Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Illinois Terminal 234 builders photos

Frank writes...


IRM is home to the only two pieces of equipment in existence that were built by the Danville Car Company: IT 1702, a line car which was a frame-up rebuild of a cab-on-flat Danville built in 1906; and IT 234, an interurban observation car which was built by Danville for the Illinois Traction System in 1910 as the parlor car "Champaign." My recent trip to the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum revealed that PTM has the surviving collection of builders photos from the Danville Car Company and, lo and behold, they have a number of photos of the "Champaign" itself.

All photos are the property of the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum. Please note that these are poor reproductions acquired by photographing the original prints with a mobile phone!

Here's the "Champaign" in all its glory. These photos were taken on St. Patrick's Day 1910. We're looking at the left side of the car here, which is why there's no door (though there are steps off the rear platform on this side). Many changes were made to the car's exterior during its life including steel sheathing, plated-over upper sash windows, and addition of "hips" to the roof to give it an arched roof (current photos of the car are here). The interior saw somewhat less modification. The exhaust pipe at the front corner of the car is for the Peter Smith water heater.
Here's the left side of the car. What a beauty! I believe the exhaust pipes on this side are for the kitchen. This car was built as a trailer, briefly motorized, then returned to a trailer. I'm not entirely certain what the box underneath the car was used for.
Welcome aboard! This is looking onto the front platform with the Peter Smith heater, at the front left corner of the car, evident. The door to the heater compartment is open and appears to be sheathed in some insulating material, likely Transite. The hand brake is to the right.
Here's the car's observation compartment looking towards the rear. At some point during its life the rear wall was replaced. The new wall moved the door to the middle, rather than offset to the left side of the car as it was originally, but just as importantly - though less obviously in this shot - the wall was moved back one window. There are a lot of opulent features the car lost later on including intricate stenciling on the ceiling, the ITS emblem (mostly hidden by a light globe) on the end wall, and some awfully Victorian curtains. The car still has those nice coat hooks and most, if not all, of the original ceiling light fixtures. I'm not sure why they left the pillows on the floor though.
And here's the observation compartment looking towards the rear, with a nice removable table of some sort set up. Compare this photo with the recent photo here - a lot of the details are the same including the glass-front cabinets on the bulkhead and the intricate "fenced" shelves atop the bulkhead seats. It's hard to tell but it looks like the ITS emblem was painted over the doorway at this end of the observation compartment too. The steel rods in the ceiling, that in later years were used for hanging curtains around the fold-out beds in this compartment, were not part of the car's original equipment.
Back on the outside of the car, here's the observation platform. The car still has the same railing but there have been other changes including, notably, moving the rear wall backwards one window. As built the back platform was a good 3' deeper than it is now. Also note that the car was built without the anticlimber or lamps that it has now. It does, however, seem to have kept its original drip rail!
Here's another shot in the observation compartment looking forward, but here one of the two fold-out beds has been set up. In later years they used steel rods for hanging these heavy curtains but it looks like originally they instead used leather straps, or some kind of strap, to hang the curtains. Of course there's a spittoon thoughtfully placed on the floor next to the bed, and again there's a pillow on the floor in front of each of the seats. Was this a common thing in 1910?
I'm not sure how the "Champaign" was set up as built, and I'm actually not all that familiar with its current layout either, but this appears to be a men's lounge of some sort. The match striker on the wall and the leather upholstery suggests this area was intended for smoking This may be on the left side of the car across from the kitchen, I'm not sure.
Here's one of the sections with the beds made up. The car still has these sections though I'm not sure whether we have any of the original bedding supplies for the car.
Here's the kitchen, on the right side of the car near the front, with the two stovepipes at the top going to the exhaust pipes visible in the second photo.
And finally, we have a view of one of the sections with the beds removed. You'll note from the visible ceiling stenciling that this car did not use Pullman-style berths that fold down from the ceiling. Rather, the seat backs folded up from the wall to create the upper bunk while the lower bunk was in its normal spot at seat cushion height. There are fittings visible in the wall under the windows which presumably could be used for attaching removal tables.

