This is a good example of how not to treat a grand old lady.
Soo W725 was acquired from the Minnesota Transportation Museum in 1999 and moved from its storage at the Twin Cities Arsenal to New Prague. It sat outside for many years at the arsenal and has sat outside since in New Prague.
Volunteers did some stabilization of the roof and covered it with rubber roofing to keep the weather out which has helped some. It really needs to be inside a building.
The car looks rough, but it's really complete and in spite of the roof sagging in a couple places, the walls are still pretty solid, the same can't be said for the floor.
Unfortunately, it's still full of junk from its days as a bunk car and more random items have been added over the years, things various volunteers thought the museum couldn't part with, but haven't been used either - sound familiar?
The car is "ok" for now, but needs some attention to keep the roof from collapsing and really needs to be in a building.
Just imagine this car restored to its former appearance. It's a perfect example of why they used to refer to passenger trains and their equipment as "varnish".
Click on the pictures below to start the slide show tour.
Thanks to Stu Nelson of the Soo Line Historical & Technical Society (SLHTS), we have a few more pices to the puzzle of Soo W725's history.
Western Union maintained thousands of miles of telegraph wire across the country, much of it following or even used by the railways. It maintained a fleet of rail cars to help service the network. Since most of it was in remote regions, Western Union employed a variety of cars to support work crews, from old box cars and baggage cars to store supplies to refurbished coaches, sleeping cars and diners to provide crews places to sleep, eat and use as workshops. Most of the cars in the Western Union fleet were older, second hand equipment cast off by other railroads.
We still don't know the origins of Soo W725, but it first appeared on the Soo Line maintenance-of-way roster 22Mar, 1948. Soo Line bought it from Western Union where it carried the number WUX 2374 and served as a Telegraph Crew Line Car.
Soo Line numbered the car W725 and painted it mineral red for work service. It most likely was already equipped as a bunk car at that time, but over the years, it looks like the Soo Line made some more modifications in its role as a bunk car. On 13Mar, 1985, W725 was renumbered SOOR 725 and continued in use as a bunk car.
Records don't indicate when it was retired, but it was close to the same time it was renumbered SOOR 725, circa mid-to-late 1980s. After being stored for a while at Soo Line's Shoreham shops in Minneapolis, it was donated to the Minnesota Transportation Museum.
Today, bunk cars are rare on US railways. Railroads rely mainly on hotels for their track crews although a few still maintain "modern" bunk cars consiting of trailer homes secured to flat cars.
Based on the architecture of W725, it was probably built in the mid-to-late 1890s as a wood car with a wood underframe. The window arrangement suggests it may have been a sleeping car, perhaps a 12-1 configuration. In the 1910s or early 1920s, it received an aftermarket Barney & Smith steel underframe. The B&S kits were unique in the fact they kept the truss rod feature, even though the steel center sill really negated their need.
It's speculation without any known facts, but Western Union may have purchased the car second hand at the time of its underframe rebuilding.
The Colorado Railroad museum owns an 1898 vintage Pullman Sleeping Car that wound up in Western Union service as an outfit car.
W725 can't talk, so it's left to us to keep unravelling it's history and mysteries. Perhaps when volunteers are able to begin restoring her, they'll find a car name stamped on top of a door or a window sash to yield another clue.
Thank you Stu Nelson for the information you've provided!
We haven't been able to determine much of the history of Soo W725. It was last used as a bunk car by the Soo Line in the mid-1980s. The window configuration seems to imply it was possibly built as an open section sleeping car.
The car is about 70ft long and has been retrofitted with a Barney & Smith steel underframe kit which it probably received in the 1920s. Judging by it's architecture, it was probably built between the 1890s and 1905 as an all wood, truss rod car. The Barney & Smith kit retained the truss rods, even though it equipped the car with a steel centersill and ends platforms.
Some unique features of the car still remain, for instance the safety chains at the ends of the car which were used to keep the cars together in a derailment and a number of the brass electric light fixtures.
If you have any more information on this car, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Please go to the "How Can I Help" page to see the ways you and others can help save this car and other pieces of history located at GSRM in New Prague, MN.