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The Eaglette MotoRailer #670

Much of the following was provided by the generous efforts of Robert Soflin
Contributed material, including ALL photos, by Richard Andrews - son of Missouri Pacific "Eaglette" Brakeman

Edited/Written by T. Greuter

Please read Michael M. Bartles' book "Missouri Pacific River and Prairie
Rails"


One of a Kind
With the dawn of the Eagles, the Missouri Pacific inaugurated its' dieselization by provided the latest in passenger service to St. Louis, Kansas City, Missouri and Omaha, Nebraska. The Lincoln to Union, Nebraska Branch had the proud distinction to be part of this new era thanks to a unique motor train named the Eaglette. Beginning in 1942, the Eaglette ran the 47-mile connecting service at a relaxed 1 hour and 20 minute pace (operating as trains #605-606). At Union, across the platform connections were made to the Eagle (operating as train #5-105 westbound, #106-6 eastbound).



MP 670 Graphic by T. Greuter
Road
Type
First Number
Final Number
Builder
Built
Retired
MP
MotoRailer
670
670
ACF
1942
1961


Offspring of the Eagle - The Eaglette

It was September 1942 when the Missouri Pacific pressed into service new equipment as the connection to the still-new streamlined Eagle. The bi-directional streamlined Eaglette (aka Eaglet, depending on who's spelling you follow) MotoRailer, #670 was one-of-a-kind on the MoPac, patterned after an earlier AC&F design used by the Susquehanna Railroad.

The 75' long passenger/baggage self-propelled motor train, was built by American Car and Foundry in 1942 under lot #2223 at their St. Charles, Missouri facility, according to ACF staff engineer John. A. Krug. #670 balanced both service and economy for the 47-mile Lincoln to Union Branch, as a compliment to the Missouri River Eagle passenger service. The MotoRailer seated 34 passengers (another source says 47), weighed over 108,600 lbs (54.5 tons) and had a large baggage section with a capacity of 10,000 lbs. It bounced and jolted it's passengers along the line at a speedy 55 mph. The car was a perfect match to the Eagle's colors, quickly earning it the nicname Eaglette (also called Eaglet and Little Eagle). The motorailer epitomized modern streamlined passenger service of the day on the branch.

Two ACF photos of the Missouri Pacific motorailer. ACF (American Car & Foundry) built the car in 1942 under lot #2223 at their St. Charles, Missouri facility. Both builders photos show the car at St. Louis, Missouri, August 1942 - Richard Andrews Collection

More than anything else the electrical ignition diesel-powered Motorailer resembled an Eagle passenger car that operated like a streetcar. In appearance, it was streamlined and rounded-smooth with an Egyptian-stylized spread-eagle ornamentation on both ends, somewhat like the Eagle observation/tail cars were. With operational controls at both ends it could run in both directions -- just like a streetcar. Power was provided by a pair of 210HP Waukesha-Hesselman engines. According to J. S. Mueller, Waukesha Engine Division, there were three or four different four cylinder engines used in the motorailer application. With the passage of time, the exact one used for #670 is now up to speculation.

Coach interior at St. Louis, Missouri, August 1942 - A.C.F. Photo / Richard Andrews Collection

 

In 1942, during the height of World War 2, Lincoln residents were captivated by the unique vehicle. The Eaglet quickly achieved "celebrity status." Residents, travelers as well as railfans were won over -- the motorailer came to be an undeniable symbol of the Mopac in Lincoln. At a time when luxuries were few and far between, passengers were treated to the comforts of a streamliner while being able to view into the glass-enclosed engineer's cabin. A four-man crew consisting of the engineer, brakeman, conductor, and Railway Express agent were required to operate the 34-passenger capacity unit. In the book "Missouri River and Prairie Rails" we have the names and faces of the Eaglette crew from 1943: Pat Paterson, railway Express agent; David Hamilton, brakeman; C. B. Goodwin, conductor; and an unidentified engineer. D. H. Andrews, another brakeman for the Eaglette, is not pictured.

The front windows of the cabin allowed passengers a whole new view of rail travel, with unparalleled views of the scenic ride. Through the years the motorailer survived the usual crossing accidents and the extremes of Nebraska's weather. When unavailable, an older motorcar or even a steam driven train (powered by an Atlantic or light Pacific) of one or two cars would fill-in.


Eaglette Memories

The Eaglette was a definite hit with the local kid population, achieving fame that would outlast it's all too brief career. A Lincoln-native now living in Eagle, Bob Soflin writes "I grew up in Bethany Park in the 50's... along the banks and in the depths of "Dead Mans' Run" ... where I used to fish for crawdads under the creek bridge between Cotner and 66th South of Vine. The banked curve between 56th and Cotner offered many hours of pleasure walking the rails waiting for the Eaglette and the daily freight. When no trains were expected the creek offered a diversion and when that didn't entertain us we chased wayward golf balls on nearby Park Valley Golf Course.

"Unfortunately, I also witnessed the horrible incident when the Eaglet was late one winter evening and collided with a car at 66th before any signals were installed."

