Colorado & Southern 8027 Part II

A Decision

As noted in my last post, early March 2005 found me the proud owner of Colorado & Southern narrow gauge boxcar 8027 and very little in the way of ideas as to what to do with it. Step one was to move the car to a more secure location. On March 10, 2005, 8027 was lifted by crane onto a semi trailer and moved about 10 miles west to a site just east of Boulder (at the site of the town of Valmont) that was leased by a railroad historical society that I was involved with. At the Valmont site, 8027 was lifted off the semi and placed onto some railroad tie cribbing.

As I had other projects going on at the time, and 8027 was basically secure at the Valmont site, it became a backburner project while I tried to figure out what to do with it. Initially, I offered the car to the Colorado Railroad Museum in Golden. While the Museum was interested in the car, they had plenty of other projects to keep them busy and the idea of taking on a carbody like 8027, where all of the metal parts would have to be fabricated from scratch, was a bit much at the time.

For the next three years, 8027 bided its time at Valmont waiting for a plan to materialize. By the summer of 2008, I finally arrived at a decision – no other group was interested in taking on 8027, I would like to see the car displayed somewhere along the original C&S narrow gauge, and it would be far easier to make this happen if the car was at least mostly restored and presentable. By then, I had some time and had managed to assemble most of the parts needed to make the farm shed look like a boxcar again. (More on the parts later.) As such, the obvious solution was to restore the car myself, as best I could, and then, hopefully, convince someone, somewhere to allow it to be displayed.

C&S 8027 at its new home in Valmont on March 10, 2005. The car in the background is also a Colorado & Southern boxcar, standard gauge No. 13121. C&S 13121 will pop up again later in the saga of 8027.
Another view of 8027 at Valmont on March 10, 2005. Notice the door in the end of the car, which was added by the farmer during the car’s time as a shed. When 8027 left the factory in 1898, it had an end door; however it was removed and boarded over by the C&S at some point.

A Note on Wood Railcar Construction –

If you look closely at the photo above, you will notice a yellow strap running around the base of 8027. This seems like as good a place as any for an explanation of why:

In a wooden railroad car, the structure of the walls and frame is not held together with hard fasteners such as bolts or nails. Instead, the wood components are held together with mortise and tenon joints. Metal rods with nuts on the ends are used to provide tension to hold the structures together (in the case of the walls these rods run from top to bottom. In the case of the frame, there are truss rods that run from one end of the car to the other that pull the frame together and provide structural strength to support the load as well as smaller rods that run from one side of the frame to the other to hold everything in line.) This setup allows the car to be very strong, yet flexible. The flexibility is needed as the forces of being in a train cause a wood car to be alternately stretched, compressed and twisted. Were the structure held together with rigid joints, such as angle irons and bolts, as commonly seen in timber structure buildings, the car would quite literally fall to pieces a few miles down the tracks.

The truss rods are generally removed when a wood car is scrapped. As a static shed, a wood boxcar body is plenty strong enough to survive without the main truss rods, though this means that only a few pieces of siding at each end are the only thing keeping the end walls attached to the car and any significant pulling force applied to the ends of the car will pull the ends out. When I moved 8027 from the Isabelle Road farm, I wrapped long ratchet cargo straps around the car to provide tension and hold the ends to the frame. A longer term solution was to run threaded rod and conduit from one end of the car to the other (through the original truss rod holes) to provide tension to hold the car together. This setup has worked for over a decade, several crane lifts, and long truck rides.

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