ET&WNC Motorcar #1
Alexander Chapter NRHS
In November 2009, the Alexander Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society began restoration of ET&WNC #1, originally a narrow gauge section car used for maintenance of the 70-mile mainline between Johnson City, Tennessee and Boone, North Carolina. While not as famed as the western "Galloping Geese" or the East Broad Top's "M-3", ol' Number One still represents a similar piece of equipment and as such is one of the most important narrow gauge artifacts of the southeast. Along with ET&WNC/Tweetsie #12, she is indeed one of the last of the southern narrow gauge Mohicans.
(Right) East Tennessee & Western North Carolina Number One poses in the Doe River Gorge in 1943. Pictured with the three lovely ladies is Clarence Hobbs, the General Foreman and designer of the motorcars. The chapter will be returing Number One to this appearance during her restoration.
(Below) After the end of the narrow gauge, #1 was rebuilt as a standard gauge car nearly identical to sister #2.
Built upon a Ford Truck engine, transmission, and rear end, the car was used by the East Tennessee Railway until the late 1970's, when an unknown mechanical defect in the rear axle caused the car to become inoperable. It remained in the Johnson City enginehouse until 1999, when it was donated to the Doe River Gorge Ministries. The car had its ends, roof, and body removed at the DRG in anticipation of restoration.
Unfortunately, the project proved too much for the times, and the car was put into storage for the better part of the next decade.
In 2009, the car was transferred to the Alexander Chapter-NRHS for restoration and to be with sister ET&WNC #2, also in the collection.
The first task at hand is to disassemble the motor, transmission, the famous "Hobbs Box", rear end, and frame. The frame will be sand-blasted, primed, and painted. The mechanical parts will be examined for defects, cleaned, and refurbished as necessary.
The shot below shows the top side of the shifter. Unfortunately, rust has gotten the better part of this assembly.
In November 2009, the car moved from its temporary indoor storage to the racecar shop of Carpenter Racing. Number One, despite her size, is small enough to be hauled with a large rollback. It is hoped that the narrow gauge Number One and standard gauge Number Two can become traveling ambassadors for the chapter and the North Carolina Narrow Gauge Museum.
At right, the famous "Hobbs Box" shows to be in remarkable condition. This homemade configuration of gears and bearings acted as a power reversing box and would allow the motorcars to travel in forward or reverse at equal speeds while the transmission was in first, second, or third gear. Even the case was fabricated in the Johnson City enginehouse. We have a problem with a broken gear tooth and main shaft here...
At right, the initials "FT" were found punched in the housing, presumably for FT Hargas, chief boilermaker for the ET&WNC.
The photograph to the left shows the top side of the motor. Despite having been indoors for the past 18 months, some cylinders were still full of water. Some poor mountain mouse also lost its home under the valve cover. Poor, poor mouse.
Of course, given the rusty valves being slept upon (below), we might have done the little fellow a big favor.
(Left) The wheels present a very unusual repair problem, as they were homemade by the railroad. They consist of truck wheel centers with a flanged tire fitted to it. All of the wheels are well worn, with one in particular being grooved and somewhat thin.
(Below) With submergible welding techniques, the wheels can be repaired and reprofiled as good as new.
At left, the wooden body of Number One must be rebuilt as well. All major parts that can be salvaged will be used in the restoration. This includes some wood, the grill, sanders, control panel, and fuel tank.
In addition to the the major work of the body, the motor, and transmission, there are a large number of minor jobs to be completed on the car. For instance, straightening of the brake rigging, fabrication of new brake shoes, and repair of the rear end are just a few of the examples of the mini-projects which need attention.
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