Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Maryland, My Maryland

Business took me to Maryland this past weekend, where I availed myself of the opportunity to do a bit of railfanning. My first stop was at Glen Echo Park, along the north bank of the Potomac northwest of Washington. Glen Echo was originally built as a Chatauqua assembly ground and was later an amusement park for decades. Some of the original buildings have been preserved by the National Park Service; when I was there I happened upon a jazz concert put on by the U.S. Army Blues.A few years ago the PCC car pictured above was acquired from Philadelphia and put in front of the park entrance, right atop original rails from the old Capital Transit streetcar line to Cabin John. Unfortunately the car is still Philadelphia gauge and cannot be set down on the original rails, nor has it received much upkeep since its arrival. I'm not sure what the current plans for it are. The stone tower in the background dates back to Glen Echo's Chatauqua days.

Then on Saturday I had a chance to make it to the Baltimore Streetcar Museum where I met longtime IRM member - and longtime BSM member - Pete Schmidt, along with BSM volunteers John Engleman, Ed Amrhein and a couple of others. BSM's collection is mostly comprised of Baltimore cars, though a few Philadelphia cars have been acquired in recent years and regauged to run on the museum's 5'4-1/2" gauge track.
The PCC pictured above is one example; built for Philadelphia as a typical PCC, it was rebuilt by SEPTA as a line car and was acquired a few years ago by BSM for use as a work car. It has been regauged and repainted in an attractive livery based on the old Baltimore work car livery. One of its more unique features, made possible by an on-board 110v power source originally installed to ease the use of standard power tools, is a back-up camera!

Above left, the camera as seen from the back of the car (it's mounted in what was originally the operator's-side rear window); at right, above the operator's head can be seen the flat-panel TV monitor displaying the view out the back of the car. Pretty slick!

What BSM is traditionally known for, however, is its Baltimore streetcar collection - and especially its stellar collection of pre-1900 streetcars. Below, one of the museum's restoration projects is this c1885 single-trucker, Baltimore City Passenger Railway 417, which was built as a horsecar and later saw use as a cable trailer before being electrified in the mid-1890's.
And I took a couple of rides to survey BSM's attractive line, much of which was recently double-tracked. The route travels through a shallow valley along the old Ma & Pa, past that line's roundhouse, which is now used by the highway department. Below left, the double-truck hand-brake 1902-vintage open car with Ed and Bill from BSM as its crew; below right, Pete enjoys the fresh air on a beautiful evening to be riding a "breezer."

BSM is a great museum to visit - be sure to stop by if you're in Baltimore!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Status Report on TARP

As every informed citizen should know by now, TARP stands for the "Troubled Asset Relief Program" which was signed into law on Oct. 3, 2008. Well, the 321 is a "troubled asset" if there ever was one, so my first priority was to see how efficient the TARP program has been in bringing relief. I'm glad to say it's been very effective so far, although some modifications are needed. I took a couple of hours to reduce waste, tighten up regulations a little, and apply some more of the clamps Joel made for us. As seen here, I've now finished the east end of the car, as well as both sides, and only the west end remains to be tied down. Of course, you should know that TARP was only intended as a temporary relief program; the only permanent solution for preservation of our many troubled assets is to construct a new carbarn.

Hey, you!! Yes, you, sitting there surfing the net. You can help! We are very close to having the necessary funds to begin construction of the new barn, and any contribution you can make to the Barn Fund or any of the active equipment funds that need barn space will help. Remember, there's no waste, fraud, or abuse when you contribute to IRM funds. 100% of your money goes to the specified purpose.

OK, enough of that. Today I finally installed the one remaining stepwell on the 319. The original had gotten bent out of shape during the move, and this is a replacement from the 321. We are now the proud owners of a Rock Island step box which came along in the 36 for some reason, and it was just about right for holding up the steps while I bolted them into position. I had to redrill some holes, but otherwise it went smoothly.

Now that it's installed, welcome aboard!

