By Brynn Schintgen
ASHWAUBENON – The National Railroad Museum, which has been in operation since 1956, has been in the process of restoring many of the train cars in their collection.
Their most recent project is the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railway Post Office No. 2330 car.
Built in 1922 by the Standard Steel Company, this car was in operation until 1967, when railway postal service was discontinued.
The National Railroad Museum acquired the car in 1986, but it wasn’t until April 2022 that serious restoration efforts were started.
Daniel Liedtke, a curator at the museum, noted that the car was already in a state of deterioration when the museum received it, stating that, “the railroad would repair cars as quickly as possible, without much care to the condition the car was in.”
“First [the museum] does research on the car, and then we take photos before restoration. We look at first-hand documents to make it as authentic as possible, and label and number everything so each part of the car has its place.”
A mix of full time workers and volunteers were tasked with refurbishing the mail slots and overhead bins, refinishing the wood floor and installing new lighting in the car.
There was also a lot of woodwork and rusty metal that needed to be repaired.
“We try to use as much original material as possible to preserve the car’s authenticity,” Liedtke said, stressing that the preservation of history was a motivating factor behind the project.
To fund this project, the museum was awarded a grant from the Nelson Family Fund through the Fox Valley Community Foundation.
Liedtke explained that “the Nelson Family Fund has given grants to restore many cars in the museum, and once cars are restored the museum can better educate visitors on railroad history.”
Liedtke also mentioned that the museum has obtained first-hand accounts from people who actually worked on post office rail cars and that the museum is striving to preserve the oral history of working on the railways.
The post office car is scheduled to be finished and installed in the museum’s pavilion in Feb. 2024, and Liedtke is already excited about their next restoration project.
“The Union Pacific Dome Diner is the museum’s next restoration project, and is projected to take around three years because there are many original artworks that need to be restored. This restoration will be a great asset to the museum’s education on railroad dining,” he stated.
Overall, Liedtke expressed that the restoration process as a whole has been a very rewarding experience.
“The most fulfilling part has been bringing these cars back to life, and getting people excited about railroad and American history.”
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