"I loved the Eaglet and knew when she was coming every day. I got to ride her to Union and back twice before they took her off. I also remember seeing some steam freights and one time a circus train came through. "

But of all Bob's memories, one image stands out among the rest, "As the Eaglet approached Cotner from 56th to me it was the most beautiful thing I ever witnessed."

Over the dozen years of being assigned to the branchline, it became evident that the motorcar's ability to handle the more severe snow drifts of the "Siberian Sub" was less than adequate. During bad winters, deep drifts forced the motorailer runs to a standstill.

When word got out the the Eaglette's Lincoln-Union service was to come to an end, words of protest from the public reached the highest places. One letter written to the Nebraska State Railway Commision stated that no less than Paul J. Neff himself, MP's chief executive officer, heard of the impending retirement from of the Eaglette in 1952. It so happened that the motorailer was a long-time favorite of Neff's -- by the time he had his say the Eaglette was immediately back in service and the official responsible for it's early retirement was demoted.

Eventually, no doubt to the disappointment of the community, the seasonal problem, and the decline in passengers due to improved highways forced the Eaglette's task to be substituted by a more mundane MP bus at a lower cost to the road. The last Lincoln-Union run, a twice-daily ritual for a dozen years, occured on July 1954. But retirement wasn't in the picture just yet.


Now seen as the new Delta Eagle at Helena, Arkansas in 1956. With a new Cummins motors and the roof painted all blue, as well as some new exterior devices added. The #670 spent her last days on the Helena to Memphis, Tennessee run. She'll be retired in five more years to be scrapped. - Richard Andrews Collection

Rebirth - as the "Delta Eagle"
At the same time the Eaglet's Lincoln-Union run was cancelled, the Delta Eagle name was also dropped from the system timetables. MP 670 was sent to MP's Sedalia, Missouri shops for an overhaul, completed in early 1955 with a pair of new Cummins 300-hp diesel engines and an Allison torque converter. It's new assignment put it to work in the warmer climes of the 97-miles Helena-McGhee, Arkansas run, inheriting the remnant of the Delta Eagle (which became a new adopted name). Snowdrift dangers were decidedly minimal here.

It wouldn't be until the decline of rail passenger patronage in the '60's that the MotoRailer was at last retired. The reborn Delta Eagle lasted to February 27, 1960, when the service faithfully ran it's last passenger over the route. Sadly the one-of-a-kind Eaglette/Delta Eagle's story ended at the scrapper's in 1961.

Coincidentally, long before the Missouri Pacific and Chicago & Eastern Illinois were to become associated in any corporate way - The C&EI Egyptian Zipper was assisted in it's schedule when need by a pair of ACF-built motorcars - "Mount Vernon" and "Salem." These two cars were very similar in design to the MoPac's own Eaglet. Photos of all can be seen in Greg Stout's book, "Route of the Eagles."


 

            click thumbnails for larger image

David Andrews in 1943 at Lincoln, Nebraska was the brakeman for the Eaglette. His overall career spanned over 40 years on the MPRR. He is seen here just before departure for Union, Nebraska where passengers could connect with the Missouri River Eagle, taking them north to Omaha or south to Kansas City, Missouri. - Richard Andrews Collection

D. H. Andrews and Young Richard
With so much material on Lincoln's motorailer contributed by Mr. Andrews, it's appropriate to devote some of our time focused solely on his story.

Travel was much less formal on the Eaglette than her parent Eagle streamliners, as testified by Richard Andrews. A member of the Missouri Pacific Historical Society, he has the MoPac in his blood. Now retired, Richard was born in 1937 as one of seven children growing up in Lincoln, Nebraska. His father, David H. Andrews spent his entire 40+ career on the MoPac's Omaha division, including as brakeman for Lincoln's ten-wheeler steam trains and later for the Eaglette Motorailer. Brakeman David is pictured on the back cover of Michael Bartels' book "Missouri Pacific River & Prairie Rails", sitting on the cow catcher, as well as other images on pages 106 & 116.

A glimpse of the railroad's wartime service as witnessed by a very young Richard is also retold on page 119 of the same book. Richard recalls that he and his brothers often would accompany their father as he worked as brakeman on the Eaglette. During these trips in the early 1940's many, many trains out of Lincoln were packed with 100's of troops on their way to fight in the "War to End All Wars". And, on a more sobering note, Richard sadly notes the return trips would carry the remains of too many young men back to Lincoln in wooden boxes on their way to Umber's Mortuary.

From Union the Eaglette was sometimes packed to the doors after the Missouri River Eagle left off her travelers, bound for Lincoln. With gas and tire rationing, rail travel was the once again the prefered way to travel across the country. Though she was designed to seat 34, passengers, temporary bench seating was added along the baggage compartment walls of the motorailer. Everyone else had to stand for the entire 30+ miles of bounding rail travel back to Lincoln. Despite the wartime inconvieniences, it was often a happy occasion. On one occasion the elder Andrews had to unexpectedly contend with some 100 passengers, in which Richard remembers being sat on a Army WAC's lap, who promised to look after him. By mid-1944, such crowding became so severe that a dozen passengers had to be left at Falls City. Even the Eagles didn't have enough room for any more. A year later however, travel conditions began to notably improve.

