LIBBY — The Shay Locomotive has had a long history of hauling timber in Libby, and as Heritage Museum volunteers sought to pump new life into No. 1643, they were searching for the perfect companion piece.
Last week the marriage of engine and car was consummated as a Civil War-era passenger car that was once owned by the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus was delivered to Libby.
“We’re just so glad it’s here,” said Ron Carter, the museum’s Equipment Railroad Committee chairman. “It took a lot to bring it here, but it’s here now.”
Carter, Museum Board President Dave Etienne, volunteers Doug Adams, Jay Matthews and Joe Swartzenberger of South End Towing, who drove the 400 miles to White Sulphur Springs to pick up the railcar, inspected the 19th century relic upon its arrival.
“It’s going to have an all-modern undercarriage,” Carter said. “It will meet all modern railroad specifications.”
Carter’s dream — and those of his volunteers — is to have the refurbished Shay locomotive pull the renovated passenger car through the Port Authority property and perhaps even across the Haul Bridge that would include an eight-mile loop.
A date of completion is unknown, mostly because the work is contingent on donations.
Matthews, a retired union boilermaker, is overseeing the rebuilding of the locomotive, affectionately know as “Ole Four Spot.”
In Libby, the Shay hauled logs, supplies and logging crews until about 1924.
As for the railcar, Carter is researching its history. If you can provide any information, call (406) 283-1830.