By Aaron Isaacs, HRA editor
Although many of us are in suspended animation due to Covid-19, it seemed like a good time to look in on some long term restoration and development projects. Because they can take years to complete, they tend to disappear into a media black hole between instigation and completion. And completion is often a relative term, because a piece may be unveiled for the public when there are still details left unfinished. It’s a morale booster when cosmetic work is done, even if the piece isn’t operational yet.
With all that in mind, let’s visit some projects that aren’t done, but have seen substantial progress. We’ll avoid steam locomotives because they have high profiles and their progress gets reported in the general railfan press.
Fort Edmonton Park
Fort Edmonton Park is a recreated historic village that includes an operating railroad and streetcar line.
Since September 2018, a $165 million enhancement project has been underway. Included is a new 11,000 square foot maintenance facility for the EY&P Railway. This new facility will have two tracks, overhead travelling bridge crane, inspection pit, wheel removal pit, raised maintenance mezzanine, and office space. The new building will allow for the continued maintenance and operation of the 100-year-old Baldwin steam locomotive and its vintage passenger cars.
In addition to the new facility, a shop rail yard is being built, which will allow for improved grade and switching capabilities. Replacement and realignment of the streetcar tracks is also taking place. Improvements include new trackage right up to the car shop doors, a new catenary system and upgraded electrical distribution systems. Fort Edmonton Park is scheduled to fully reopen in May 2021.
Cranbrook History Center railcar building
A few years ago the Canadian Museum of Rail Travel rebranded itself to include local history. Nonetheless its premier displays are its collection of reassembled iconic Canadian passenger consists. They’re exposed to the weather, so the museum is constructing a large timber train shed to cover them. The project is in two stages, the first of which has been completed. Here’s what it looks like.
It has been an epic slog for the museum to take ownership of the former Hammond Lumber Company Samoa Shops complex outside of Eureka, California. The tracks were gone but the buildings were still there, owned by the Harbor District and probable candidates for demolition. The museum took out a lease and moved engines into the roundhouse. The lease payment was expensive, but the harbor district accepted payment in the form of building restorations. To that end, the museum, with considerable help from local businesses and Cal Fire volunteers, reroofed and did considerable rehab work to all the buildings. The Harbor District eventually agreed to transfer ownership, but only after a rigorous environmental assessment and cleanup was completed. That has taken a couple of years but the end is now in sight. The future will see track laid, more rolling stock moved on site and eventually the rebuilding of the rail connection so trains can be run.
Niles Canyon Railway Krauss Maffei diesel hydraulic 9010
The single most difficult and unlikely diesel restoration ever is in its final stages. It started with the shell of Southern Pacific KM 9010 which had been converted into a rolling camera platform and somehow not been scrapped. The initial goal was a non-working unit, but contacts in Germany discovered powered trucks, an engine and other necessities in a scrap yard and stepped up to make these available. The goal shifted to eventual operation. Cosmetic work was completed in 2019 and the unpowered locomotive was pushed during an inaugural run. Volunteers are now in the home stretch of making the locomotive operational.
Fort Collins Municipal Railway Birney 25
As the last small city Birneys to run in North America, the Fort Collins cars were iconic and all survived. The all-volunteer Municipal Railway restored #21 and against strong Not In My Front Yard opposition revived the Mountain Avenue streetcar line, now a preservation gem. For quite a few years Birney #25 has been under restoration inside the city-owned original carbarn, located a couple of blocks from Mountain Avenue. Last December an addition to the operating carbarn was completed and 25 was moved there in March, awaiting the final finishing touches.
Railroad Museum of New England Thomaston Station
The museum is based in Thomaston, Connecticut on the former New Haven Naugutuck Valley line. The town’s Victorian depot has been getting all sorts of repairs inside and out for years. Volunteers are currently working on the basement.
Shore Line Trolley Museum Elevating the Collection and motor repairs
In 1948 the Branford Electric Railway Society took over the recently abandoned Connecticut Company line from East Haven to Short Beach which skirts a tidal marsh. Carbarns were erected and a sizable rolling stock collection acquired. Little did they suspect that global warming would raise sea levels and the site would risk flooding. Unfortunately the worst happened, and salt water fouled the motors of some 50 electric cars. The museum took on two huge projects:
- Repairing the motors with a substantial financial assist from FEMA and
- Building two new carbarns along with considerable new track on higher ground within the site, to hopefully prevent a recurrence.
Illinois Railway Museum Electroliner
The 1941 North Shore Line streamliner was brought back from Philadelphia, where it last ran on the SEPTA ex-Philadelphia & Western Norristown high speed line, and returned to its original external appearance. However, it needed its trucks and motors overhauled and its interior restored, an effort ongoing for several years, and approaching completion.
Mad River & NKP Railroad Museum restoration shop
When I started this post I thought this building was not yet complete. Here’s a video that shows it’s now open.
This winter we've been very busy building track to connect our Coach Yard to the new Mary Cooper Restoration Building. Just before the shelter in place order took effect, we were able to move the France Stone locomotive into the building on March 21, 2020.In the future, this building will be used to do restorations and general maintenance of some of our equipment, including the 757.Check out this slide show video we prepared documenting the construction of the building and track work. It spans from June 2019 to March 2020.Below is a list of the businesses and organizations that have supported us with material, equipment use, and/or services during the track project. Advanced Tank TechnologiesJ.B. & SonsBeamer’s Farm ServiceYoungstown Steel Heritage Terry McConnell ExcavatingJ&F Construction Norfolk Southern Corporation
Posted by Mad River & NKP Railroad Museum on Thursday, March 26, 2020
Scranton “Electromobile” streetcar #505 (Osgood Bradley 1929) survived intact, but decades of outdoor storage and multiple site moves left it in very bad shape. The museum finally mustered the needed resources and the project has kicked into high gear at the shops of the Stourbridge Railroad.
Museum of the American Railroad Frisco site development
The museum made a difficult move from the Texas State Fair grounds in Dallas to an undeveloped greenfield site with a single spur track in the exurban town of Frisco, which has adopted the former St. Louis-San Francisco’s “coonskin” logo as its own. Since then the museum has been implementing a long-term development plan. FCS Construction of Frisco wrapped up installation of storm drainage and application of flex-base material for the next phase of track construction. Work was completed on June 12. The underground storm drainage network is now 90% complete for the overall site engineering design. Following the installation of solid and perforated drain pipe, FCS crews then moved forward with soil compaction, placement of geotech fabric, and application of flex-base material to serve as roadbed for future exhibit tracks 3-5 & 9-10. Once funds become available, we will be in position to construct the 2,700 feet of track, including two turnouts. Meanwhile a string of Chicago bi-level commuter coaches have been moved on-site to serve as classrooms and other temporary spaces until buildings can be erected.
Durbin & Greenbriar Valley track rebuild Cass-Durbin
The former Chesapeake & Ohio connecting Durbin, West Virginia with Cass was washed out in a 1985 flood. The transfer of the Case Scenic Railroad from West Virginia State Parks to the non-profit tourist railroad Durbin & Greenbriar Valley created an incentive to connect Cass with the isolated Durbin Rocket operation. There is one bridge left to rebuild at Trout Run and the project will be complete, hopefully in 2021.