Friday, October 31, 2008

FAQ on Canvas Roofs

This is a summary of information on the installation and repair of canvas roofs. You are invited to send in additional information or questions -- either send me a private email or use the comments feature. If you have other suggestions or your experience has been different, please let us know!

Scope: This assumes you want to install a more-or-less authentic canvas roof job. Of course, other materials can be used, starting with the old reliable tar paper. Newer and more permanent materials such as rubber membranes are outside my experience, but they could be added if someone wants to submit sufficient information.

1. What sort of preparation is needed?

The underlying structure (usually wood) should be in good condition, of course. Make sure it is smooth with no sharp edges, nail pops, or other projections. Run a belt sander over it. It should probably be painted as for any exterior surface, although the railroads generally did not paint the roof boards. If a leak develops in the canvas, you don't want the roof itself to start to rot. It's much easier to patch the canvas than the underlying wood!

Replace all tack molding. Do not try to reuse old tack molding - the biggest problem I've encountered with otherwise good roof jobs is that old tack molding starts to rot out, then the edges of the canvas are flapping loose. It's then very difficult to replace, although it can be done.

Apart from the curved ends of the car, tack molding is usually simple to make. Poplar is a good choice since it is a relatively soft 'hardwood', is straight and even grained and holds tacks well. Other woods, such as basswood are a similar character, and regionally other choices may be available and make sense. The new tack molding should be primed and painted two coats before final installation and covering with canvas to help shed water and prolong its life. The tack molding profile should include a drip edge or drip lip. Generally you will want to reproduce the old molding design. Do not choose a wood like southern yellow pine, plain or treated, since this has coarse grain and will tend to split with a row of tacks applied.

2. What materials do I use?

Canvas: Standard untreated canvas can be used, usually #8 cotton duck. Since it is not available in wide enough widths for a railroad car, a seam is necessary. By far the best solution is to have the two pieces sewn together by a professional. You can have tacked seams but they are much less satisfactory (pictures).

(L) A professionally sewn seam.
(R) A tacked seam.






Paint: Special canvas paint is produced. Our local source is APCO Paints in Schaumburg. The product is custom mixed to your color in small batches and is largely linseed oil based. After applying, the free linseed oil polymerizes and forms a sort of waterproof membrane with the canvas weave which still remains somewhat flexible. Rags used to wipe up spills or during cleaning, with this wet product, should be disposed of carefully since heat will be generated and spontaneous combustion is a risk.
Underlayment: Various materials have been suggested for a layer under the canvas to prevent it from rubbing on the wood. Felt roofing paper, butcher paper, and fiberglass mats have all been tried, but our experience has been that it doesn't make any difference. If the wooden surface is in good condition, the canvas should last just fine.

3. How should the canvas be installed?

The first step is to thoroughly soak the canvas, usually by rolling it out on the grass and soaking it with a garden hose. This washes out any sizing and makes it expand a little. Then the wet canvas can be rolled out onto the roof and stretched. The canvas should be clamped every two or three feet and stretched with weights (such as tie plates), bungee cords, or whatever you have on hand. Let it dry for a week. Then wet the canvas again and try to stretch it some more, if possible.

Another tip for canvas roofs which require a lot of stretching over compound curves: If there are wrinkles or puckers that cannot be pulled out with stretching and tacking, the finished canvas before painting can be dampened and a household iron can be used to shrink those wrinkles and flatten them out. On a lot of roof curvature, it may seem that you will never get a flat seam on the tack molding. Tack temporarily every foot or so around the car end. Then split that difference and tack and continue reducing the gap by half, pushing and laying the folds flatter and flatter. By the time it is all tacked and set, use the 'wet and iron' trick to shrink or reduce those folds and eventually they will be less noticeable after painting and the finished job.

Then when dry, start tacking. The canvas should be cut about 2" too long and folded back under itself, so the tacks go through two layers. Usually there are two rows of tacks in a staggered pattern. Standard #8 or #10 carpet tacks are used. Because the canvas paint is very thin, at least three coats will be required.

Installing saddles and other appliances on top of the new canvas is specific to each project. They must all be caulked in place. Anything that sits on the canvas should be carefully shaped so the load is evenly distributed. On the IT, the saddles sit on a thick piece of leather to act as a cushion. That's probably a good idea.

