By Dave Stroebe

I had seen motorcars for years as there was motorcar shed at Simpson Jct along Laketon Avenue in Muskegon on the GTW/TS&M{Toledo Saginaw & Muskegon). I never gave them much thought until Brad Anderson{now a CSX engineer} bought himself a Fairmont C56 Track inspection car from Victor Porterfield of Chelsea Mich. This about 1986. I was invited by Brad to ride with him on the Sweet Line RR(ex GTW/TS&M)from Carson City Mich(by Greenville) to Middleton Mich. The car was powered by a Fairmont ROC single cylinder two stroke. You started it by putting a crank into crankshaft and turning the engine over like a Ford Model T. No tranny and you reversed it by getting the engine to run in reverse. I had a lot of fun and I was hooked. A call to Mr Porterfield resulted in me buying a 1941 Fairmont M 19-E-3-7 C&O #M1171 track inspection car for $550.00. So I drove to Greenville and picked up the car. It was a fixer upper and needed a one windshield, side window and an ignition coil plus generator.

There were two motorcar clubs each dedicated to safe, escorted with permission “meets”. One was the Motorcar Collectors of America)MCCA and the North American Railcar Operators Association(NARCOA). Only Narcoa survives. I got the car running (or so I thought) and contacted Hank Brown from Wisconsin about running on the “Bloomer Line” from Colfax to Kempton Illinois. This is an old ICRR line. The meet was put on by the MCCA. I was told there was room and so I paid my fee to the MCCA which paid the Bloomer for trackage rights plus the railroad OT. So I loaded up my car and my mother & I headed to Kempton. Kempton is by Kankakee and is accessible via a one lane road through the corn fields. As I recall, there was only one motel, one church, one gas station, two bars and large co-op surrounded by corn. The next day I headed to the set on point. After a safety meeting by Hank Brown, I cranked the engine and it started. There were over 12 cars. Soon it was time for me to head onto the main. But as soon as I hooked up the belt, the engine died and it would not restart. Hank had an ex BN Fairmont MT19 with an onan engine{that threw oil}with two speeds forward and reverse. He towed me backwards to Colfax.

At Chatsworth we crossed the TP&W line from Ft Madison to Logansport. At Chatsworth, we had a hand car to join us. They assured us they could maintain 10MPH= LOL!!!! As I recall we had a red block and had to be cleared by the TP&W dispatcher. We went past corn fields, small towns and a brick kiln. I fixed the carb and my next run was French Lick, West Baden & Southern(Ind railroad museum). That was a success. We went through a tunnel etc. The car purred like a kitten! Later I bought an M19F “C&O M1705” and later a MT14L(Onan) CN 155-11 like Joe Batchelder and his dad ran.

I was President of Great Lakes Railcars(a Narcoa Affiliate-Mich, Illinois & Indiana). During my 13 years and 13,000 miles I have ran on the ONR, CN{ Pass Man to Churchill), NYO&W, Bloomer line, Keokuk Jct. FLW&W, TLE&W, Sweetline, Algoma Central(5 times) Collingwood Bar RR(Collinwood ON) C&M, CSS&SB from Michigan City south to La port, Tissbee(TS&BY) Cadillac to Traverse city Cadillac to Clare, Illinois Rail Net/ La Harp to Streator Ill. South Branch Valley,White Water Valley. In 2002 I exited the hobby due to a disagreement with Narcoa. But I hope to rejoin and run with motorcars borrowed from a friend.
Lastly. We DO NOT run on “abandoned track”. We have written permission. We are escorted by the railroad. Must pass a Narcoa Rule exam, Have Narcoa insurance (North American Short Line Insurance CO) of $20,000,000 {The RR WILL NOT allow unless we are insured!)Must sign liability waver, Have Mentoring certificate. All passengers must sign waver. NO alcoholic drinks or illegal drugs(FRA rule G) Or prescription drugs which might effect judgement.
All cars must be up to Narcoa mechanical standards and must pass mechanical inspection before being allowed to run. NO rail bikes or home built carts. We do not have right of way over highway traffic. Must obey Narcoa & RR safety rules. IF a train is coming, our escorts put us in the hole as an “extra” movement until the train passes. THAT is why we are escorted! I am qualified to do Narcoa inspections and have the wheel thickness and profile gauges. Oh, the hand car? We met them exhausted off the track between Chatsworth and Colfax.

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