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The C&NW No. 1385 Open House event held, Feb. 15-16, was a smashing success. Leading up to the event, the 1385 team was hoping for an attendance of 300 for the weekend. To their surprise, an estimated 1,100 people made their way to the open house at SPEC Machine outside of Middleton, Wis.
Locomotive parts were arrayed throughout the shop to facilitate easy viewing. The team did an excellent job of turning an assortment of locomotive parts into an impromptu mini-museum. Major components of the locomotive were labeled, a poster and slide show provided visuals of work on the 1385 completed elsewhere, artwork was on display, and 1385's headlight was illuminated, giving the disassembled locomotive an almost subtle prescience of the renewed life it is about to receive.
Representatives of Mid-Continent and SPEC Machine were spread around the shop, answering questions and explaining the locomotive's ongoing work, its history and its future. The steady stream of people proved interest in the locomotive extends beyond just dyed-in-the-wool railfans. Mike Wahl, C&NW 1385 project manager notes, "It was great to see that a lot of the visitors were just general interest people who had seen it in the paper. This event has opened the door to a new group of people interested in the restoration of the locomotive."
Bobbie Wagner of the Wagner Foundation and a Mid-Continent director, was impressed by the experience. "The enthusiasm of the crowd was amazing. I heard several remarks like 'I never thought I would see the 1385 running again in my lifetime, and now I am looking forward to it.'"
While excitement certainly centers on the locomotive's return to operation, the chance to learn about the restoration process was also greatly appreciated. "There was much reminiscing, but also a huge interest in the logistics of the project itself. They were especially grateful to have the opportunity to see a project such as this first-hand and up-close," Wagner says. "They were very appreciative of the information that Mike [Wahl], Pete [Deets] and Steve [Roudebush] were able to give them."
Aside from the knowledge of steam locomotive restoration gained, visitors who made a $5 donation were offered another keepsake from their visit. A computer numerical control (CNC) milling machine has been utilized during the disassembly stage of the restoration to produce durable part ID tags, allowing for the easy identification and reassembly of all parts when the time comes. Only a slight modification to the ID tag design produced a unique souvenir that could be machined right before the eyes of their new owners. "The medallions were a big hit," says Wagner. "There was a line waiting for them most all day long." Over 150 medallions were produced during the weekend.
Media outlets also picked up on the open house event. Here are some news links discussing the open house:
Wisconsin State Journal (and others via Associated Press news wire)
Madison.com YouTube Page
Midwest Zephyr Media YouTube Page
Just in time for Snow Train visitors, two new displays about the C&NW 1385 have been put up in the depot. One new display breaks out all the parts of the locomotive and describes the restoration status for each element. The second display discusses the importance of the 1385 to the museum as its "Ambassador of Steam," traveling around the Upper Midwest in years past providing a chance for thousands of people to experience steam railroading in their own cities and towns.
Additional displays on the 1385 (and other equipment) are planned for the 2014 season as well. Special thanks goes to volunteer Randy Long (Long & Associates Creative Services) for doing the lion's share of work on getting these together!
Speaking of the Ambassador of Steam, a new 1385-exclusive special edition of the Mid-Continent Railway Gazette is at the print shop and is expected to be going in the mail to Mid-Continent Railway Historical Society members sometime next week. At 52 pages, it is the largest Gazette ever and covers the locomotive's 1983 travels over the Chicago & North Western system to events at Butler, WI, West Chicago, IL, Boone, IA, Marshalltown, IA, Marathon, IA, Duluth, MN and many other points along the way that year. Once it arrives from the print shop, the issue will also be made available for sale to non-members by calling the Mid-Continent office.
The completion of sandblasting on the C&NW 1385's running gear last month has cleared the way for detailed inspection work to begin. Without the years of paint, grease, and rust interfering, clear views of the condition of various running gear components can now be had.
On February 3 and 4, 2014, project members gathered at SPEC Machine to inspect the locomotive. While in its disassembled state, this will be the best opportunity to find and correct any existing or developing issues. With any luck, it will be another 107 years (the locomotive's 107th birthday is next month) before the locomotive would be disassembled to such an extensive degree again. Aside from inspecting for signs of defects and fatigue, the inspection included taking many measurements of the frame, driving wheels, driving boxes, and other components and comparing the current measurements with the original Chicago & North Western specifications to examine the amount of wear.
Today, the Wisconsin State Journal published a nice story about the C&NW 1385's restoration work. Unfortunately, there are a few items in the story in need of clarification. They include:
The article gives 2016 as the 1385's "likely" completion date. That date is a goal among the those working on the engine and depends on keeping a tight project schedule as well as being reliant on the continued success in fundraising at a pace faster than the restoration work expends those funds. The latter is an especially difficult challenge. Because of the inherent uncertainty in fundraising timelines along with the chance for unforeseen delays, Mid-Continent Railway Museum does not have an official estimated completion date for No. 1385. The best way to help finish the restoration in a timely fashion is to make a contribution.
