Old railroad car to find new life

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Charles H. Featherstone/Columbia Basin Herald A big diesel locomotive backs the “Ruth M,” an old railroad coach that once belonged to Monte Holm, out of town and on its way to a new life in Centralia.

MOSES LAKE — It’s long been said that Harry Truman, running for president in 1948, crossed the country in this rail car, stopping at towns along the way and “giving ’em hell,” eventually coming out victorious in an election he wasn’t supposed to win.

“We’re going to add it to our train as an upscale dinner car or a railroad bed and breakfast,” said Bill Thompson, president of the Chehalis-Centralia Railroad and Museum.

“This is quite a piece of railroad equipment, it’s 102 years old, and another car to go with our dinner train,” he added.

The rail car he’s speaking about is “Ruth M,” and it has been sitting for years a spur of track near the intersection of West Broadway Avenue and West Commerce Way, along with two fading cabooses and old coal tender.

Wednesday, around noon, it was hauled away by a big diesel locomotive painted in the orange, yellow and black of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad.

“I don’t want to let this get away,” Thompson said.

The old rail car — a dining car with sleeping berths — once belonged to Monte Holm, who settled in Moses Lake in the 1950s, started a thriving scrap metal business, and created his own small railroad to fulfill an adolescent promise.

Holm spent many of his teenage years in the 1930s riding the rails, and according to his grandson Steve Rimple, Holm was kicked off so many trains that he decided one day he’d own his own railroad so he’d never get kicked off again.

And he did, buying a steam locomotive with a tender, the dining car, and two cabooses, sometimes running them around Moses Lake until liability concerns forced him to stop.

When he died in 2006, the cars and the engine passed to others. The locomotive was sold to a small railroad in Alaska for restoration in October 2014.

Thompson said someone recently sent him a photo of the “Ruth M” and he said, “I know where that is.”

“I was in that car 45 years ago,” Thompson said. “I came to Moses Lake to buy a tractor, and I went to Monte’s museum, and I saw his train.

“First, we’re going to put a new roof on it, and then we’re going to paint it. That’s all she needs outside,” he said.

Of course, all of the broken and boarded-up windows will have to be replaced, Thompson said, and the car will also need a new carpet. The heating and cooling system, and the car’s electrical generator, will also need to be refurbished.

“But the galley and the sleeping area appear to be in good shape,” Thompson added.

The Chehalis-Centralia will also be taking possession of two cabooses and the coal tender, Thompson said. However, those cars are not certified to be hauled on a mainline railroad, and so they will come with a crane and load the tender and each caboose on a truck, and then haul them to Centralia.

“One of the cabooses is gutted,” Thompson said. “We’re going to convert that to a party caboose for kids.”

The Chehalis-Centralia Railroad and Museum runs an old steam locomotive and several other cars for tourists — offering dinners, sightseeing, and Valentine train rides, and even the Christmastime “Polar Express” — on roughly 10 miles of short line track owned by the Port of Chehalis.

Thompson said he and his fellow railroaders are looking forward to getting the “Ruth M” out to the West Side.

“We’re anxious to get it here and get working on it,” he said.

Charles H. Featherstone can be reached via email at countygvt@columbiabasinherald.com.

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