Monday, September 5, 2011

A Mt. Pleasant Visit

We've just returned from a vacation in Iowa to attend the Old Thresher's Reunion in Mt. Pleasant. This is a huge festival that occurs every year over the Labor Day weekend. If you've never been there, it's well worth a visit. The main focus of the Reunion is on antique farm machinery, such as steam tractors, older gasoline tractors, combines, and so forth. But there's much more: food, antique automobiles and trucks, animals, saw mills, stationary steam engines, food, arts and crafts, clothing, country music, food, books, toys, church services, preserved buildings which were moved onto the site, a log cabin village, concerts, gun fights, dancing, marching bands, food, and so on. What am I forgetting? Oh yes, probably of greater interest to us are the railroad operations. There's a standard-gauge trolley line and a narrow-gauge steam line, both of which operate on separate loops about a mile and a half in circumference. The main purpose of each of these is to provide transportation around the property for the thousands of visitors, rather than as museum displays.

The trolley line has about six operating cars, running continuously around the loop. This is CA&E #320, which was completely rebuilt and restored between about 1990 and 2005 to its appearance during the 1920's.

This is one of the two Rio open cars. This is an operating favorite because open cars can load and unload so quickly, which helps keep traffic moving. The trolley line even provides owl service: one car provides service through the night for people who want to get back to their campers.

This is car #381 from the WCF&N, the last streetcar to operate in Iowa. It's a 1930 Perley-Thomas car originally built for Knoxville.

During the Reunion, every available open space near the trolley loop is crowded with RV's, tents, and campers, up to a few feet from the track. And I should mention that the line includes some steep grades and sharp curves.

This is a car from Milan, Italy.

Finally, they also have this cab-on-flat which operated on the Keokuk dam until 2002.

Separate from the trolley operation is the narrow-gauge steam line. This is Surrey, Sussex, and Southhampton #6, an 1891 Baldwin. It's a beautiful locomotive with good exhaust sounds and a very nice whistle. The whistle gets lots of use because the track is not fenced off and is usually occupied by people and vehicles until the train approaches.

The other train was being pulled by a Plymouth from the WP&Y. Due to the large number of people, the two trains run continuously, and load-and-go at each of the two stations throughout the day.

The passenger cars were all built in the shops on flat car frames. Those seats are from the Blue Bird Bus Company, based in Mt. Pleasant. Much of the equipment seems to have come from the WP&Y.

This is an outside-frame 2-8-0 from Mexico (FC y Z) on display in one of the barns. There's also a German 0-4-0T which was temporarily out of service for maintenance.

Finally, there's a building which includes a number of stationary steam-powered engines of various types, most of which operate. This is an electrical generator that was originally installed in a Mt. Pleasant hospital. Zoom in to read the details; it's quite interesting.


David Wilkins said...

I really like how the #6 has the home-made Southern valve gear, and how the Nathan DV-5 mechanical lubricator looks huge on the little narrow gauge locomotive.

David Wilkins said...

I notice the 320 does not have sleet scrapers on the third rail shoes. When did the CA&E add these? Is this an example of the "summer" shoes worn by the cars as the sleet scrapers were serviced?

Anonymous said...

i am glad you had a chance to travel to a place that appreciates C,A & E Interurbans and narrow gauge steam locomotives.

But is is also good to have you back again.

Ted Miles