Thursday, August 30, 2012

Express Yourself

Painting is always a good way to express yourself, I find. So today I started by sanding down and applying filler to the end of the 36, then putting on a second coat of both brown and white primer to the upper parts of the end. The two stark colors provide a dramatic contrast with the bare wood below. And the word "Express" in black letters on white is meant to express the inescapable, either/or choices that we sometimes must make unwillingly in the existential search for life's meaning.

And if you're not into fine art, well, you can Louvre it or leave it.

But really, it was too hot to work for very long in the barn. So most of the time I spent working on more windows in the shop. By the end of the day I had two more with a first coat of primer on two sides. Al was meanwhile working on the door, and it's very close to being reinstalled in the car. I'll let him post something about that himself.

The Zephyr is over the pit, and the trucks are being thoroughly overhauled. Springs, pins, bushings, and so on are being checked and repaired as needed. Rod is doing machine work on this project, which is headed by Jamie and several helpers. Excursion excitement is building! I heard that the parlor car seats sold out in a matter of hours, but plenty of coach seats are still available, especially on Sunday. Since tickets only went on sale yesterday, I don't think we're worried. What, me worry?

Finally, something I've been wanting for the last 37 years....

One of the 309's three glass globes was destroyed in the 1971 fire, and we had been unable to find a replacement. For most of that time, one of the ceiling fixtures just had bare bulbs; a few years ago, I found a hardware store fixture that was vaguely similar and almost large enough to use. It wasn't quite big enough, so I had to cut out a ring of Masonite to hold it in place. The globe issue still irked me, the last real vestige of the fire damage.

By the way, the standard Pullman globes look much like the ones the CA&E used but are smaller, 12" diameter instead of 14". They are easy to find, but are the wrong size. The 14" globes are very rare, and would cost a fortune to reproduce.

Then it was discovered in sorting out the Johnson collection that one of these globes was there, still in excellent condition. I took possession of it today and couldn't wait to install it.

Ah, that's much better. As I say, this is really the final piece of fire damage to be fixed. I'd like to express my gratitude to everyone who helped make this possible.

Ironhorse Central Railroad

The Ironhorse Central is a family-owned railroad museum northeast of Minneapolis, and I can easily believe that this is the largest privately-owned railroad in the country. Above we see Erik Thompson showing the station to my wife. Most of the work is done by Erik, his father Richard, and his two young sons, as I understand it.

They have a large and varied collection of equipment. This steam locomotive was recently acquired, and has had some work done on it.

The main line circles the property. These home-made cars, based on speeders, provide revenue service when they're not too busy, but there's also a full-sized train that can be used.

My main interest was in two old wooden passenger cars inside the barn.

DSS&A #221 is a coach built in 1888 by Jackson and Sharp.

Much of the original woodwork is intact.

NP #1989 was built as a coach by Wason in 1870. It was converted to a business car in 1913, and later used as a cabin. However, the interior is still intact and generally in excellent condition.

Erik told me that while it was still a coach, it was probably used by General Custer and his men on their way to the frontier. This is really a beautiful car.

(L) The kitchen was modified somewhat while it was a cabin, but is still mostly intact. (R) Pictures and history of the car, which was acquired by Erik's grandfather.

Behind this caboose is a BN (ex-NP) dynamometer. I guess my picture of the exterior vanished. This one has a cupola for the operators, accessed by these steps. It's interesting to compare this to our Milwaukee Road dynamometer. This one has sleeping compartments and a kitchen.

The museum's website, linked above, is very good and has more information on all of this equipment.

But let's take a ride around the property. Erik is at the controls of the motor car, and we're riding in the passenger car. As we pass the station on the first loop, one of the boys hoops up orders to the other one, who is serving as the conductor.

And here's the picnic ground. I didn't get a picture of the petting zoo, which is maintained by the boys.

This was a very interesting and entertaining visit. Erik was very friendly and informative and showed us through various items not normally open to the public. I highly recommend a visit to anyone from IRM!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Thomas again

Al writes...