Passenger service in Lincoln, 1939-1940, before the arrival of the #670. The last car on this train was a sleeper which would be switched at Union, Nebraska for St. Louis, Missouri. The power is a pinstripped NW4, one of only two built for the MoPac in 1938. The numberboard is fuzzy, but this engine is still numbered 824, its EMC numbering before becoming MP #4103. The station's spire juts upward in the background as the train prepares to depart on one of its two round trips to Union and back. Photo taken on an old Kodak box camera. - H. Andrews Photo / Richard Andrews Collection
#670 Builders shot at St. Charles, Missouri; August 1942, prior to its delivery to Lincoln. - A.C.F. Photo / Richard Andrews Collection
#670 Builders shot at St. Charles, Missouri; August 1942 - A.C.F. Photo / Richard Andrews Collection
#670 Builders shot at St. Charles, Missouri; August 1942 - A.C.F. Photo / Richard Andrews Collection
#670 Builders shot at St. Charles, Missouri; August 1942 - A.C.F. Photo / Richard Andrews Collection
Builders shot, view of engineer's cab from the baggage area, at St. Charles, Missouri; August 1942. Mr. Andrews notes that seats were added in the baggage for 6 feet, and folded up and down. Two poles in the floor held the seat up. In addition to the seats, wooden benches had leather covers and backs. - A.C.F. Photo / Richard Andrews Collection


A little Background on the AC&F MotoRailer
American Car & Foundry, the Motorailers' manufacturer, was made up of 13 companies that produced various products over the years from all designs of railcars, to yachts, army tanks, buses, and even mixing bowls.

An ACF sales brochure of a similar motorailer. - Richard Andrews Collection

Being much more than a "doodlebug," the self-propelled rail car, called a MotoRailer, were a big change from the noisy, smoky, brutish-looking gas-electric cars that many passengers were familiar with. The American Car & Foundry MotoRailers incorporated the latest in streamlining, had comfortable, visually attractive and air conditioned interiors and were propelled with low compression, electrical ignition diesel power with smooth shifting, torque-converter transmissions. They were also bidirectional with a cab at each end.

Information is spotty on these cars, but I've found them to also be used on the PC&SW (4 units built in 1938), the O&W (# 805), the Susquehanna (#1001-1002), and on the Missouri & No Arkansas. In 1947 the New York, Susquehanna and Western bought 2 ACF Motorailer's #1005 and 1006, which were sold back to ACF from the Illinois Central in 1943 and sat at the ACF Berwick plant for 4 years before the NYSW bought them. The Alaska Railroad ran a Navy owned Motorailer #213.

Most have met their ultimate fate at the scrappers, but there are still a few who escaped time. Motorailer #157 (listed as ex Norfolk Southern) is stored in Cuba of all places. And reportedly you can ride modified ACF Motorailer cars, powered by n.g. Baldwins, on Colombia's remaining steam-powered passenger routes in the mountainous Bogota area.


List of AC&F Motorailers:

  • Seaboard Air Line - #2024-2026 (1935)
  • C&EI - #245 & 342 (1937)
  • PC&SW - 4 units (1938)
  • O&W - #805
  • Missouri & No Arkansas - #705 & 726 (1938)
  • NYS&W - #1001 & 1002 (1940)
  • IC - #130 & 131 (1940), later NYS&W - #1005 & 1006 (1947)
  • MP - #670 (1942)
  • US Navy - #213, served on the Alaska RR in 1942.

There were also a small number of units of similar construction as the Motorailer that are not listed here.

The Illinois Central's #130 "Illini" was another example of the few A.C.F. MotoRailers built. Unlike the MoPac's Eaglette, the Illini was mated with a twin, the #131 "Miss Lou" - thus both were not of the bi-directional design. The IC also purchased a two-car MotoRailer which was dubbed "Land O' Corn". Only the forward car had an engineers cab. Photo circa approx. 1940 - Richard Andrews Collection
Illustration of Waukesha-Hessler 225HP motor. In the original construction of the Eaglette, main power was provided by a pair of 210HP Waukesha-Hesselman engines. According to J. S. Mueller, Waukesha Engine Division, there were three or four different four cylinder engines used in the motorailer application. - Waukesha E. D. Illust. / Richard Andrews Collection
The MotoRailer power trucks had coil springs over the Timken roller bearing journal boxes with bolster supported on eiliptic springs. The geared axle drive with its shifting mechanism is seen in the foreground. - A.C.F. Photo / Richard Andrews Collection






Sources:
Robert Soflin
Richard Andrews - son of Missouri Pacific "Eaglette" Brakeman
Missouri Pacific River and Prairie Rails by Michael M. Bartels
Missouri Pacific Lines in Color by Joe Collias
Route of the Eagles by Greg Stout

Every effort has been made to get the correct information on these pages, but mistakes do happen. Reporting of any inaccuracies would be appreciated.

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