This collection contains the personal and professional papers
of American railroad mechanical engineer and innovator William Riley McKeen Jr.
(1869-1946), who developed some of the first gasoline-powered railroad motor cars,
beginning in 1905 for the Union Pacific Railroad. In 1908, he became president of
the McKeen Motor Car Company, which built over 150 of the pioneering motor cars
through 1917. The materials are primarily focused on the McKeen motor cars and the
history of their promotion and production, 1905-1917. Materials include promotional
booklets and ephemera, news clippings, scrapbooks, operating manuals, McKeen’s
personal notebooks and over 300 photographs.
American railroad mechanical engineer and innovator William Riley McKeen Jr.
(1869-1946) was born in Terre Haute, Indiana, in 1869. His father, William Riley
McKeen (1829-1913), was a banker and president of the Terre Haute & Indianapolis
Railroad. McKeen Jr. graduated from Rose Polytechnic Institute and Johns Hopkins
University, then studied at a technical university in Berlin, 1890-1891. In 1892, he
apprenticed in the mechanical shops of the Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Chicago & St.
Louis Railway in Columbus, Ohio. The next year, he began work as master car builder
for the Terre Haute & Indianapolis Railroad in Indiana. In 1898, he joined Union
Pacific Railroad as district foreman at North Platte, Nebraska, a position he held
until May 1901, when he became master mechanic of the Wyoming division of Union
Pacific. In 1902, he was promoted to Superintendent of Motor Power and Machinery for
Union Pacific in Omaha, Nebraska.
12 boxes (7.5 linear ft.)
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