WELCOME TO OWOSSO – The Chicago and North Western Railway 175 (C&NW 175) was successfully transported via four trucks, from Ripley on the Keweenaw Peninsula, across the Mackinac Bridge, to its new home in the heart of mid-Michigan. The C&NW 175, used until the mid-1950s to haul both freight and passengers, is a 1908 R1 class 4-6-0 steam locomotive, making it a spry 110 years old. Purchased by SRI in 2017 with plans underway for a complete restoration of this remarkable piece of history, the C&NW 175 will eventually operate alongside Owosso’s famed Pere Marquette 1225.
SRI Chief Mechanical Officer Kevin Mayer was the point man on the nearly 500 mile trip to the U.P., along with a number of volunteers and contractors, to bring the locomotive to its new home. The boiler (shown above), frame and other components were separated due to travel height restrictions and also weight limits across the Mackinac Bridge. Initial estimates based on drawings had put the complete locomotive at upwards of 75 tons (358 tons lighter than Pere Marquette 1225). The boiler portion weighed in at around 25 tons. If C&NW 175 had been unable to pass the bridge weight restrictions, it likely would have been transported across Lake Michigan on the SS Badger.
The trucks carrying the historic locomotive arrived in Owosso on Tuesday, June 5 and then on the morning of Wednesday, June 6, the boiler portion was carefully harnessed to a crane: an amazing feat of engineering to get it securely balanced and then hoisted onto the tracks where it will be maneuvered for thorough reassembly and restoration.
SRI has been actively securing grants to finance the restoration process of C&NW 175, which will be the second largest locomotive project for the group since the Pere Marquette 1225 was returned to service in 2013. As always, a large portion of the work at SRI is achieved at the hands of dedicated and knowledgeable volunteers working alongside expert staff.
C&NW 175, the only C&NW locomotive in the state, was offered to SRI through Mineral Range Inc., operator of the Mineral Range Railroad in Ishpeming. After inspection and negotiations in 2017, SRI agreed to purchase the locomotive – the effort seeing fruition as an enormous piece of history has now arrived in Owosso, where it will eventually become an icon of the community, drawing in visitors from around the world.
Kim Springsdorf, executive director, shared her enthusiasm by stating the C&NW 175 will be a wonderful asset for the area since SRI has enjoyed visits from enthusiasts from Norway, Australia, Japan and other countries, who come to Shiawassee County for the locomotives, but also spend time enjoying all the county has to offer.
(Independent Photo/Karen Mead-Elford)