Sorry for the delay in posting this but I have been having trouble getting the photos into the blog. I'm not sure I have it licked yet

Some of you may be burned out on Thomas posts but time for just one more.

As most of you know I did work in the special needs tent for the five days of the Day Out with Thomas as the back up master of ceremonies. The best relief of all for today was not having to hear the Thomas jingle after those five days. If you're not familiar with it here's an assault on your audio senses.

Seriously the five days were fun and enlightening. It really pointed out that even though some museum members are not fond of the Thomas event it does have some very positive results, not the least of which are financial. But beyond that it brings a lot of joy to many children and does, I believe, help foster a future interest in railroads and railroad museums.

Our role in the MC tent was to make a series of announcements for those that were riding the Thomas train. My dilemma was if I should sound like George Carlin or Ringo Star.

Typically those announcements started about 15 to 20 min. prior to their scheduled departure time. The typical announcements at this point consisted of several items. First to point out that we did not allow open beverage containers or food on any of the trains it IRM. We pointed out that we did not have the time, nor the manpower, to clean up messes during the day and the simple way to ensure that there were no messes was not to bring anything aboard. Secondly we pointed out that strollers were not allowed on the train and even though they may fold up rather neatly they may stick out in the aisle and represent a tripping hazard.  We stressed that IRM has an excellent safety record and asked the participants to help us maintain that by not having anything sticking out into the aisles. We also noted that there were plenty of places to park strollers but to ensure that valuables, and children for that matter, were not left in the strollers during the Thomas ride and upon returning to take measures to ensure that it was their stroller that they were retrieving given the fact that there are only so many designs manufactured.We also needed to point out that there was a seat for every ticket but that also meant that there was a ticket for every seat. We asked the riders to ensure that diaper bags or other items that they might bring on board were not to be placed on seats which other paying passengers would need for their ride. Most of the crowd wanted to board at the first 2 boarding positions so were always urging the crowd to also utilize the 2 positions further south, cleverly hidden behind the turntable, and pointing out that there was a great view of Thomas as the train went around the west wye from the cars toward the rear of the train.

Thomas' helper
As boarding time approached and the previous train returned to the boarding area we made it a point that the 9255 was our very useful shunting engine that was helping Thomas to see to the rear as the train returned to the boarding area. It was nice to be using a locomotive this year that has a beautiful paint job and doesn't look like something that we were perhaps a little less than proud of. (We did have a debate amongst the folks in the tent as to whether we needed to create a face with a pair of moving eyes to put on the cab of the 9255 next year. I suspect if we did that we may be tarred and feathered by some CB&Q  fans.)

Since the 9255 does not really have the horsepower to do a power breaking operation into the boarding area, spotting the train became a tricky proposition for the IRM volunteer that was handling the throttle. Thus Harold and I entered into a discussion  with the audience as the train approached pointing out that our coaches sometimes behaved like Thomas' "Troublesome Trucks" and didn't always cooperate. If we happened to stop short we started asking the audience to yell push Thomas, farther Thoma,s to get the cars spotted at the correct boarding locations.

As the crowd from the previous trip disembarked we would go into a discussion of other things to do. this included pointing out that there were unlimited rides available on the streetcar loop which took approximately 15 to 20 min. and rides on the Main line which were approximately 35 to 40 min. long and several additional forms of entertainment available for the little ones. We also pointed out that they were in the midst of the largest Railway Museum in North America and that a stroll through the barns would provide a glimpse at a  number of pieces of railway history, signs were posted that included explanations of the history of that piece of rolling stock as well as its historical significance.

Jackson from Make-a-Wish
It was really interesting to see the extent to which families enjoyed their time at IRM. Because we worked in the special needs tent we did have the opportunity to help out a number of families that required extra assistance. Here's a photo of Jackson and his family, Jackson was here as a guest of the Make-A-Wish foundation. I also discovered this video of one family's trip to see Thomas at IRM I think it does a good job of illustrating the joy and happiness that this events can create for our customers.

