Thursday, June 1, 2023

Thirty to Seventy for Seventy

It's now just thirty days to our "70 for 70" record-breaking trolley pageant, and since I have a small part to play in this extravagant extravaganza, it behooves me to hold up the side, as they say.  We have four restored wooden CA&E cars, and they're all pretty nifty appearance-wise, but there was at least one thing that needed to be fixed.  Handrails on the 309 were pretty ugly.

For a long time we have usually had one side of this car facing the public (south), and as a result the handrails on this side had lost a lot of paint.  People's rings and so forth take their toll.  So this seemed like a good time to take care of that.

With a combination of a wire-wheeler, a scraper, and sandpaper, it was fairly easy but time-consuming to get the rails down to bare metal.

And then paint them with white primer.  Ah, much better.

You also have to consider what they look like from inside the car, of course.

They will soon get a coat of finish grey.  Most of the other handrails are in pretty good shape, and I plan to touch them up as needed.

I've been on vacation visiting family the last two or three weeks, so a lot has escaped my attention.  But of course the others have kept their noses to the grindstone.  Here's an example of what Pete and Fritz have accomplished:

They later installed the red door on the car, and the electrical cabinet door is still in progress.

Among other things, the 306 has had its black stripe areas painted in preparation for the basic body orange.  I should have taken a picture of the folding doors that John has completed -- sorry!

A control problem that popped up with the 308 was traced to a blown fuse, and that was replaced, so we should be ready to run the four-car train.  The buzzer in the 319 has stopped working, and I looked at it, but was unable to fix it so far.  I'll keep on it.

Finally, we have exciting news from the Barn 4 extension.  Today concrete was poured for the post fittings of the extension.  Nowadays our barns don't have posts extending down into the ground where they might eventually rot out.  Instead, they are bolted into metal brackets set in concrete, as seen here.

And as mentioned before, the contractors have extended tracks 42 and 43 out as far as the extension will extend.  I don't know about you, but I can hardly wait!

And here's a picture from Jeron Glander looking west:

Here you can easily imagine what the finished building will look like.

 And of course as I always say, there was a lot else going on that I didn't get a chance to capture.  You just have to be there in person.

Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Raising the Roof

(Well, not the roof, the work platform...)  More pictures from Gregg about his work on the IT line car:

This is the lower area where the lift posts sit that raise the work platform. There's a beam across the bottom that connects the posts. Above that is a metal bar also bolted to the posts. Connected to the bar is a brace that angles up on the posts. A cable is attached to it which runs over to the other side.

On the other side we see the posts and hardware as described earlier on the other side. However, there is an added component. A 'coffin hoist' is attached between the ceiling and the cross bracing at the bottom. When you rachet up the hoist, it lifts the posts, thus raising the platform above the roof. It's like grabbing a table by the legs near the floor and lifting it up in the air.

Meanwhile, up on the roof, the very end has some small flat boards applied where it slopes down. Another layer will be applied over these to get the required thickness. Later the outer edge will be trimmed up where the tack molding needs to meet it.

Another view of the end of the roof at the #1 end of the car. Notice the main power cable protruding and hanging down alongside of the car.

Monday, May 29, 2023

Spectacular Sunday

Sunday was another spectacular day at IRM, with a lot of trains in operation.  Frank and I were running the 36 and 319, so I wasn't able to get many good pictures of all the action.  But we can tell you a little about it.  Here's our interurban train:


There was also a two-car North Shore train, which was on the opposite side of the hour and therefore never in the station at the same time, and the 714 running the Union shuttle.

We had a good crowd of visitors, including many photographers.  Everyone was having a great time.

Perhaps the most spectacular part of the operation was the eight-car heavyweight train, with an ABA set of E units and the Milwaukee Road dynamometer.  The train was just too long to get a good picture of, but I'm sure some will show up elsewhere.

Both steam locomotives were running, with the Shay on the caboose train and the 1630 with coaches.  You won't see anything like this between here and Strasburg!

Thanks to all the people who worked so hard to make all this possible, including the Car Shop guys who did the lubrication for us.  We really appreciate it!

