What's on Now!
Ultimate Restorations showcases the rescue and restoration of some of the most valuable mechanical icons of the Golden Age (1880-1940), a high point in innovation and craftsmanship. The series, hosted by Bob McNeil, tells the spellbinding stories behind eight of American history’s greatest historical and engineering treasures — the world’s largest pipe organ; a surviving 1920s fire engine; a “fish car” designed to transport live fish by train; a priceless carousel; a World War II spy plane; one of the first U.S. yachts to round Cape Horn and a famous steam locomotive. The passionate restorers and committed craftspeople discuss the challenges associated with reviving these massive icons to their original glory: moving huge pieces of equipment, salvaging from sea-floor beds, searching for rare parts, and dealing with complicated mechanical systems.
Bob McNeil left behind his day job as a respected businessman in the biotech industry to become an expert restorer, woodworker and historian. A world-class sailor, Bob has spearheaded the restorations of the 1901 steam yacht “Cangarda” and the historic 1885 schooner “Coronet,” and now brings his expertise and passion to Ultimate Restorations.
Cangarda: The Last American Steam Yacht
The last existing American stream yacht was nothing more than an eyesore stuck in the mud of the Boston harbor until Bob McNeil came to its rescue. His four-year restoration of the 136-foot vessel revives old construction techniques alongside new technologies with the help of the colorful crew of Rutherford's Boat Shop in San Francisco. After 112 years and more than a few setbacks, the Cangarda finally sails again.
The Lysander: Canada's Unsung Hero
Of the 3,000 Lysander airplanes built in World War II, only three have survived, even though it was the first airplane in the war to shoot down a bomber. At the Vintage Wings Museum in Ottowa, Canada, restorers reconstruct this priceless spy plane from the fabric-covered fuselage to the machine guns in its wheel spats so it can once again demonstrate the unique landing and take-off capabilities that saved hundreds of lives.
The Sierra #3 Locomotive: A Star Is Reborn
A group of passionate restorers resurrect one of the oldest operating steam locomotives in the United States, built in 1891 in New Jersey and made famous in movies like High Noon and Rawhide. Remaining true to the original's complex engineering and construction requires incredible precision and patience, and the team struggles to complete the project before its scheduled Fourth of July debut.
Ahrens Fox: The Kansas City Treasure
Once considered the Rolls Royce of fire engines, the Ahrens Fox was a shining emblem of 1920s civic pride in Kansas City, a rolling work of art that could shoot water to the top of a 40-story building. Now just a rusty relic, a surviving Ahrens Fox challenges volunteer firefighter Doug Klink and his crew to keep their senses of humor as they piece the massive vehicle back together from the drive shaft to the gold leaf detailing.
The Midmer-Losh: The World's Largest Pipe Organ
Built in Atlantic City in 1929, the Midmer-Losh still holds the title as the world's largest musical instrument, as well as the world's most complicated mechanical system. With over 33,000 pipes, and blowers requiring hundreds of horsepower, this Goliath requires an involved 10-million-dollar restoration and takes viewers back to an era unequaled in design and craftsmanship.
Badger #2: The Last Remaining Fish Car
During the Depression of 1911, bringing fingerling fish from the East Coast to stock Midwest lakes as a food source was big business. Railroad cars known as "fish cars" contained water tanks for the small fish and elegant Victorian accommodations for the crew. All of these rare cars have disappeared except the Badger #2. Join a Wisconsin team for a complex restoration and a glimpse into a rarely-seen chapter of U.S. history.
The Illions Supreme Carousel: A Rare Masterpiece
The Illions Supreme was once the largest and most spectacular carousel from renowned master carver Marcus Charles Illions, with individual horses valued in the millions today. Incredibly, its provenance faded away under weather and cheap paint and it languished in storage for almost 60 years. Piecing it back together requires engineers and artists alike, but the results are breathtaking.
The Schooner Coronet: Racing into History
Built in 1885, the Coronet sailed to fame as a trans-Atlantic race winner and one of the first U.S. yachts to round Cape Horn and circumnavigate the globe. Its design is credited with forever changing U.S. commercial ship standards. This intricate restoration will take the team from the jungles of Guatemala to the harbor at St. Tropez, but the schooner finally regains its original grace, complete with a custom Steinway piano.
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