General News

MSOE Hosts First Design Review of Innovative STEM Education Initiative Based Around Milwaukee County Zoo Steam Train


The Milwaukee School of Engineering CREATE Institute hosted the first design review of an innovative, multi- high school STEM engineering challenge this week. The program, which is headed up by Learn Deep in collaboration with the Milwaukee County Zoo and the Coalition for Sustainable Rail (CSR) seeks to pilot an innovative education initiative that partners area high schools with colleges to bolster STEM education. With the participation of six local high schools, five colleges, and multiple industry sponsors, this initiative seeks to leverage the Zoo train to spur meaningful tech education. The goal of the initiative is to help schools build the capacity and relationships to collaborate across districts with community partners to take on real world engineering challenges. 

“The Zoo’s North Shore Bank Safari Train is one of our most beloved attractions, and something which hundreds of thousands of visitors ride each year,” explained Chuck Wikenhauser, Director of the Milwaukee County Zoo. “We are excited to have the Zoo train serve as a tool to engage local schools and universities in a collaborative learning opportunity that will both improve our railroad at the Zoo and create lasting learning experiences.”

During the project kickoff, Joost Allard and Pete Reynolds of LearnDeep addressed the crowd of 85 high school students and 10 industry reviewers.

During the project kickoff, Joost Allard and Pete Reynolds of LearnDeep addressed the crowd of 85 high school students and 10 industry reviewers.

The driving vision for this effort is to have Milwaukee area students design and fabricate an advanced steam locomotive powered by renewable fuels. That’s too big a challenge to take on off the bat, so over the next few years, students will complete projects of increasing complexity related to the Zoo train. Students are working this year to design and fabricate a replacement for the wooden water tower that services the steam train.

“Our goal with Learn Deep is to find opportunities to build connections across schools and industry to develop meaningful learning opportunities, and this effort with the Milwaukee County Zoo is our most exciting initiative to-date,” said Pete Reynolds, Co-Founder of Learn Deep. “The initiative taps into the energy and enthusiasm of educators who want to see their students do great things. It has also allowed industry and university partners to easily see where they can plug in to support innovative efforts in education that have a community-wide impact.”

This semester, students completed conceptual designs for a new water tower. They shared their designs, decisions, and processes with teams from other schools before a review panel hosted by MSOE on December 10th. In spring 2019, students will take what they learned from the review session to complete detailed designs which will be presented for review at an event hosted by UWM in early May. At that event a design approach will be selected.

“We strive to find opportunities for our students to connect with the community and dive deeper into developing both the mindset and skillset they need to become responsible professionals.  MSOE’s faculty often work directly with community partners like the Milwaukee County Zoo.  However, this project offers a unique opportunity for our students to mentor high school students while working to add value to the community.  All stakeholders involved owe this opportunity to the coordination efforts and vision of Learn Deep,” explained MSOE CREATE Institute Director DeAnna Leitzke, P.E. “Furthermore, this project is unique in that it allows high school students to interact with clients, practitioners, tradespeople, college students, and professors to solve a real world problem. This enables high school students to experience both academia and the trades, helping to inform their decisions post high school in a way that encourages equally the pursuit of higher education or skilled craft.”

Detailed engineering will happen in a boot camp over the summer, and schools will fabricate parts during the fall semester of 2019, for installation by spring of 2020. Fall 2019 will also see the kick off for the next phase of the project-- design and fabrication of an automated coal handling system.

Interesting the future in the rail industry is one of the key goals of this initiative. Kalmbach Publishing Co. was kind enough to donate dozens of magazines for the students to take home with them.

Interesting the future in the rail industry is one of the key goals of this initiative. Kalmbach Publishing Co. was kind enough to donate dozens of magazines for the students to take home with them.

Throughout the effort, participating students have the chance to visit university and industry partners for on-site workshops related to the project. This semester students attended a design thinking workshop hosted by Briggs & Stratton’s Concept Design Team, and a workshop on structural engineering considerations for the water tower hosted by MSOE. Teams are also supported by engineering students from partner institutions, as well as a pool of industry mentors.

“Following previous biofuel research we did with the Milwaukee County Zoo with its steam locomotives, we are excited to assist in this education program, in large part as it serves as a means to familiarize a new generation with railroads,” said CSR President Davidson Ward. “The rail industry overall is facing challenges attracting new talent in the face of retiring baby boomers, and the ability to engage a new generation with the concept of railroading, even on the scale of the Zoo train, is something that is both important and meaningful.”

