Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Visit to Seashore

Frank writes...

Getting tired of trip reports, random photos of streetcars you've never heard of, and quickie photo tours of other museums? Wish I'd just write more about actual progress at IRM?

Well, too bad. I've been traveling a lot on business so you'll just have to suffer through it. And this one's going to be a doozy, because last week I was in New England and had a chance to visit both Seashore and Branford. First up is Seashore, the largest trolley museum in the country and the only one with a true "national collection" of electric cars spanning the continent and including examples from most major cities.

This car is from Wheeling, WV and is an example of some of the really stunning restoration work that Seashore has done over the years. The first trolley museum in the nation (founded in 1939), they were also the first to embark on restoration of car bodies. This curve-sider was acquired as a body and they spent years restoring it, only finishing it a couple of  years ago. When I visited on a Thursday, it and a Connecticut Company open car were in service
And here's the interior. Beautiful! One of the interesting things I learned during my visit is that Seashore has seen a tremendous surge in visitors - they're up 30% over last year, and last year they were up 40% over 2014. And it's all due to tour bus companies, who will bring in a couple of bus loads of passengers on a tour up the coast for a 45-minute stop and a trolley ride. It's great to see them seeing a boost in riders this way.
Here's the apron to Highwood Barn, one of the museum's display buildings. All of their barns are named after well-known electric railway barns. Most are east coast but this one is a bit closer to home for us Chicagoans! But hey, what's that thing to the left of those Blue Line cars?
Well bless my soul, it's CTA car 1, the only surviving "high performance" 6000. This car was sold to General Electric in the 1970s and used for testing chopper control. It was only acquired by Seashore a few months ago and still wears what's left of its 1970s Skokie Swift livery. That's a Washington, DC PCC just inside the barn door.
Sitting outside Town House Shop was this intriguing homebuilt steeplecab from Boston, which they're currently working on. It's kind of a neat design, with an arched cab roof and full-width hoods. You can tell it was homebuilt because the frame is built out of freaking rails.
Randy Leclair, their shop manager, graciously showed me some of the projects being worked on. The big restoration project at the moment is this car, Portland-Lewiston wooden interurban car 14 - the "Narcissus." It was built in 1912 and was once ridden by Theodore Roosevelt. This series was among the biggest interurbans ever to run in New England and was profiled in one of William Middleton's "Traction Classics" books. That train door is about 16" wide, I think.
Another body they're restoring is that of a 1901 single-truck railroad-roof car from the Middlesex & Boston. They're going to have to fabricate a new truck for it; here a stand-in has been built out of wood to test for dimensions, I suppose. Other projects in the shop included running repairs being made to a Toronto Peter Witt and a second Connecticut Company open car; long-term rebuilding work on a Bay State Street Railway semiconvertible, a Denver Birney, and one of those neat Boston center-entrance cars; and another Newark PCC like ours, courtesy of the Bill Wall PCC Distribution Network.
There's a ton of neat stuff in Seashore's barns, including some fascinating Midwestern equipment. Here's a Cleveland center-door car, 1227, built as part of the same order as our car 1218. However Seashore has totally restored this car (from a complete basket case, I might add) to its as-built condition including K-controllers. Note the edge of North Shore 755 on the right.
Here's the interior; note the glassed-in cab and the longitudinal seats down one side. This is what our car looked like inside when it was new.
Seashore has its share of cars in unrestored condition, too; the salt air from their proximity to the ocean doesn't exactly help. This car is another sister to one in IRM's collection: Detroit Peter Witt 3876, identical to our 3865. Seashore's example was acquired recently from the Ohio Railway Museum where its condition had deteriorated badly. It's now in an open-sided barn at Seashore.
If a national collection isn't enough for you, Seashore also has an international collection. Here's a double-deck car from Blackpool, England for our Anglophile readers.
And a photo taken of the upper deck of a tram from Glasgow, Scotland. They don't just have cars from the UK; there's also equipment from New Zealand, Germany, Australia, Hungary, and Japan.
What's the most efficient way to store spare trucks? Vertically, of course! I believe these originated in Belgium or maybe the Netherlands but they're good old Brill trucks.
Seashore also has a lot of buses and trolley buses, including this little thing which reminded me somewhat of one of the buses we acquired last year. And they do have an operating trolley bus line - the only other museum that does - however theirs is fairly short and lacks loops or wyes so it's not really usable for regular public operation like ours is.

Monday, August 22, 2016

The end of Thomas

Frank writes...

Sunday was the end of Thomas - but don't worry, the event will be back next year! The last day of the two-weekend event saw gorgeous weather and a very large crowd, including many walk-up customers surely driven by the sun and pleasant temperatures.

