Tours, restoration progress highlight 'Mark Twain Zephyr' anniversary weekend

Wisconsin Great Northern aims to have 1935 streamliner running in a year
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Visitors get a look inside the Mark Twain Zephyr restoration during a weekend event in Trego, Wis.
Robert Tabern

TREGO, Wis. — More than 100 visitors, some from as far away as Ohio and Kansas, were on hand at the Wisconsin Great Northern Railroad this weekend to mark the 85th anniversary of the christening of the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy’s Mark Twain Zephyr and see progress in the restoration of the shovel-nosed streamliner.

The train’s dedication on Oct. 25, 1935 was carried coast to coast on CBS radio from Hannibal, Mo. Big names such as Ralph Budd and then-U.S. Sen. Harry S. Truman were in attendance. Twain's own granddaughter, Nina Clemens Gabilowitsch, dedicated the train and put it into operation.

The train ran for 23 years, then spent nearly 60 years in private hands before being purchased earlier this year by Wisconsin Great Northern [see “Mark Twain Zephyr to run again,” Trains News Wire, July 27, 2020]. The last of the cars arrived from the St. Louis area about seven weeks ago, but significant work has already been done.

Kandace Tabern, a tour guide at the railroad’s open house, said, “Windows have been put in on more than 90% of the train... and work to install insulation, plus floor and wall boards is currently underway.” Efforts to get the train running in the next year will be an “all-hands-on-deck process,” she said.

The weekend featured special events and displays in addition to self-guided and guided tours, including the public unveiling of the original 1935 Mark Twain Zephyr medallion and back panel, which have not been on public display in more than 50 years.

“We are in the process of putting together a 400-plus page history book about the Mark Twain Zephyr,” said Robert Tabern, Wisconsin Great Northern’s director of passenger operations, “and some of our detective work about the train's past led us to the person who inherited the medallion. They agreed that it belonged with the train after all these years... and now it is at the Wisconsin Great Northern for our visitors to enjoy.” He said the medallion has quite a history, having been taken, hidden, returned, and reproduced.

Progress reports on the Zephyr restoration are available at the project website, as well as the Mark Twain Zephyr Facebook and Twitter pages.

NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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