Things may have seemed quiet over the summer for the Friends of the 261, but they have been quite far from that. Many things have been progressing in the shop of the 261.

Friends contracted by MTM for A18

Back in 2021, MTM (Minnesota Transportation Museum) contracted with Friends of the 261 to work on the Great Northern car A18. The A18’s significance in history is that it was built to be James J. Hill’s personal business car. The Great Northern took delivery of A-18 on July 31, 1900. The earliest known diagram for this car shows that it was purchased for James J. Hill. Both the interior arrangement and photos of the exterior show a lavishly decorated car. The car had open vestibules at both ends and exterior grooved sheathing. It was 65 feet long over the framing and rode on six-wheel trucks. The interior was finished in oak and mahogany, had an observation room, two state rooms, a dining room, kitchen, and a small parlor at the opposite end from the observation room. In 1923, the car received a steel underframe, car received steel sheathing and was renumbered as GN A-30 in 1924. In 1925, the car was renumbered back to A-18 as the third car to carry this number. By this time the interior of the car had been somewhat modified. A-18 was finally retired in 1959 and sold to the Yreka Western as its No.13.

Found and acquired by Mr. James J. Hill III, the car was donated to MTM and contracted with the Friends to bring new life into the A-18. Once the car arrived to Minneapolis, crews began the task of removing the steel siding from the car to open up the severely rotted wood siding. With the wood siding removed, crews then removed all original horse hair insulation and started working on structural repairs. Inside the car, crews are working on replicating the original ceiling panels. Lavishly painted in the original styles, these hand-painted pieces bring elegance to the A-18.

Plans are in works for the car to have its original tongue and grove siding replaced, windows will be repaired and reinstalled in the original locations. In the rear end of the car, all the rooms will be redone to the original specs, the parlor will be reinstalled as well as open up the original back platform.

Wiscosin Valley gets interior upgrade

Over the summer crews removed the carpeting from the top of the windows to the floor, replaced sub panels where necessary and installed many outlets throughout the car. New windows were installed, complete with new window frames and custom shades to match. On top of all this all the removed carpeting was replaced with mahogany paneling.

All this work was completed just intime for the annual North Pole Express, where the car will see over 1600 passengers over the 2 weekend the NPE operates.

Plans are to finish up the remaining details over the winter months, things to be included are new carpet and hardwood flooring under the booths.

St Croix Valley joins fleet once again

Another former Amtrak Le Pub car once owned by the Friends has return to the group. For several years the St Croix Valley was in private ownership and received many upgrades from new interior, new generator, new HVA/C system, new fridges and more. Donated back to the Friends, the plans are to repaint the car back into matching colors in the spring of 2024.

More outlets, More lights!

A last-minute addition to the former CN&W bi-levels that the Friends us on the Annual NPE, was new exterior outlets for Christmas lights and lights up decorations. Replacement of the green Plexi-glass to clear glass also took place during the summer in preparation for the NPE.

More upgrades on some the Friends equipment were, sound deadening material was added to around the HEP generator in the 32a to help lower noise when operating on the platform at Union Depot during the NPE. During the summer crews also diagnosed and repaired many items on the 32A, on of these bigger task was replacing all the wire that goes from the front engine control panel to the rear engine control panel. Several hundred feet of rotted dried out wire were removed and replaced to make the engine ready for future excursions. 

Crews also repaired the vestibule of the Wenonah. The steel that the trapped was mounted to had rusted away so much that the hinge points pushed through the step walls. Crews removed the traps and steps and replace the side walls with new metal and reinstalled the steps and trap.

Crews also preformed various long overdue maintenance to our fleet of maintenance equipment, repair cylinders an crane, brakes on forklifts, general services as well.