And as I post this, you still have time to get in on Monday's action. 

Frank adds...

While the 319 and 36 may have been the big news on Sunday (ha, ha) we weren't the only news.
Progress on Yard 4 East is happening. In the background, tracks 42 and 43 have been extended east maybe 100' from the barn. In the foreground, these boards cover holes for setting posts for the barn extension that is going up soon.
And over on the grass across from the Hoffman Garage, this exciting sight: lumber and prefab roof trusses for the Barn 4 extension. It's starting to get exciting!
US Army 8537, our longtime switcher, is out of the Barn 2 paint shop in a gorgeous new paint job. It was on display in Yard 4 West for a Memorial Day Weekend public debut.
As my father mentioned, there were a lot of trains running. There were four mainline trains, two streetcars, and two different trains shuttling between the property and Jefferson Street: the caboose train (powered by the Shay), which ran out of the depot, and North Shore 714, which ran out of 50th. Larry Stone kept everything moving like clockwork by, among other things, utilizing Schmidt Siding as a meet location for the first time in years. On the main line, this is a view of the very impressive A-B-A lash-up of E-units that was pulling the heavyweight train. There were six heavyweight cars plus the dynamometer; in this shot you can see the Pawnee at the far end of the train around the curve at the east switch. The train faced west, which is unusual.
I stuck around late enough to see the L4 doing some testing. Monday it was scheduled to pull the caboose train, its first day in revenue service in several years following motor and center bearing work.

As a final aside, I should mention that as we pulled the 319-36 into the barn at the end of the day, my father pointed out that we didn't have a single dewirement the entire day. Not a single time during a full day of operations did a pole on either car take the wrong wire or pop off. Kudos to our DC Line Department!

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Line Car Repair

Gregg Wolfersheim sends us another encouraging report on his rebuilding of the IT line car:

All of the trim that goes under the carlines was removed, sanded and painted.

Then a couple of coats of green were applied in the car shop.

Here is one of the pieces being reapplied to the bottom of the carline. Every other one has a half inch rod running across it in a groove. The rods hold the sides together like the vertical ones hold the roof to the floor.

Here we see the tops of the four posts that raise the work platform. This was a trial fit with the hardware at the bottom near the floor. About a foot of post sticks up past the roof line when the platform is all the way down. Later, the last holes were drilled and next we will reinstall the posts. Stay tuned!

I might point out that Gregg doesn't have to do anything special to get his project featured here.  He just takes the time to send us a few usable photos with clear, concise captions that explain what's going on.   We're glad to do the same for almost any other project at IRM, within reason.  (Once a week or so...)

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

The 250 Returns

Frank writes...

While the big event Sunday as far as I was concerned was the progress on the 308, there was another memorable occurrence. The tale starts back in the late 1980s... well, okay, actually it starts in 1963, when the North Shore quit and combine 250 was purchased by the Indiana Railway Museum in Westport. You know the one. Eventually INRM sold their entire traction collection, consisting of the 250, MD car 228, and CA&E 318, to TWERHS in East Troy. Two of the three cars made it to Wisconsin without having their ends crushed in - hey, two out of three ain't bad - but the North Shore survivors were in rough shape and only got worse over the ensuing decade or so. In the late 1980s, IRM purchased the majority of the TWERHS collection, including the 250, and the car came to Union. Bill Wulfert photos are here.

The 250 was largely identical to the 251 and 253 already at IRM, except in far worse shape. In 1995 the car was scrapped for parts (see the end of that Bill Wulfert link above), including donating its trucks and motors to Michigan Electric 28. Except that North Shore fan Dave Myers, whose father had worked for the railroad, offered Bob Bruneau a donation in exchange for the end of the car. Bob, ever the salesman, gamely accepted the money and had the end of the car torched off and given to Dave. Well, now it's back.
Dave recently contacted IRM to see whether we were interested in the car end, which he had never gotten around to doing anything with, and we said sure, we'll take it. So on Sunday a group of seven volunteers headed over to the donor's property to pick up the car end.
No heavy equipment was available, but they were able to tip it over onto a flatbed trailer and then used jacks out of their automobiles to raise it up enough to get the anticlimber lifted onto the flatbed. Success!
Here's the gang: Will, Matt, Jimmy, Zach, Dave Myers, Brian, Mikey, and Nathan. First three photos courtesy Dave Myers.
The last three photos are by Zach. Here's the end of the 250 sitting on the trailer.
Once it arrived back at IRM, unloading using the forklift turned out to be a lot easier than loading it by hand had been.
The current plan is to fix this up as a display piece and put it inside one of the barns as an educational exhibit and photo spot. Many thanks to Dave Myers for donating this back to us!