I dragged the scaffold to the other end of the car so I could install the rope guard at that end. It's noticeably hotter up on the scaffold, so I didn't finish installing all the screws I need, even for a temporary job.

I also checked in our storage container. While walking through Barn 9, I noticed there was a relatively clear view of the 2903. What an impressive locomotive!

And our revenue service interurban train today was the 749 and 714. It looks great!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Virginia Museum of Transportation

We paid an all-too-brief visit to the Virginia Museum of Transportation in Roanoke recently. It has an extensive collection of equipment concentrating on the N&W and Virginian. The museum occupies an old N&W freight house and the adjoining yard near the center of the city. The equipment is all on static display, and VMT is more like MSI than IRM.

The Claytor Pavilion covers much of the yard tracks and the displayed equipment, nearly all of which is in very good cosmetic condition.

The jewels of the collection are the 611 and 1218, as seen here. These of course were both in excursion service until the N&W steam program was halted several years ago. I was lucky to see them both in steam when they came to Chicago.

The sun seemed to be in the wrong position for picture taking, but the yard was about to close.

On both the 611 and 1218, you can walk into the space between the cab and the tender. The cab itself is block off with a plexiglass wall, but it makes a great display.

I spoke to Charles Hardy, one of the volunteer docents. He was friendly and informative. VMT is entirely self-supporting and receives no state funding. There are five or six employees, and ten or twelve volunteers, most of whom are docents. Volunteers do a few restoration projects; for instance, they plan next to fix up the cab of the Virginian EL-C so visitors can enter it. Major projects are funded by grants, and one of the employees is responsible for grant requests.

By the way, when Mr. Hardy learned I was from IRM, he tried his hardest to arrange some sort of deal to acquire the 2050. He offered us a business car, two waycars, a Diesel switcher, and I forget what else. He was rather disappointed when I told him I was pretty sure we would never consent to trade it away. He must not have heard about the 952 controversy because he also asked me if I thought they could acquire the Y-6 from St. Louis.

Here's the Washington PCC #1470, which is stored outside and used for children's parties.

Inside the main building are several very professionally-done display areas, with a wide variety of subjects. There's a large O gauge hi-rail layout and lots of pictures and artifacts.

Here we see a replica branch station on the left, and part of a display about African-Americans on the N&W.

And I should point out that VMT also has substantial collections of other types of transportation, such as autos, busses, and airplanes, which I didn't have time to examine.

Out in back is the recently-acquired N&W 4-8-0 #1151. It had been sitting in a nearby scrapyard since the end of steam.


Also at the Southern Museum of Civil War and Locomotive History was Georgia's Merci Train Boxcar. After World War II, the French people sent a train of 48 "40 et 8" boxcars to the United States, laden with gifts as a way of saying "thank you" to the American people for the liberation of France in World War II. The boxcars were called "40 and 8" cars, as they were designed to hold either 40 men or 8 horses. One boxcar went to each state, with Hawaii and Washington, D.C. sharing the 49th. Each boxcar had a variety of gifts including paintings, toys, silks, clothing, and other items. Since their arrival, these boxcars have lived varied lives. For example, the Illinois boxcar disappeared after the 1949 Railroad Fair in Chicago. Here, we see the Georgia car, restored, inside and on display. A nice and fitting tribute to the Greatest Generation!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

I'm Back!

I'm back from vacation. We had a great time, although not a lot of railfanning; highlights were Mammoth Cave, the Blue Ridge Parkway, Skyline Drive, Harper's Ferry, and Gettysburg. But I'll have a railroad-related post or two soon.

As a preview, here is N&W 4-8-0 #1151, one of the "Lost Engines of Roanoke" recently rescued from a scrapyard at great trouble and expense.

It was nice to see again the house where I grew up.

Later, however, we were able to move to a bigger house in a better neighborhood after my father struck it rich. Black gold, Texas tea....

