Case Studies

The Varied History & Restoration of the William Mason No. 25

Our mechanical team rebuilds and restores all aspects of the trains, including the construction and refurbishment of wooden passenger cars, like the ones you ride in when you visit Strasburg Rail Road. A project from our archives is our work on the William Mason No. 25 for the movie Wild Wild West (1999).

A Brief History of the William Mason No. 25

The William Mason No. 25 was built in 1856 by Mason Machine Works Co. in Taunton, MA,  for the Baltimore & Ohio (B&O) Railroad. It is a 4-4-0 wheel configuration and it’s also an American-type locomotive.

This was the first B&O locomotive to have a Stephenson link valve motion and a round smoke box set on a cylinder saddle. 

The B&O No. 25 is believed to be the locomotive that transported President Abraham Lincoln from Baltimore to Washington DC for his inauguration. After that, it was used extensively in the Civil War to transport Union troops and supplies.

It was retired from service in 1891. In 1927, the locomotive was rebuilt and was renamed the “William Mason” after its original builder. 

Over the years, it was used in different movies including:

  • The Great Locomotive Chase (1956)
  • Raintree Country (1957)
  • Lincoln (1988 miniseries)
  • Tuck Everlasting (2002)
  • Gods and Generals (2003)

How Does Strasburg Mechanical Services Fit In?

When the movie Wild Wild West (1999) was being developed, Warner Brothers rented the William Mason from the B&O Railroad Museum. It had been sitting in storage so it needed not only cosmetic work but mechanical work as well. The decision was made to send it to Strasburg Rail Road’s Mechanical Shop for restoration. 

What Work Did We Do?

The William Mason was sent to Strasburg Rail Road to be rebuilt for service in early 1998. The rebuilt locomotive was steam tested in late June 1998.

Once inside our shop, the locomotive was disassembled and inspected. The tubes and dry pipe were pulled out of the boiler, and the inside was cleaned. 

The lead truck and drivers were removed from under the locomotive, along with the side/main rods and valve gear. We also removed the tender tank from the frame. 

The boiler received new tubes, water glass, safety valves, jacketing, and lagging. New drafting equipment was installed on the smokebox and the stack received a new spark arrestor. The frame was then repaired and the pedestal binders were properly fit up to the frame. 

We put new tires on the rear drivers and cleaned the lead truck. The engine was trammed to side rods. The spring rigging was cleaned and rebuilt so the frame sat level. We also built a new pilot. 

The tender tank and wooden tender frame were repaired and the tender trucks were repaired. 

After the repaired parts were reassembled, a new jacketing frame was installed on the boiler, new insulation was installed and the jacket was installed. 

Cosmetically the engine and tender received a new coat of paint and the tires/wheel rims were painted white. We also added polished brass jacket bands, steam dome and sand dome shrouds, and cylinder jacketing.

Then came the little touches, like installing a bell, handrails, piping, and then polished copper piping were installed.

Once that was completed, the William Mason No. 25 was ready for the big screen. 

Working with Strasburg Mechanical Services

We’re passionate not only about trains but for their preservation and restoration. Any time we can help save a train from being damaged by time, we’ll do anything we can to prevent that. 

Looking for a passionate team to help with your restoration project? Contact us today for help on your restoration project.