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Kalamazoo No.2 Section Handcar

Updated: Aug 16, 2020


This handcar was built by the Kalamazoo Velocipede Company in Kalamazoo, Michigan between 1910 and 1930. The original handcar was severely damaged from a collision, but was painstakingly restored to original condition in 2019.


The frame, deck, gallows, and brake shoes are all newly fabricated from eastern hard maple, while the steel and iron are mostly original. Some of the missing parts, such as the connecting rod and brake rods have been fabricated using the original shop drawings.


So what is a Handcar?


A handcar is a railroad car powered by its passengers, or by people pushing the car from behind.


Handcars like this one, were used by the Canadian Pacific Railway until the late 1930s. They were used primarily by four-man crews to perform inspections and maintenance on their eight to ten mile-long sections. With the introduction of gasoline powered motor-cars, handcars were quickly retired and scrapped as they were labour intensive. Just getting the section crew from the tool house to the work site was hard work!


The wheels are 20" in diameter (22" on the flange). The axles have Hyatt spiral wound roller bearings and are equipped with oil filler tubes from the side rails. The crown gear and walking beam (pump handle arms) have Babbitt lined bushings. The connecting rod has "gun metal" (red brass) bushings, which are oil lubed. The walking beam's handles are turned from hickory. The handcar weighs approximately 600- 650 pounds unloaded, so the brake shoes are lined with 5/16" thick leather to increase braking.


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