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Dave's Depots, NC&STL Depot, Kennesaw, Georgia

This edition of Dave's Depots takes us down south to the town of Kennesaw, Georgia. Kennesaw is located north of Atlanta, along the tracks of the state-owned Western & Atlantic Railroad. The line was leased to the Nashville, Chattanooga & St. Louis railroad in the 1890s. The NC&StL was owned by the L&N, and operation of the line came under L&N control after the 1957 merger of the two roads. The L&N won a new lease of the line in the 1960s.

The depot is a standard NC&StL style depot, and is in very good shape. It sits across the street from the Southern Museum of Civil War and Locomotive History, home of the General, which was discussed in an earlier post.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Thomas Weekend

I was out at IRM on Sunday but since it was the second Day Out With Thomas weekend I was in operations and not working in the Car Department. I worked as conductor on our Chicago PCC car, the 4391, with Paul Sprenger as motorman. Paul is always a consummate professional when operating, never seen without a complete CTA uniform including necktie.
Note that, since I forgot to bring my camera, this is a Krambles-Peterson Archive photo of the 4391 from irm.org and was not, in fact, taken during Day Out With Thomas.

I did have a few minutes at the end of the day to goof around with the 205, though. Rod had cut the hole for the headlight at the east end of the car, leaving only a few thin strips of metal holding the blank in place, as seen in the cell phone camera shot below. I cut these in a few minutes and we're now ready to clean up the edge and install that headlight!

The Great Locomotive Chase - Revisited

Business travels recently took me to Marietta, Georgia. Marietta is a suburb, located on the north side of the city. Upon arrival, I realized my hotel was only about 9 miles away from Kennesaw, Georgia, so I decided it was time to visit an old friend.

Back in the early 1980s, when VCRs and video rental were new, a local drugstore in my hometown also had a selection of movies to rent. One of these movies was Walt Disney's The Great Locomotive Chase, starring Fess Parker and Jeffrey Hunter. The movie tells the true-life story of Union solders, dressed as civilians who sole the General in an attempt to disrupt rail supply of Chattanooga. Their exploits were halted by a determined conductor, William A. Fuller. The raiders were captured, some executed. The events led to the creation and award of the Congressional Medal of Honor. I must have seen this movie hundreds of times while growing up, and probably wore out the tape. About that time, on our way home from a vacation in Florida, my parents stopped at the museum that houses the real steam locomotive the General.

Since that time, the museum that houses the General has grown in both size and scope. Now called The Southern Museum of Civil War and Locomotive History, the museum focuses on three main areas, Railroad in the Civil War, the Glover Machine Works of Marietta, Georgia, and of course, the Great Locomotive Chase. The museum is now a Smithsonian affiliate, and well worth the visit if you are in the area.

A major new focus of the museum is the Glover Machine Works of Marietta, Georgia. This company, which is still in existence, at a different location, was known as a builder of small industrial and logging steam locomotives. In the 1990s, the Glover family decided to sell the property containing the works, and the museum stepped up and preserved the company records, the patterns, and other items, including antique machine tools. There were even two steam locomotives remaining at the factory. One has since been relocated to display in downtown Marietta. The other is on display at the museum, along with a complete frame for a similar steam locomotive. The displays of the Glover items is impressive, especially all of the wooden foundry patterns.

Of course, the star attraction of the museum is still the General. Today, she looks pretty much as she did in 1962 when the L&N restored her to take place in the 100th anniversary of the chase. The other locomotive that took part in the Great Locomotive Chase, the Texas is housed at the Atlanta Cyclorama. I'd like to go see her one of these days.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

And now for something completely different.....

Not railway preservation-related, but today, Katy and I went out to Spirit of St. Louis Airport to see a restored Boeing B-17G bomber Liberty Belle. The aircraft is owned by the Liberty Belle Foundation, and tours the country for about nine months a year. This particular B-17G never saw combat, but was used for some time after the war as a test bed for Pratt & Whitney to test engines. After being damaged in a tornado in the 1970s, which severed the tail, the aircraft was restored to flying condition.

