By the summer of 1983, the Museum's diesel collection had grown to five units with the addition of Milwaukee Road 760 and the Minneapolis Northfield & Southern 21. With the pending acquisition of the Toledo, Peoria & Western 400, the Museum was acquiring some fine examples of internal combustion locomotives. One diesel that was lacking in the collection was the widely recognized F unit or "covered wagon." This term refers to a locomotive in which the entire unit is enclosed as opposed to a locomotive like the GP7 where only the engine is enclosed and the walkways are open. Other railroads had been contacted for a donation, but nothing to date had been forthcoming and the Milwaukee Road was disposing of its remaining F units.
Tom Schneider and Roger Kramer contacted the Milwaukee Road again, knowing it still had locomotives in the "dead line" where units were stored that had been taken out of service, awaiting disposition. Asking for a donation was out of the question because the Milwaukee Road was going through bankruptcy proceedings, but purchasing an F or an FP was very possible. (An F refers to a freight unit and an FP to a freight-passenger unit. This latter unit was approximately 4 feet longer than an F unit because of greater boiler water capacity.) Schneider made a number of phone calls, and finally the Salvage Disposition Dept. of the Milwaukee Road set a $6,500 price, FOB anywhere on the Milwaukee system. It was decided to raise funds to purchase the locomotive by printing flyers and distributing them to Museum members and various historical groups. Schneider and Kramer donated much of the money needed to purchase the 118C.
Next it had to be decided which locomotive should be saved. Schneider and Kramer inspected the units stored at Bensenville and found the FP97A best. The board of directors decided that an F unit was preferable to an FP since it was more representative of the models of covered wagons built. One problem in finding a suitable unit was that the body side panels on F and FP locomotives had a tendency to rust because the style of construction was to sandwich plywood between two pieces of sheet metal. The wood eventually became wet, and the metal would naturally rust.
In September 1983, Schneider and Kramer went to Milwaukee to inspect the F units stored there. After inspecting each unit for its good and bad points and comparing the inspection reports on every stored locomotive, they decided the 118C was the best of the lot.
The 118C arrived at IRM on April 16, 1984. The locomotive was operable, but the exterior was in poor condition, and attention was immediately turned towards improving its appearance.
The initial reason for the exterior restoration was to get a picture of the three IRM-owned Milwaukee Road locomotives (the Fairbanks-Morse 760, the 265, and the 118C) suitable for the 1985 calendar. Principally through the efforts of Bruce Bergman, Glen Hopkins and Victor Humphreys, the locomotive was needle chipped and body work done to get the engine ready for painting. John Huckstorf was hired to do all the painting. Glass for the number boards and portholes was cut by Bill McGregor. The numbers for the boards were painted on by Jim Phelps.
There was also a great deal of mechanical and electrical work to be done on the engine. Carl Illwitzer and Dave Dote performed crankcase and airbox inspections, replaced lube oil, fuel oil and air intake filters and water tested the engine to see if it held water and if there were any leaks. Both water pumps did leak, and Duane Tudor rebuilt them.
Tudor and Phelps washed the traction motors with electrical cleaner. This cleaning resulted in the accummulation of dirt and grease on the motor brush holders which also had to be cleaned. Dote then cleaned the brushes on the traction motors at the bridge on the mainline because this location provided the easiest access to the bottom motor covers. Worn and chipped brushes were also replaced at this time.
The main and auxiliary generators were cleaned and inspected by Sharon Glaski and Diane Thill and Tudor replaced the automatic air valve and feed valve.
Though the engine does need more mechanical work, it is a reliable, operating locomotive that does some switching. The people involved in the visual restoration did a super job, and it is now one of the best-looking pieces of equipment at IRM.
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