Learn Deep serves as the overall coordinator of the program, with support from the Zoological Society of Milwaukee. The partners seek the involvement, engagement, and support of local industries and philanthropists. Should you be interested in learning more and/or supporting this work, reach out to Pete Reynolds, Learn Deep.

Everett Railroad Testing Postponed


The testing of torrefied biomass fuel in Everett Railroad steam locomotive No. 11 has been postponed until later this summer.

Why the date change?

As we mention on our Everett Railroad Testing page,  primary research comes with twists and turns that are sometimes unexpected. In the case of this rescheduling, a large rotary densifier that NRRI intended to use for densifying the fuel into usable pellets had to be taken out of service for retooling. Until that machine is back online, we have no way to properly prepare the fuel for testing in the larger locomotive.

Current time estimates for the retooling of the machine indicate it might return to service in June, but we will wait to reschedule the testing until we know that we can properly condition the fuel. Once that is determined, and we are able to arrive upon viable test dates with our collaborators at the Everett Railroad, we will set the test date. More info will be provided as it is available.

CSR Adds New Board Members

We are pleased to announce that CSR has added two additional new members to its Board of Directors: Matthew R. Bergmann and Gary F. Knudsen. These two Kansans each bring a depth of experience in their respective fields that will serve to benefit CSR. Brief bios are shared below, and additional information on all of the CSR Board Members and Advisors can be found here.


Mr. Bergmann is an attorney at Topeka-based law firm Frieden, Unren & Forbes, LLP, where he specializes in the areas of administrative, business, public affairs and legislation, real estate, workers compensation and general practice matters. 

Mr. Bergmann’s preparatory education took place at Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas where he graduated, magna cum laude, in 2001. He received his juris doctorate from the Washburn University School of Law in 2005.  During his preparatory and legal education Mr. Bergmann studied internationally, participating in coursework at Orebro University in Orebro, Sweden, as well as King’s College and the London School of Economics in London, England. 

Mr. Bergmann was selected to the 2014 Super Lawyers Rising Star List for Kansas. In 2012, he was honored as one of top “20 Under 40” young professionals in Topeka. In 2008, Mr. Bergmann was named the Topeka Bar Association’s Outstanding Young Lawyer. Mr. Bergmann is an Eagle Scout receiving that honor from the Boy Scouts of America in 1997. In addition to his volunteer position on the CSR Board of Directors, Mr. Bergmann currently sits on the Board of Directors for TARC, and has also served on the Board of the Directors for the Topeka Bar Association. Mr. Bergmann is a member of the Topeka Bar Association, Kansas Bar Association, American Bar Association, NSBA Council of School Attorneys, the Topeka Active 20/30 Club and Topeka Lawyers Club. 


Mr. Knudsen is no stranger to the arena of railroad preservation, offering thirty year's experience in the steam preservation industry. He began volunteering in the preservation industry at the Black River & Western Railroad, where he assisted with the restoration to operation of former Great Western Railway 2-8-0 steam locomotive No. 60. In 1990, he began volunteering with the Michigan State Trust for Railway Preservation in Owosso, Michigan, where he served as both a board member and an active volunteer in the operations of Pere Marquette locomotive No. 1225. With the organization for nearly 30 years, Mr. Knudsen handled all manner of  planning, organizing, and operations tasks associated with the safe operation of the 1941-built 2-8-4 steam locomotive. 

Mr. Knudsen began his professional career in the commercial aviation sector, working for more than 20 years in the field of aviation insurance underwriting. He is a certified airline transport pilot with more than 40 years of incident-free flying experience.

Following his airline career and seeking a change of pace, Mr. Knudsen hired on with the BNSF Railway in 2004 first as a conductor, then working his way up to the position of locomotive engineer. Working at the BNSF until his retirement in 2013, he garnered experience in freight operations in the California, Kansas, Nebraska and Springfield Divisions of the BNSF Railway, as well as the Oakland, Martinez, Niles, and Fresno Subdivisions of the Union Pacific Railroad. With safety first in mind, he worked for nine years with no FRA reportable injuries, incidents or accidents. 

