Saturday, May 31, 2008

Ten, Twenty, Thirty Years Ago

1978: On Saturday, May 26, the 309 operated under its own power at IRM, the first time since it was at Wheaton. This was an important first step in the restoration process. The next day, however, I managed to twist my ankle and had to go to Woodstock Hospital, and was out of action for a couple of weeks. (So it's now been thirty years without a lost-time accident. Do I get an award of some sort?)

1988: On May 30, the 309 was run in a special trolley pageant for the CERA 50th anniversary celebration. All operable cars ran down the mainline to Seeman Road as a photo runby. Johnson siding was under construction, as shown here, and only had room for about two cars.
Work continued on the 321; I did work on the air brake system to get the car able to pump up. There was also miscellaneous work on windows and interiors of both cars.

1998: Frank and I drove out to Mt. Pleasant to check out the control system of the 320. I learned exactly what control resistors were needed, and was able to order the correct replacements. As a result, in June the 321 operated under its own power for the first time.
Frank finished painting the M1.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Site Report

There was all sorts of exciting news today. This morning, there was rain and high winds. While working in Barn 8, we started to wonder if it was really going to hold up. We could actually see the light fixtures swaying slightly as the building was buffeted. But it always sounds worse than it is inside these pole barns. Over at Barn 6, a post which holds the doors open fell down, but I'm not aware of any other significant damage.

I spent all day working on repairing the woodwork on the #2 end of the 309. The pictures show some of the progress. On the left side of the door, the new block (of ash) has been fitted and installed, and primed. I need one piece of molding to complete this side, which I'll make here at home tomorrow. On the other side, excavation revealed the size of the new piece that will be required.

Only the two doorposts really need to be rebuilt. For the corner posts, one was completely rebuilt about four years ago, and the other is in pretty good shape.

Tim Peters is making good progress on a similar project for the 1268. Here he is chiselling away at a new door post piece.

And our new six-dome tank car has arrived on the property, just what we've all been waiting for.

After a brief examination, I can see why it is called the "whine car". It's missing a coupler, it's got graffiti, there's nobody to work on it, nobody cares about important Freight Car Dept. projects like this, there's no money. And it was raining today. It's all so unfair! Waaaaah!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

CA&E Fan Trip - 1956

From the archives, we have the information for a CERA fan trip on the CA&E on July 4, 1956. The information was compiled by a young Robert Heinlein, who is still very active 52 years later.

If anyone remembers attending this trip, I'd love to hear from you! Please leave a comment.

Update: I'm adding a photo which I got from Al Simms. It's undated, and shows a fan trip using the 317 and one other car (316?). Note that at least one individual is breaking the rules, stepping right over the third rail, and there's another one beyond the train.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

309 Report

The #2 end of the 309 has always had problems with rotten wood near the floor. It's been like this as long as I can remember. However, a thorough repair job would require completely disassembling the end of the car, something I'm not willing to do. So I started today by removing the most obvious parts that need to be patched. I have fabricated one patch piece for the tongue and groove siding; for the rest I'll need to get some new wood, which I shall do tomorrow. The upper pictures show the "before" condition; to the right is "during".

I should point out that without indoor storage, projects like this wouldn't be possible - the car would have rotted away by now. The 309 has been stored inside since about 1972, and as a result, further deterioration has essentially ceased. Storage barns are probably the best investment we can make.

After this, I sanded down all of the blue parts on what is now the north side of the car, in preparation for repainting it.

I also went over to Barn 4 and looked at the Charles City Western locomotive 300 with project manager Pete Galayda. He's doing an excellent job on the structural and painting work on this locomotive, but he will need help with getting the electrical systems checked out and put back together. I'm familiar with General Electric control systems, so this should be an interesting project.

Frank and I have donated the money to provide a memorial bench like the one in the picture in memory of my father, Allan Hicks, who was a generous supporter of the Museum for many years. When ours arrives, I'll post a picture of it.

Happy Birthday, Frank!

Frank was a child prodigy in the railroad preservation field. I started bringing him out to help at age 4. At age 8, he completed his first painting project (underbody equipment on the 309). At 11, he published his first article in Rail & Wire. And so on!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Memorial Day Operations

The weather on Memorial Day cooperated, so we ran the 308 all day in shuttle service from the 50th Avenue station to Jefferson St. in Union. A round trip takes only about ten minutes, and can be completed in between regular main line trains without delaying them.

One of the main advantages from our standpoint is that loading and unloading are much easier from the 50th Ave. platform, which Dave Diamond and his crew recently rebuilt. The steps on the 308 and 309 are especially steep, and many visitors have problems. The elevated platform is much more convenient.

This operation went well and provides, we think, an interesting variation on the usual main line and car line trips. Several people mentioned to me that it was a good ride; nobody complained that the ride was too short. Phil Stepek also took a large number of pictures - his album is located here.