4. What about maintenance?

If the car is stored inside and not operated in the rain, little or no maintenance is required. In any case, the roof should of course be inspected periodically for damage. A good installation should last indefinitely under these conditions.

When the car is stored outside, the roof should be washed down and repainted once every two or three years. Depending on the conditions, a useful life should be ten to fifteen years. Indoor storage should be arranged if at all possible.

You can walk on the canvas, although you should use the running boards whenever possible, and of course only with soft-soled shoes without cleats, etc.

5. How can the roof be repaired?

Small areas damaged by accidents can be patched in the obvious fashion by tacking on small pieces of canvas caulked in place and painted. These need to be inspected periodically, especially when stored outside.

Bob Kutella contributed many valuable suggestions to this article. Most of it was learned by experience at IRM; our knowledge base is due to a number of experts including Bob Bruneau and Frank Sirinek.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Railfanning Oaks, PA

My job took me to the Philadelphia area last weekend, and as part of this I drove out to the small town of Oaks, PA. Oaks is about six miles straight west of Norristown and lies on the edge of suburbia. Once I got there, I discovered some interesting railroad-related relics. It turns out that Oaks was once the southern end of the Perkiomen Railroad (later a branch of the Reading) that ran from a junction with the Pennsy at Oaks up the Perkiomen Valley to Allentown. The railroad is now gone, the right-of-way through Oaks replaced by a road called "Station Avenue" that was put in so recently that Mapquest doesn't know it exists, but the 1918 depot is still there. And out front is a bizarre little critter right out of Flash Gordon.

After a bit of research, I've come to the conclusion that this 3' gauge Vulcan (the name is cast into the back of the frame) gas-electric was built for the 1939 World's Fair in New York, along with a few identical siblings. It later made its way to the Kennywood amusement park and was sold by them about a year ago. Weird stuff! Further down Station Avenue is a piece of disconnected track perhaps 100' long with an 0-4-0T, a small four-wheel Whitcomb, a 44-tonner and a speeder. The first two are shown below; the tank engine, according to www.steamlocomotive.info, is Worcester County Electric #1, formerly in the Steamtown collection. I have no idea about the Whitcomb. These pieces of equipment seem to be essentially derelict. Sorry for the poor photo quality; I didn't have my camera with me so these photos were taken with my cell phone.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Neither Snow Nor Sleet....

Today I first picked up three end window frames from the 205, and a window from the 518, and drove to Woodstock to have new pieces of glass cut for them. The company we use as our usual supplier, Ameriglass, is not open on Saturday or Sunday, which is rather inconvenient for us, but that's the way it is. Now I just need to figure out how to get the new glass when it's ready.

Since no one else was around, I chose to work on 518 windows rather than the 277's roof. I started making a frame for holding windows while the paint or varnish dries (patent pending). I want to add some more arms. When it's done, the idea is that the arms will support only the glass. Then I can store windows with the wet side down, so they don't collect dust while I'm not looking. And I painted two more frames with brown primer.

I also put filler as needed on the patch piece on the 321's letterboard and sanded it down. I decided not to paint it, though, as snow was falling. Unusual weather we've been having, ain't it?

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Exercise Is Good For You

Over the past two days I spent most of my time working on the roof of the 277. I tried to detach the trolley base from the boards, but one bolt could not be loosened, so I finally decided to cut up the trolley boards. My saber saw works better than I expected. I had tried drilling out the screw heads, but the boards were still fastened tightly to the saddles. To remove the base itself, I'll need at least one helper, so that will come later.

The good news is that many of the tongue and groove boards uncovered so far are in good shape and may not need to be replaced. I know that will change as I move farther back.


Compare these photos to a "before" picture here, taken at about the same location. This work is harder than it looks, believe me. The wood is too rotten to be used in service, but not rotten enough to be removed easily. Those ladders on the side of the IT cars are a real advantage. By now I could probably climb up and down in the dark - but I won't!

By the way, the two longitudinal pieces shown by the yellow arrows are of interest. They serve as supports for the radiator cooling coils for the air conditioning system, distributing the weight across the roof. As you can see, the one on the right is almost rotten out. As long as they're not being used, and the car isn't running, I don't think the system will collapse, but fixing them is going to be a challenge.

I also recaulked the one remaining leak in the barn roof over the 277.

