Saturday, July 12, 2014

Mark Twain Zephyr

The story of the Mark Twain Zephyr is a distressing history of preservation gone awry, with the train passing through several well-meaning hands but ending up an empty shell.  You can find some details on Wikipedia, but the bottom line is that the prime mover was scrapped, all interior fixtures have disappeared, and what's left of the train is now in storage awaiting a new owner.  While in the Alton area, I was graciously allowed to take some pictures of the train by Gateway Rail Services

Starting at the front, we have the power car Injun Joe.   At one point, the prime mover was cut in two to make a display of some sort.

The bodies appear to be structurally sound.  The interiors were stripped out by one or more of the previous owners, and all these parts appear to have been lost.

Next is the baggage (and/or RPO?) car Becky Thatcher.

The first coach, Huckleberry Finn.

And the obs car, Tom Sawyer.

 Looking in through the end of the car.

And then there's an extra car for some reason, Effie Dean.

The complete set of trucks for the train is still in existence, stored nearby.

It's really an interesting train.  Among other things, it's striking how small the cars are when compared to the nearby standard-size passenger equipment stored at Gateway.

 Gateway has a large assortment of passenger cars of various sorts and conditions, and can rebuild any of them to the purchaser's specifications.

And I really don't know which of all these cars any of our readers might find most interesting, so I took only a few sample shots.

Our thanks to Roger Verbeeren (sp?) and Gateway Rail Services for making this photo tour possible.


Bruce Duensing said...

Based on the need to preserve rail history and the nature of funding, there will always be "the one that got away" and hindsight is 20/20.
The only use for the shell would be re-purposing with contemporary appointments ans a new prime mover as a hybridised excursion train and that is unlikely to say the least.
The other would be to preserve whats left simply as a sealed display piece as if it were a statue, or building..only to be looked at from without.
That seems like a dim prospect as well.
This reminds me of the IT stream liners languishing in a scrap yard for quite awhile and then like now, money talks.
At least there is another examples at the Museum of Science and Industry of the Zephyr,even if it is stuffed and mounted.

Chris said...

The RPO section was in the locomotive. It is kind of weird that the train had a full baggage car for a relatively short route. Maybe it was a "mail storage" car.

A set of those El Capitan cars would look nice with IRM's Santa Fe 92.

Brian J. Patterson said...

Hello, Bruce and all.

1. I have to disagree on your "only use" for the Mark Twain Zephyr. While much of the "fabric" (the original stuff) is currently missing, we might be able to recover some of it. If not, we can surely and correctly replicate it. While the "original" is usually preferable to replacement, we are a RESTORING museum more than a PRESERVING (stand back while the exhibit rots away and say "aw, how beautiful") museum. IF WE HAD THE MONEY, we already have the talent to do the detective work and recover what still exists, and either replicate the rest or get it as parts from less historically significant railcars; cars that have in some cases already been scrapped with usable parts saved.

2. Sadly, I must agree with you on the money, though. The Mark Twain Zephyr would easily cost millions to restore correctly. If we had that kind of money, we could easily restore the MTZ to full and "period correct" operation (keeping in mind retention tank lavatories so we could take it "on the road.")

3. However, I'm not sure that we (IRM) COULD raise the money. Even if we could, there are other "period correct" trainsets that we could assemble and restore for touring for far less money than the MTZ that would give us far more fare paying passenger space to recover the investment on special runs. One example would be the long distance CNW Gallery Train. In THAT case, there are enough relatively intact cars "out there" that we could assemble a complete and authentic trainset, including cafe-lounge, and restore all pieces to full operation, for far less money than with the MTZ.

4. Another example, indirectly mentioned above by Chris would be an authentic El Capitan trainset. Same thing, complete and authentic trainset for far less money than the MTZ. An El Capitain would be more expensive than a gallery train because the ATSF Hi-Levels would cost more to acquire.

5. As much as I wish otherwise, I don't see the MTZ being saved by us. The MTZ is far more historically significant than a long distance CNW Gallery Train or an El Capitain. But, IRM could authentically recreate BOTH the CNW Long Distance Gallery Train AND the El Capitain for half the cost of restoring the MTZ or less. Money does talk. And, I don't even see a hint of enough money saying "hello" to get the job done. I also don't see any enthusiasm on the part of the IRM BOD to tackle the most expensive and intensive restoration we would ever undertake, even if we could raise the $12-15 million or so the job would take.


Brian J. Patterson.

Randall Hicks said...

In case it wasn't obvious, I would in no way suggest that IRM should get involved with this train. I don't believe an historically correct restoration is even possible at any price. And we already have a Zephyr that is complete, original, operational, better suited to our needs, and which still requires money for its ongoing maintenance and refurbishment.

But it's interesting to look at.

Chris said...

Realistically, assembling a "complete" (even if shortened by a couple chair cars) and historically accurate El Capitan train probably would not be much easier for anyone to accomplish than restoring the Mark Twain Zephyr would be. The cars would definitely be more expensive than those empty hulls. The current owner of most of the Hi-Levels is holding on to them to sell them as a complete fleet that can be gutted and modernized. Amtrak switched them from steam to HEP, and re-outfitted most of the cars a time or two. The only accurate locomotives left are probably the FP45s, but they have also been modernized and lost their steam generators. California has the last two F7s (half a complete set) which they seem to have deemed too valuable to operate. This same list of issues would probably come up with any other train, too. At least one chair car at IRM could be doable some day. I would ride that.

The Nebraska Zephyr is plenty of historic train for now. What happened to the Olympus baggage car is a shame though. Does anyone know if the Argo car is still around? It is hard to find anything about it.

Anonymous said...

Say, Brian J:
What happened to the effort to buy Rock Island commuter car #2702. It's a one-of-a-kind car and NEEDS to be at IRM. It is very affordable too, unlike this Mark Twain Zephyr train set. I am sitting here staring at my wallet waiting for a glimmer of interest from IRM, but so far... nothing but silence.


David Wilkins said...

The extra car is the extra car from the Pioneer Zephyr. It was removed when the PZ was donated to MSI and eventually sold to the first post-CB&W owner of the MTZ.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget the "other" Zephyr train !
AS far as I know, the flying Yankee is well along with its restoration and it is being restored to run not be stuffed and mounted. The MTZ is a lost cause thanks to its assortment of misguided owners, I say save the MTZ as spare body parts for the Flying Yankee.

Randy Stahl