Sunday, November 30, 2008

Monticello Railroad Museum

I was able to visit the Monticello Railroad Museum over the weekend, while staying with in-laws. This museum has been very successful over the past few years, although it is not near any large population centers. When I visited, they were getting ready to run their popular North Pole Express trains, which are operated under license from the publishers.

The museum's site is located along an Illinois Terminal right-of-way. During the 70's, new track was laid for a couple of miles on the IT alignment, but the museum was able to acquire the paralleling IC branch when it was abandoned, and now operates on the IC tracks into downtown Monticello. This is the depot in Monticello, with some Christmas decorations. It's about three miles from here to the museum site.

Old #1, an 0-4-0T is now on display by the access road to the museum. Back in the 70's this was the usual service locomotive, while missing its tank and pulling a tender larger than itself. The 191 was also operable, and we ran double-headers occasionally.

The biggest current project is restoration of Southern Railway 2-8-0 #401, with a new boiler. See the steam page here for details.

The original boiler has been preserved, and is mounted on a flat car for now. This was the first (and last) boiler I ever did any heavy work on.

This roof over the display cars is new.

Here are some more decorations.

Here's a link to their website, and my thanks to Kent McClure, CMO, for taking time out of his busy schedule to show me around.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Well, That's a Switch

I started by cutting out the remaining pieces of ash I'll need to patch up the carlines on the roof of the 277, and installed and painted three of them. I'm now ready to start installing roof boards, and I cut two pieces to length for a test fit. I never got around to taking pictures of this work, but it's pretty much the same as last time. Then, however, ....

We needed to shuffle the L cars on track 83, mostly so that pictures of the 6125/6126 can be taken next week. (I couldn't work on the roof with DC power on in the barn.) This took a while, but it gave me the opportunity to take some pictures, in between helping with the switch move, patching up a damaged stinger cable, and stuff like that. Here are three of the wood cars being pulled by the Com Ed 4.

(L) Bob Heinlein is watching flanges and signalling motorman Stan W. on the locomotive as the wood cars are backed onto the connector. (R) The three PCCs are then pulled out of the barn. Here we have three different generations of Chicago L cars -- you may know that IRM has the only comprehensive collection of Chicago rapid transit.

(L) This is the end of car 1268, which Tim Peters is restoring. (R) Cars 6125/6126 on the 84 lead, before they were put back inside. These cars were used in Steve McQueen's last movie, "The Hunter," in which he rode for several miles on top of the cars. This stunt has not yet been repeated at IRM, however.

After the switch move was over, it was too dark in the barn to continue on the roof. I did some more work on the new trolley parts for the blue cars, and took them home for adjustments and to get the correct hardware. This will be a big improvement over the old shoes. And I picked up a collection of photos from Dave Diamond of moving the IRR 205 from Yakima, Wash. to Union back in 1993. In a few days we'll post an illustrated travelogue of this eventful trip.

I also picked up a reimbursement check from Joe Reuter. Looking back at my log book from the 70's, I notice every so often: "Picked up a check from Joe Reuter." Joe has been doing the same thankless task for more than 30 years, but if it didn't get done, the Museum wouldn't function. And there are several others who likewise have been keeping the whole operation going, usually without adequate thanks. You know who you are, though, so thanks!!!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Wood You Believe IT?

OK, so I'm getting desperate for catchy titles. Just keep reading...

I trimmed and installed two more sisters today, on carlines which already consist of a 1 3/8" wood carline and a 3/8" steel piece, so the single sisters are attached with lag screws. Otherwise, it's exactly the same procedure as before, so these are final installation photos only.

While it was cold today, as long as the sun is shining even part of the time, it's pretty comfortable up on the roof. Then it clouded over, and it was time to repair to the wood shop.

I machined the tongues and grooves on about 80 linear feet of roof boards. To the left is the setup on the table saw. The blade is covered by the work, and only rises about 1/8" above the table. I have clamps to hold the fingerboard in place so the work is held against the fence and to prevent kickbacks. Notice the nice push handle somebody has made for us. Safety first! To the right, a sample of the old wood is matched to the new.

