UPDATE: Steam engine 106 years old being rebuilt in final stages

By: Phil Levin Email
By: Phil Levin Email
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Posted Tuesday, November 19, 2013 --- 7:04 p.m.

The 1385 steam engine being rebuilt by the Mid-Continent railway is
more than a hundred years old.

When it's done it will be the only one running in the world. NBC 15 showed the finishing touches placed on a new "tender" Friday. That's the part behind the engine that stores the water for steam and fuel.

This week they moved the tender from its fabrication plant in Lake Delton to the tracks in north freedom. Once the engine is rebuilt.. they'll attach the tender. A "fireman" loads coal from the tender to boiler to create the steam.

The next step will then be when the running gear gets a complete restoration and tear down. That's the wheels and pistons below the boiler. CFifteen years after the 85-ton engine last ran, the wheels are in a shop in Middleton

If you want to see the new tender in person, you can stop by for rides on their other trains in the "santa express" at the end of the month.

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POSTED Friday, November 15, 2013 --- 11:00 p.m.
Reporter: Phil Levin

A once ubiquitous steam engine is undergoing a massive rebuild, and could become the only working one of its kind.

North Freedom's Mid-Continent Railway Museum preserves and runs trains from the turn of the century. In 1907 the Chicago & North Western Railway built the 1385, a steam engine that would have been a common sight in and around Wisconsin until about WWII. But among about 900 engines similar to the 1385, few are still intact.

"It is one of eight Chicago & North Western Railways still existing," said Pete Deets, the last Mid-Continent volunteer to shovel coal into the 1385 when it ran. "Of those eight engines we know about, this would be the only one to run."

Restoring the engine to running condition is a task as massive as the 85 ton engine itself. It last ran in 1998. The running gear containing the wheels and pistons will get a full tear down and inspection at a shop in Middleton. A new boiler will be built in the Twin Cities. But a new tender, the car that stores the coal and water for steam was just completed in Lake Delton.

"I got probably a hundred different prints and they all have different markings on them," said DRM Industries Engineer Matt Hillmer, who oversaw the project over two years. His team used the original tender and old blueprints to design and weld a new tender nearly identical to the original.

"To see the tender back in one piece, to see it in paint is almost indescribable, to see these pieces actually coming together," said Deets.

The museum's annual "Santa Express" trips up and back their 3.5 mi track will run this year Nov. 30 until Dec 1.


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