Monday, May 22, 2023

The Coach

Frank writes...

Saturday night I received some exciting news from the "second shift" guys, who were out at the museum working late. The 308 had been brought over to the pit to have its motor truck pulled!
Above is a picture taken during the switch move, which entailed the other three cars pulling the 308 out to the car line, where a diesel pushed it in on the pit track. The plan has been to pull both motors out of the car's motor truck - the bad motor, because it will need to be removed sooner or later anyway, and the good motor because we'd like to send it to the motor shop for a "dip and bake" i.e. general cleanup and repair but without full disassembly or rebuilding.
A crew consisting of Zach, Greg, Good Nick, Nathan, Mikey, Jimmy, Brian, Will, and Matt worked until something like 4:00 in the morning jacking the car up, removing both GE 66 motors, and putting it safely back down on its truck. A huge THANK YOU goes out to everyone who made this happen!! The two photos above are from Zach; the bottom one was sent at about 2:00am.
When I arrived out at the museum Sunday afternoon, Zach and several of the regulars were away picking up part of a North Shore car (more on that in a following post) while Joel, Greg, and Nick were pulling spam cans out of Barn 8. The 308 appeared as shown above. The CA&E called trailers "coaches" so that's what it is for the moment. One of our history-minded volunteers put post-it-note numbers over some of the numerals on the car, rechristening it a 200-series trailer.
Here are the two motors that were removed from the car. On the right is the blown #4 motor and on the left is the #3 motor, which is fully serviceable. Thanks to some significant donations that came in at the end of last year, we are hopeful - depending on how the quote comes back from the motor shop - that we will be able to send the #3 motor out for a "dip and bake" to keep it operating for a long time.
I spent much of the afternoon putting things back together on the car. Greg helped get the brake rigging back together, with Nick, Doodlebug Bob, and a rarely seen Doodlebug Dan helping to get one balky bolt and castle nut to go together properly. Joel and Jimmy helped get the air hoses put back on and the ground strap hooked back up. Then, a few of the guys pulled the 308 out of the barn and set it in Yard 6 with the diesel while I brought out the other three cars and coupled them up. And the result, in the above photo by Matt Kalnins, is our first four-car train in several years!
Boy, I miss the 308... it will be wonderful to have it back in service once the motor work is done. Just within the last couple of weeks, the motor shop has started tearing apart our spare motor to provide a quote on rewinding, so fingers crossed it isn't too high. As for the train, I tried running back into the barn from the 308 as a control trailer. The brakes worked fine, and the first time I took power that worked fine too, but after that the train wouldn't motor from that car. My guess is that we may need to adjust the C21 controller. We'll inspect the 308 and get it all ready for its debut as a "coach" on July 1st.
I finished up the day by tarping the good motor and stamping numbers (3L, 4R, etc) into the axle caps and bearings that had been removed. Our friend Jim Ward from Rio Vista was visiting, so he brought with him news from the west, in particular the fact that WRM now has the country's largest collection of light rail vehicles. We here at IRM are stuck with a grand total of zero LRVs. But I'll take Type M over chopper control any day!

Thursday, May 18, 2023

From Texas with Love

Frank writes...

