Dec 1, 2013

Private car trip to Washington, D.C. planned for spring

Following the successful trip to Whitefish, Mont. last summer, the Friends of the 261 will be offering another luxury private rail car trip in spring 2014. The Capitol Express will depart Minneapolis/St. Paul for Washington, D.C. on April 16 for a seven-night, eight-day trip.

OurcarswillbecoupledtoAmtrak’s Empire Builder from the Twin Cities to Chicago, then on the Cardinal to Washington. In West Virginia, the Cardinal travels through the scenic New River Gorge, known as the “Grand Canyon of the East.”

After three nights in Washington, the cars will be on placed on Amtrak’s Capitol Limited forthereturnto Chicago, ridingthehistoricrailsofthe Baltimore
& Ohio, America’s first railroad. At Chicago the cars will be transferred to the Empire Builder for the return to the Twin Cities, arriving on April 23.

In addition to our private cars, the trip includes five nights of luxury hotel accommodations: two nights at Chicago’s historic Palmer House, and three in Washington at the luxurious Phoenix Park Hotel. You will also enjoy private accommodations aboard the train for two nights.

Pricing and more details for the Capitol Express will be posted at www.261. com and emailed to members who subscribe to the Friends of the 261 email list.

261 pulls successful fall color excursions

Milwaukee Road 4-8-4 No. 261 loggedtwosuccessfulround tripson Oct.. 12-13 pullingtrainsfrom Minneapolisto Willmar and Minneapolis to Boylston, Wis., over BNSF Railway. This was the second weekend of public excursions this year, with 261 pulling an overnight trip from Minneapolis to Duluth in May. Earlier this year the Friends of the 261 completed a five-year overhaul of the 1944 Alco.

On Oct. 12, the locomotive pulled a 10-car train from Minneapolis to Willmar, a former Great Northern division point about 100 miles west of Minneapolis. Because there was no way to turn the locomotive at Willmar, No. 261 pulled the train backward from Minneapolis to Willmar. Coupled to Skytop observation Cedar Rapids, No. 261 did not have an auxiliary water tender, and the Amtrak unit that provided head end power was at the opposite (front) end of the train. Upon arrival at Willmar, No. 261 was turned on the former Great Northern “gallows” style turntable so it would face correctly for the return trip to Minneapolis.

On Sunday, No. 261 departed Minneapolis in its regular configuration, with the engine pullinganauxiliary tender followed by Amtrak P40DC No. 824 and the passenger consist. The train made a 300-mile round trip to Boylston, a junction south of Superior, Wis. The entire consist was turned on the Boylston wye, where the ex-Great Northern line from the Twin Cities joins BNSF’s Lakes Subdivision route from Grand Forks, N.D. Service stops were made in both directions at Hinckley, Minn., halfway between Minneapolis and Boylston.

In addition to regular passengers, a crew from Minneapolis’ WCCO-TV was on board and track side to film the feature“The Mighty 261” for the show “Life to the Max.” The nine-minute segment included aerial photos of the train, and interviews with passengers and crew members Steve Sandberg, Tom Ambrose and Don Crimmin. 

To keep No. 261 in top running condition, more funds are always needed. Donations can be made on line at www.261. com.

Cedar Rapids restoration begins, more funding still needed

By Steve Sandberg

Each year, the Friends of the 261 tries to tackle one major restoration or repair project. Our members have always risen to the occasion, donating the funds necessary for these vital projects. Now I’m asking for your support for another worthy project: the restoration of Skytop parlor lounge observation car “Cedar Rapids.”

This car, the most well known of all our“feature” cars, will undergo a major restoration. Already, the trucks have been removed from under the car for an Amtrak-mandated ten-year inspection. With the trucks out, the wheels have been removed, and will be sent to Chicago for turning and inspection Amtrak
is now requiring that all passenger car axles and wheels be ultrasonically tested. This will be a major, unanticipatedexpenseand obstacle for the Friends of the 261 in 2014.

Most of the windows in the rear of the car will be removed and 14 new custom-made, FRA type 1 windows will be installed in the rear of the car. Four new oval-shaped side windows will also be installed. The windows were custom made from original Milwaukee Road blueprints that were fed into a computer CAD program to get the proper size and shape. This also required that the Friends custom make new gaskets to hold the windows in place and was accomplished by working closely with a rubber company in Ohio that made the new gaskets. After window work is finished, the entire car will be sanded and repainted in Milwaukee Road colors with new lettering and pin striping.

