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Various Major Projects

Visit our "From the Shop" blog for the latest happenings at the railroad.

Vulcan Locomotive Works Gasoline Switcher
Frederick Snare No. 2, the "Squirt"


The gear shift lever broke again, so the best way to fix it is to ... completely refurbish the beast!

The transmission was questionable, the engine could only run for an hour before it would foul its plugs and the shell looked as if were "ridden hard and put away wet."

The process started several years ago when we located a replacement engine "out east." The price was right and the money was available. The engine eventually appeared in the shop in early 2016.

The pictures in the following grid link to a larger version.   

The Squirt's engine replacement started approximately January, 2016.

At first, it was thought removing the hood for engine access was sufficient but the positioning of the transmission convinced us that removal of the cab would make the process easier.  
Vulcan Iron Works Gasoline Switcher
Vulcan Iron Works Gasoline SwitcherFebruary, 2016: The engine/clutch/transmission-less chassis. The large protrusion near the rear of the chassis is the reversing mechanism and final drive unit.
This is a closer view of the reverser/final drive and the handbrake mechanism.  Vulcan Iron Works Gasoline Switcher
Vulcan Iron Works Gasoline SwitcherDiscussing the condition of the chassis. 
There were numerous areas of rust, dents, and other imperfections on the cab and hood of the Squirt. Vulcan Iron Works Gasoline Switcher
Vulcan Iron Works Gasoline SwitcherThe new transmission is bolted to the bell housing on the new engine. The unit was placed into the engine compartment to determine what was necessary for the connection to the final drive.

Look closely; the 6 is photo-bombing the Squirt.
Vulcan Iron Works Gasoline SwitcherInspecting the reverser/final drive.
Repositioning the cab.Vulcan Iron Works Gasoline Switcher
Vulcan Iron Works Gasoline SwitcherMarch, 2016: As time went by, it became evident that repainting the Squirt was not unreasonable.

Sand blasting the old paint off the cab.
It was easy to roll the cab back into the shop after sand blasting.

The original "Frederick Snare"" markings were evident on the cab's side walls despite having been repainted several times since it wore that livery.
Vulcan Iron Works Gasoline Switcher
Vulcan Iron Works Gasoline SwitcherApril, 2016: The chassis was sandblasted and painted with two part polyurethane paint.
Another view of the freshly painted chassis with the green coach photo bombing the picture.Vulcan Iron Works Gasoline Switcher
Vulcan Iron Works Gasoline Switcher
May, 2016: After the cab was painted, it was taken for a ride on a trailer. Vulcan Iron Works Gasoline Switcher
Vulcan Iron Works Gasoline SwitcherJune, 2016: The windows had long since rotted away. New frames were expertly made and fitted to the cab.
Side windows being fitted into the opening.Vulcan Iron Works Gasoline Switcher
Vulcan Iron Works Gasoline SwitcherThe various window frames are laid out on tables for final finishing.
July, 2016: The big parts are all in place!

New wiring and lighting is being installed.
Vulcan Iron Works Gasoline Switcher
Vulcan Iron Works Gasoline SwitcherNew lettering was applied to both sides. The "Frederick Snare" text is taken from a photo of this and a second Vulcan switcher delivered to the company. 
Besides showing the lettering, this picture also has some details of the new woodwork. Vulcan Iron Works Gasoline Switcher
Vulcan Iron Works Gasoline SwitcherAugust, 2016: Taken at the North Depot on one of its inaugural runs.

As time wore on, various little nits popped up and have been corrected. There are a few additional items to complete.

The Six is Fixed

The 6 was "down for the count"-- or more aptly, was down for major boiler repairs.

In August, 2008, while getting the locomotive ready for the 2008 Old Threshers' Reunion, one flue profusely leaked. After applying the appropriate sized "flue plug," the loco passed its hydrostatic check and went on to perform admirably for both the 2008 OTR and the 2008 Ghost Train. (In fact, it did double duty one evening at Ghost Train; the 9 decided it had enough and stopped dead it its "tracks" (pun intended). While waiting to get the 9 parked and the 14 in front of the train, the cab crew of the 6 hauled a record number of passengers.

In early December, 2008, all the impediments were removed from the boiler so we could install new flues -- simple enough.

With the flues out of the boiler, inspecting the firebox stays was easy but we didn't like what we saw. Many years of service had eroded numerous stays to the point where their replacement was prudent.

In a matter of a few weeks, all of the impediments to REMOVING the boiler were completed and the boiler was lifted from the 6's frame. For the next two months, the staff prepared the boiler for its visit to Lund Machine Works in New Ulm, MN, the chosen contractor for the repairs. The boiler returned to the MCRR in May, 2010. Prior to and after the boiler's arrival, volunteers fixed, cleaned, and replaced numerous items on the locomotive. With just 10 days remaining until the OTR, a final push took place and ... the 6 was pulling a train on Friday, September 3, 2010.