And then, here we see a test fit of some new wood on top of the roof. This is going to work out just fine. I need to repair two or three more carlines before installing roof boards.

I also have a plan. Once the roof is covered with canvas, how does one tell where exactly the carlines are? This seems to have stumped the railroads, since the saddles are sometimes slightly off center, and their screws may miss the carlines completely. I think I will start with a test assembly of saddles and running boards before installing the canvas, so everything is lined up perfectly, then disassemble it. After installing the canvas, the kit will be put back together, and everything should line up according to plan. If you've got a better idea, please let me know.

Tim Peters was also working in the wood shop on doors for CRT 1268. To the right is one that is already finished.

And to follow up on Frank's previous post, here is the IT caboose in its new location where the old oil sheds used to be. It serves as a bunk car for museum members who want to stay overnight. Now it even has its own little outdoor washstand. That will be real useful this winter!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The best laid plans...

Well today didn't quite go according to plan, though I was able to get a fair amount of work done for the time I spent out at the museum. I didn't get out to Union until after 3pm, and the first order of business was moving the recently-painted roof boards from out in Barn 4 over to the 205. I did this, laying them out on the sidewalk next to the car in the most desirable order for installation. The other high-priority item was installing the car's windows to close it up for the winter. I did this as well; it's great to have the replacement brass end windows in place (below left) and the new pane of glass for the closed-off side door at the southwest corner of the car fit perfectly (see below right - the new pane is the one with the camera flash reflection).

What's not
obvious from these photos is that by the time I was finishing up this job, I was working by Braille since the lights in Barn 8 don't actually have a switch! They're solely operated by timer, and apparently the timer wasn't reset when Daylight Savings Time ended - so it got pretty dark in Barn 8 pretty early. Oh well... at this point I went back to the shop and started painting the trolley bases for the car black. At least that was the plan: shortly after I finished the first trolley base, the spray can stopped working. As a result I ended up with this:
I'll have to buy a new spray can and finish the second trolley base; the first one could use a second coat anyway. Finally, I went back to work on the MU jumper receptacle off South Shore 37; I had been unable to get the rust-frozen locking ring off the last time I was out, but this time Dan Mulvihill and Jeff Obarek pitched in to provide some extra "persuasion" and we got the thing apart. Below are the two pieces that will need to be modified. Areas to be cut off are in red; note that we're looking at the main receptacle housing from the back.
Finally, I took some photos and video of a switch move taking place on Track 40 that involved Wisconsin Electric Power L7 and the use of its extension cord. There's a video here (I recommend you watch it in "high quality" mode if you want the admittedly dubious thrill of watching an electric locomotive running with its poles down), and a photo below showing the stinger hanging from the Track 41 wire directly in front of the trolley base nearest the camera. Only at IRM!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Sister, Sister

Who knows where these strange names come from, like "sister" or "dutchman"? In any case, it's standard woodworking jargon, just as much as mortise or tenon, so that's what I'll use.

Today I started installing new wood on the roof of the 277. Here we see the kit of two sisters for a carline that was badly deteriorated. Nice new ash was cut out on the big bandsaw, then drilled for carriage bolts.

Here the two sisters are clamped to the carline, and the holes are drilled through the carline. Since the new wood had been drilled on a drill press, the holes lined up perfectly, just like drilling the Holland Tunnel.

Next, they were removed and the hidden surfaces painted with primer. (The plywood in the background is just a temporary work surface.)

Here we have the entire assembly held together with the carriage bolts. It's nice and strong. I stood on it and bounced up and down (holding onto a barn rafter) and it passed the highly scientific stress test. What more could you want?

Finally, it's all painted with primer. The next carline (yellow arrow) has a 1/4" steel stiffener bolted to the wood carline, which is also bad. For obvious reasons I don't want to try to drill through the steel, so this one will get a single sister attached with lag screws. I cut out the wood, but was unable to find the right lag screws. I can buy some new ones easily and install it next time.