After I'd had enough of working on the roof (or at least my back had had enough) I turned to a minor repair job on the 321. Frank will letter the car next spring, but the letterboard had a small section that had rotted out, as shown here. I needed to fix this before lettering started.

First I used my chisels to square up the hole, and chamfer the rabbet (which of course you can't see.) Yes, I know these pictures are blurry, but it's difficult to get good pictures in the barn. I then made a patch piece in the woodshop.



Finally, the patch piece was installed, and painted with white primer. I just need to let this dry, apply some filler, sand it down, and repaint it.




In other exciting news, Dave Diamond finally received the ceramic side panels for the Salem diner. Here he is installing them. When this is finished, it will be a dramatic improvement.







And work continues on Barn 11 - the south side panels are complete, and the north side is about 1/3 done.

A Night of Sheer Terror!

On Friday night I helped out with crowd control for "Terror on the Railroad." The results were not quite what was hoped for, due to lightning, cold winds, and rain. But we did the best we could under the circumstances, and I believe most of our customers were satisfied. As usual, several people were "too afraid of being scared" by the time they got to the Screamliner, and passed on to the rear car.

If this doesn't scare you, what will???



I was stationed at Central Avenue all evening, so I didn't get a chance to talk to people after they'd been through the terror trains. Here's the only picture I took of the night's activities. The actors are adamant about not having pictures taken of them or the interiors of the trains, so I have to respect that. Just imagine your worst nightmares. Actually, I was terrified of getting sick, but I'm fine.

Everybody involved with thinking up this stuff and putting it on deserves a lot of gratitude. Besides our own volunteers, most or all of the actors are students at DeKalb. A lot of people put in a great amount of effort to make this a success, much more than I did. Their efforts help the Museum, so thanks!!!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

History of Indiana Railroad #205

History of:
Interstate Public Service #266
Indiana Railroad #205
Portland Traction #4003
Indiana Railroad 205 on Wabash Avenue in Terre Haute, Indiana in April 1939. George Krambles Archives.
Note: These photographs are copyrighted and may not be reproduced without permission.

When the Indiana Railroad (IR) was formed in 1931 through the combination of several large interurban systems, its roster was a motley assortment of interurbans, streetcars, freight and work motors spanning several decades. The three-decade old wooden interurban combines of the Terre Haute Indianapolis & Eastern stood in stark contrast to the modern steel coaches, parlor cars and sleepers that Interstate Public Service (IPS) had purchased only a few years before.

IPS owned perhaps the most modern fleet of the IR predecessor companies, and while it was best known for the heavyweight interurbans built for Indianapolis to Louisville service, its newest equipment was a small group of modern lightweight suburban cars. These cars, numbered 261-266, had been constructed in 1927 by a Brill subsidiary, the G.C. Kuhlman Car Company of Cleveland. The 261 series was purchased to modernize service on the standard gauge suburban lines that IPS operated north out of Louisville to the cities of Jeffersonville and New Albany across the river in Indiana.
The six Kuhlman lightweights are shown when brand new; car 266 (later 205) is second in line.  Note that as built the cars didn't have a window to the left of the left-hand door. Photo from the CERA Archives.

The six cars of Kuhlman order #924 were classic examples of contemporary lightweight car design. They were 45'6" long, fitted with Tomlinson couplers and Westinghouse HL control for multiple-unit operation, and were designed for either one-man or two-man operation. They were safety cars, fitted with M28D brake stands and "dead-man" controller handles, and - befitting their role as suburban cars - were fitted with unusual double-height anti-climbers to prevent telescoping in an accident with either a low-floor city car or a high-floor interurban car. The cars had modern Brill 177E1X trucks, GE 247 motors and were fitted with leatherette walkover seats for fast, smooth and comfortable operation at speed.
Car 266 at Scottsburg Shops on September 10, 1934; note original air whistle and steps at all corners, plus Public Service Company of Indiana lettering. George Krambles Archives.