I was conductor on the 4391, among the cushiest jobs at the museum I must admit. Paul Sprenger was the motorman. On the conductor's console pictured above, I really only ever used the left two toggle switches that run the rear doors; the other switches involve the center doors, which are a little finicky on the 4391 so don't see much use, and the heat dump, which was definitely not called for.
Bob Opal was on the 415, Frank Sirinek on the 3142, and motorman Bill Thiel and conductor Randy Allegrezza on the 144 completed the regular streetcar line operators. Here Bill and Randy bring the 144 up to Depot Street over the west Yard 4 switch.
State Street during rush hour or Depot Street during Thomas? Only those who were there know for sure...
This is really neither here nor there, but after a relatively uneventful (if still frenetic) day of operations, I happened upon this rather nice Insull-heavy scene in Barn 6. To be honest I have no idea why this open space at the back of the barn was there, since we weren't running mainline electrics during the Thomas event - but hey, I'm not complaining. What a neat lineup!
At the end of the day, Thomas and Percy were sighted at the throat to Yard 5. We've found that these useful engines are motivated to be even more useful if we keep strategically placed piles of scrap around.
And I helped out a bit with loading Percy; here Bob S, Richard S, one of Nick's helpers and the E.D. himself work on building a ramp to the truck trailer.
And up he goes!

In other news, the Michigan crew - the three pictured in Saturday's post plus Jeff - were working on the 28 while Richard, Joel and Greg were making some improvements to one of our storage containers. And there are plans to do some final operating inspections on the Charles City steeplecab with an eye towards a future test run. Don't touch that dial!

Saturday, August 20, 2016

More Thomas

Thomas Weekend #2 was in full swing today.  The weather was variable, to say the least, but as usual everybody seemed to be having a good time.  I was the Wye Switch tender for the day, which is a strenuous and painful job, but somebody's got to do it.   Every half hour, I throw the switch, wait for the Thomas train to go by, and then throw it back.  And then I have 20 or 25 minutes to do something else.  Whew!  So I tested the recently repaired control jumper, did more sanding in the 36, cleaned up some other parts, and so on.

Meanwhile, we had a great crowd of visitors, as usual.  DOWT provides an excellent opportunity for us to present the Museum to people who might not visit otherwise.


And so typical Museum volunteers (R) try to impress visitors (L) with their skill, intelligence, knowledge, and seriousness of purpose.   Not always successfully.


And in the midst of the crowds of families with little children, we had some visitors from far away, Bill Fronczak and Walt Stafa, old friends of ours, seen here with Norm Krentel.  Unfortunately, this picture was the last straw.  My camera revolted and has refused to operate since.  Sorry.  So all I have left are a couple of cell-phone pictures.  (You will notice that I never take "selfies".  Otherwise my camera wouldn't have lasted a week.)

Our friend Ray Bellock wanted me to point out that his wife Roberta has been a constant helper at Thomas days for the last 17 years, doing face painting, hand stamping, and temporary tattoos every single day.  But this is probably her last year.   We can't thank her enough for all the joy she's given the younger visitors for all this time!


On the other hand, that sounds to me like a job opportunity for somebody out there!



And Volkmann has been hard at work; the switch to the south carline has been installed and track is extending towards the south and west.  I think this is really exciting.

If my calculations are correct, in one day, we ran 14 Thomas train trips, a smaller number for the Percy train, and the four streetcars must each have run about 30 round trips.  This is an impressive achievement which required the cooperation of a great many volunteers, something of which we can all be proud.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Control Jumper Repair

One of the little necessities of life if you want to run multiple-unit trains is a reliable control jumper. And fixing ones that go bad is a good project to work on at home.  The CA&E cars all use a GE 9-pin jumper, and we had one in the shop that had been accidentally pulled apart a while back, so I took it home for repair.  Rich Schauer helped with shaping up the damaged plug casting at one end last Saturday.


 So what we have looks like this.  This end appears to be undamaged.  I checked the continuity of each wire, and one thing that immediately popped out was that the wires don't match the GE standard color coding, which is printed on every control circuit, for instance.  Wire #1 is red, #2 is green and white, etc.   You can rely on the color codes for car wiring and usually for the jumpers, in my experience, but here they're random.  That's not a big deal, we just make a new table.  The other thing is that the wires are all stranded copper, such as is used for car wiring.   Control jumpers usually have a special wire in which about a fourth of the strands are steel, for added strength in an application where there's constant bending.  So for unknown reasons this jumper is not quite up to spec, but it should still be usable for museum service.


As you can see from the first picture, the wires all broke near one end, inside the plug.  Each of the solder terminals needs to be cleaned out, and we wind up with a pile of pieces as seen above.  


The easiest way to do this is to have a block of wood with a threaded hole.   The terminal is put in the block, then the solder is melted and the old wire is pulled out.  To attach the good wires, the process is reversed: heat up the terminal, fill it with solder, and insert the bared end of the wire.   The wire will be cold going in, so it needs to be heated for a few seconds to insure a good solder joint.  


And now it looks like this.  Then each terminal is inserted into its proper place in the ceramic casting.


 The holes in the back of the casting are hexagonal, so the solder terminals can't turn.  The connectors in the front of the casting are then tightened into the terminals with a large screwdriver.   It's that easy.  Of course, I recheck all of the connections with a VOM.  


Now we repair to the kitchen.  In order to keep the connections water-tight, they are coated with sealing wax.   So we melt some wax in a tin can placed in boiling water.