After this was over, I started machining the new poplar planks I bought for the tongue and groove roof boards. I planed them down to 9/16", which the IT chose for some unknown reason, then ripped them to the correct width. Next time I will do the tongues and grooves.

In the 321, I have two benches which, I was told, came from a C&NW business car. I don't remember how they came into the possession of the Car Dept., but they were in Bruneau's way, so he gave them to me. Now they're in my way. Phil Stepek has promised to give them a good home, so I cleaned them off. Tomorrow he and Mike should be able to take them away. Now I'm on the lookout for some shelves to replace them.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Trip Report - Branford Electric Railway

This past weekend I was in Connecticut on business, and Saturday evening I was able to pay a brief visit to the Branford Electric Railway Association, aka Shore Line Trolley Museum. BERA is one of the older trolley museums in the country, founded eight years before IRM, and has a collection of electric railway equipment only slightly smaller than ours. I was given a tour of their shop by Jeff Hakner, who is also an IRM member, and got to see what current projects are being worked on. Above, Johnstown Traction 356 is pictured on Branford's unusual above-ground inspection pit, made necessary by the museum's coastal location only a few feet above sea level. This car is having one end rebuilt. Below, a pair of Brill 177 trucks from Korea that are seeing heavy reconstruction work by Branford shop forces is shown. These trucks will go under their Atlanta streetcar. Their volunteers are also doing major structural repair to an 1888 Brooklyn elevated car, and are finishing up an in-house refurbishing of a traction motor for one of their subway cars. Their shop has some enviable facilities including a 600v DC oven for baking armatures, an armature dipping tank, and a Niles wheel lathe.

Monday, November 10, 2008

New Arrivals

Perhaps the biggest news today was the arrival on the property of two steam locomotives from the Thompson Winery in Monee, a 2-6-2T and a 2-6-0.

Here's the 2-6-2T.

And this is the 2-6-0 with its tender. Unfortunately, I'm told the pilot truck is missing.

Scroll down through the steam page for more info.

But to back up, I started today by going back to Ameriglass in Woodstock to pick up the new windows they made for us. The three end windows for the 205 have been glazed, and one of the frames was fixed also. They really look nice. The 205 windows I just loaded into the car; Frank will see to installing them. One for the 518 I took home to putty and install new quarter-round window sticks. I don't want to apply oil paints or varnish in my basement workshop, but glazing should be fine.

(This picture is an interesting lesson in optical distortion. The sides of the window are straight, even if they don't look it.)

I did a little more clean-up on the roof of the 277; now I just need to start buying wood. After applying some penetrating oil and more torque, I managed to loosen all four bolts holding the trolley poles to the bases on the 308; this was a relief. I can't get the poles down by myself, of course, so that will come later. Then I worked some more on rearranging parts in the 321, varnished a 518 window, and cleaned some others. Next time I should be able to install two new ones in the car and remove two others.

In other news, Dave Diamond continues to make good progress on installing the new sides on the diner, but that's subject to the weather, of course. All the trim pieces have to fit just right. Let's see, insert tab C into slot D....

And the contractors continue to work on Barn 11. By the end of the day they had finished the west end, seen here earlier (R).

Saturday, November 8, 2008

More Roof Work

Today I did a lot more work clearing off the section of the 277's roof that needs to be rebuilt. To the right we see nearly all of the tongue and groove roof boards removed. Several of the carlines are in bad shape and need to be sistered. About half of them have wood bolted to steel, and the others are just wood. You may be able to see how bad a couple of them are, due to a combination of fire and rot. I now have all the dimensions I need to purchase new wood for the carlines and roof boards. In the distance, there is a sheet of plywood which I lifted onto the roof to serve as a platform from which to work. It was cold and damp outside, but up on the roof it's not too bad. Max's new lights give off heat as well as light.

After that was done, I received three sets of brand new harps for use on the 308 and 309 (so we still need one more) thanks to Bob Bruneau. The current trolley shoes are worn out, and welding them up did not help much, so we would like to change them to the style used on the North Shore cars with inserts that can easily be changed. These shoes are relatively maintenance-free. The new harp castings need some machining to fit together properly, but this should not be too hard.

