By Steven D. Kamm, Oklahoma Railway Museum
December 14, 2012, saw the arrival of the former Missouri, Kansas and Texas (MKT) Track Inspection Car No. 1045 at the Oklahoma Railway Museum. The intention is that the Museum, located in Oklahoma City, OK, will be the permanent home of this unique, custom-made piece of railroad history. And, since the inspection car has seen better days, volunteers at the Museum are currently undertaking a substantial restoration/refurbishment program.
Early History: A brief history of MKT No. 1045 has been documented in The Katy Flyer (Volume 12, Number 2, June 1989). A second more complete article has appeared in a later edition of The Katy Flyer (Volume 31, Number 3, September 2009). It includes the early history as well as describing the construction of a scale model of the car. According to those articles, prior to 1971, track inspections were conducted by the MKT Railroad using two heavyweight observation cars riding on six-wheel passenger trucks. These cars were sold off in a cash-saving move. But, officials still needed to inspect the railroad. For awhile, track inspections were conducted using an automobile equipped with drop-down flanged wheels. Needing something better, the MKT (also known as the Katy Railroad) improvised. The car shops in Denison, Texas, fabricated a custom-built track inspection car based on an old 40’ all-steel boxcar. The somewhat strange-looking MKT No. 1045 entered service in 1973. Supported on four-wheel leaf-spring caboose trucks, it must have provided a less comfortable ride than the heavyweight observation cars.
Features of MKT No. 1045: A large work area was installed in one end of the old boxcar. Large picture windows were cut into the end and sides providing good visibility for the inspectors. Venetian blinds were fitted to keep out the blistering sun. At the opposite end of the car, a generator was installed to provide power for lights, radio-telephone, and air conditioners. In the center of the car, entryways were installed on both sides. Crew facilities were added including a restroom, a small galley, and bunks for cat-naps. Views of the interior can be seen in a U-tube video (Google: Katy 1045).
Later History: Though it may have appeared ungainly, the unique MKT No. 1045 was used by the Katy Railroad without significant problems from 1973 to 1988. However, when the MKT was acquired by the Union Pacific Railroad in 1988, a different operational philosophy was instituted, and the car was deemed expendable. Apparently, it was parked for a time on a siding near the US Army’s Fort Sill in Oklahoma where rail crews used it for shelter from the weather. MKT No. 1045 was eventually offered to the City of Denison for display. However, when a delay in transfer occurred, the Union Pacific passed the car to the US Army. The intent seems to have been to rebuild the car into an escort for military trains. The exterior of the car was painted red, but the rebuild never occurred. At least one source indicates the car was used for a time as an office.
MKT No. 1045 Comes to the ORM: In 2012, Board Members of the Oklahoma Railway Museum visited Fort Sill to investigate the possibility of acquiring an SW 8 switcher engine. While on the post, an inquiry was made concerning the former MKT Inspection Car. As the US Army was not using the car, they eventually agreed to donate it to the ORM for preservation. Arrangements were made to move the car, a brake test was conducted, and the Stillwater Central Railroad provided important assistance during the move. It arrived in mid-December of 2012.
Restoration & Refurbishment of MKT No. 1045: When the former Katy No. 1045 first arrived at the Oklahoma Railway Museum, it was put in storage: several other on-going projects took priority. However, in 2015, the ORM Board decided to get on with the refurbishment. Realizing that additional funds would be required for the endeavor, a grant request was submitted to the National Railway Historical Society in March of 2016. Included in the request was a plan for refurbishment including the following: Exterior: striping old paint, priming, painting in the distinctive original green/yellow MKT scheme, clear coating, roof repairs, and replacement of the glass in the door, side, and inspection windows. Interior: installing replacement flooring and ceiling, repairing and repainting walls, replacing countertops, baseboards, ceiling, door and corner trim, and painting the bunks. Mechanical: cleaning and refurbishing the generator, inspecting and repairing the electrical and HVAC systems, and certifying the brakes. Happily, in April of 2016, the NRHS awarded $4,000 to the ORM for purchase of materials. Work on the MKT No. 1045 has now begun in earnest. The interior has been cleaned, repairs on the electrical and HVAC systems are underway, and replacement glass for all windows is on order. Most impressively, the exterior has been completely sandblasted and a primer coat applied. While the work is progressing, ORM volunteers anticipate another year of labor will be required before this unique MKT Inspection Car is returned to its former glory. Photographs of the car in its various stages can be viewed at the Oklahoma Railway Museum website.