As mentioned last week one of our other duties was to help passengers with what we called missed connections. It was interesting to see how many people had problems telling time or in a couple of cases reading a calendar. Our primary point of contact for helping out these folks was Steve. Harold got to the point where he had a badge made up noting  that he was not the missed connection manager.
Steve helps with a missed connection

Harold's special badge

The umbrellas go up
The weather was close to perfect for four of the five days of the event. The only downside was the rain that continued to fall most of the day on Sunday. However, in spite of the rain we still had fairly good crowds on site.
One thing we tend to forget is the large logistics effort involved in getting all the food and drinks to the proper sales points.  Here's a shot of the commissary that supplies drinks around the campus
I know on some occasions Randy does restaurant reviews here at the Hicks car works. We did go to a different restaurant each night of the five days of the event. On a scale of 1 to 5 one of the restaurants barely got a one, another of the restaurants perhaps a 2, a third got a four to 4 1/2 and a fourth I will give a five and one we didn't stress enough to get a good evaluation. I don't wish to embarrass the low rated restaurants, but I will include a photo of the winner, the Red Ox, in Hampshire. The food was good, the service was quick, the bills were accurate all for a group of 20 IRM volunteers that invaded on Saturday night.

I am looking forward to doing this again next year it's been a fun experience and it certainly helps the image and pocketbook of the museum.

Tower Train Museum

In the little town of Tower, Minnesota is this local railroad and history museum, located at the town's depot. The depot contains a small collection of various artifacts on display.

We're still in DM&IR territory, folks, so.....

The main attraction is this 1910 Baldwin 2-8-0, DM&IR #1218. The sign tells (or at least used to tell) you everything you could possibly want to know about it!

You can look into the cab; the backhead appears to be in remarkably good shape. They certainly don't seem to have much problem with theft and vandalism.

The locomotive is only under a roof, however, so rust is hard to stop.

Then there's this heavyweight coach, which is used for occasional events.

I've never seen anything quite like this. It's equipped with benches, so perhaps it was used for transporting miners in their dirty clothes. Anybody have a better idea?

And this nice wooden waycar, with a complete interior, out under the weather.

We have more places to visit, so don't touch that dial!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Greyhound Bus Museum

While on vacation we visited the Greyhound Bus Museum in Hibbing, Minn. It is very well organized and has excellent visitor displays. I was quite impressed with the overall experience, even for someone who's not particularly interested in buses. It's located in Hibbing because that's where Greyhound got its start.

Restoration of the buses and artifacts is entirely done by volunteers. I spoke to Gene, who is in charge of the mechanical side; he said they have between 20 and 30 active volunteers who do the restoration and maintenance work. There are about 20 buses, most of which are operable, although they don't run very often and do not provide rides for visitors.

The main display hall has cases with uniforms, various memorabilia, and hundreds of bus models of all types.

The displays are generally very well labeled.

In the larger part of the main building, there are eight fully-restored buses on display, arranged in chronological order. They are open for people to walk into and sit in. The earliest model dates to 1927.

As usual, photography inside a barn like this is challenging. The collection includes a Scenicruiser.

(That (R) is a greyhound mannikin holding up a donation box. There are several of these scattered around.)

You can have the driver's seat.

Interior restorations look great.

Almost all of these had to be completely restored with new upholstery, etc. Here's a sign showing what this particular bus looked like when acquired.

Outside there are 10 or 12 buses in various conditions; most have been at least partly restored. Many Greyhound buses were turned into motor homes after regular service, and some of these are still in that configuration, because it's hard to find the right seats and so forth.

This, by the way, is the only skeleton.

These two are ACF-Brills, which I thought was interesting, of course.

It's a whole lot easier when you don't have to lay track, and can just park a bus wherever you want!

Then there are a couple of replica bus stations....

displaying more models and artifacts. And some models of large city bus stations.

This visit was quite instructive in terms of providing a pleasant and carefully arranged visitor experience.