Since retirement to Lawrence, Kansas, Mr. Knudsen has become involved with local preservation efforts, including having served on the board of the Lawrence, Kansas, Depot Redux project. That grass roots effort involved funding and logistics associated with the preservation of the former Santa Fe Railway passenger depot in Lawrence. 

How to Operate a Steam Locomotive, with Santa Fe 3464!

Ever wonder how the Santa Fe trained its crews to operate steam locomotives? CSR worked with the Kansas Historical Society to have this Santa Fe Railway training video re-scanned at 1080p resolution from the original 16MM film. We then edited the piece together, complete with narration and some "period" music. It also provides some video evidence of the high speed running these locomotives provided - 90+ MPH!

More information to the "sister" locomotive to that which "starred" in this video can be found on the CSR webpage dedicated to 3463

Lawsuit Regarding Santa Fe Steam Locomotive Settled, CSR Rightful Owner of ATSF 3463

On July 6, 1948, Santa Fe steam locomotive No. 3463 rests between runs at Dearborn Station. Photographer unknown, from the collection of Warren Scholl, colorized by Jared Enos in 2015.

T O P E K A, K A N S A S | January 23, 2018 –  The ownership dispute over former Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway steam locomotive number 3463 (ATSF 3463) has been settled by an agreement of four parties, with ownership finally vested in favor of the Coalition for Sustainable Rail (CSR). An agreement between CSR, the City of Topeka, the Attorney General of Kansas, and the Great Overland Station ratified last week clarifies that the 1937-built steam engine is the property of CSR. The Minnesota-based not-for-profit also announced this week that it will be shifting its goals with the locomotive from research to preservation.

“We are thankful to the hard work and dedication of the City of Topeka, the Kansas Attorney General, the Great Overland Station and, certainly, the outstanding team at Frieden, Unrein, and Forbes, LLP, that handled this unique and challenging case,” said CSR President Davidson Ward. “We look forward to continuing our work in Topeka, especially as we announced today our shift in plans for the one-of-a-kind locomotive from solid biofuel testbed to preserved artifact.”

When CSR initially announced its biofuel and steam technology project in mid-2012, it had sought to use ATSF 3463 as a centerpiece of the research and as a showpiece of the technology. This plan was put abruptly on hold in 2013 due to an ownership dispute over the steam engine, and CSR leadership pursued other avenues to keep the research progressing despite the delay.

“Instead of hoping and waiting for the lawsuit to be resolved in our favor, we decided to continue our pursuit of solid biofuel, steam locomotive, and advanced steam technologies,” said CSR Senior Mechanical Engineer Wolf Fengler. “Now that those initiatives are well underway, vetting the theories we had hoped to prove with the Santa Fe locomotive, we have opted to table our plans to modify the engine as a testbed. Instead, CSR will work with collaborators in Topeka to ensure the locomotive is moved, preserved, and, if practical, restored to operation.”

CSR will work with collaborators in Topeka to ensure the locomotive is moved, preserved, and, if practical, restored to operation.

CSR is launching a program today to ensure that ATSF 3463 is properly preserved. The goal is to raise funding to move the locomotive from the Kansas Expocentre grounds to a location in Topeka where it can be preserved, develop a covered home base for the locomotive in Topeka, and determine whether there is a viable case for returning the locomotive to steam as a preserved artifact. Depending on the outcome of the "go / no go" decision regarding operational restoration, CSR will either pursue overhauling the locomotive to operation, or perform a cosmetic restoration to return it to its appearance when donated to the City in 1956.

“The ultimate goal is to ensure the locomotive has a future where it is properly preserved, be that as an operational locomotive or as a static display,” explained CSR Board Member and Santa Fe Railway Historian Warren Scholl. “Now that the ownership of the artifact has been clarified, we look forward to working with all partners, local and national, to ensure the safe future of ATSF 3463.”

Everett Railroad Fundraising Gaining Steam!

CSR has made significant headway towards its goal of raising $20,000 in support of biofuel testing at the Everett Railroad. We closed out 2017 with raising just under $15,000 towards that goal, and work is still underway preparing for those tests later this year.

We recently released this video on Facebook supporting our fundraising efforts. We want YOU to ride along with us on these upcoming tests. Donors to CSR are invited to ride along! Details are found on our Everett Railroad page, or you may give online here.