Lake City

Milwaukee Road Lake City at IRM

Milwaukee Road Lake City
Milwaukee Road Lake City, October 2011 (Image by Michael Baksic)

History of the Lake City

In 1915, seven identical observation cars were completed for the Milwaukee Road; Agawam, Snohomish, Arequipa, Keechelus, Wakpal, Manto and Enumclaw. All were named for places in Montana and the Pacific Northwest but were all renamed in 1926 for unknown reasons. These seven cars were renamed as the Lake series. 

Agawam was renamed Lake Washington. Snohomish became Lake Delavan. Arequipa became Lake Michigan. Keechelus was renamed Lake Keechelus. Wakpala changed to Lake Superior. Manto became Lake Calhoun. According to the plans, Enumclaw was to be changed originally to Lake Andes but was instead renamed after Lake City, MN. 

This information comes from an article in The Milwaukee Railroader magazine, Fourth Quarter 2002 by William Von Seht, who purchased the Lake City in 1989 to save it. At that time the car had been sitting outside, exposed to the elements and vandals for twenty some years and was in very rough shape. Remarkably, the car interior had remained in fairly original condition as the car was used for work-train duty as a dining room and kitchen car. 

According to Mr. Von Seht: "The observation lounge became a crew mess hall. The six-section sleeping areas was retained to house the car's kitchen crew, thus rendering that segment of the car intact. The smoking room was also preserved, being used to store 55-gallon drums of fuel oil for the three heating stoves throughout the car. The women's room and compartment 'A' took the brunt of the damage. Shop forces ripped out the wall between the two rooms and also removed a wall next to the hallway. A very large sink was installed for the entire length of the two rooms. Two cook stoves and a work table took up the rest of the floor space in the railroad's quest to convert the car to kitchen service. Two water tanks were bolted through the ceiling to the roof. Additional holes were cut through the roof to place filler pipes for the tanks. Everything that was in these two rooms was stripped out. These radical changes were the price of being spared the fate of the other six cars, which were scrapped."

Extensive images of the car taken at Mr. Von Seht's Wisconsin location in October 2011 can be found online at the IRM Photo Gallery for the Lake City. Back issues of The Milwaukee Railroader Fourth Quarter 2002 are available through Milwaukee Road Historical Association. Research is underway to find more information about the car but for now, the article in The Milwaukee Railroader is as good as it gets. 

William Von Seht passed away on Friday, August 12, 2011. His wife Nancy decided to donate the car to IRM and their daughter contacted Nick Kallas. The date of this writing is March 22, 2012. Once the load limits are off the roads and the ground is solid enough to hold the equipment needed to load the car on a flatbed truck, the move will be made from Coon Valley, Wisconsin to the Illinois Railway Museum near Union, Illinois. Nick suggested it would probably be May or later before the car is relocated. 

The Lake City is a unique passenger car in several ways.

  • It has a unique floor plan as it was made for public transportation instead of being a private car but it was definitely first class transportation in the early 20th Century.
  • The ceiling differs in the observation lounge where it has stained-glass clerestory windows. (Nancy Von Seht restored all the stained glass windows on the Lake City and there are over 50 of them.) In the berth area and Compartment A there are empire ceilings.
  • The observation porch is a deep well obs with a bigger standing area than would be found on a private car. 

While seeking information about the Lake City and William Von Seht an image was discovered which is shared below. It seems Bill was an artist as well as a truck driver and railroad preservationist. He painted the side of the barn he built to house some of his railroad equipment and what a fine image it is. 

Bill Von Seht Railroad Art on Barn
Bill Von Seht Railroad Art on Barn (courtesy of Golden Hills Auction)

The car is parked inside Barn 3 on the east end. More information about Lake City will be posted here as it happens and history updates will be posted as they are found. 

2 thoughts on “Lake City

  1. Bill was my best friend when we lived in Madeira Beach Florida. I’m only sorry that we could not reconnect before his passing. It does not supprise me that he would do something like this, he was alays very “GIVING”.

  2. I am Amy von Seht and William (Bill) was my grandfother. As a kid I remember running around the shed with my siblings and asking grandpa if he could pant me something. I really appreciate what you have done for his car that he work very hard on. Thank you

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.