Many thanks to Chris Walker and Bruce Wells of the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum for locating these images and allowing them to be photographed and published.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Visit to Arden

Frank writes...

Family and work obligations have kept me away from Union for the last couple of months, but my job still has me traveling and this past weekend it had me in Pittsburgh. Of course that meant a visit to the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum in Washington, where I met up with Bruce Wells.

When I first arrived, a volunteer I hadn't met before named Bob Jordan had just shut down the museum's Westinghouse "visibility cab" diesel, ARMCO B73. This wouldn't normally be terribly interesting except that B73 is one of the oldest operating diesels in the country, if not the oldest, and it's identical to recently-acquired B71 at IRM. The volunteers at PTM keep it in good shape and run it regularly, though they don't run it far because it's standard gauge and most of the museum's trackage is 5'2.5" gauge.
Bruce, pictured above, showed me around the PTM shop. Their fully-restored Pittsburgh car, 4398, was getting some paint touch-up and a couple of other cars were in the shop for what I believe were just inspection tasks. The current "big" project is shown above: Philadelphia Peter Witt 8042, a standard car from that city that PTM got just a few years ago. It's complete but somewhat deteriorated. The museum hired a contractor to completely rebuild the front end of the car and that work is mostly complete.
Here's the left side of the front platform, where museum volunteers are replacing the various switches and electrical boxes.
And here's the interior of car 8042, which is in pretty good condition. It's easy to imagine this car being in service on PTM's line in a few years once its body work is complete and a few other tasks - new roof canvas, new upper-sash windows - are done.

Later on Bruce and another museum volunteer, Chris Walker, showed me through the museum's archives. It was very interesting and, unlike IRM's libraries, entirely traction-oriented. They have a small collection of builder's photos from Brill subsidiaries and I had the opportunity to snap pictures with my phone of a few. I've uploaded photos of the Galesburg Birneys, of which IRM's Illinois Terminal 170 was one, to that car's history page here. And watch this page for some more interesting finds!

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Report from Schaumburg

The first day of the train show seemed to go very well.  If we didn't see you there, you still have all day tomorrow to make up for it.  You'll be glad you did!

In the morning, the IRM booth was manned by Mike Blackwell and Nick Kallas, as well as Dave Hammer and Chris and Dan Buck (not shown).


 I was able to be there about 2:00.  We handed out a lot of calendars and Thomas flyers, and spoke to visitors of all sorts.  Many people had been to the Museum before, of course, and we got a lot of compliments.  A few people even remembered me personally from Happy Holidays or other visits to IRM.  Other people who had never visited before promised us to come out this year, so that's a good sign.

Among other things, we spent some time talking to a man who had been an operator at the Cicero hump yard, and it was fascinating, at least for someone who grew up along the Q.  He didn't seem to be interested in joining IRM, but you never know....

And by the way, you are never too old to be a Thomas enthusiast.


But if you missed all the fun, tomorrow is another day!

Welcome to Schaumburg

The World's Greatest Hobby Train Show is taking place today and tomorrow at the Schaumburg Convention Center.  Stop by and see us at the IRM booth!

Yesterday I picked up several boxes of flyers and calendars to hand out at the show, and dropped them off at the convention center.   The boss was busy when I arrived:


There are lots of manufacturers and retailers with displays at the show, as well as several modular layouts in all scales, some of them quite large:


And I happened to run into Henry Vincent and Bob Opal, who will be there with some other organization.  Here Bob is doing some last-minute ballasting, with expert supervision.


Anyway, if you're in the area, you won't want to miss this opportunity!

Monday, December 31, 2018

Highlights of 2018


It's time once again to celebrate as we review the accomplishments of the past year.   As always, additions and corrections are welcome!    ♪ Should auld acquaintance....   

