The Midwest Central Railroad or MCRR, located in Mount Pleasant, Iowa is often
forgotten due to its small size and isolated location. However,
the railroad might be small but it packs quite an assortment of steam locomotives including an operating geared Shay, a 0-4-0T Henschel, and two 2-6-0 Baldwins (along with a few diesel switchers).
The little railroad has also been around for over 40 years now and
although it does not operate on much track plays host to thousands of
riders annually. With a group of volunteers that has today reached
several hundred folks and their own maintenance shop located right on
the groups the railroad has the ability to keep their fleet of steam locomotives
well maintained. Perhaps the only disappointing aspect about this
operation is that they do not have more miles of track on which to run
their steam locomotives!
Pickering Lumber three-truck Shay #7 is at rural Lyons, California with an excursion on September 4, 1971.
The Midwest Central Railroad dates back to 1959 when a group of railfans
known as the Midwest Old Threshers wanted to start a tourist railroad
operated with steam locomotives. Not particularly wanting the railroad
to be part of the Midwest Old Threshers group they started a new
organization called the Midwest Central Railroad to operate their new
collection of historic steamers. The original locomotive in the fleet
that got it all started was a Erzbergbau Salzgitter 0-4-0 #2056
purchased for $400. The little engine had sat dormant, on display for
years in the town of Hillsboro, Iowa. Today, the locomotive is no
longer owned by the railroad.
Over the years the railroad continued to add steam locomotives to their roster. Amazingly, for such a small operation, they currently have a fleet that rivals any other tourist railroad in the country and includes four locomotives either in operation or under restoration. Below is a current roster of steam locomotives the MCRR operates:
· Shay #9 - A former West Side Lumber Company is a
three-truck Shay built by Lima Locomotive Works in 1923. It remained in
operation until the early 1960s with the Midwest Central purchasing the
locomotive in 1966. It is currently fully operational.
· Baldwin #6 - A former Surry Sussex & Southampton
Railway 2-6-0 Mogul built by the Baldwin Locomotive Works in 1891. It
was purchased in 1960 and received complete rebuild and conversion to
oil in the late 1980s. Today, it is fully operational.
· Baldwin #2 - A former New Berlin & Winfield Railroad
2-6-0 Mogul built by the Baldwin Locomotive Works in 1906. It was
purchased by the Midwest Central in 1960 and operated until 1987 when it
went in for a complete rebuild as well. The locomotive is currently
still under restoration.
· Henschel #16 - This foreign locomotive, an 0-4-0 type,
was built by Henschel & Sons of Kassel, West Germany in 1951. It
made it to the States in 1963 and was meant to be used as a tourist
attraction around Detroit that never materialized. It was purchased and
restored by the group in 1982 and has been fully operational ever
Along with these operating steam locomotives the Midwest Central Railroad also runs two former industrial switchers,
a 1923 Ford Model T, and 1930 Ford Model A that can operate on rails.
All four have been restored and currently operate alongside the steam locomotives. While the Midwest Central Railroad only operates over one mile of
home-built track around McMillan Park in Mount Pleasant the short jaunt
does not seem to matter to visitors who return annually (between 35,000
to 40,000, a remarkable number for such a small operation) to see the steam locomotives in action and ride behind them. Aside from riding the train this small group of railfans can always use help so if you are interested a donation
of money or your time volunteering (they are currently working to
restore a number of different projects) is very much welcomed. In any
event, if you are ever in southeastern Iowa consider stopping by to see
this very unique tourist railroad; I know they’ll appreciate the visit!
Southern Pacific Class M-6 2-6-0 #1744 leads an eastbound excursion on the San Luis & Rio Grande near Blanca, Colorado on July 28, 2007.
For more information about the Midwest Central Railroad and planning a visit pleaseclick hereto visit their website. There you can find out their seasonal operating schedule and special events they planned. Additionally, the group's site gives a very good history of not only how they got started but also background information on the steam locomotive fleet they maintain. Finally, if you have the
time and are located near Mount Pleasant they are always looking for
volunteers and would certainly appreciate the help.
For more information about excursion trains like the Midwest Central Railroad you might want to consider the book Tourist Trains Guidebook, which is put together by the editors of Kalmbach Publishing's Trains
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