The interior of the car will see major work. All carpeting will be replaced, and the parlor seats will be reupholstered. To keep the car as original as possible, we found the company that originally manufactured the carpet for the Milwaukee Road, and they have the original design in their archives

We need to place a minimum order at a cost of $12,000 to get the original carpet re-manufactured, but this will give us enough carpet to redo our entire fleet. The parlor chairs were the subjects of much research. After looking at historical documentation, we were able to determine that the original chairs were a rust color, not the current teal or greenish blue. More research determined that the teal seats were used in the “Valley” series mid-train parlor cars. Research revealed how these seats ended up in the Cedar Rapids.

TRUCKIN’ – Extensive work on the trucks is among the items to be tackled during the rebuild of Skytop Cedar Rapids. © Justin Young.

In 1970 the designer of the Skytop cars, Brooks Stevens, wanted to purchase the Cedar Rapids from the Milwaukee Road. Apparently the original seats had been removed in preparation for scrapping. The plan was to burn the car to remove the
wood and then salvage the metal, which was the fate of sister car Priest Rapids. The railroad asked Stevens to pay $4,500 for the car, but Stevens was upset about the price. The Milwaukee Road then offered to throw in new carpeting and a set of newly upholstered seats and the deal was done.

Apparently the railroad grabbed a set of “Valley” series parlor chair seats
and cushions from its Milwaukee stores and installed them in the car. Further evidence of this was uncovered when the parlor chairs were removed. On the bottom of each seat base could be seen the original brown paint; the seat bases had been painted to match the seat cushions. In addition, I found some photos taken in 1988 of sister car Coon Rapids that clearly shows the brown parlor chairs.

In passenger car repair one thing tends to lead to another. After removing all of the parlor chairs, we determined that this would be a good time to paint the ceiling of the car, but quickly discovered maybe this was not such a good idea! We started looking at repainting the ceiling, and repairing some water stains from several years ago. We discovered the ceiling was covered with about 10 coats of paint. Rather than sanding and stripping it, we determined it would be much better to remove and replace the entire ceiling. In addition, the curved side panels above the luggage racks had water stains and the wood was badly damaged from years of service, so those need to be replaced as well.

This has now turned into a major project and we need your help! Currently the Friends of the 261 have raised and set aside $30,000 for the work needed on the Cedar Rapids. This leaves us with an estimated shortfall of $32,000 to complete the work needed. I’ve often been told by members that one area that separates the Friends from other groups is that when we ask for funding we keep members informed. We tell them specifically how much a project costs, what their money will go for, and show them the results.

Following in that tradition, here is the estimated cost of the work needed on the Cedar Rapids:
1. New windows and gaskets, $7,500
2. New exterior paint, $14,000
3. New lettering and decals, $2,000
4. New carpet, $12,000
5. New upholstery, $10,000
6. Stripping and repainting seat bases, $2,500
7. Custom woodwork to replace the car ceiling, $4,000
8. Wheel and truck inspection, $8,000
9. Miscellaneous supplies and extras, $2,000
Total Estimated Cost – $62,000.

Our members have always stepped up to keep 261 and our car fleet running, and we are asking you to help us again. The Cedar Rapids is the only car of its type still in operation. It’s up to us to keep this railroad icon in top condition and operating so generations to come can see what the “Golden Age” of passenger service was all about. Please consider sending a check to the Friends of the 261 at 4322 Lakepoint Court, Shoreview, MN 55126. There is also a special appeal with this years dues notice with this newsletter. You may also donate on line at

News from the car shop

By Justin Young

This winter Friends of the 261 car shop crews will be working to get several cars ready for the 2014 operating season. Among these is the continuing window replacement project on Skytop observation Cedar Rapids. The plan is to replace 14 windows in the lounge area (see Cedar Rapids article in this issue).

In addition to window replacement, work will continue on the interior ceiling of the Cedar Rapids, New paint will be applied in the lounge area, and the exterior will be repainted next spring. Business car Milwaukee recently returned from North Dakota, where the Northern Plains Railroad repainted it in Milwaukee Road orange and maroon passenger colors at their shop in Fordville. The interior of the Milwaukee and ex-Northern Pacific baggage car Black Gold may also see some interior work during the cold weather months.

READY FOR REBUILD: Work has begun to restore the interior of Skytop observation car Cedar Rapids. Several parlor seats have already been removed. Work will include new carpeting, upholstery, and a new ceiling. Note the colorful seat covers that were installed for the Station to Station special train. © Justin Young.

