Saving A K-M - One Piece At A time
Robert J. Zenk
Sometimes you have an instinct to protect something for posterity. It was April of 1969, and my friend Tom Irion had told me that Associated Metals in Sacramento was selling Krauss-Maffei cab seats and I might want to pay a visit.
It was a cold, rainy Saturday as I recall. The yard was open half a day. I was a sixteen-year-old K-M devotee, and my Dad, a young lad of sixty-one at the time, was being a true sport -- volunteering to help his railfan kid buy one upholstered keepsake and head for home. It was a grim sight, that scrap line, with 9108, 9120, 9104, and my favorite 9107. Last K-M I ever saw running, and the last K-M to operate for the SP -- the former 9004 of factory photo fame.
If I hadn't been a hardened veteran of SP dead lines already, I might have shed a tear. But by then, I was used to these depressing sights.
It got a little more involved when the yard guy said we could buy metal by the pound. So armed with a couple screwdrivers, a pair of pliers, and the will, we started figuring out what we could stuff into the very shallow trunk of the family sedan, with about an hour to go.
I wanted to save something that showed how K-M built the hood structure of the ML4000's. I didn't know that Sacramento General Shops was working with SP 9113 (9010) at that very moment, converting it to a Camera Car and cheating the Reaper. In that rainy moment, I believed my Dad and I represented the Last Chance K-M Preservation Society. Membership: 2.
We managed without trouble, my Dad and me, to lift out the double doors from the right side short hood. Great! They've got the 'bloody nose' wings! And a number board - that'll preserve those chrome diecast overcenter latches for all posterity. A headlight housing, a classification light assembly, don't forget to pick the best seat, and while we're in the cab, how about a couple switch panels? Which one pulls the easiest? Grab 'em!
Light was fading, and the yard was closing. We walked the soggy, sad line, Dad and I, and pulled the Maybach Mercedes-Benz data plates from as many silent V-16's as we could. (No builder's plates left, but here was at least something with a name on it.) Finally giving up to darkness and rain, we hauled our treasure to the scales, paid the man (as I recall) $20 for the seat, and another $25 for a hundred-twenty pounds of scrap metal.
I treasured those pieces for nearly three decades, then finally loaded them up and donated them to CSRM, to stay with the remains of SP 9010. Ten or more years later, I get a call from Howard Wise, asking if I'm the same guy who'd written a couple K-M historical articles back in the 1980's. When he said "PLA has the K-M and it's going to be restored" it was like hearing "Tranquility Base here... the Eagle has landed." And I said "Well, yeah, that's me. And once upon a time I had some pieces for it."
Did I have the foresight to know that the only K-M to be saved could really use those two doors? Or that the one piece missing from the cab circuit breaker panel of SP 9010 is the one piece I chose to pull from a sister, forty years ago? I'd like to say 'yes', but that'd be a slight exaggeration. If we'd had a truck and more time, I'd have probably pulled the whole nose, just to have one in our garage! But it wasn't so much foresight as just the desire to keep a piece of something that died too young. Now, the improbable coming together of these bits and pieces in the restoration of the world's last K-M ML4000C'C' is one of the coolest convergences I can think of.
~ Bob Zenk, March 2009
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