  • Removing the old gift shop cars from depot area
  • Acquisition: North Shore car 172
  • Rock Island Geep, FP45 repainted (as shown on calendar)
  • As usual, operations proceeded smoothly and safely during the year, thanks to our operating department.
  • Pumpkin Day, Milwaukee Day
  • WGN morning news visited IRM, and their coverage included the 308 and 309
  • Heavy rains over Labor Day weekend washed out what would have been one of our most popular events, but there was no permanent damage and operations resumed quickly.
  • The Steam Team have kept the 1630 operational, completed work on the Shay 
  • Several cars were repainted
  • And last but by no means least, Museum attendance was up again this year, if only slightly.  General admissions increased and Happy Holiday Railway admissions nearly doubled, up by about 93%.  That's good news!

Doodlebug Report

Another update from Gregg Wolfersheim on his continuing work on the Union Pacific doodlebug:


Here we have the opening for the left side stepwell being prepped.


These are two new sides that were made years ago by another volunteer at the museum. The originals were rusted and damaged from some sort of accident before IRM got the car.


Step number 2 and 4 have been fitted. All four steps and their backs had to be straightened out and primed, first.


All four steps and the backs are in. Some spot priming has been applied to the hardware, too.


Another view of the stepwell, and the hinge bracket for the trap. That also required fabricating a plate to attach it to the carbody.  Next is rewiring the interior lighting circuits while we can get to them easily. Also, some more work is in progress  with the windows and their tracks.


Snowflake Special at Night

Here's a brief pictorial revue of the night-time run of this year's SnowFlake Special.  A good time was had by all.  The holiday train is certainly different.  Here it is at the Harlem and Lake terminal.


All the CTA employees involved were very friendly and helpful.  Here, for example, is the supervisor for the trip, John Zupko.



We even had a photo runby, which is not easy to do when there's lots of regular service going on.  This is on the reverse curve at Sheridan on the North-South line.


There was a slight delay at Howard when an unauthorized person got on the tracks, but this was handled very quickly and efficiently by the CTA and the local police and firemen. 


A photo stop at the Conservatory station on the Lake St. line:


So we even had a nice nighttime view of the Garfield Park Conservatory.


Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Worlds' Greatest Hobby Show

The Worlds' Greatest Hobby train show will be held in Schaumburg once again on Jan. 5th and 6th, 2019.  The management of the show has generously given IRM a free booth at the show, and we need to have some members on hand both days to hand out flyers and calendars, answer questions about IRM, and encourage people to visit and/or become volunteers.  We've done this before, in 2008 and 2012.  See, for example, this report.

If you can help out, please contact Nick Kallas.  A uniform of some sort would be good.  The hours are 10-6 on Saturday and 10-5 on Sunday.  If you can be there for only part of the day, that's fine.  If there are enough people on hand, you can take turns wandering around the show and viewing all the exhibits.  And we have a good location near the entrance, next to Walthers.

Monday, December 24, 2018

Christmas Greetings

Piero di Cosimo, c. 1485
Madonna and Child Enthroned with Sts. Peter, John the Baptist, Dominic, and Nicholas of Bari 

And this year, we have a brand new feature to go along with our occasional ventures into the world of fine art -- pictures of the grandchildren!  Merry Christmas!


Sunday, December 23, 2018

Laughing All the Way



Yesterday was the penultimate running of Happy Holiday Railway this year, and it could hardly be more successful.  Nine trains, all sold out.  And then some, I suspect.  But just about everybody seemed to be having a great time.  It's a long day, but the general festive mood helps keep people going.

This is a great accomplishment for the Museum, and all those who have been working tirelessly to make it a success deserve a lot of thanks from all of us.  Many people have spent nearly every day for the last five weekends working on all the various parts of HHR, and it's made a tremendous difference.  Attendance has been growing rapidly, and by the end of today we should have reached another milestone, although I'm not sure the brass hats want me saying exactly what it is.

With the 411 on the head end (above), the train looks especially nice.  The operating crew was too busy and too spread out for me to get a crew picture.  And our Santas and elves all seemed to be doing a great job.  Speaking of which, see if you can tell which is the real Santa:


We'll reveal the answer next week.  Now here's something you seldom see in the middle of winter:


The 4391 was running several trips around the car line when the bilevels were out on the main, mostly for training and qualification purposes.  But they also carried passengers as a bonus.

