Chicago & North Western No. 1385
Rebuild Overview

steam locomotives number 2, number 1385, and number 1

Continue to the
C&NW 1385 Rebuild Journal

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The image most people have of Mid-Continent involves the Chicago & North Western No. 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 by the mid-1990s 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. The new price tag rose well beyond the money raised by the “Help Steam Live” campaign. In addition to the boiler, significant repairs or replacement of other major components such as the cab, running gear, and tender were also found necessary. The R-1 was parked in favor of repairing less costly locomotives.

This changed in June 2011 when a $250,000 matching grant was recieved from the Wagner Foundation of Lyons, Wis. The Wagners approached Mid-Continent with interest in supporting the restoration of a museum-owned locomotive. Neither the Saginaw Timber Co. No. 2 nor Western Coal & Coke No. 1 fit the bill. The presence of existing funds raised during the original "Help Steam Live" campaign and the allure of bringing Mid-Continent's iconic locomotive back to operation led the foundation to name 1385 as their project of choice. With a significant infusion of cash in place and incentive for others to join in giving as well, repair work resumed shortly after.

Since that time, significant progress has occured on the project which is projected to cost upwards of $2 million to complete. Periodic updates will be posted to the C&NW 1385 Rebuild Journal page linked above.


Saginaw Timber
Company No. 2
Chicago & North
Western No. 1385
Western Coal &
Coke No. 1


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