Planning is moving ahead for a private car trip behind Amtrak trains from the Twin Cities to Washington, D.C. next April. The cars would travel two routes to and from the East. When the trip is finalized we will be sending out an email blitz to members.

We have begun selling some surplus items on the eBay online auction site. All proceeds go to the Friends, thanks to a program that does not charge fees to non-profit organizations.

2014 dues are due January 1

Please remember that the Friends of the 261 dues year goes from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, so your membership will be up for renewal Jan. 1, 2014.

Dues rates are the same as in 2013: $25 for an individual membership, $100.00 for a corporate membership, $261 for lifetime individual membership and $500 for a lifetime corporate membership. You can renew your membership two ways: send a check for the dues amount you choose to the Friends of the 261, 4322 Lakepoint Court, Shoreview, MN 55126. There is a dues notice enclosed with this newsletter you can mail in.

You may pay on line by going to and click on the “Become A Member” tab. Use the pull down menu to indicate it is a renewing, membership. Visa and MasterCard are accepted.

Consider donations and gifting to assist the Friends rail preservation efforts

The Friends of the 261’s mission is to preserve, restore, operate, and interpret historic locomotives and rail cars. This is a very expensive undertaking that depends upon your donations and gifts. There are several benefits to making donations and longterm gifts to help the Friends.

As the U.S. economy continues its recovery and the stock market swings upward, some of our members and friends have donated stocks to the Friends. This will not only help our cause, but also enable you to reap substantial tax savings.
There are very favorable tax rules for donors who want to donate long-term stock (stock they have owned for more than one year) that has appreciated in value. Basically, the donor never has to pay capital gains on the appreciated stock. This can be a tremendous tax benefit and great incentive to give stock to the Friends.
Here’s how it works: If you own stock for more than one year that has gone up in value, you can donate it to the nonprofit Friends, and get a tax deduction equal to the fair market value of the stock at the time of the transfer (its increased value), and never pay capital gains tax on the appreciated value of the stock. The Friends of the 261 will never owe that capital gains tax either. We can take the stock and either sell it right away and not pay any tax, or hold on to it – but we will never owe capital gains tax on the appreciated value the donor realized.

You may also consider a “legacy” gift to the Friends through your will or living trust. This is a simple process – to name the Friends among your beneficiaries, you simply state in your will or trust the Friends full legal name (Railroading Heritage of Midwest America), location (Shoreview, Minnesota) and the nature of the gift (for example, cash or property). Charitable gifts such as stocks or even property can also reduce (or even eliminate) the amount of estate tax your beneficiaries will owe.
By providing a legacy gift, your wish to see No. 261 remain in steam and our fleet of passenger cars availableforexcursionsandcharterscanbefulfilled. You can even designate your bequest be used for a specific purpose, such as an endowment or a capital project. If you fail to plan your estate, state law will direct that your property be distributed under a one-size-fits-all statutory formula, which is unlikely to fully reflect your wishes, so advance estate planning is essential.

Another way to help is by gifting or donating collectables. The Friends recently received a call from a famous rail collector in Milwaukee. He inquired about giving some of his collection to the Friends, so we could sell off the items to other collectors and the funds could go toward keeping 261 in operation. This provides two benefits at the same time: you can get a tax deduction for making the donation, and the Friends can obtain more funds through sales of the collectibles.

Our webmaster, Justin Young, recently opened a section on our web site for items we will be selling on eBay, in addition to making them available to members and on excursions. You don’t have to donate collectible rail items either. All donations are welcome: everything from collectible coins, guns, stamps, tools, model trains, or anything of value. Consider including the Friends of the 261 in your estate planning, gifting, or any other type of donation. The more donations we receive, the better the chances that we can keep 261 and our car fleet rolling for decades to come.