The 261 series didn't see service out of Louisville for very long, though. On July 2, 1930, IPS operations were officially incorporated into the Indiana Railroad system, though IPS continued to exist as a distinct corporation. The following year, in 1931, IPS changed its name to Public Service Company of Indiana, and some of its cars - including car 266 - were relettered for PSC. Time was running out for the local service out of Louisville, though, and in 1934 all routes over the Big Four and K&I Bridges into Indiana were sold to local operators Home Transit and New Albany & Louisville. The six cars of the 261-266 series, only seven years old, were run to PSC's Scottsburg Shops and put into storage.
Car 266 is pictured in March or April 1936 during testing in Terre Haute. Note that the PSCI name has been painted out on the letterboard; also note the electric marker lights installed over the end windows. These were soon relocated to the dash. George Krambles Photo, Scott Greig Collection.

After two years, the Indiana Railroad came up with a plan to put the six modern suburban cars it had inherited from IPS to use: it would adapt them for use as streetcars for service in Terre Haute. Car 266 became the prototype. In mid March the car was transferred to Terre Haute and tested in service; the test was deemed successful and all six of the 261-series cars were sent to Anderson Shops for rebuilding. Modifications for use as one-man city cars included closing off the lefthand doors at each end, and installation of electric marker lights. The other members of the series received modifications similar to 266's, and all cars were repainted and lettered for Indiana Railroad. They also received new numbers in the 200 series, PSC 266 becoming IR 205.
Car 204, seen in front of the Wabash Barn in Terre Haute on April 3, 1939, shows what this series looked like during its Terre Haute days. George Krambles Archives.
Map of city car lines in Terre Haute, Indiana during the 1930's. Map drawn by Frank Hicks.
Car 205 is shown at Anderson Shops on January 28, 1937, probably sent there for maintenance or repair work. Note the front pole tied back, which seems to have been done to these cars for all intercity moves. George Krambles Archives.

Car 202, which would later be preserved at the Western Railway Museum, is shown at an unknown location in Terre Haute on August 17, 1937. John T. Csoka Collection.

Following rebuilding, cars 200-205 were operated from Anderson to Terre Haute in two trains of three cars each, entering service in early July 1936. Their assignment to Terre Haute would prove to be even shorter than their days running out of Louisville; in December 1938 an agreement was signed to transfer all Terre Haute city operations to National City Lines. June 3, 1939 was the last day of streetcar operation in Terre Haute, after which the six 200-series cars were operated to Scottsburg and put back into storage. Indiana Railroad was imploding; with the failure of the Insull utilities empire that had fostered its creation, and with the advent of the Great Depression and the expansion of automobile use, the last great system of the Indiana-Ohio interurban network was in its death throes. In January 1940 the interurban line to Terre Haute was abandoned and by February 1941 the only surviving remnant of the Indiana Railroad system was a short segment of former IPS track between Indianapolis and Seymour, Indiana, operated under the name not of IR but of PSC. In September 1941 that service came to an end due to a fatal head-on collision, finishing off the last of the Indiana Railroad system.
Car 205 and its sisters are in storage at Scottsburg Shops on September 3, 1939, three months to the day after their last run in Terre Haute. Note that it is MU'ed to the car in front of it. Malcolm McCarter Collection.

By that time, car 205 and its sisters were far away. In 1940 the 200-series cars were sold to the Portland Electric Power Company (later Portland Traction) in Oregon, where they were put into suburban service. Car 205 was renumbered PEPCO 4003 and received minor modifications, most notably air horns and a new blue-and-white paint scheme. PEPCO 4000-4005 joined other second- and third-hand suburban cars, including Cincinnati curve-sides, Brill Master Units and "Hollywood" center-entrance cars, operating between Portland and Oregon City into the late 1950's.
PEPCO 4003 (ex-IR 205) at an unknown location in Oregon in 1943. The only real modifications have been removal of the permanent headlight and addition of air horns. Leonard Foitl photo, Brinckmann Collection.
Portland Traction 4003 (ex-IR 205) and another ex-Indiana car at 1st & Washington in downtown Portland during the 1950s. By this time the dash at this end of the car had been replaced, likely due to accident damage, and the car's livery has changed from blue to red.  Al Reinschmidt Collection.


In 1958, Portland Traction abruptly abandoned service, and within a short time its entire fleet had been sold or scrapped. A railfan from Washington state named Robert Hively purchased car 4003 and moved it to some private property in Snoqualmie, Washington, near what is now the Northwest Railway Museum. It was stored there with other assorted equipment including another ex-Interstate Public Service car, the heavyweight interurban sleeping car "Scottsburg." The cars were stored outdoors in what was essentially a rain forest area; car 4003 in particular suffered extensively from water damage and neglect. Its original roof largely rotted away and was replaced with plywood; its interior headlining and wall panels were badly damaged and removed; and the steel sides of the car were steadily eaten away by rust. For three and a half decades the car sat, exposed to the elements and occasionally the victim of vandals, in Snoqualmie.

