Restoring a “Presidential” Burlington Northern pushcart

I have a bad habit of perusing Craigslist, looking for railroad related items that might be of some use for projects I am working on or that may be a fun project in and of themselves. Towards the end of August, I came across a listing for the remains of two ex-Burlington Northern wood pushcarts. The carts were located about 150 miles west of me in Chester, Nebraska, and the gentleman who had them listed was asking a fair price for them. Clearly the correct course of action was to hook the trailer to the truck and spend a Sunday afternoon retrieving the carts.

The carts were interesting as they were both very original, even still sporting their Burlington Northern lettering. My guess is that they are original wood Fairmont pushcarts that were rebuilt over the years, with the last rebuild coming in the 1970’s. Worst case, I figured the axles, wheels and other hardware were worth the asking price. Best case – maybe one or both of them would be worth restoring to their Burlington Northern configuration.

Once I got the carts home and gave them a once over, it was apparent that one of them was a candidate for restoration. The only missing metal part was the push rail on one end. The wood frame, while rotten, was solid enough to reuse, and enough of the deck and deck supports was there to provide patterns for new parts.

As such, I decided to put the cart back together, using as much of the original wood as possible. I’ll let the photos and captions tell the story.

A bit of history:

Chester, Nebraska is located near the middle of the state, on the Kansas / Nebraska state line. The town was platted in 1880, when the Burlington & Missouri River Railroad in Nebraska (nothing like an overly long railroad name! It comes from the fact that states often required railroads operating in the state to be based in the state. Thus the parent Chicago, Burlington & Quincy, which had already created the Burlington & Missouri River subsidiary to construct its westbound lines across Missouri, tacked on the “In Nebraska” moniker for the new subsidiary building lines in Nebraska.) built through the town site. The new town was named for then President Chester A. Arthur when it was incorporated in 1883.

Chester was located on the Burlington’s “Republican Branch” which ran across the southern edge of Nebraska. The Burlington Northern eventually abandoned the line. Apparently, the two pushcarts were in Chester at the time and ended up with a local man. Following his death, the carts were in the process of being cut up for the small amount of steel they could provide when they were rescued by the gentleman that I purchased them from.

The pushcarts loaded on the trailer and ready to leave Chester on August 30, 2020. The railroad through Chester once ran just behind the grain bins.
The starting point, the pushcart unloaded and on its new “home rails” in Bendena. Notice the remains of the BN lettering in between the wheels. It once read “BN INC.” with “CAPACITY 3000LBS” below. August 30, 2020.
Stripped of all of the totally rotted and unusable wood, the pushcart is ready for reassembly. Luckily, the main parts of the frame were only “mostly” rotted out and unusable and were thus reused. September 16, 2020.

The pushcart’s new deck and deck supports awaiting installation. The new wood was made of treated lumber, matching the original wood’s dimensions. (The deck supports were nominal 1×6’s while the deck boards were nominal 2×4’s with a ½” x ¾” lap cut into them.
The mostly finished pushcart on October 5, 2020. All that remains is to source a new push rail for one end (a 5’ long length of 1 ½” black iron pipe) and make stencils for the lettering.
Another view of the finished pushcart.

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