Friend’s car fleet travels cross-country on “Station to Station” artist train

“Station to Station: A Nomadic Happening” an Avantgarde traveling music, film, and art extravaganza hired the Friends of the 261 to assemble an assortment of cars that traveled cross-country in September. The nine-car train carried artists and their work from New York to Oakland, Calif., with stops in New York City, Pittsburgh; Chicago; St. Paul; Kansas City, Mo.; Santa Fe, N.M.; Winslow Ariz.; Barstow, Calif.; and Oakland.
Friends of the 261 cars used on the trips were parlors St. Croix Valley and Wisconsin Valley, sleeper Minnesota River, Super Dome 53, Skytop Cedar Rapids and business car Lamberts Point. Three more cars were leased from other companies.
Multimedia artist Doug Aitkin conceived the project to not only showcase artists’ existing talent, but also have them create new work and share it using social media as the train traveled. Sponsors invested millions to underwrite the art and music exhibit; money that included special equipment installed in several of the Friends cars.
The cars did not host displays, and were not accessible to most attendees. Instead, the train attempted to provide a creative environment during the daytime trips between venues while transporting art in the baggage car. The parlor chairs in Skytop observation lounge Cedar Rapids were decked out in eye-popping upholstery, which was kept in place for 261’s excursions in October. In parlor Wisconsin Valley, chairs were removed to outfit a complete sound studio used by musicians and noted pioneering

electronic music producer Georgio Moroder to capture sounds from the passing landscape to be played at the shows. Also on board was a complete editing suite to process video from the performances and transmission gear to feed social media throughout the trip, including a 1901 Underwood 5 typewriter outfitted with electronics to send Twitter messages from the train.

One of the most interesting additions were six rows of miniature LED lights which streamed in colored patterns above and below the window line across most of the train on the engineer’s side. Created by Aitkin, the array was described as “a moving light sculpture” that “reacts in real-time to the train’s velocity, creating an undulating visual map that moves in concert with the train itself.” The lighting was removed from the Friends cars when they returned to the Twin Cities.

Once the Station to Station trip was completed, the Friends cars returned to the Twin Cities on Amtrak trains, with space on the moves being sold to generate more revenue. The Cedar Rapids, St. Croix Valley, and leased cars Mohave and Silver Quail departed Emeryville, Calif., on Oct. 1 for Chicago. From there the two Friends cars moved to St. Paul on the Empire Builder. The Wisconsin Valley, Super Dome 53, Minnesota River and Lamberts Point left Oakland for Portland, Ore., on the Coast Starlight Sept. 30, arriving Oct. 1. They departed Portland the next day on the Empire Builder, arriving in St. Paul Oct. 4.

The Station to Station train’s light show brightens the night sky in Winslow, Ariz. on Sept. 20. © Don Crimmin.

Jim Redeske: Staying positive in the face of adversity

High school football player. United States Marine. Officer at Northwest Airlines. Husband and father. These are just a few of the “jobs” that Jim Redeske has excelled at. Friends of the 261 members know Jim as the smiling, friendly, but always in charge volunteer who gets the passenger car fleet ready for trips, and stays with the cars as they travel to make sure all goes smoothly. He is always quick with a greeting and a smile.

Earlier this year Jim was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and has had to endure the rigors of chemotherapy. Yet even during this painful, challenging time, Jim has retained the positive attitude and good humor so familiar to Friends of the 261 volunteers and passengers.

Ever since he was a little kid he was a “nut” for trains, Jim says, and in particular steam trains. Growing up, he would help out at his uncle’s farm, supplying wood and water to keep his uncle’s steam powered thresher operating, and contributing to his love of steam. When he was a student at the U of M, he got a job with the U.S. Post Office during the Christmas rush. He worked primarily at the downtown Minneapolis Post Office, and traveled tothe Great Northernand Milwaukee Roadstations and helped load and unload mail, where he could see the trains up close.

Jim served 5½ years in the Marine Corps, and was an infantry squad leader. He was one of the highest scoring marksmen in his company – out of a company of 100, he was one of only a handful that was rated as an expert rifleman, and even received sniper training. At the end of his tour the Marines urged him to make the Corps a career, but instead Jim decided to pursue a career outside the military plus he wanted to get married. He was a junior in high school and Betty Ann was a freshmen when he took her on their first date – a hockey game, since as Jim says “I played a lot of hockey in my day.” They were married on Sept. 28, 1962. Betty Ann enjoyed a career as a registered nurse, and the couple had two daughters and a son.
Jim’s education included a few years at Augsburg College, and then he transferred to the University of Minnesota Business School. He was nearing graduation and got what he hoped would be a management job at Sears. Instead, they assigned him to load and unload trucks at a store in Brooklyn Center, Minn.

He eventually did land a job as manager of customer service, and worked for Sears for close to five years. He then landed a position with Northwest Airlines. Jim was an employee of Northwest for 28 years, rising to the vice presidential level and working in in-flight service, personnel and labor relations. When Northwest was the subject of a leveraged buyout in the 1990s, he was the last of the company officers still serving from the group that worked with legendary and controversial NWA President Don Nyrop. He and Nyrop had a close working relationship and they also became close friends.