In November 1989 car 4003 was moved to Yakima, Washington (photos here) and following Hively's death it was made available for sale in 1993. One other car from this series, Portland Traction 4001 (ex-IR 202 - PHOTO), had been preserved in good condition by the Western Railway Museum, and that organization expressed an interest in purchasing 4003 to scrap it for spare parts. Several members of the Illinois Railway Museum, though, spearheaded by J. Johnson, expressed an interest in saving car 4003 for preservation, and in the end they were successful in purchasing the car. A crew of volunteers led by Dave Diamond drove to Oregon in December 1993, loaded car 4003 onto a trailer and trucked it over the mountains to Illinois. (For more on this move, click here.) The car arrived at IRM on December 13, 1993.
IR 205 in 2004 before the commencement of restoration work. The blue-and-white color scheme the car wears was applied by Robert Hively to approximate the PEPCO livery the car wore during the 1940's. Photo by Frank Hicks.

Within a year, with the construction of Barns 6 and 8, car 4003 had been moved into indoor storage, which it has enjoyed ever since. IRM volunteers led by Bob Bruneau performed minor repair work to the car, replacing broken windows and securing the doors, but otherwise it remained an unrestored display. In 2004 work began on a cosmetic restoration of the car. Due to the extensive modifications made by Anderson Shops in 1936 it was judged impractical to backdate the car to its Interstate Public Service days, so the decision was made to backdate the car to its days as a Terre Haute city car - and to return it to its Indiana Railroad number, 205. The extensive body deterioration also made it impractical to restore the car to operation without a frame-up rebuild costing somewhere around half a million dollars. For the past few years, work has steadily progressed to restore the exterior appearance of the car. The end result will be an attractive display piece representative of streetcar operation in the smaller cities of the Midwest.

Car 205 in August 2013 during repainting work. Photo by Frank Hicks.

List of Known Modifications During the Car's Service Life
- Electrical cabinet to motorman's left replaced with window (pre-1934)
- Installation of electric markers on the end letterboard (March 1936)
- Installation of mirrors on right side corner posts (March 1936)
- Installation of permanent dash-mounted headlight (March 1936)
- Removal of left-side steps and closing off of left doors (May/June 1936)
- Removal of letterboard markers and installation of dash markers (May/June 1936)
- Removal of air whistles (May/June 1936)
- Replacement of trolley retriever with trolley catcher (1936)
- Removal of permanent dash-mounted headlight (1940)
- Replacement of trolley catcher with trolley retriever (1940)
- Removal of lower marker brackets (1940)
- Removal of mirrors (1940)
- Installation of air horns (1940)
- Replacement of lifeguard baskets with truck-mounted pilots (1940?)
- Interior painted brown (post-1940?)
- Replacement of steel fold-out steps with wooden ones (post-1940?)
- Removal of MU sockets (post-1940)
- Window shades removed (post-1940)
- Replacement of dash at one end of car following an accident (post-1940)
- Replacement of three brass end window sash with wooden sash (post-1940)
- Installation of drop sash in left-side doors (post-1940)


Thanks to David Wilkins, Randy Hicks, Charlie Myers and Jeff Trimble for their help with researching this account.  Thanks also to Robert Bruneau, John T. Csolka, Al Reinschmidt and David Sadowski for providing photographs.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Green Collar Job?

I spent all afternoon today painting stuff Indiana Railroad Green, which we got color matched to the 65's roof some time back thanks to help from Jon Fenlaciki. I started out using a roller to paint the roof of the 205 green, which took some time. It's difficult to see inside Barn 8 exactly how well the paint is covering, so we'll want to reexamine the paint job the next time the car is outdoors in the sun, but it seemed to cover pretty well. I then moved to the wood shop, where I put a first coat of green on one side of our 2x6 roof boards. Once the other side of these boards gets a first coat, they'll be ready to install! Finally I returned to Barn 8 and touched up the edges of the roof - the areas where the "canvas" (actually tarpaper) is nailed to the tack molding - with a brush. Voila! One other thing I did was inspect our stash of spare trolley bases and pick out a few possible candidates for installation on the 205 after the roof boards are installed. Of course, the batteries on my camera were dead, so I didn't get any pictures either of the 205 progress nor of Barn 11, on which the contractors have finished the roof. Fortunately though, Bob Kutella snapped the below photo of me painting a roof board while Norm Krentel looks on.

