MLS&W Restoration Report #7
September 2002

by Don Ginter, Curator, ©2002 MCRHS

COACH #63 is starting to regain some of the simple elegance it had when it was in service on the Milwaukee, Lake Shore & Western in the late 1880's. The basic restoration work has been completed and attention has now turned to restoring the rich and handsome appointments.

Some of the more mundane work requiring completion before moving on to the ornate interior has been the roof. The wood roof was overlaid with small, approximately 18" x 24", rectangular pieces of terne metal or tin, assembled together into a patchwork quilt pattern. This metal roof is nailed along the edges of the coach roof and the overlapping tin seams soldered to make the whole assembly waterproof.

With the roof completed, final painting of the coach's exterior was begun. Two coats of light yellow color were applied to the body with the clerestory and letterboard areas receiving a light tan color. Keeping with early coach painting practices, the colors applied were a flat paint. Two coats of clear varnish were applied over the paint to provide the final luster of a polished surface. With these original light colors on the coach, the Copper Range coach next to it, with its vibrant dark orange and maroon trim paint, stands out in stark contrast to our Lake Shore coach. Gold leaf lettering, outlined in black, is now being drawn up.

On the interior of the coach, the clerestory ceiling and head lining panels have been installed and the ceiling has been trimmed out with its cherry wood batten strips. The Colonna-inspired intricately stenciled relationship of maroon and white paints with brass and aluminum leaf on their oak background are resplendent. Upon entering the coach, your eyes are immediately drawn upward to the panels. As Jim Neubauer aptly exclaimed in the latest "Steamer" (museum member newsletter), "The play of light across them seems to make the colors quiver and change before your eyes."

The gaping holes in the floor, required earlier to secure the new platform and draft sills to the coach's body sills, have now been patched. The men's saloon partitions were replicated and replaced those destroyed while the car was in its Chicago & North Western Wood Street potato yard service. A new wood carving was created for the corner of these partitions. All the interior cherry wood has been paint stripped, bleached, sanded and is now ready for staining and varnishing.

The clerestory and lower main windows have been rebuilt with new sash. Each clerestory window is glazed with three panes of amber stained glass. Due to glass breakage and replacement of sash over its years of service, much of the original amber glass in these windows has been lost to time. In the restoration, the original amber glass panes were identified and it was determined that there were enough to use one original glass pane per clerestory window. It is the center pane with replacement ones flanking the originals. The replacement panes are a slightly darker amber color and have a little different molded pattern in the glass.

Last winter we were contacted by a University of Minnesota graduate student interested in writing a thesis on E. Colonna toward her fulfillment of the requirements for a degree in Master of Arts. We met at the museum prior to last Christmas, surveyed the coach and spent several hours reviewing our file of material on Colonna. This summer, a copy of her completed thesis was received. The main body of the thesis is a discussion of Colonna's Essay on Broom-Corn, his initial entry into Art Nouveau design. This essay was published in 1887 while he was employed by Barney & Smith. The thesis also discusses its relationship with Colonna's Art Nouveau design used in his railroad coach interior design work. We find it encouraging that our Milwaukee, Lake Shore & Western #63 coach is now being utilized as a research learning tool, the emphasis in starting this whole restoration project.

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"The play of light across them seems to make the colors quiver and change before your eyes."