Jim also had a role in one of the most notorious events in Northwest Airlines 83-year history. On Thanksgiving Eve 1971, Jim was preparing to go home when he got a call to come to Flight Operations. There he learned a Northwest jet had been hijacked on a flight from Seattle to Portland, Ore. The hijacker was demanding $200,000 in used $20 bills and three parachutes.

Jim immediately teletyped the manifest of passengers to authorities in Washington, D.C. who quickly identified passenger Dan Cooper as the likely hijacker – a reporter later erroneously identified him as D. B. Cooper, and the name stuck. Jim monitored events, listening in on the cockpit conversations and reporting to Nyrop what was happening. It took several hours to get the money together since banks were closed. The money and three parachutes were delivered to the plane in Seattle. It took off and held to an altitude of 10,000 feet. Somewhere over the Pacific Northwest, Cooper jumped from the drop down stair at the rear of the Boeing 727.
“Of the three parachutes, two of them were deliberately mispacked,” Jim recalls. “But Cooper saw them, and took the one parachute that would work.” Jim says the hijacker was familiar with aircraft. “He told the flight crew how he wanted the flaps set and how fast the plane should go.”

There had recently been a strike at Northwest and several pilots remained laid off at the time. The FBI focused their attention on the laid off pilots, but no arrest was ever made and Cooper was never found. Most of Northwest’s management at the time believed Cooper died after he bailed out. “He jumped when the plane was flying along the coast,” Jim says. “It’s possible he drifted out over the ocean, and with the money and the parachute weighing him down he would not have been able toswim.” A few years later some of the marked bills were found in the Willamette River Valley.
Jim’s association with Milwaukee Road 261 began around 1993, when he first saw a picture of the 261 in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. He came down to the Minneapolis shop to volunteer and talked with Jim French, who told him to call Steve Sandberg. He made the call, and as he remembers: “Steve told me one area they needed help with was getting cars ready for trips – and you’re it! I’ve been doing it ever since.”

For nearly 20 years Jim has worked tirelessly on the Friends car fleet – cleaning, doing mechanical work, stocking cars before trips, and riding to make sure the cars were performing properly. “Steve wanted my role to be to make sure the cars were ready for trips,” he recalls. Eventually he was named to the Board of Directors of the Friends of the 261.

Now everyone associated with the Friends of the 261 is pulling for Jim’s recovery. During this joyful Holiday Season, we ask that everyone keep Jim Redeske in their thoughts and prayers as he faces his biggest challenge.

Ridin’ that New River Train Cars used on famous West Virginia excursion train

Following the 261’s successful October trips to Willmar, Minn. and Superior, Wis. four cars traveled east to be used on the annual New River Train excursion trains in West Virginia.

The cars were concession car 3101, Super Dome 53, and parlor cars St. Croix Valley and Wisconsin Valley. The trips have run for 47 years and are sponsored by the Collis
P. Huntington Railroad Historical Society. The fall foliage excursions operate on CSX’s ex-Chesapeake & Ohio Kanawha and New River subdivisions between Huntington and Hinton, W.Va. The 29-car consist was powered by three Amtrak GE P42 DC’s, Nos. 15, 152, and 160. Amtrak provided a total of 11 Horizon Fleet cars for the excursions, with 18 privately owned premium class cars rounding out the train. The trips operated Oct. 19-20 and Oct. 26-27 via the scenic New River Gorge, known as the “Grand Canyon of the East.”

NEW RIVER SPLENDOR: The New River Train, with Friends of the 261 cars near the rear of the consist, rolls through Cheylan, West Virginia on Oct. 19, 2013. © Chase Gunnoe.

The train left Huntington each day at 8:30 a.m. and made passenger stops at St. Albans and Montgomery, W.Va. before continuing east to Hinton. A three-hour layover in Hinton allowed passengers to enjoy a citywide street festival with homemade crafts and baked goods. Each day the train departed Hinton at 4 p.m. for the return to Huntington, passing through iconic Chesapeake & Ohio locations such as Prince, Thurmond, and Hawks Nest.

The route of the New River Train will be retraced by the Friends the 261 private car trip in April 2014. The cars will be coupled to Amtrak’s eastbound Cardinal, which will traverse the Gorge in daylight.

For more information about the private car trip to Washington, D.C. go to

WINSLOW SUNSET: The sun sets over the Friends of the 261 cars on the Station to Station train in Winslow, Ariz., on Sept. 20, 2013. © Don Crimmin.

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