A Visit to Central Indiana

The main purpose of this 3-day weekend trip was to visit my daughter at Purdue and hike the nature trails in McCormick's Creek State Park, but I also got in some railfanning.


First, we visit the Linden Railroad Museum in the little town of Linden, Ind. for a few minutes. The collection consists of a depot (R), a Plymouth critter, ...





a box car, and two cabooses. The equipment is stored on short pieces of track set at odd angles, so there's no plan for operation. Although it was the middle of the day on Saturday, the museum was not open. And there was no indication of when it is open. Now that I'm home, though, I find they have a website with more information. But it still makes one glad to be living within driving distance of IRM!


In downtown Lafayette, there's a short stretch of railroad track in the street in front of the Lafayette Theater. Now I just need somebody to photoshop an Amtrak train into this picture. (Updated with better info from David - thanks!)





The Purdue campus still has a Railway Engineering building, although I don't know how active a program it is, if it's still going at all. The concrete letterboard at the top says "American Railway Association Building."








And finally, not railroad-related, but historic: in front of the courthouse in Greencastle, Ind. is a V-1 on a V-shaped pedestal. The only other V-1 in the US is in the Smithsonian. It's quite impressive to see one in person. As a plane, it's rather small, but as a bomb, it's huge.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Happy Birthday, Dad!

Today is the birthday of Randall G. Hicks, PhD, founder of the restored Hicks Locomotive & Car Works and head writer for this blog as well as Project Manager for CA&E 308, 309 and 321. His actual age is a closely guarded secret. While there has been speculation, based on his affinity for Victrolas, the Three Stooges and the collected works of Harold Lloyd, that he was born sometime around 1905, the above photograph of him is actually believed to have been taken during the 1950's. Note too that the correct hand signal for "come to me" is being demonstrated.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Let's Be Careful

That's always good advice. You wouldn't want your little toy car to be run over by a speeding heavyweight interurban.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

History of Illinois Terminal #277

Car 277 stops in the middle of the street at Girard while the conductor waits to board passengers. This is a classic view of Illinois Terminal interurban service.
All photos from the Robert E. Bruneau collection.

Note: These photographs are copyrighted and may not be reproduced without permission.

The Illinois Terminal Railroad was perhaps best known for its distinctive main-line interurban cars with their flat-top arched roofs, three-window fronts, massive radial couplers and other features designed by the road’s master mechanic, J. M. Bosenbury. These cars were all built between about 1907 and 1915, and held down most long-distance passenger service until the end in 1956. Seven of these cars survive, five of them at IRM.

Car 277 was built as part of an order for a total of thirteen cars built by the St. Louis Car Company; eleven of them, including the 277, were built in 1913, one more in 1914, and one more in 1917. Thus this car is two years newer than the 518, but by the same builder. It is a heavy interurban combine (meaning it has a baggage section as well as a coach section) and was designed to pull several unpowered trailers. It is of composite steel and wood construction, and was built with the sheet metal sides it now has. Originally it had arched upper stained glass windows, and they are still there, but they were covered over by more sheet metal during the 1930's. Like all Illinois Terminal combines, it has a baggage door only on the right side of the car. This picture from the Volkmer collection is the best I have seen of its as-built appearance.

The Illinois Terminal did not run interurban trains of M.U. cars, such as the North Shore or CA&E trains that we are familiar with at IRM. These combines served as locomotives for the fleet, and most of them were geared for pulling power. The top speed is about 50 MPH, and they have heavy duty grids to allow them to start a train of several trailers without trouble. Some trailers were equipped with two motors but no motorman's controls, and they would be controlled from the leading combine. The 277 has a control jumper for this purpose.

Several modifications were made during the 277's service life of more than forty years. Perhaps the most noticeable was the installation of an early air-conditioning system. This is the huge box behind the front truck on the right side, as seen below. Installing the air conditioning also meant that the brake system had to be changed to truck-mounted brake cylinders, since the A/C blocked the path of standard brake rigging.

