced


  • Developed a detailed list of the sleeping compartment work tasks and sequence of activities
  • Obtained a proposal for reproducing missing wood parts in the sleeping compartment
  • Updated the three year restoration plan
  • Developing a grant request to submit in 1Q 2021


  • Total expenses paid for materials, labor, and contract since Jan. 1, 2020 is $5,448.51


Report prepared by William Buhrmaster, MCRM Restoration Department. Dec. 4, 2020.

Related links:

DULUTH Update: Spring 2020

by William Buhrmaster, MCRM Restoration Dept. Manager

Although we’re not currently able to work on the DULUTH as planned due to the Coronavirus shutdown there still is some progress and news to report on.

Work inside the DULUTH took place during work sessions in February and March. Stu M. lead a crew of volunteers removing the deteriorated headlining panels in the sleeping section of the car. The panels have all been removed and the roof boards and carlines have now been exposed. From inside the car the lower roof boards and carlines look to be in very good condition with the exception of a few carlines and boards on the east side of the car.

I recently received an email from Bob Berghorst reporting that he has the mahogany veneer applied to the seat ends and he has received the first of the newly cast brass claw feet.  Bob is getting eight claw feet cast for the four seat ends that he is making. There are eight claw feet in the car and four claw feet were acquired from the Sault Ste. Marie last year when we acquired two of the seat ends from the SSM.

One of four original claw feet from the Sault Ste. Marie car, before and after cleaning and polishing for use in the DULUTH.

With a tip from Pete B., I recently purchased a Barney & Smith corner sink off of eBay. The sink came at a very reasonable price and the buyer generously donated the shipping cost from California. The sink is close to what we need in the smoking room with the exception that it does have a provision for a drinking water tank. We can use the sink in the DULUTH unless a better or more appropriate sink surfaces down the road. Photos of the sink are attached.

Barney & Smith sink purchased on eBay for use in the DULUTH’s smoking room.

I have also completed the restoration of the nine coach lamp roof vents that were donated to MCRM last summer thanks to Bob K.’s sister and brother in-law’s efforts in North Dakota last summer. With seven lamps in the car and two vents per lamp we are still in search of five more vents.

before view of roof vent with rust and peeling paint and after view of vent painted black

Before and after view of a coach lamp roof vent. The vent was salvaged from a car in North Dakota and restored for use on the DULUTH.

That’s the latest.

DULUTH Sleeping Car Update and “BUY A BERTH” Fund Drive

DULUTH Restoration – November 2019 Update

Mid-Continent Railway Museum has been working on restoring the oldest and most complete wooden sleeping car in the country to its original beauty and operating condition. Thanks to many supporters and generous donations the car was acquired and moved to the Mid-Continent Railway Museum in September 2016.  Upon arrival, the car was placed on a pair of 6-wheel trucks and within 12 months Mid-Continent volunteers had installed couplers and draft gear. This summer the air brake system including the air brake cylinder, reservoir and all of the air piping was completed. Inside the car, the missing berth partitions and lower berth seatbacks have been replicated and installed.

The next step in the program is to replicate the missing upper and lower berths that will be installed between each of the berth partitions. New berths are required as the past owners removed 8 of the 10 berths from the car over 80 years ago. The upper berths are challenging to reproduce due to their curved shape and the fine marquetry patterns set into mahogany veneer. Fortunately, we have located a master woodworker and marquetry expert in Michigan that have the needed skills and abilities to accurately reproduce the missing berths from the DULUTH.  In order to replicate the missing berths, we must raise $32,000 to get the DULUTH one step closer to being a restored masterpiece.

Introducing the “BUY A BERTH” Fund Drive [FUND DRIVE COMPLETED AS OF JAN. 29, 2020]

To fully restore the sleeping section of the DULUTH, your help is needed to raise $32,000 for replicating the upper and lower berth seat ends. With the “BUY A BERTH” Fund Drive donors can donate towards replicating the eight missing upper or lower berths. With a $1,500 donation (for a lower berth) or a $2,500 donation (for an upper berth) we will be able to get a berth replicated and you’ll have your name associated with one of the berths in the car. Donors that make a donation to the “BUY A BERTH” Fund Drive in the full amount of a berth ($1,500 or $2,500) will have their name placed on a plaque mounted inside the car. All donations less than $1,500 will be pooled together to go towards the cost of replicating a berth.

How You Can Help

UPDATE: The “Buy a Berth” Fund Drive was completed on Jan. 29, 2020. Donations are still needed for other areas of the DULUTH’s restoration. Consider helping us reach our $75,000 goal for the DULUTH’s other restoration needs

You can also donate by mail by sending a check to:

Mid-Continent Railway Historical Society
PO Box 358
North Freedom, WI 53951

Please be sure to write “DULUTH Sleeper” in your check memo line, in the online donation form, or in the special projects box of our printable donation form.

All donations are tax-deductible. Any donations received in excess of the Buy A Berth Fund Drive goal amount will be used to assist with other areas of the DULUTH’s restoration.

DULUTH Progress Update May 2019

Fred B. has spent the past few months reproducing the six missing berth partitions and lower berth seat backs for the DSS&A DULUTH Sleeping car. The berth partitions are an integral component for the berths as they support the upper berths while also separating each berth in the car. The yellow pine pieces are all custom made per the original partitions in the car and they are recessed into the wall framing, the carlines, and the floor.

In late April Fred began installing the beth partitions in the car as seen in the photos below.

By the end of April, all six berth partitions were secured in place. The seat backs were also placed temporarily. The final installation of the seat backs will occur after additional work is completed inside the car including the reconstruction of the new berth seat ends.

sleeping car partitions and seatbacks

Berth partitions and seatbacks installed in the DSS&A DULUTH sleeping car. April 29, 2019.

Next up… on the weekend of May 18-19 volunteers will once again be working on the air brake piping under the DULUTH. Plans call for completing the trainline, signal line and retainer piping during this work session.