I should mention that this only worked for us because Frank was willing to hop the pole over the gap each way on each trip. Currently, there's no frog in the wire between the west leg of the wye and the station tracks; we're hoping this can be fixed so more use can be made of the 50th Avenue station.

During the day, the West End jazz band was playing just across the track under the Central Avenue Pavilion, which was great. At 3pm, IRM observed a minute of silence in honor of Memorial Day, and one of the musicians played "Taps".

While I was operating, I couldn't help but notice that a meadowlark had decided to place her nest with two nice big eggs in the middle of the south main near the Schroeder store, right between the rails. Why, I don't know. "It seemed like a good idea at the time." As the car approached she would rise up and spread her wings trying to scare me off! But it didn't take long to realize this wasn't going to work, so she would fly away just in time. And this happened on every trip back and forth! I can only hope the young birds survive and aren't too traumatized by their upbringing, not on the wrong side of the tracks, but right in the middle.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Over Forty-Five?

Here's a favorite car card we decided to reproduce, since the original was in such bad shape. Frank did the art work, and I helped on some of the lettering, most of which was done with dry transfers. Where would we be without the Citizens Traffic Safety Board?

Friday, May 23, 2008

309 Clerestory Windows Completed

Today I spent most of my time working on clerestory windows. All of the remaining broken panes of glass on the north side were replaced. The first picture shows a sector with the new glass. I also did painting on the clerestory parts. As I probably mentioned before, every original pane of glass was cracked by the 1971 fire, so it's nearly impossible to strip the tar from the outside surface and basically all of them needed to be replaced.

However, for the time being, at least, I'll leave three original panes in place in the smoker. The second picture shows this sector; only the piece farthest to the right is a replacement. I have replacement glass pieces for these three if I ever change my mind.

I also patched up and painted some holes in the letterboard, so it can be repainted. And I put a first coat of finish brown paint on the floor of the #1 vestibule.

I should also point out that the new high-intensity lights over the aisles in Barn 8 were a big help when working on the clerestory. Without them, I would have had to bring some sort of spot lighting system up onto the platform with me. That's always a hassle. Thanks, Max!

Lawsuit Abuse!

Of slightly newer vintage than the car cards Randall often posts photos of, here we see an early 1980s vintage CTA car card. Our friends at the American Tort Reform Association in cooperation with the CTA want you to report lawsuit abuse. As an attorney who often represents companies from suspicious personal injury lawsuits, I found this card amusing enough to have framed and hang in my office. You may have heard the commercials in recent years from the Chamber of Commerce discussing tort reform in Illinois. This card shows that there is nothing new under the sun.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Save the 309!

From the archives, here is a mailing asking for donations to preserve the 309 (and 321) back in 1961. (I don't have the exact date.) The purchase price was $500, plus another $500 for transportation and incidentals. If you donate as much as $3, you'll be made an honorary member!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

308 Maintenance

Today I spent all day on minor maintenance and touch-up on the 308, in preparation for service. Some roof boards needed new screws, a door wouldn't open and close properly, window shades needed attention, one hose connection for a third-rail sleet scraper was reattached, and several parts needed touch-up painting. Not very exciting, but it helps make the car complete.

Here's a picture of the roof boards on the 308, held down by #12 FH screws. A brace with a large screwdriver bit is the weapon of choice for this situation.

Shuttle to Union

In preparation for operation of the 308 this weekend between the 50th Avenue "L" station and Jefferson Street in Union, we made up a sign to put out front of the "L" station to let people know what's going on:The sign was laid out by Randy Bachmann of the Wheaton train show and painted by yours truly. Hopefully the weather will cooperate and we'll actually get to use it Monday!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Man-Style Eating

Sounds good, doesn't it? Unfortunately, I don't think they make it any more. I wonder why not?

Sunday, May 18, 2008

205 Ventilators Installed

Most of my time today was spent working on the 205, and most of that was spent working on ventilators. I installed all 12 ventilators on the car. Several had been hastily patched by the car's previous owner and sport a line of rivets they didn't originally have, so those were put on the unrestored (north) side of the 205. You can see the results of this work here:

Sharp-eyed readers will note that the ventilators are a different color than the roof; that's because the sample we used to mix the first gallon of paint for the car had undergone some sort of chemical change during its decades of storage. The ventilators are the correct color of Indiana Railroad dark green.

I also spent some time taking care of a few inspection items on the 308 including tightening down bolts on the roof (always important) and cleaning the compressor's air strainer. I also helped out very briefly in positioning new tack molding pieces on the Michigan car.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

309 Update

On Friday, I arrived in the afternoon and installed a couple more seat backs, and also revarnished all the arm rests in the main compartment.

Rod Turner and Stan W. were working on fixing a problem with the line switch on the 714, so I helped them with that a little; then we went on a test trip to verify it was working OK.

