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Don's Rail Photos

Thunder Lake Lumber Co.

Robbins RR

70 years ago the woods north of Rhinelander, Wisconsin, no longer echoed to the sounds of steam locomotives pulling loads of logs and loggers when the Thunder Lake Lumber Co. closed down its rail operations which ran as a common carrier, the Robbins RR. I remember taking a vacation as a small child in 1941 when we stopped at Rhinelander to see the locomotive on display next to the highway. As I remember, it had the name Ross on the cab. My next visit was 13 years later when I got a photo of locomotive 7 showing that there had been some care of this relic. I returned to Rhinelander 35 years later and found many changes. There was now a logging museum. Locomotive 7 had gone to Colorado where she had served before she had come to Wisconsin. In her place was locomotive 5 which had come back to Wisconsin from Mexico. In addition, a home built business car was now added to the display.

Mike Brehm has furnished the following information from Harvey Huston's book "Thunder Lake Narrow Gauge" which was published in 1961.

No. 7, a 2-8-0, was completed by Baldwin (Baldwin #4919) in January, 1880, and its first service was as No. 51 of the Denver, South Park & Pacific in Colorado. Later it became successively No. 191 of the Denver, Leadville & Gunnison and No. 31 of the Colorado & Southern. Thereafter it was sold to Edward Hines Lumber Co. and then drifted to A. A. Bigelow Lumber Co. at Washburn, Wisconsin, where it was purchased about 1904 by Robbins Railroad Co. When operative, it had 15 x 18 inch cylinders, 36 inch drive wheels, 160 pounds boiler pressure, weighed 68,000 pounds, exerted 15,280 pounds traction force. No. 7 had cracked cylinder when it came to the Narrow Gauge, and its use was limited also by the fact that the cautious Frank Robbins considered it too heavy an engine for even the main line except when the ground was frozen.

No. 5, a 2-8-0, was completed by Baldwin (Baldwin #58530) in August, 1925 according to Superintendent Smith's specifications, with small wheels and a long stroke, and "could she ever pull!" No. 5 had 15x20 in cylinders, 36 inch drive wheels, 180 pound boiler pressure, weighed 80,550 pounds, and exerted 19,100 pounds traction force. This locomotive was purchased as a replacement for No. 10, the Lima Shay, as a woods switch engine. No. 5, like Nos. 6, 9 and 12, sported, in summer a huge spark arrester that was built at a Wausau iron works. These spark arresters were removed each winter. Following abandonment of the Narrow Gauge, No. 5 was sold to a mining company in Mexico in 1941.

The only passenger car ever owned by the Narrow Gauge was a cane-seated coach purchased second-hand from the Flint & Pere Marquette about 1897. It was used mainly in excursion trains since the Narrow Gauge never had regular passenger service. After 1919 Jack Mylrea had it converted into a business car, equipped with two double bunks and a kitchen with refrigerator. The observation end contained a table and chairs made by Wausau Novelty Co., which stamped the invoice "liquor and poker chip proof." Veneer panelling was used throughout the car. At the end of operations the car was left parked on a length of track alongside the former Thunder Lake Store, where for some time it served as a home for former Woods Superintendent Jack Bell. Covered with a coat of white paint which has hidden the original red paint with the "Flint & Pere Marquette" headboard, it remained in used as a cottage at the location until August, 1960. At that time, two months after Jack Bell's death, the car was donated by the Bell family to the Rhinelander Logging Museum; it was moved to Rhinelander on a "low boy' trailer and now rests on a length of track behind engine 7. (Ed. Notes: Now it is behind the 5 which replaced the 7.)



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