Lund Machine and Tool Works on Firebox Replacement Pieces

Some progress finally to report. Jim Connor took some photos and hopefully will forward them to you. Lund Machine and Tool arrived Monday after noon. Work started immediately on the firebox replacement pieces. The old sheet pieces were removed in the area of the new rear tube sheet, a 1/2″ thick plate with the keyhole shape was fitted into place. The engineers rear corner patch was fabbed and is ready for 9 rivets. The front tube sheet was removed.

The swing links for the front truck have new bushings installed and work continues on disassembling and inspection.

–Bob Ristow

Photos by Jim Connor.

C&NW 1385 Steam Status

C&NW #1385’s initial restoration efforts were documented within the pages of the Mid-Continent Railway Gazette and Mid-Continent’s The Steamer! newsletter and were not documented online. The following is an overview of #1385’s status written for the website as of June 29, 2006.


The image most people have of Mid-Continent involves the Chicago & North Western #1385 under steam, pulling either the Prosperity Special or the Circus Train or one of our own special excursions like Snow TrainTM or the Santa ExpressTM. The power of this image is so strong that museum guests still come here expecting to see the R-1 sitting in front of the depot, ready to make the day’s runs, even though she has been out of service since June of 1998.

We knew several years ago that her time was limited and began a fund raising campaign in 1996 entitled “Help Steam Live.” The campaign goal was a mere $250,000, when we thought the needed repairs would simply be tube and flue replacement plus patching the interior side-sheets of the firebox. But once the work commenced, the extent of the firebox damage from over eighty years of service became apparent. The result of a visual inspection by the State’s boiler inspector was the condemnation of the firebox.

While Mid-Continent’s volunteer shop crews wrestled with the decisions on how to proceed with the repair work, Federal guidelines for steam boiler operation changed, mandating even further major repairs. The museum engaged Steam Services of America in 2001 to perform a complete inspection of the boiler in light of these new requirements. The result was a significant expansion of the repair plan to encompass a major overhaul of the entire boiler. And the new price tag approached $750,000, well beyond the money raised by the “Help Steam Live” campaign. The R-1 was parked in favor of repairing less costly locomotives.

Still the museum was holding a significant amount of money restricted for the purpose of restoring this specific locomotive to operating condition. So in 2004 an agreement was entered with Deltak Construction Services of Plymouth, MN for the manufacture of a completely new boiler using all-welded construction techniques. The cost of $415,000 proved to be significantly lower than the cost of repairing the old boiler. And the long-term maintenance cost would also be less, insuring the R-1’s ability to operate far into the future.

Phase 1 of this program is now complete with Deltak delivering the engineering study and approved boiler drawings to the museum. Phase 2 will be the purchase of the needed materials. And Phase 3 will involve the boiler’s actual construction at Deltak’s shop, concluding with a successful hydro test.

When finished, the C&NW #1385 will be the most expensive of the three steam locomotives currently under repair. And that is why she is at the end of the list in terms of priority. But no concept of a steam program at Mid-Continent has ever been considered that would exclude the R-1 from being returned to operating condition. She is the gem of the steam locomotive collection.

View a history of C&NW #1385 here.

Rear Tube Sheet Installation

Jim Connor reports on the installation of the rear tube sheet:

“Most of the job was done by Bob Ristow and welder Jeff Lund. The basic job was to reassemble the plywood template and see if it would fit through the front of the boiler, slide down the barrel and tip in between the throat sheet and fire box sheets. This worked and gave us the close assurance that the real sheet would do the same. It did. Sounds simple. The actual job of getting the sheet into place was NOT simple but went better than we expected. Next a hanger was welded inside the steam dome. A comealong was attached and used to lower the sheet into its final resting place. After some fitting the sheet was tack welded. More fitting is needed and sections of the firebox side sheets that have been cut out replaced. Next will be beveling the sheets and butt welding the tube sheet to the side sheets and crown sheet. The bottom will be riveted to the mud ring.”

Jim Connor photos.

May 14-15, 2005 Work Session Results

Doug Crary reports:

“Is it Denver Gardner or Gardner Denver? What ever! Doug Klitzke into Boo to get gas, Jason and Bob Jackson on R-1 to remove bell. Jason, Doug Klitzke and Bob Jackson finished the staybolts on the wrapper sheet. Dave B. and Ed Ripp started work on the firebox supports for the heat treating. Some parts by Petebone, other parts on track one south of the house. Diesel work was essentially completed. Future work ID’d and scheduled. 2 small bottles of acetylene MT. We had to use Ricks large bottle.”

Jason Sobczynski photos.

March 5-6, 2005 Work Weekend

This last weekend was most productive, also as we had a very nice crew hammering down staybolts and cleaning out holes in the throatsheet preparing them for welding. Betsy Zonnerville, Bob & Kevin Reihl, Mike Wahl, John Sorrel, Doug Crary, Dave & Bryon Schumacher, Al Hill, Chris Thompson and Kelly Bauman were there to lend a hand. Many staybolts were hammered down and the telltale holes were drilled clear to finish part of the firebox repairs. The staybolts are what hold the flat steel sheets of the firebox together against the pressure of the steam and water in the boiler. The throatsheet is the very front of the firebox that helps make the transition from the rectangular shape to the cylindrical shape of the barrel. The staybolt holes there are being filled with weld and will be drilled out to be threaded when the new rear tubesheet is fitted to the inside of the firebox/boiler. Once again, saying thanks doesn’t seem adequate but WE ARE DOING THIS!

Paul Swanson photos.