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North by Northwest: 1899

Tracy, Minnesota, circa 1899. "Engine of the South Dakota division, Chicago & North Western Ry." 8x10 glass negative, Detroit Photographic Co. View full size.

Tracy, Minnesota, circa 1899. "Engine of the South Dakota division, Chicago & North Western Ry." 8x10 glass negative, Detroit Photographic Co. View full size.


On Shorpy:
Today’s Top 5

Less spit...

When this photo was taken the fireman would have used tallow to clean and polish the loco.

Doggone Dave!

I remembered commenting on a CNW engine several years back, but didn't think anything of it. Lo and behold, it's the same durned photo. (And I made very similar comments back then as I did this time; at least I'm consistent.)

I've done a fair amount of living since 2013; that's why my memory is so poor. (That's my story and I'm sticking to it.)

Run her again in 2023 and let's see how we do!

More About the Paper Wheel

You can read more about the "Allen" wheel here:
These were always made up with bolts (not rivets).

Pulp Traction

I too found the "paper wheels" comment interesting and it encouraged me to do a bit of research. It led me to this:

Am I Loco?

I think I recognize this photo from long ago on Shorpy, only colorized. Looks quite different. I will try to load the photo. It was so good that I saved a copy to enjoy on my desktop for a while. Someone did a fantastic job of colorizing.

[That was from our last ride on this train, five years ago. - Dave]

More about paper wheels

Those may or may not be paper wheels. According to the Locomotive Dictionary of 1906 (yes, there was such a publication) a paper wheel is "A wheel with a steel tire and a center formed of compressed paper held between two iron face plates. It is in limited use. The compressed paper can be turned and polished like wood."

They were also used on passenger cars.

There were also disc wheels which looked similar, used on passenger cars, in which the cast iron wheel hub had a surrounding integral spider and one or two flat steel plates were riveted to the spider and to a separate steel tire. These were not packed with compressed paper.

The purpose of these designs was to make a quieter running wheel.

Which way to Petticoat Junction?

You know Uncle Joe he's moving kinda slow.

Paper Wheels

Once again, I learn something new from Shorpy. A regular occurrence, in fact. The knowledge of Shorpyites is amazing!

Paper locomotive wheels . . . who would have believed that?

As the title says


Front to back

Firstly, this photo is no later than 1899/1900, account of the link and pin couplers still in use. That big "cow catcher" is a different shade in the picture; probably is red. Note the smokebox front has "C&NWR" cast into it: classy. I'd love to have one of those gorgeous brass marker lights. Notice the black sheet metal "hood" on this side of the headlight. These were used to block the bright light while waiting in sidings. After the opposing train passed, the hood was swung out of the way, and they were off. (This made things much easier than turning off the oil headlamp and later relighting it.)

See the headlight is mounted on braces attached behind the light; this indicates the smokebox was extended at some point and the original braces were retained. The riveted seam that passes under the light shows the original length of the smokebox. The builder's plate proclaims it a product of Schenectady Locomotive Works, which later became the primary part of American Locomotive Works.

See this side of the bell, with what looks like a rod hanging down into a ball; this is an automatic bell ringer, likely air operated. You can see the air line running from the "ball" (it's actually a piston) back to the cab.

Those two smaller wheels on either side of the cylinder are made of pressed paper; the numerous rivets give that away. That cylinder front is discolored; I'd bet it's unpainted brass.

Finally, the engineer looks young, competent and willing, if not enthusiastic. This loco was likely built as much as twenty-five years earlier, but is well cared for here.

The small white jug on the tender is nothing more than probably kerosene, to keep the markers, lanterns and interior cab lights fueled. The large box behind it is full of chains, extra links, etc. The ancient tender trucks proclaim this engine's age. (That first car, the RPO, is a museum piece as well.)

[The date on the plate is 1885. - Dave]

More Spit

I will bet it took a lot of spit to spit shine this locomotive but they did a great job of it. Beautiful engine and it shows the pride they took in it.

Classic loco

I love the train photos on this site as much for the informative commentary as for the images themselves. I’m really looking forward to the words on this one. As for the locomotive, it’s such a thing of beauty and design and power and polish. If you had to make a museum with only a dozen things in it to show off the achievements of humankind, this would have to be one of the exhibits. And if you were given the task of drawing a steam engine, this could easily be the model.

C&NWR survives in Tracy

At least as recently as October 2008, this remnant of the C&NWR was on display in Tracy on the west edge of town, on the south side of Route 14.

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