In Memoriam William “Bill” McCready
May 7th, 1923 – February 12th, 2004
We recently lost a good friend and fellow Live Steamer. On the morning of February 12th, 2004, Bill McCready passed on.
Bill was born on May 7th, 1923 and grew up in Idaho playing around the tracks and trestles of the Camas Prairie Railroad, thus his fascination of the Camas Prairie and his freelance version of a Camas Prairie consolidation number 1978.
Over the years Bill has held many positions with many different companies, but all had one thing in common – he was a machinist of some type everywhere he worked. Bill was so knowledgeable; he had other machinists calling on him to answer machining questions. Bill’s knowledge not only helped other machinists, it has helped other live steam hobbyists.
Many will remember Bill for his machining ability, for being able to come up with a solution for anything. During his life as a machinist, he built 10 complete locomotives, and was working on another one for himself (number 11). The last one completed (#10), the SP&S 700 was probably the best model that Bill has built. Many that have seen the engine agree – including those who run the real 700. While building the locomotive, he became almost a fixture at the Brooklyn roundhouse.
The 11 locomotives he constructed do not take into account all of the other locomotives he manufactured parts and pieces for, as well as building/re-building locomotives. He was always happy to put his things aside to help out a fellow live steamer on a project – from rebuilding a smoke box to sawing a boiler in half and re-fluing it to making valves and burners. He was always willing to lend people a hand or his mind – any problems someone may be having trying to figure something out - Bill was always able to find out what was wrong and suggest ways of fixing it.
Bill was also instrumental in building jigs and automated tools to help lay track – the right way. From track laying at Shady Dell, to helping build Tom Miller’s and Leo Garre’s. His knowledge was used at Willow Creek Railroad (WCRR) in pre-bending the rails for curves, laying out switches and crossing diamonds and finding plans for a chord to make sure those curves that we laid down were smooth. His ideas and tried and true methods helped WCRR have the quality track that it does today.
Bill came to WCRR over 21 years ago and his contribution to the members of this club is invaluable. Over the last few years, as the new layout was going down, Bill was not always physically able to help out, but he was more than willing to suggest and teach anyone that was willing to listen. That knowledge did not only help those that were willing to listen at the time, but many of those ideas that Bill had and that others were willing to listen to, have been handed out to others that may not have had the opportunity to get to know Bill.
While at the club, Bill always seemed to enjoy himself. He was always met with smiling faces and had a story or two. He also found much enjoyment in allowing others, who had any idea of how to run an engine, a chance at the throttle of #1978 the Camas Prairie. That engine probably had more hours of running under other people that it did under Bill over the last five or six years. After running his engine and thanking him for the opportunity, Bill always told me, “no problem, It is nice to have others run it and having fun. I think it is almost more fun to see others running it than it is to run it myself!”
Other than building engines, Bill has built a steam-logging donkey, restored numerous motorcycles and has restored a ’56 Thunderbird to mint condition.
Bill, you were a walking encyclopedia of knowledge of live steam and machining in general. I think I can easily say I am not alone in saying you will be sorely missed.
A thank you goes to Bill's son for allowing us to use a few of these photos. Please take a look at the web page Bill's son has put together.
Willow Creek Railroad has set up a memorial fund in the memory of Bill McCready.
Your donations will help us fund the construction of a new car barn to be built, and named in the memory of Bill. Your tax deductible donation for this cause would be greatly appreciated. If you wish to make a donation please contact us for more information.