The interior was changed by installing a new metal ceiling with bulls-eye lighting below the original ceiling. The original ceiling is still there, although it's badly deteriorated. And in the main compartment, the original walkover seats were replaced by more modern tubular frame seats. The seats are all equipped for antimacassars, just like on railroad parlor cars.

This photo is taken from a large print which was folded, and finally broke, hence the seam. The train is leaving the Peoria station, heading for the drawbridge over the river. The level of detail is excellent -- notice the antimacassars on the seats, for instance.

(L) The 277 on the hill out of Peoria.


(R) At Springfield, Oct. 28, 1947






(L) A three-car Illmo Limited powered by the 277 rolls past freight trailer 606 and other work equipment.




The only other IT combine preserved is the 241 at the Museum of Transport in Kirkwood, Mo. Car 241 is of great interest for several reasons. Built by ACF in 1908, it represents an earlier stage of IT combine design. It is of wood construction with sheet-metal sides, but the arched windows were never covered over, and it still has the original railroad roof. Thus its appearance antedates the IT standard with arched roofs, etc. It was originally equipped for AC operation on the line from Peoria to Springfield, but this did not last long. It was also the first IT car to be preserved; when it was withdrawn from service on June 1, 1950, it was acquired by MOT and moved to the site in Kirkwood, just west of St. Louis. Here it is now stored inside, but is not on public display and is in need of serious restoration.

In 1952 the 277 was repainted in the Illinois Terminal's final paint scheme of dark blue with silver windows. Photo from the Ray Buhrmaster collection.

Here is a color slide of the 277 in the blue paint scheme, from the Scalzo collection.

The 277 was the last car to leave East Peoria, on June 11, 1955, when service to Peoria ended. It was also used on several fan trips in later years. The Illinois Terminal finally abandoned its last long-distance interurban route on March 3, 1956, and the surviving interurban cars were surplus. Nearly all were scrapped.

Fortunately, the young Robert Bruneau borrowed enough money from his parents to purchase two cars and have them shipped on their own wheels to the Illinois Electric Railway Museum, then located at the foundry site in North Chicago. The cars selected were the 277 and the center-door car 101. Here they were repainted and maintained, awaiting the time when the Museum would be able to acquire its own site and right-of-way, so the cars could be operated. For a while, the Museum's book store/gift shop was located in the baggage section of the 277. In 1964, the 277 moved with the rest of the collection to Union. Again, it moved on its own wheels over the railroads.

Here the roof was patched up and the car was made operational in late 1969, after it was joined by the 518. However, operation of heavy electric cars was limited until the substation was completed in November 1970. Thereafter, the 277 operated regularly for several years. It has been stored inside since about 1975. The highlight of its career at IRM came in September 1978, when the 277 pulled a four-car train including the 518, Peoria, and 234. Since that time the interior of the car has been partly disassembled for needed restoration work, but the overall condition is basically good.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Visiting Veterans

Today I drove into Chicago to pick up Bob Bruneau and bring him out to the Museum. Health problems have prevented Bob from attending regularly, and he is now the Car Dept. director emeritus, but of course he still has a lot of valuable knowledge and insight. He helped me with finding parts for various projects, and here we see him selecting which trolley bases we should use for the Indiana Railroad 205. He located some spare windows for the 277 and 518 which I would never have noticed, hidden as they were behind other parts in the paint shop. And I also borrowed a folder of 277 pictures, similar to the earlier 518 folder, so I will start on a history of the 277 soon. Also we got some in-service photos of the 205, which Frank will need to complete that car's cosmetic restoration. We'll probably try to do this again sometime soon.

Another old-timer (I'm sure he'll love that!) hard at work today was our long-time friend Steve Iversen, who was visiting from Oklahoma. Here he is helping Frank Sirinek by repainting the roof of the 3142.

And I had some time to work on the roof of the 277, although it was still hot up there. I must say that the new line breakers installed by Max are easy to lock out and tag, and it makes me feel much better knowing the power can't be turned on inadvertently while I'm up there.

I also varnished several more window frames, and installed the first completed 518 window in the car, as seen here. Unfortunately, now the window shade won't go up, but I ran out of time to fix this problem. Till next time.