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A steam locomotive pulling a single coach requires a crew of four - engineer, fireman, brakeman and conductor. It may have more crew than passengers paying the way on less travelled routes. In 1904, Harriman, the motive power super' of the Union Pacific, wanted to improve the cost-effectiveness of these short-haul passenger runs. He approached the Chief Mechanical Engineer, William McKeen, with the problem. McKeen built a gasolene driven self-propelled passenger car - the first of its' type in the world. It was a four-wheel car, with a wooden body and a boat engine mounted across the front axle. It was "Streamlined," shaped like a reverse teardrop, with a pointed nose and rounded tail.

It didn't take long for this car to prove its' worth as a concept, though perhaps not as an individual, for it does not appear on the 1914 roster. McKeen did build 152 more, for many roads. All the rest had steel bodies, two trucks (some had a tandem axle on the power truck,) and most had the "trademark" appearance of porthole windows.

In 1954, Railroad Model Craftsman magazine had an article on this particular car, and Dad was hooked. Uncle Buster made up a drive unit for it, in HO, and Dad was going to build it to run on his basement empire. Fate would slow things down, with illness, a new home, and family taking away from important modelling time. The dream never died, and Christmas '98, a start was made on another chassis, ten times bigger than Uncle Buster's.

 

Evolution has taken place, as things do not appear right, they are corrected. The first headlight was too small, and it was realised that, in the black-and-white photo, the roof could be black, silver, or grey, (or perhaps any of a hundred other colours) and it might look "right." Live Steam mag featured Cal Tinkham's McKeen, and he and Dad shared a l-o-n-g distance call.

Live Steam Magazine, November-December 2001

Dad got out the paints again. A little more research found the paint order number for UP railroad for the colour of the McKeen to be the same as the door number on that "new home" mentioned above (now 50 years old!)

Here is one of the great joys of electric traction over steam engines. You can show someone the controls and they are running in minutes - without watching the water glass over their shoulder.

History Valley Division of the Jiquay Railway & Navigation Co.

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