Current Progress for Winter 2014-2015

Currently, the museum is closed to the General Public, however, that doesn’t mean the lights have been off and the gate locked, on the contrary, there are many MANY good things happening to further the preservation and presentation of the WP.

This past Holiday Season, we added a 3rd “Santa Train” to our ever popular Christmas event. While the recent Santa Train was our best attended ever, the best result was that over HALF A TON! of non-perishable food items were collected from our guests to benefit the local EPCAN food pantry. Santa Train is a holiday tradition for the Habeck Family, as each member of the family spends countless hours helping Steve string Christmas lights, decorate the cars and facility, and coordinating the hot beverages and goodies for the event. Volunteers spent several weeks assisting in getting the equipment switched and staged, cleaned, serviced and ready to accept our holiday guests, not to mention Santa & Mrs. Claus. Gail McClure and her assistant Jasmine did a fair amount of business in the giftshop during the event and we couldn’t have pulled off our most successful Santa Trains EVER without the assistance of our merry band of volunteers. Look for an in depth feature article coming soon in “The Trainsheet”, soon to hit your mail box.

The “Railroad Passenger Car Alliance” had their annual convention in Reno, culminating with a visit to the museum on Sunday the 25th. We hosted 2 tour bus loads and several car loads of guests from within the railroad preservation and private railcar industry. We made some great new friends, caught up with old friends in the industry, and received a LOT of compliments from within the group regarding our collection and museum. FRRS Directors, Officers, & volunteers Eugene Vicknair, Steve Habeck, Rod McClure, Debbie Reynolds, Alicia La Brecque, Tom Carter, Steve Lee, David Elems, Greg Elems, and Rick & Lissa Grunninger spent the day cleaning and prepping the museum for these guests and showing them around the grounds and equipment. We received lots and lots of compliments from all over the group, who really enjoyed themselves.

During the weekend of RPCA’s visit, Director Tom Carter had the unique opportunity to take lessons and advice from Steve Lee of Cheyenne Wyoming, retired Superintendent of UP’s Heritage Fleet, who came out to our museum to teach him how to paint historic rail equipment. During his time with the Union Pacific Steam Program, Steve, along with a couple other employees, painted both of UP’s steam locomotives (on numerous occasions), the UP 6936 Centennial, the E9’s and their shop switcher, UPP 96. They first went through and performed an inventory of painting equipment and supplies, and explained what was needed in supplies, painting equipment and personal protective equipment to be able to paint our equipment to the standards of the Union Pacific Heritage Fleet. Currently, Western Pacific 1503 is sitting in the shop, having repairs made to it by Rod McClure, David Elems, Seth Adams, and Matt Elems. 1503 is now ready to perform paint preparation so we can paint it back to its as delivered Perlman Green & Orange Paint Scheme. Steve will once again make the long trip out to Portola from Cheyenne to mentor Directors Carter and Greg Elems in the fine art of locomotive & railcar painting. Once WP’s last switch engine, 1503 is complete and fully restored this year, she will join WP 501, WP’s first switcher and first diesel locomotive, as operable artifacts, thanks to the hard work of volunteers Dave McClain and Dwight Whetstone who have quietly labored behind the scenes fixing a myriad of small issues on 501 that were left over from its post WP days as an industrial switcher. Together, these two locomotives represent the myriad of power and innovation of the Western Pacific Railroad and we’re proud to not only have them, but present them to the public as jewels of our collection.

Directors Tom Carter and Gail McClure are currently working on assembling a restoration team for Central California Traction caboose #24, our “Little Red Caboose”. While this project was announced last year, they made the conscious decision to place more emphasis on other more pressing projects, while raising money for the cabooses restoration. As soon as 1503 leaves the shop in new paint, CCT #24 will go inside for a new paint job with reflective vinyl lettering and logos, after receiving new windows, window sashes and end sills. After the exterior is complete, work will focus on the inside, turning this into a VERY comprehensive example of a day in the life of a railroad crewman.

Ethan Doty has made regular visits to the museum working on various projects; his youth and enthusiasm a continued breath of fresh air. Our younger volunteers like Ethan, David Elems, Matt Elems, Deanna Fecko, Debbie Reynolds, Kathy & Jennifer Habeck and Seth Adams represent a future of not only our museum, but the furtherance of the mission started with the founding of the Western Pacific over 100 years ago. Though most of these younger volunteers may be too young to have seen and experienced the Western Pacific before the UP merger, regardless, they are fine examples of the “Willing People” spirit that the WP’s employees were always known for. We at the FRRS greatly appreciate their hard work, enthusiasm and above all, dedication and look forward to continuing to grow and cultivate the skills they will need to eventually carry on this mission in the future.

Director Charlie Spikes has been a regular visitor to the museum as well as volunteers Duane Vanderveen & David Elems, performing various tasks around the grounds, including overhauling “Big White”, our yeoman heavy forklift. Member Bob Simms continues working on restoring our wooden Denver & Rio Grande Western wooden boxcar for use as a steam tool car, as well as his assisting Directors Eugene Vicknair and Tom Carter in setting up our wood shop and turning it into a world class wood artifact restoration facility.

The WP 165 steam locomotive, in the very capable hands of the steam team, led by volunteer Chris Allan, is making major strides towards operating WP steam to return for the 1st time in many years. Much progress has been made on 165 this past year and 2015 will see the locomotive much closer to completion. Check out their blog at for more details, and to show your support if possible. They sure could use it.

As you can see, despite the fact that the museum has been closed for the Winter, we have not been sitting around the Christmas tree, drinking cocoa and waiting for Spring to return to the museum to work. Several of us have been busy!  We can use more help though. We need YOU to get involved, whether it is in person with labor, with donations of money or materials, expertise, or with moral support. As much progress and good things are going on right now with your society, we are obviously doing so with a relatively small crew, so we welcome you to join us!

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