Saturday was probably the Museum's busiest day so far, since it's Scout Day and the scouts were everywhere. I put a second coat of primer on the floor of the #1 vestibule. Then I sanded down the outer window sill and the molding below it and painted them with white primer, as shown to the right. Wandering photographer Bob Kutella took a picture of me in action here. I hear the Museum has started a restricted fund to buy me a new shirt.

I decided not to move the rolling scaffold into place and work on the clerestory windows, since some scouts might try to work on their obstacle-climbing badges while my back was turned.

Hey, and Nick's is open for business again! Those hamburgers taste just the way I remembered them...

I made a (temporary) fix to a problem on the 308. A bracket holding up a cable running to one of the trucks had come loose, since a bolt had broken. Unfortunately, both halves of the bolt are rusted in place, and I can't get the two parts to line up anyhow. So I made a wooden bracket to hold it up. This shows the before and after. Eventually we should run it over the pit and have an expert free up the bolts and weld it together.

One of the triangles could be removed easily, so since I couldn't work on it in place, the frame was stripped in the shop, then I installed new glass and painted it. I also looked at the roof of the 757 with Rod and discussed what might need to be done.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Wye? Because I Just Had To!

On Wednesday I started by running the 309 around the wye so I could access the other side of the car to sand it down for painting, and to work on various parts of the clerestory that needed new parts installed. I removed some broken panes and installed new parts as shown here, for instance.

I made a dozen shims for the seat backs from spare linoleum. This may be a design flaw: in many cases the brackets that hold up the seat backs are not quite far enough apart to clear the seat cushions, which then get ripped when the seat backs are walked back and forth. To avoid this, the CA&E made shims out of linoleum, which is an ideal material for this purpose. But the old ones have become brittle and cannot be reused, so new material works much better. Bob Kutella caught me cutting them out on the bandsaw here. (The picture may look like I'm cutting off a finger, but I was careful, as always, and can still count to ten.) And I lubricated and installed several more seat backs in the main compartment.

On Thursday I lightly sanded all surfaces and then put a new coat of varnish on the #2 end bulkhead, as shown to the right. The letters G and FV stand for governor and feed valve, parts of the air brake system that are located under the seats at these locations. The letters made it easier for repairmen to find them, since they were placed differently in different cars.

I also did some work on the 321. I brought out all of the new linoleum and unrolled it down the aisle of the car, then covered it over with carpeting to protect it until I am ready to install it permanently. Otherwise it might dry out in storage and start to crack up when it's unrolled. I also did some paint stripping as a test.

On the left is a bulkhead panel; it appears that all of this can be stripped, stained, and varnished without too much trouble. On the right is part of a side wall panel from the 318. (Both of these pictures show the wood after staining but before varnish.) This was even easier; the green paint was applied by the CA&E without primer and strips easily. I believe there may be enough good panels from the 318 available to install in the smoker of the 321. For the main compartment, I will have to fabricate new ones.

I also did some touch-up painting on the 308, and checked on parts storage in our container.

Also, today Tim Peters was working on CRT car 1268, located across the aisle from me. Here he is working on replacing rotted body posts. He hopes to restore this car for service. It is a trailer and could be trained with the 4000s. It would be great to have some of the wooden El cars in service again. But be warned: according to a book I read somewhere once, "These cars were old, slow, and uncomfortable." !!!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

308 Inspection

Today I did the annual inspection on car 308. But since you weren't there, here's what you missed:

The car ran over to the pit in Barn 4, where I was able to inspect the motors from underneath. To the right, we see a traction motor with the bottom covers removed - and by the way, those covers are heavy! The "commutator" is composed of 195 copper bars which carry current to the windings in the rotating part of the motor. The commutator should be (relatively) clean, and the gaps between the bars should be free of excess dirt or carbon dust. To the right of the commutator, we see the edge of the bottom pole piece winding. The most important step is to check the clearance between the armature (the rotating part of the motor) and the bottom pole piece. If the armature bearings become worn, the armature drops down far enough to hit the pole piece, and then we've got a serious problem. The motor probably won't turn, at least not without destroying itself. Incidentally, the clearance is checked with a large dipstick from a truck motor.

To the left we see how the traction motor is suspended on the axle by two bearing boxes called "axle caps" which are marked in red. These are attached to the motor by large bolts ( 2 1/4"), and they must be checked for tightness.

The annual inspection sheet is a four page list of things to check and lubricate, so there's more than I can easily summarize here. It's exhausting, but I didn't find anything wrong. Actually, I didn't quite finish the entire inspection - the roof equipments need to be checked, and then there's the interior parts such as windows and doors. The interior stuff is known to be in good shape, and the roof I can do when there's somebody around for safety. In any case, the car will be ready for revenue service this year. Whew!