The Flue Season.
If you are thinking that we don't take on big projects...

During the 2008 summer hydro testing of this engine's boiler, we discovered a leaking flue. We plugged the leaking flue which enabled us to continue using the 6 through the rest of our operating season. Our feeling was that if one of the 20-odd year old flues was leaking, more were ready to start leaking. The decision was to replace all the boiler's flues during the winter break.

This series of pictures shows the condition of the 6 as of December, 2008. The tender has been removed for easy access to rear (firebox) end of the boiler. The flues have been cut from the flue plates and the flues are being cut into small pieces to get them out of the boiler.

Despite what this page shows, once the flues were removed we had a closer look at the firebox stays. The stays were eroded beyond what we consider reasonable so...the boiler was removed from the chassis and send away for repairs. As this paragraph is being typed, the boiler is at the boiler maker in southern Minnesota. The old stays have been removed and many, if not all, of the new stays have been installed. Members of the MCRR will be traveling to MN for the flue installation. After pressure testing, the boiler will return to the MCRR and the rebuilding will commence. We expect to see the 6 moving under its own power by September, 2010. Scan through our shop blog for details.     

Flat Car Restoration Project

(Note to readers: hundreds of hours of time by MCRR volunteers Griffin W, "CW" W, Jesse V, Dustin B,  Brian B, Jennifer B, myself and a few others, completed this "impossible" task in a little less than two months. Various members, including Jesse V and Brian B  also contributed to this report and the accompanying pictures at the bottom of this page -- Elliot the Web Lackey.)

**Flash** 6206 is complete; see the Shop Blog (weblog) for details!

The restoration of the first of the two 6200 series flat cars owned by the Midwest Central Railroad is complete!

One of the unique  things about the Midwest Central Railroad is the wide variety of  narrow gauge equipment that is represented. Rolling stock has been gathered from all over the country. With Engine Number 16, the other side of the world (well, the other side of the Atlantic Ocean) is represented. When visiting the MCRR in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, one can see pieces of equipment  from powered to non-powered rolling stock to numerous stationary items obtained from over a dozen railroads.

The MCRR took possession of the flat cars in the early 80's. Since arriving at the shop, they sat on a special detached spur along the fence line west of the shop. The years of Iowa summers and winters were not kind to the flat cars (not that they were in such rosy shape to begin with). Most of the wood portions of the car had rotted away. Steel portions, not being painted since the 1930's, were in full rust regalia. Various parts were damaged during their original service and during transport to Mount Pleasant. The cars were often victims of our own cannibalization.

After long discussions at several board meetings and lots of politicking during work weekends, the MCRR board voted to fund, with an upper limit, the renovation of two of the 6200 series Denver & Rio Grande Western flat cars, numbers 6216 and 6206. The restoration would  include all new wood, preparation of steel, paint, and a thorough mechanical makeover. It must be said that more than one MCRR member doubted the project would come to fruition.

Of the many hundreds of narrow gauge cars to operate in Colorado on the D&RGW, our two cars come from a group of only 20. Of those 20, about half survive. These cars were originally built entirely of wood but in a 1937 rebuilding they were upgraded with larger trucks, steel centersills, and bolsters from a cut down standard gauge car.

In January, after getting the project funding, the first order of business was connecting the spur to the west shop track and moving the flat cars to a place where the renovation could be performed. The volunteers took advantage of a reasonable January day to move not only the flat cars, but the tender of Engine Number 1 off the spur. With the tender being at the southern most point of the spur, numerous free axles and trucks need shuffling. The tank car, long resting east of the South Station, was brought over to its new home on the west spur replacing the flat cars.

A special moment for many of the staff was the mating of Engine Number 1 to its tender. Granted, looking at either Engine Number 1 or its tender would bring a question mark to the minds of most onlookers but the railroad buffs at the MCRR were quite pleased at the event.

Following liberation of the two flat cars, 6216 was pushed into the shop to be stripped of its rotted wood, all of the fasteners and numerous bits of hardware. Disassembly always goes fast, especially when the years of outside storage did most of the work. The main slowdown was trying to preserve the square nuts and square-headed bolts throughout the structure. We wanted to keep as much of the hardware as possible. It is always pleasing to see how easy a 70+ year old nut spins when turned cherry red after a few seconds at the mercy of the acetylene torch's rosebud tip.

The next chore was sandblasting years of rust off of the steel components. With the frame off the trucks and placed along side the center shop track, the MCRR's industrial sized sandblasting equipment made fast work of the mess. Inside the shop, the trucks were disassembled, inspected and repaired as necessary. Several of the journal boxes were badly damaged and needed large sections fabricated in order to be returned to service. Amazingly, none of the bearings needed to be re-poured, plus the axles' bearing surfaces were remarkably clean.