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Stephenson Plant, 100 Years Later

Last weekend business took me to New Jersey, and I was able to make a long-planned stop at the John Stephenson Car Company in Elizabeth, N.J. The old 1898 plant where our very own car 36 was built is still there, intact virtually in its entirety, but with a slew of additions in the past 100 years or so. After Stephenson went out of business around the time of the Great War the plant was bought by an airplane manufacturer and likely went through some other owners. Nowadays it is home to several different companies.

Below left is an aerial photo of the plant courtesy of Bing; below right is a key to what you're looking at. Information comes from a 1903 Sanborn Fire Insurance map sent to me some time back by Walt Stafa, who is currently leading the charge on rebuilding the 36's control system. Original Stephenson buildings still in existence are outlined in red; former Stephenson buildings and features that have been removed are outlined in yellow. Locations from which photos (see further down in this post) were taken are noted with blue circles.

1 - originally the varnish shop, with the electrical shop at the east (lower right) end
2 - noted as "print shop" on the map
3 - erecting shop
4 - mill shop
5 - former site of a transfer table
6 - former site of another transfer table
7 - former site of the engine house
8 - former site of what appears to be the engine house, though this isn't entirely clear
9 - former site of a building, designation is illegible on the Sanborn map
10 - former site of drying kiln
11 - approximate former site of lumber shed, with open lumber storage taking up all of the space south of the mill shop

Most of the photos are pretty poor quality, as they were shot from inside my rental car - there was a security booth on the property and I wasn't sure whether I was supposed to be there, although there was no gate and nobody stopped me. We're looking southeast at the north side of what was originally the varnish shop here; subsequent owners added the truck docks, obviously.

Here we're looking down an alley along the west end of the varnish shop (near left) and the "print shop" building further down on the left. The building to the right is a later addition. The buildings are all brick but most have been clad in sheet metal, and additionally a large office and truck dock building has been constructed which extends north-to-south along the entire eastern edge of the original building faces.

This is the aforementioned modern building which was constructed along the entire eastern edge of the plant, obscuring views of the print shop, erecting shop and mill shop. The varnish shop/electrical shop at the north end of the factory extends further east and is visible, but has been clad in sheet metal like the rest of the buildings.

In this admittedly terrible photo you can see a bit of the original plant showing through. The modern building pictured above is only 20'-30' deep, I'd guess, and here we are looking through one of the truck dock bays and can see the original brick wall exterior of the "print shop" building. There's also what appears to be a bricked-over window in what was originally an exterior wall.

I hope you enjoyed this rather poor-quality photo tour of the Stephenson plant. Depending on time constraints, I may try and inquire about a tour of the building on a future trip, though I'm fairly certain there's nothing terribly interesting that has been left there through the plant's many lives. Still, it was neat to visit the birthplace of our latest acquisition.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Great Western 90

Here we see Great Western 90, a Baldwin "catalog" Decapod (2-10-0) at the Strasburg Railroad. I rode behind this locomotive during my recent visit to Strasburg. Normally, I would try to add this to the steam page, but the last time I tried, I messed it all up and Randy didn't talk to me for about six weeks. Today, I visited W&ARR #3 "The General" at Kennesaw, Georgia, photos and a trip report to come later.

Monday, August 16, 2010

205 Progress

I was traveling on business this past weekend, but the prior weekend some progress was made on the 205. I laid out the location on the east end of the car for the hole for the headlight, and on Sunday Rod Turner cut the hole using a 6-1/2" hole saw that he researched and purchased specifically for this project. A giant "thank you" to Rod for his work on this! The 205 had streetcar-style headlights mounted in the dash while it was on the Indiana Railroad, but when it went to Portland these were removed, the holes plated over, and hang-on headlights were used. At some point in Portland it must have gotten into an accident because the end sheet at one end was replaced - hence the need to cut the hole back into the car. A bit more work is necessary to complete the hole, after which the headlight will be installed. Next step after that will be installation of the MU jumper socket at the east end of the car. Below, the last photo of the car's east end dash in its Portland configuration sans headlight.