The article states "In 1998, the last year the 1385 ran, about 50,000 visitors made the trek to North Freedom. The following year, without operating steam, attendance plummeted to half of the previous year." There are two errors here. The first is that 1998 was not the last year of steam at Mid-Continent - it was the last year the 1385 ran. Steam engine Saginaw Timber Co. No. 2 actually continued to operate until Feb. 2000 before it too had to be pulled from service for repairs. The second is that while attendance has fallen by half, that drop has occurred over the span of 13 years during this period in which Mid-Continent has been without steam, not one year as the article suggests.
Phrasing of the article suggests the original 1907 boiler is being repaired. Rather, a new boiler is being manufactured. Engineering work is ongoing. Look for further information on the boiler in future updates.
Don't forget - the C&NW 1385 open house takes place this coming weekend (Feb. 15-16) at SPEC Machine (see previous post). Mid-Continent Railway Museum's Snow Train special event also operates Feb. 15-16.
Mid-Continent's 1385 Steam Task Force is pleased to announce an upcoming open house session Saturday and Sunday, February 15-16, 2014 from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The open house will take place at SPEC Machine's Middleton, Wis. location where the 1385's running gear is currently undergoing restoration work. Restoration team members will be on hand to explain the process and answer questions. This event is completely free.
The open house coincides with Mid-Continent's annual Snow Train weekend taking place as usual at our North Freedom, Wis. location. SPEC Machine is approximately 45 minutes driving time from North Freedom and is only minutes away from the Madison area.
Following a premature end to sandblasting on Friday due to cold weather conditions causing equipment hicups, Howard Grote & Sons's Surface Preparation Divison was back on site at SPEC Machine in Middleton, Wis. on Monday, January 20th. While last Thursday's sandblasting featured work on the driving wheels, Monday's work centered on clearing grease, paint and rust form the chassis.
Not all work on the C&NW 1385 involves grit and grime. There has been a great deal of work lately on 1385 in the non-mechanical realm. A meeting date later this month has been set with officials from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation and the Village of North Freedom to inspect the rebuilt tender and associated display. The 1385 project has had the fortune of being aided by a TEA-21 grant administered through WisDOT and the Village. The succesful completion of the tender rebuild and its subsequent display is anticipated to release the final set of funds from the grant which began during the locomotive's initial overhaul work shortly after being pulled from service in 1998.
Design work on additional displays about the 1385's career and current restoration efforts has been an ongoing effort with members of the restoration team and volunteers coordinating their efforts. A special tip-of-the-hat goes to Randy Long of Long & Associates Creative Services. Randy and wife Lynn have been a boon to the 1385 project since joining Mid-Continent in 2013. The Long's have been crucial in the creation of the new display sign created for the 1385 tender and is currently making headway on new 1385 displays planned for inside the depot.The 1385 project team is putting forth a great deal of effort to not only put 1385 back under steam, but also make sure museum visitors are able to appreciate why the locomotive is worth restoring.
Sandblasting of C&NW No. 1385's running gear began on Thursday, January 16th at the SPEC Machine shop in Middleton, Wis. All three sets of drivers were sandblasted along with one pallet of parts. Work was done by Howard Grote & Sons of McFarland, Wis. The chassis was to be sandblasted on Friday the 17th, but Mother Nature intervened with temperatures in the teens causing the hoses and air lines to freeze up. The unfinished sandblasting was rescheduled for Monday, January 20th, but as of the time of writing this post, temperatures are predicted to be similar to that on the 17th.
Sandblasting is used to help remove all the past accumulated rust and layers of paint. Exposing the bare metal makes inspections of the parts much easier and more accurate as as layers of rust, paint and grease can serve to hide cracks and other defects which need to be identified at this stage of the restoration.
With the C&NW No. 1385 running gear now mostly in pieces, a thorough cleaning of the various parts is now the immediate task ahead. The day's task called for scraping grease, needle scaling rust, parts washing and other work in preparation for sandblasting. Some rough weather limited volunteer turnout, but a few brave souls braved the elements.
While some went about cleaning duties, others were pulling out their micrometers and measuring eccentric parts. Although large, numerous key parts of steamers such as No. 1385 have incredibly small tolerances and must be machined to to within thousands of an inch of specification in order to be accepted.
Once again, Brian Allen was on hand to photograph some of the day's activities.
C&NW No. 1385 Task Force member Pete Deets passes along the following message: "Thank you to everyone who braved the elements & changes on the fly. A good day was had by all and parts are a greater step closer to clean enough for inspection. I'm fairly certain there will be another cleaning party but it won't get planned until after the sandblasting."
Visitors to Mid-Continent in 2014 can look forward to new exhibits during their visit. The rebuilt C&NW #1385 tender, delivered in November 2013, now has an accompanying interpretive sign in place. Additional displays about No. 1385 and other museum pieces are also in the works!
Initial response to the new sign has been positive. The C&NW 1385 team received the following message from a Mid-Continent member: "By the way, I don't know who came up with the new sign for the 1385 tender, but I just wanted to say it's probably the most professional looking informational sign we have the property!... Please pass my compliments along to whoever designed it.”
For the record, the sign was a collaborative effort between the numerous members of the C&NW 1385 Task Force and volunteers Randy Long and Jeffrey Lentz lending their talents.
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