View single post by CMmodeler
 Posted: Tue Jul 12th, 2011 05:17 am
PMQuoteReplyFull Topic


Joined: Tue May 10th, 2011
Location: Loveland, Colorado USA
Posts: 6
I just thought that I would share some information about the McKeen cars.  A few years ago, I researched McKeen cars for a presentation to the Northern Colorado Model Railroad Club.  I  also had an opportunity to see and photograph V&T #22 in 2008 during its restoration.  I have purchased several books on McKeen cars including "McKeen Motor Car #22 Restoration Feasibility Investigation".  All of these books shed a lot of light on V&T #22 and McKeen cars in general.

First, the front truck, engine and drive system were extremely unique.  W.R. McKeen Jr. insisted on a mechanical drive system and would not even discuss hydraulic or electric drive.  Gasoline engine technology was in its infancy at this time.  The engine was a marine style distilate engine complete with exposed connecting rods and an open oil pan.  It was actually two 3 cylinder engines that shared a common drive shaft.  One half of the engine would be run with compressed air while the other half of the engine would be fed fuel and started.  Once one half of the engine was running on fuel, the other half would be switched over to fuel and started.  The engine did not have a carburetor but used a fine screen to atomize the fuel.  It was often necessary to heat the screen in a gasoline fire to red hot, replace the screen on the engine and then the engine might start.  It is no wonder that railroads that owned McKeen cars were forced to store them in heated car barns in the winter. 

The drive system was a drive chain to the front axle only.  There was no reverse gear.  In order to reverse the direction of travel of a McKeen car, the engine had to be stopped and re-started running in the opposite direction.  Since it was a one axle drive, it didn't do well on steep grades.

Most railroads bought one or two McKeen cars to try them and never made a repeat purchase.  Due to the unreliable engine and drive system, most McKeens were converted to some other engine/drive by the railroads that owned them.  V&T #22 was very rare in that the original engine and drive were retained throughout its entire operational life.  It was retired in 1945, and sold in 1946.  According to restoration study, the master mechanic's last entry in the maintenance and repair book states "Sold to Mr. Deniss of Carson City, Nev.  Made a restaurant out of it.  Sold for $1000.  Motor car #22 was scrap and sold Aug. 26, 1946.  Ought to have been sold 30 years ago".  When V&T 22 was sold, both trucks and the engine were scrapped.

By the time V&T #22 was being considered for restoration, no original trucks, motors or drives were known to exist anywhere in the world.  An excerpt out of the Sage Headlight, newsletter of the Friend's of the Nevada State Railroad Museum, explains the use of a modern engine and drive for the restoration "It was suggested by more than one person that an old, or period, prime mover be used.  This was rejected out of hand.  If, for example, a 1936 Cadillac was being restored and a non-Cadillac replacement engine was installed, regardless of the year of manufacture, it would not be a Cadillac engine."  Basically, if you can't find the correct drive system, some other old drive system will not be accurate anyway so you might as well use a modern engine and drive system that works well.

Here are some pictures that I took of the drive truck as it was being fabricated.  Note that the final drive system is still a chain drive to the front axle only.  Bill Fornshell included a link that show the completed truck.

Darrel Ellis

Last edited on Tue Jul 12th, 2011 02:44 pm by CMmodeler

Darrel Ellis
Yes, I do still play with trains.
Close Window