West Side Lumber Company Coffin Tank Car #5 and Steam Pump. This odd-looking railcar may not have been one of a kind back in its day, but I'd wager it is now. You are looking at West Side Lumber Company Coffin Tank Car #5. It is called a "coffin tank" because....well....because the tank is shaped just like a coffin. Built for the Nevada-California-Oregon (N-C-O) Railroad, it was purchased used by the West Side Lumber Company in 1926. The riveted, 3100 gallon tank was placed on a wooden flat car, and used by the West Side for nearly the next 40 years. Initially, it was used to bring fuel oil to remote logging operations. In it's last years, it was equipped with a steam-powered water pump, and used as a fire-fighting car. After retirement, it was purchased by the Roaring Camp & Big Trees tourist railroad, but apparently was not well-cared for. By the end of the 20th century, it was a derelict.
In 2001, the Sumpter Valley Railroad made a trade with the Roaring Camp operation for this car. It arrived in McEwen in a very sad state. Over the past decade, the Western Railway Preservation Society, a volunteer group, has undertaken its restoration. The flat car has been entirely rebuilt, and the original tank has been saved, albeit with some pretty serious patches here and there. A replacement steam pump has also been found and restored. The car saw its first use on the 2013 Sumpter Valley Fall Photo Train, as an auxiliary water car for Heisler #3.
In this photo, you see the tank car in action during a lunch stop in Sumpter. The steam pump on Tank Car #5 is pumping water from the tank into Heisler #3's tender using steam provided by a line from the locomotive. During the entire weekend, there was never a concern about having to curtail run-bys for fear of running out of water. Heisler #3 always had a ready source coupled right behind her.