It’s been a long time since the 1883 rail car donated to the Douglas County Museum of History and Natural History chugged its way over the mountains between Glendale and Roseburg.
The car was retired from service in 1925, after which it was bought by a Glendale man, stripped of its carriage and wheels and converted into a rental unit. Even in its prime, however, the car never clocked the speeds it did Thursday afternoon on the bed of the semitruck that hauled it along Interstate 5 to its new home at the museum.
“When we came back here on the freeway was the fastest it’s ever gone,” said museum volunteer Gary Pischke, who is overseeing the restoration of the rail car. Pischke said steam locomotives of the day traveled only 30 to 35 mph when pulling cars such as this one.
Once it is restored, the rail car will complement the Dillard train depot exhibit already at the museum.
The aged rail car was donated to the museum by the Community Action Response Team of Glendale, whose members decided the car would cost more to repair than the civic group could afford. It had been donated to the city in 1997 by an heir of George Matthew, the man who converted it into a rental property.
The wooden car was built by the Harlan and Hollingsworth Company in Wilmington, Del., and used on the Oregon and California Railroad. The line ran from 1869 to 1927 between the Siskiyous and Portland.
The rail car’s placement alongside the old Dillard depot is a reunion of sorts. The depot was built in 1882, which means it is likely the historic rail car stopped at the depot periodically on its runs along the O&C line, said Pischke.
“It’s really kind of joining back the history of the thing,” he said.
Transporting the rail car was only half the battle Thursday. Crews spent six hours loading the 15-ton car onto the back of the truck.
“We had to get a crane to lift it onto a (semitruck) to get it up here because it’s kind of a big beast,” said museum Director Gardner Chappell.
Steel beams loaned by the Swanson Group were placed across the bed of the truck. A crane loaned by Lone Rock Timber Co. then hoisted the car onto the back of the Bennett Truck Transport semitruck.
“There was some creaking and stuff like that,” said Pischke, but once it was placed onto the bed of the truck, the car settled in for the journey.
Chappell and Pischke said it is uncertain how long restoration will take or how extensive the future train exhibit will become. Windows, seats, lanterns and other furnishings must be replaced, paint removed, and woodwork refinished and in some instances replaced.
“There’s some termite damage ... (from) when it was used as a home in Glendale,” Pischke said. Only 14 such cars were built in 1883, of which only three remain, so finding parts may be a challenge. Luckily, plans and photos of the cars are still in existence. Pischke has already consulted with museum authorities in other states for advice on the project.
Monetary donations are being accepted, as is the help of other skilled volunteers.
“We hope that more people might want to get involved,” Pischke said. “It’s been partly restored by the city of Glendale, so we’ll continue where they left off.”