PCC fans, we need your help! IRM has received a sizable shipment of prewar air-electric PCC parts from El Paso, as shown below. These were leftovers from their PCC rebuilding program - basically, the parts replaced by Brookville when they heavily rebuilt several of the city's 1936-vintage PCC cars - and were sold off in a government auction there. These parts were purchased by IRM and the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum, which went in on the auction with IRM, so many of these parts are ours to keep and will serve as spares - or be rebuilt for - CSL 4021, if and when it ever gets restored. (No, that's not a plan in the near future, not unless you have a few hundred thousand bucks lying around that say it is...)

The cost to purchase these parts was generously donated by one of our regular volunteers. Where you come in is that it has cost a few thousand dollars to transport all these useful and not-made-anymore parts, and we need help paying for this! Donations to the Electric Car Department can be made at this link by selecting the appropriate button. You can also mail in a check or stop by the office. Thank you!

There's all sorts of good stuff here - MG sets, brake parts, accelerators, air compressors, trolley bases. This is all rare stuff from the very early days of PCC production. Your generosity is appreciated!

Monday, May 15, 2023

Sunday Update

Frank writes...

Sunday was chilly and rainy, but there was still a fair bit happening out at IRM. When I arrived, my first task was to reinstall a couple of grommets for the 460's buzzer cord that I had missed. That was a little more complex than anticipated, but I managed to get that done. After that, it was on to the 18.

Late last year, I'd put primer on the "non-canvas" parts of the car's roof, and now it was time to put the final coat of tile red on. The next step for the roof will be to wash it off and then put a couple of coats of canvas paint on, which should significantly improve the car's overall appearance. I also added a bit more Bondo to the blind side of the car in the drop section but didn't get any photos.
I was also able to fix a minor inaccuracy with one of the 460's poles, namely that the trolley rope had been tied off to a clamp on the pole itself instead of to the harp as it was in service. The result can be seen here. This is more accurate and also should reduce the rope rubbing on the rope guard a bit. I also installed a rebuilt feed valve in the 36.
So, what else was happening? The grading contractor leveled the "pad" for the rebuilt Yard 4 East, as shown above. There may be a bit more to do, but this is getting closer to being ready for new track.
There was some fresh paint on the 306. It looks like the plan is to mask the stripes and paint orange over them. The upper sash windows are all in place. This will really look sharp! Nick was working on air gauges for the 306 while Greg was moving parts to make way for construction work at the east end of Barn 4. Zach worked on fixing a spare feed valve.
In the late afternoon I wandered over to the trolley bus barn, where Richard and Jeron were working on getting the newly acquired Boston trolley bus working. This thing was built in 2003, which of course is horrifying. It qualifies for several firsts: first piece of equipment with AC traction motors, first low-floor bus (edit: first low-floor *trolley* bus!), and first piece of transit equipment from Boston. Notice the left-side door, which was used in the Harvard bus subway and was also an unusual feature found on Boston's PCC cars.
Richard had the hood popped and was working on stuff on the roof. The bus sat for a year or so between retirement and movement to IRM, so some minor things didn't work, but they were able to futz with it and get it serviceable again.
The bus arrived full of spare parts, but this isn't the half of it - we got a ton of spare parts about a month ago in a separate shipment. Many thanks to our friends in Boston for their help with this! EDIT: It's hard to see, but at bottom right is a big, weirdly shaped piece of Plexiglas that was the "Covid shield" for the driver. It was removed after the bus arrived at IRM because it was in the way, but I hope the bus guys hold onto it. This bus was retired in early 2022 when Federal restrictions on public transportation were still in effect; in a few decades this shield will be an interesting reminder of a brief, but significant, period of history.
They happened to take the bus out for its first-ever full trip at IRM shortly after I arrived, so of course I went along. Here it is at the Wagner loop with the Skokie Swift sign in the background.
There's a little button on the floor the driver can hit that Richard called the "hoodlum switch." It lights up green lamps flanking the destination sign and changes the destination to rotate between "Emergency" and this entreaty to call the police. Don't try that phone number, they won't be amused!
And here's the bus on the return leg stopped in front of the diner annex. The sign rotates from "Welcome to" to "Boston." Assuming there's somewhere to go with all the spare parts, you may just get a chance to ride this thing soon at a museum near you.