 The plug is placed on the floor.  You will note the hole, which has its pipe plug removed.  The melted wax is poured into the plug, filling the holes in the ceramic casting and sealing up the connections.


I've noticed that the two bolts holding the ceramic casting into the socket are usually filled with wax also, so we can do that at the same time.   Check the connections once again, and we're done.




Electrical Testing

Update: Since somebody asked, here are the details on the electrical testing setup used.  A VOM works fine for checking that the wiring is correct, that each pin goes to the corresponding one at the other end.

We also want to check that all wires are isolated from each other and that there's no leakage to ground.  This is best done with a megger, and we have one at IRM.  But it's an expensive instrument for which I would have little use at home, so instead here's my usual test setup using 120V AC that costs essentially nothing.  Note also that 120V RMS has a peak amplitude of 170V, so we're not doing so bad in checking for high-voltage breakdown.


We just have a standard 25W lightbulb and a power cord, with two probes from a former VOM, although almost anything will work as long as you're careful.  One of the probes is connected through the bulb, and the bulb lights when the two probes touch.  Now you want to check that the bulb does not light when the probes are put onto any two different terminals at the same end.  But we can be a lot more sensitive than that.  As a detector, plug a radio into the same outlet and tune it to an AM frequency where there's no station.  It will make a characteristic spark noise when the probes are connected, even for small amounts of leakage.  In the case of this jumper cable, there's a non-negligible capacitance between any two wires, and we're using AC, so you will hear a slight noise when probing for isolation between two wires.  But with a little practice it's easy to hear the difference.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

B-71 Arrives


The Armco B-71 arrived at IRM on its flatcar yesterday and is seen here on the interchange track.
Photo by Richard Schauer.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Wednesday Report

We'll start today by looking at the progress being made by Volkmann Railroad Contractors on the south yards and the new car line.
 New switches are being installed for the next two tracks in Yard 15.   Here we are looking east.

And this is looking west. 

And here is the right-of-way for the new streetcar line, which will pass south of Yard 15.  This is probably a much better roadbed than most interurbans ever had.   And it appears to be wide enough for two tracks. 


Looking east towards the curve.

And they are putting in the switch for the car line on the lead to 15. 


I went over to Barn 11 to do some more cleaning in the 321.  If I do a little each day, perhaps it will eventually get done.  I ran into Dave Rogan and Victor H., who are working on the Pennsy bobber.   


Here Victor points out all the fixes made to the platform.  You've probably never been inside the car, so come on up!


Much of the ceiling structure had to be replaced; the new boards are evident.


 And likewise at the other end.

 Looking up into the cupola.

This is an authentic PRR stove.

The tan color is the final finish.

And later, in the shop, Victor showed me one of the grab irons from the car, an unusual type of casting which will have to be reproduced.

Then I wandered over to Barn 4 to see what was happening.   Pete Galayda was working, as usual, on the Charles City engine.  


Gerry Dettloff and I helped out with sequencing the control, with Mike McCraren recording the data as the sequence proceeds.

It's not as easy as it is on the passenger electric cars.  The contactors are under this hood, which cannot be disassembled, so two of us have to squeeze into this narrow space and watch the contactors operate on 600V a few inches away as the third person operates the controller.  Pete helpfully explained that "nobody has been zapped yet."  There's not much room, and all you can do is crouch there and hope that the electricity doesn't leak out.

(Illustration by James Thurber)

As before, the contactors sequenced in series but not in parallel.  So we got out the circuit diagram and traced the parallel control circuits to find the open.  It turns out there's an interlock on the reverser which is connected to the motor cutout switches.  This engine has four 600V motors in two permanent series pairs, for operation on either 600V or 1200V trolley.  Motors are cut out not by opening the connections, but shorting across the pair of motors.   So if either pair is cut out, and you try to advance beyond full series, nothing happens due to this interlock.   I crawled back under the hood; this part of the reverser is in the most inaccessible location, but I was able to fix it, and now everything sequences properly.   So that's a big step forward.   We should be able to test the locomotive for operation soon.


Jon Fenlaciki is still working on Indiana Railroad 65; there are still a few details to be taken care of.   The seats all had a small metal pamphlet holder attached to the back; here's one of the many Jon has been painting.   The IRR put out a newsletter called the "Hoosier Traveller" for passengers to read, much as Metra does today, and they fit these metal holders exactly.  And Jon asked me to point out that the 65 project is still in the hole, so your donations would be most appreciated.



 The rest of the day was mostly spent sanding and painting in the #2 vestibule of the 36.  Here it is after the flag box and the shelf have been removed.  They were taken over to our nice air-conditioned shop for further work.




 It usually isn't necessary to remove all of the original Pullman Green paint in the vestibules.  This stuff is like glue and very hard to eradicate.




And here's some more brown primer on the ceiling and other parts of the vestibule.   This will continue as time permits.  But this Saturday will be Thomas again, so I don't know what I will be doing.  But we'll post it here, newsworthy or not.