With the help of Winton, the Electro-Motive Company pioneered and developed gasoline-electric railcars. Hundreds of these cars were built in the 1920’s-1930’s, and were an important stepping stone in the development of the forthcoming Diesel-Electric generation of railcars and locomotives.
Only a small handful of these cars remain, including Montana Western #31, at the Mid-Continent Railway Museum in North Freedom, Wisconsin. #31 was donated to the museum in 1965.
The car was built in 1925 for the Great Northern Railway as their #2313, and was sold to shortline Montana Western in 1940. Only the front truck on these cars is powered.
While the date on the plate is 10/1925, the car’s engine was not shipped until 4/1926, leading me to think this may have been a contract date.
Inside, the car is essentially 100% original, including these lush purple velvet walkover seats. A small smoking section is in the compartment forward of this one.
Ahead of the smoking section is a baggage room, as well as being home to the cars heating boiler.
The rear end of the car features a control stand, as well as a small bathroom opposite of it.
Forward of the baggage room is the engine room, home to the 6- Cylinder Winton 106A gasoline engine and control stand.
Stepping back a few feet gives us a better overall view of the engine, showing the central carburetor and intake manifold. These early engines used General Electric electrical gear. The three exhaust pipes head straight up to the roof.
Forward of the engine is the engineers corner with the various controls and brake system, note the use of a “trolley” style controller. My ears bleed just thinking of being this close to the engine!
The engine in #31 is a Winton 106A, a 7 1/4″ bore x 8″ stroke, 4 stoke, 6-cylinder gasoline engine. The engine was rated for 250HP at 1200RPM. Previous model 106 was a slightly smaller, 7″x8″ engine, rated for 200HP at 1000RPM.
Looking toward the magneto side. While you can access the cab through doors on either side, or by climbing over the generator – it is still an extremely cramped space.
Special thanks to Bill B. at Mid-Continent for arranging a look inside this rare piece of equipment. #31 is currently not in operable condition, however the museum does have a 2nd spare parts engine it obtained from Sperry Rail – once a large user of Gas-Electric railcars. Be sure to stop by the museum if you are in the area, they have an amazing collection!