I decided to start by removing one trolley pole and rebuilding it. I was unable to loosen the bolts on the 308; this has me worried. In any case, after a while I gave up and removed a pole from the 309, helped by Stan W. and Joe Stupar. I ground off the rivet that holds the harp to the pole. It still would not come loose, so Rich Block fired up the torch and heated it; it then could be removed easily. Here we have a couple of pictures of what a harp looks like when not attached to a pole. These parts were donated to Bob Heinlein for use on the 4000's. Thanks to Rich and Bob for their help. I also wire-wheeled the ends of the pole for better electrical conductivity when it is reassembled. All in all, a productive day.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Status of CA&E 321

Since people ask about the status of this car every so often, you deserve an honest assessment of current plans and the reasons behind them.

Frankly, I have just given up on restoring the 321 for the foreseeable future (i.e., my lifetime). The car has just too many problems, mostly dating back to its destructive conversion to work service in 1962, followed by years of neglect during its storage outside. On closer examination, the structure is not nearly as sound as I had thought. It would take at least ten years for me to complete, since there seems to be little prospect of getting additional full-time help, and when it was done, it would be just another CA&E car. And honestly, I was getting a little bored.

As it is, the car makes a nice display piece. We have wyed the 321 to put its good side towards the public sidewalk. Next spring, Frank will letter the letterboard, completing the cosmetic restoration. It also serves as a convenient shop space for our Barn 8 projects.

I believe my time can be better spent on other IRM projects. As a first priority I will continue to supervise and maintain the two blue cars. These should take only part of my time, and for the immediate future I will be concentrating on the IT cars 277 and 518. These will provide a much more immediate improvement to the museum's operating fleet. I will also be available for help on other projects, such as the roof of the 757.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

205 Here and There

I spent this afternoon working on various aspects of the 205's cosmetic restoration, most - but not all - focused on the car's roof. My first job was to paint the other side of the car's roof boards:These are now ready to begin installing the next time I'm out at the museum. My next task after that was completed was to retrieve the second MU jumper receptacle from the 205. The car originally had dash-mounted MU jumper receptacles (see below left), which were rarely used during service in Terre Haute, but were kept in working order as long as the cars were in Indiana. When the cars went to Portland these were removed, so we're putting them back on as part of the backdating of the car. The source for the replacement castings is South Shore 37, which is not accessioned. We took a pair of receptacles off the car a couple of years ago and suitably modified one, but we still need to modify the second one (below right) to make it look like the original.

This involved removing the rear third of the casting, which basically consists of an elbow for the wire harness; removing the pins, making the receptacle basically hollow; disassembling it into its component pieces; and needle-chipping it. The next step will be to cut off the locking ring lever (the car's originals didn't have them) and the "ears" for hanging the receptacle from the coupler carrier (ditto). Then we can prime the receptacle and install it on the east end of the car.

After this I went in search of productive things to do and came up with a couple of other tasks. First I pulled a pair of trolley bases out of our stock of spares; the 205's bases were of a "four spring up" design, i.e. the springs stayed aligned with the trolley pole when it was raised, and fortunately we had four of this type in stock. None had any obvious defects (nor were any two exactly alike) so I picked two that looked about the same, wire brushed and spray-painted them with primer. I also retrieved a wood-slat roof ladder that had been built by Bob Hively (the 205's owner from 1959 to 1993) though for what car I'm not sure; the steel runners that the slats are attached to don't match the 205's roof profile. It's just the right size to be a good stand-in for the 205's original roof ladder, though, so I straightened the steel runners and put in different bolts that will be suitable for bolting the thing through the car's current plywood roof.

Finally, before I could escape, I got Nicked. Nick Kallas had spent much of the day cleaning up spare wires, cables, and other miscellaneous junk from along the right-of-way at the west end, and I drove a company pickup truck out there for him to load a piece of "scrap" concrete into. The piece in the photo was actually too big for the Bobcat to pick up, but we got a second, smaller piece that was further west.