McKeen builder's plate
McKeen Car

Under Construction


Words about McKeen history go here.

The Nevada State Railroad Museum's McKeen Car

The Nevada State Railroad Museum (NSRM) in Carson City owns what is probably the last intact McKeen Car in existence. (They do also own a second McKeen which had both nose and tail bobbed and a diesel-electric drive retrofitted for use as a switch engine.)

The NSRM McKeen before restoration.

I visited NSRM on 2 Apr 1998, just before restoration work began.

The NSRM McKeen under restoration.

NSRM shops are doing an incredible job of restoring the car to its early-service configuration. Chris deWitt, NSRM's head of restoration, gave a two-year progress report on Wednesday, 21 June 2000. I attended the presentation, and took pictures of #22 afterwards:

McKeen Trailer

McKeen Trailer About 50 miles west of Rio Vista, in the beautiful Napa Valley community of St. Helena, is one of the two surviving McKeen trailer bodies, sitting on a concrete pad as a storage shed. It is a 31' Baggage-RPO, originally SP #T-16 and later Napa Valley #55. The woman who owns it said that her late husband bought the trailer to use as a garage while he was building their house and garage in the 1940's. She also said he had to cut the body in half to move it. The body shows traces of the original lettering under the current paint.

The Model

I am planning to produce 70-foot coach/smoker/express in both parabolic-nose (for Harriman roads) and knife-nose (other roads), and 55-foot car in knife-nose only, along with a 31' baggage/RPO trailer. Kyle Wyatt, until recently NSRM's curator, provided much research assistance by allowing me access to the McKeen for photography before the resoration began, and also in providing copies of large-scale layout drawings.

Rough-trimmed McKeen Car shell

Shown is the beginning of the body master of the 70-foot knife-nose McKeen. This is a one-piece brass shell, CNC (computer numeric control) machined by a friend from a computer solid model I created. No paper or physical "drawing" involved at all... The shell is .055" thick. The shell incorporates a .005" thick recess on the outer face to receive the photoetched outer skin, and a .015" recess on the inner face to receive the PCB chassis. The shell is deep enough to incorporate the dropped stairwell area at the center. Both the curved area of the side and the roof show machining marks.

Here is the shell on "shop trucks." I have rough-trimmed the shell, leaving about .020" excess on the bottom for cleaning up after the photoetched skin goes on, and smoothed the roof surface. I am also in the process of replacing the generic rivet rows with the actual McKeen rivet pattern. The most noticable area is probably the staggered double row along the underframe edge.

McKeen Car Patents

Thank you to Philip Hom for alerting me to these McKeen patents: NEW 6 Oct 2008

As I find more patents, I'll add them to this page.

McKeen Car Links

Links verified and updated 16 July 2009.


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This article is ©2000-2010 Randy Gordon-Gilmore. Last updated: 16 July 2009.