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Status of MidContinent’s C&NW Steam Locomotive 1385

The Mid Continent Railway Museum located at North Freedom WI, a small town near Baraboo 35 miles NW of Madison, is well known for it collection of lovingly restored wood passenger cars among other things. It is also the home of several steam locomotives, the best known being C&NW 4-6-0 Class R-1 #1385. Saved by the museum in 1961, it ran on and off for many years with extended periods of down time for needed work. It is best known for its recall to duty by the C&NW to run it’s Prosperity Special promotional trips in 1982 and similar trips in 1983. This took the locomotive to a number of locations and events in Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and Wisconsin. It also powered the famous Circus Train to Milwaukee several times.

It was determined in 1998 that the locomotive was so worn out that it would need a very extensive rebuilding effort, essentially from the frame up. With the help of the Wagner Foundation which made a $250,000 challenge grant in 2011, fundraising and work has been continuous ever since. Virtually every part of the locomotive has been or is in the process of being reworked or replaced. A new tender has been completed and work on a new cab is almost completed. In 2014, the driving wheels were reconditioned at the Strassburg Railroad. With the boiler and cab removed, the frame was moved to a small but impressive machine shop located on a farm about 10 miles NW of Madison where it has been stripped of virtually every part, inspected, and rebuilt. A number of open houses at the shop have attracted several thousand visitors to see the work that has been done. These have provided fans and the public alike the rare opportunity of seeing a locomotive frame upon which a locomotive is built.

Design work for a new boiler is virtually complete, and a shop has been chosen to build it. Upon notification from a third party for accuracy and compliance with all requirements, the order will be placed with the contractor. The Task Force and museum are now looking forward to its completion in the not-too-distant future.

The Emery Rail Heritage Trust was pleased to select C&NW #1385 as one of it’s first projects, awarding a $10,000 grant to the museum in October 2015.

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