C&NW 4-6-0 crosses Mackinaw Bridge en route to Owosso, Mich.

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Scott Shields, Steam Railroading Institute
Crews working on behalf of Michigan's Steam Railroading Institute load the boiler for Chicago & North Western 4-6-0 No. 175 onto a flatbed truck last weekend.
Scott Shields, Steam Railroading Institute
OWOSSO, Mich. — The Steam Railroading Institute has nearly completed the successful move of former Chicago & North Western 4-6-0 No. 175 to the museum’s headquarters in Owosso, where it will join the organization’s famed Berkshire, Pere Marquette 2-8-4 No. 1225.

The boiler of the R-1 class engine was delivered to Owosso today, and the running gear is expected to arrive early Wednesday. The Ten-Wheeler was purchased earlier this year from the Mineral Range Railroad, which stored the engine at Ripley in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

The move was complex, requiring crews to break down the 4-6-0 into four component groups of parts and hauled on four separate trucks. The largest was the boiler. Other trucks carried the running gear and frame, the tender tank and frame, and various parts that included side rods and the pilot.

The engine’s boiler required adjustments to keep the load under the 45-ton limit allowed on the Mackinac Bridge, which carries Interstate 75 from the Upper to the Lower Peninsula. Owosso is located approximately 225 miles south of the bridge near Lansing, Mich.

Using the bridge was important: the only alternatives would have been to transport the 175 via the carferry SS Badger from Manitowoc, Wis., to Ludington, Mich., requiring load permits in Wisconsin, or truck the locomotive entirely around Lake Michigan, requiring further load permits for Illinois and Indiana.

In the end, the SRI team avoided all that and carried the 175’s sections over the 4.9-mile bridge without incident on Monday evening and Tuesday.

Assisting SRI in the move were Maryland-based Pluta Rail Operations & Services; Julio Contracting, a rigger based in Hancock, Mich.; McNally-Nimergood Crane Rentals of Saginaw, Mich.; D.C. Tunison, a trucker based in Hadley, Mich.; and Aurand Trucking of Wayne, Ohio.

Moving the 175 is a major step for the SRI, says Chief Mechanical Officer Kevin Mayer. “It’s a huge accomplishment for us to get this far,” he says. “Everybody here is looking forward to doing another restoration.”

The 175 was the last steam locomotive operated by C&NW, pulling an excursion in 1957. Alco built the Ten-Wheeler at its Schenectady Works in 1908 and the engine spent part of its career on C&NW lines in Upper Michigan. It is one of three R-1s in existence, the others being No. 1385 at the Mid-Continent Railway Museum in North Freedom, Wis., and No. 444 at the Forney Transportation Museum in Denver.

The Mineral Range Railroad is a short line that hauls nickel and copper concentrate from the Humboldt Mill west of Ishpeming to a connection with Canadian National. Most of its traffic is hauled over 12 miles of track purchased from Lake Superior & Ishpeming in 2013. The railroad’s owner, Clint Jones, acquired the 175 years ago for use on the Keweenaw Central Railroad tourist line out of Calumet, Mich.

Details are yet to be released, but the SRI plans to launch a fund-raising campaign to raise the projected $750,000 required to get the 175 back in steam. The museum regularly partners with Great Lakes Central for excursions, and the 175 can go many places that are off-limits for the much larger 1225, including anywhere north of Cadillac, Mich.

More information is available online.
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