The Curzon Story (5 of 13)
The Curzon located; its condition

Through a series of letters dating back to 1969, and a host of other contacts and negotiations, the Curzon is located in Wisconsin, apparently intact, but without wheels or undercarriage. A special trip is taken by Museum personnel and volunteers to Wisconsin to view the car. A cursory inspection is made which is exciting due to its wonderfully preserved condition. It also becomes clear that all of the other cars were apparently demolished during the later 1930's. A decision is made to try to acquire the Curzon. Since the car Cranbrook is no more, the Curzon would be appropriate, since all cars were identical. The Curzon repatriation project begins.

In 1969, a Mr. George Barth of Charleston, South Carolina, had written to Mr. Jim Lanigan of Calgary, Alberta. In 1987, a copy of the letter was sent to Garry Anderson of the Cranbrook Railway Museum (now the Canadian Museum of Rail Travel) to note the possibility of one of the existence of one of the "Curzon-class" cars. Also, in the June 1968 edition of the Railroad Model Craftsman, a complete article, designs and current photos of the Curzon appeared, authored by Russ Porter of West Allis (near Milwaukee), Wisconsin. In 1987, Grant Fergusson of the Westcoast Railroad Association in Vancouver also offered this information about this car, as he was aware of the collections policy of the museum.

The first actual visit, as noted was in 1988, when Mike and Helene Westren, and Garry Anderson drove from Cranbrook to Toronto via Wisconsin to see the Curzon. It has been difficult to find the actual location of the Curzon, or its owner. All that was known was that the car was a summer cottage somewhere on the shore of Lake Winnebago. Mr. Frances Weiner of Fond du Lac, and his wife Dorothy, assisted in locating the car, and a visual inspection was done. It was also discovered that the two ladies who lived next door to the summer cottage were relatives, and so the name and address of the owner was uncovered.

Correspondence and phone calls followed between the museum and the owners — Andrew and Carolyn Bartel. It was Andy's father who had bought the Curzon from the Soo Line in 1934 when the car was declared surplus. The car was then apparently taken off its wheels, and its supporting structure and stairwells removed. It was skidded on the ice from the rail yards at Fond du Lac across the lake. and then mounted on several brick posts to keep the car well-supported, level, and away from ground moisture. Additions were added to each side of the car to increase the room. These additions were accessible through small doors cut very carefully inside the car window openings. This precise cuts prevented extensive damage to the car — at least in terms of future restoration. Had the cuts been made elsewhere on the walls, more difficult restorative work would have been entailed.

The Bartel family obviously felt a great deal of affection for the car, because it was maintained in such excellent condition. A great deal of reverence was shown for most of the original fixtures and furniture. The varnishes were never painted over (as seems to be the temptation by so many owners who have had similar experiences with railcars). The light fixtures, stained glass, carpet and original furniture were also maintained in original condition - again a rarity. The bedrooms were carefully used as night accommodation for the adults and children. According to the Bartels, children were not allowed to play in the actual car, but only in the additions built on the sides of the cars. Any use of the actual car was carefully monitored.

Besides the two side additions, a couple of other changes had been done. The end open observation platform had been enclosed. As part of this alteration, the overhanging end roof being "shaved off", and the brass railing being removed (these were donated to Russ Porter at a later date). The open platform sidewalls, originally containing two short arched, leaded glass windows, had also been cut away to provide new walls with large windows facing the lake about ten feet away.

The walls between the pantry (buffet) and bedrooms E and D, and that part of the hallway wall, had also been removed to provide a larger open area for a dining room table and chairs. However, this was again done with a remarkable degree of care. The walls had been cut out just below the door openings so all of the decorative door lintels were left intact, as were the upper baggage racks and trim. Two upper berths & lower seats, two hoppers (or toilets), and one folding sink cabinet were removed, but all of the doors that were removed, were re-mounted elsewhere in the car. For example, the two connecting doors between rooms C, D, and E, were hung up sideways where the upper berths had been to give the illusion of more space in the dining area.

A curved hallway wall and door at the A-end of the car, connecting the drawing room to the hall, had also been carefully cut away just below the trim. Since that curved door had unfortunately been discarded, the room D hallway door had been relocated to that location, while the bedroom E hall door has been put between rooms C and D. Several of the plush covered quilted seats and headrests were found in a storage garage behind the car, and placed in the car before it was moved to Cranbrook. And, several undercar structural elements such as stairwells, and king & and queen posts, were found under the car and sent with it to Cranbrook.