In the middle of February, several members spent a 9 day week completing the cleanup, repairing, and painting of hundreds of components of the flat car. All the lumber for the car including the 35' long beams that make up the stringers were purchased from a mill in Minnesota. Six of these stringers run the length of the car in sizes as big as 5"x9". The stringers needed tenons cut to match the mortises which had been cut into the end beams.

The knuckles were nowhere to be found. We located a good 3/4 size set in our outdoor parts warehouse (junk yard?). The knuckles had to have proper mounts fabricated and installed. The machining of the mount hardware and center frame required more time than expected because our cars use 3/4 size couplers instead of full size as on the D&RGW. It is amazing how many metal shavings can be created in a short time period.

With all the preparation work complete, putting the jigsaw puzzle together was the next task. With "only" six stringers (lengthwise beams) and the two end beams, it turned out to be a real trick fitting these eight pieces together. the first end beam was no problem, as the long beams simple rotated as necessary to fit. The other end beam took some time due to the natural warping of the wood. With numerous winches, come-alongs, and pry bars, the second end beam was fastened in place and everyone took a moment to reflect on their accomplishment. After hundreds of hours of work, it finally looked like a flat car.

Every section of steel and wood was painted. While the eventual exposed decking could be sealed or painted at our whim in the future, everything under the deck had only this chance to be protected from outside storage. The airless paint sprayer proved itself time and again.

There was no trace of the original paint left on the car, requiring us to match the color from a set of scale model paints. Since the scale model paints were color-matched to the original car, we came "full circle."

Before the decking was put in place, the air brakes were installed and checked for proper operation. With the chassis complete, the deck boards were installed. This may seem like a trivial task but consider this: numerous bolts which fastened the long beams to the steel frame had to be accommodated along the bottom of the deck boards. Every deck board has some sort of custom countersinking in order to lay flat. In keeping with the original construction, the deck boards were nailed, totaling over 500 nails driven home. There were lots of sore arms that day!

Deck boards in place, air brakes working, bearings oiled, grab rails (grab irons?) installed, lift pin mechanisms installed, and the hand brake installed only one thing remained. Extensive lettering to document the work, exactly as the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railway would have done was next. Just where does someone get stencils for lettering a early 20th century rail car? A little help from a computer and a period-typeface easily solved the problem. Many hours of hobby knife action later, the stencils were applied and the lettering painted onto the flat car.

To celebrate the completion of the flat car, the staff hooked it to our diesel switch engine, Number 14, and tugged the flat car around the track stopping at North Station for a few extra pictures.

The car was transformed from a dilapidated hulk to a fine museum piece in just a couple months time. The MCRR volunteers that made this happen, as well as all MCRR members can be proud of this fine piece.

Next up: the restoration of car 6206.

After years in the weather, most of the wood was gone and the steel well rusted. The underside of car 6216.
A close-up of the air brake system and the rotted needle beams.
Rotted end beams and dangling truss rods. Jesse V. guiding the loose trucks as they are pulled off the west spur. After rearranging the trucks and misfit cars, volunteers remove the switch which allowed access to the west spur.
Jesse V. setting a spike on the temporary switch. A side benefit of the flat car restoration: Engine Number 1 locomotive mated with its tender. Sandblasting the frame of flat car 6216.
"CW"  making a mortise in an end beam. The finished end beam with its 12 mortises. The rotted wood to the left is the original end beam. Jesse V. fastening a queen post to the needle beam.
Fitting the stringers (lengthwise beams) onto the frame. Dustin B. sawing the end off a end beam. The circular saw didn't quite make it all the way through the wood. A bit of router work to countersink a bolt's mounting plate.
Griffin W drilling one of the many holes to accommodate the bolts holding the beams to the frame. Elliot H. (Hey! that's me!), Griffin W. and Jesse V. discussing how to mate the second end beam to the lengthwise beams. Chains, come-alongs, and pry bars used to get the end beam in place.
Dustin B. wrestling with a truss rod. Brian B. grinds the top of special spike used to lock the end beams to their lengthwise beams. After the spikes are formed, "CW" pounds them into the end beam and through the tenons of the lengthwise beams.
Details of the numerous pieces of hardware at the corner of the flat car. Every surface gets a coat of paint. No...CW wasn't dipping his hands into the paint; those are nitrile gloves. The flat car awaiting painting with all but the decking in place.
Griffin W. cuts the letters out of the vinyl self-stick material. Dustin B. cuts the letters out of the vinyl self-stick material. This is what the lettering looks like after the painstaking hand work.
Shop details such as location and construction are stenciled in place. A view of the finished flatcar behind our little gasoline switcher, "The Squirt." Attaching the flatcar's airbrake hose to Number 14.
A view to the south as the train reaches the horse barns. Looking at Number 14 pulling the flatcar. The flatcar leaving North Station.



 Midwest Central Railroad  Mount Pleasant, Iowa 52641 319−385−2912 (updated 27Dec16)