Speaking of bonus, the Museum is really a special place when it's all lit up after dark.  Here's the Schroeder Store, for instance.  It looks great, but I'm not very good at night photography -- where's O. Winston Link when you need him???


The store is loaded with bargains -- I stopped in and found just what I needed for only $0.79.  And guess who was behind the register?  Dave Diamond, who said (with a laugh) he was being trained as a retail clerk.  The labor shortage must be worse than I thought.

The challenge for next year will be to find a way to increase our capacity for carrying crowds.  And however that happens, it will certainly require even more effort from more volunteers.  Between now and then, however, the best minds in the business will be pondering the possibilities.  So we'll see what they come up with.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Happy Holidays!

Today was another productive and enjoyable day out at the Museum.  Everybody seemed to be in a festive holiday mood, and why not?  Among other good news, Happy Holiday Railway continues to be a big success for the Museum, and we could still use another trainman or two this weekend.   But let's turn to activities in the Car Department.

First of all, I got a chance to see the new bearings for the 309, which Bob Sundelin has milled so that the two halves fit together perfectly.  I measured the inside diameters both in the plane of the split and transverse, and it looks like we will not need shims.  It should be possible to start machining the inside surface as soon as the two halves are soldered together.



So naturally I'm very happy about that.  What a nice present!
Photo by Jon Fenlaciki
And today was the Wednesday group's annual holiday luncheon, always a high point of the year.  Thanks to everyone who contributed time and talent to make this a success!


Who could ask for a more elegant ambiance?



 Several projects were active, so here's just a sample.   John Sheldon is making new windows for the 306.  And here he is, trying not to get too much sawdust on the food.




And some of the wood stacked up.  Part of this is for the 1754.


Chuck Meter is doing heavy rebuilding work on a truck for the Cleveland PCC.



The 141 was over the pit.  It needs a few adjustments, and we plan to have it in regular operation on the car line this year.  And in other exciting news, the L car contingent are working to get the Baldy operational.   Here we see Thomas Slater and Nick Day testing out the control system.   There are some air leaks which need to be fixed, but the electrical system on the whole is in good condition.  Now that the floor has been fixed, the car is close to completion. 


But don't just take my word for it.  Here, you can watch the control system in operation:



Finally, I spent some time helping Gerry on the 972.   He authorized me to say the following:

The 972 has serious structural problems, and will not be operational again for a long time.  For the time being, we want to stabilize the car and make it possible to move it if necessary.  One bolster has partly collapsed, and the other is on the point of collapse.  But it doesn't make sense to replace either bolster if the entire substructure is weak, due to serious rust over the years.  The only solution would be to remove the floor, replace basically all the structural parts underneath, and put it back together.   That is not going to happen anytime soon.   I hope that's clear enough.  So please don't start pestering us about when it's going to run again.

Anyway, here are some pictures of what we did today.   Gerry came up with a plan to force the broken bolster more or less back together with a couple of steel plates held together with large threaded rods.  Before we start, you can see that the top chord of the bolster is sticking up way above the floor.   Essentially the car body on this side has sunk down, and is barely above the wheels.



Now we need to bring the two plates together, using a car jack and chain.  


Meanwhile, we also jack up on the lower plate from below.  In this picture, you may be able to see how far apart the two halves of the bolster are.  The two of us working together were able to jack up the body and get it more or less level again, tighten up the bolts, and so on.  Several steps are omitted here because I can't do everything at once.


And I hope this final picture shows that the bolster is much close to the plane of the floor.  We'll let the car relax for a few days, then keep working.  The root cause of this problem is that the car was designed with the smallest possible structural support, which then was exposed to heavy salt on the streets of Milwaukee, causing much of it to rust to the point of failure.  So for the foreseeable future the car will be displayed inoperable.  It still looks nice, though.



Finally, our old friend Thomas Cornillie sends along a scan you'll want to read:


Oops, did you miss this trip?   So did I, although I don't remember exactly why.  But in any case, we have another Snowflake Special scheduled this year, and tickets are still available.  Don't let another fantastic opportunity like this get away!