Monday, July 6, 2020

Switching the world

Frank writes...

Sunday was HOT - it was in the low 90s, a perfect day for a big switch move! Bob Bruneau used to refer to this as "switching the world," when there'd be a crew or two pulling entire tracks in the barns, but sometimes it's necessary. This time it was Barn 8 being switched and the two center tracks, 82 and 83, were emptied entirely. The goal was twofold: first, the Russell plow at the west end of track 83 needed to be moved over to Barn 3 for the new freight train exhibit there, and second, we had already wanted to swap the contents of tracks 82 and 83 so that the IT sleeper "Peoria" wasn't right inside the big west door where rain tends to blow into the barn.

When I arrived things were already moving. In the photo above, the modern 'L' cars on tracks 82 and 83 (the 2200s and several "spam cans") are already gone while wood car 1808 is at the east door. This car runs but it is typically stored far enough west in the barn that it's out from under the end of the trolley wire, so two steeplecabs were used to "bridge the gap" and pull it under the wire so that it could run itself out of the barn. With the newer 'L' cars out of the barn, nearly everything left in 8 at this point was a wood car.
It's hard to tell with the uneven lighting, but track 81 (which wasn't touched) is a string of solid Traction Orange. What's not to like? IT 277 is followed by IT 518, IT 234, and our three North Shore MD cars, 229, 213, and 218.
Here's the 229. It needs some roof repair work before it can run again, but that is on the list of things to do in the near future. I thoughtlessly neglected to get a photo of the 213 behind it but you can see one of the recently-rebuilt baggage doors on this, the only end-door MD car preserved.
Once the Russell plow was pulled back from its spot at the west end of track 83 it made it possible to get a pretty nice photo of the 233, which is at the west end of track 84.
And it also uncovered the "Peoria," which as mentioned earlier has been at the west end of track 82 for a while. This is a very historic car - the last wooden interurban sleeping car, and one of only two interurban sleepers still in existence - and while it needs significant exterior woodwork, it's complete and a good candidate for eventual restoration.
And here's the Russell plow being pulled out of track 83 by ComEd 4. Thomas ran the steeplecab all day with help from Zach and Brian.
The most involved move was the X4, our CSL derrick. This work car actually ran at IRM in the early 1970s but was quickly retired because it has narrow tread "streetcar wheels" and thus is prone to derailing. Some basic check-ups were performed on Saturday to see whether it could motor itself for this switch move but its motors did not megger well and will need to be rebuilt if and when the X4 is to run again. So it was towed, with attendants walking alongside keeping a close eye on the wheels.
And here it is outside on the ladder track. The X4 has been located behind (i.e. just east of) the "Peoria" for the last couple of years but to save switch moves it was decided to put it into track 83 first, with the "Peoria" behind it.

I nabbed a couple of photos of the 150 while we were at it. I think this is the first time a good broadside shot of the car has been possible since my father removed that goofy rain gutter from the letterboard and installed tack molding. The car sure looks a lot better than it used to.
Here's the west end of the barn after the X4 was deposited in its new home. You can see that the west end door is not centered on the building but lines up perfectly with track 82. Maybe when the barn was built in the early 1990s there was a notion of running a track out the end of the building but I've never heard of any idea like that, it's pure speculation.
Zach grabbed this shot of the locomotive train that was used throughout the day. Thomas, the motorman, is on the 4 and coupled behind it is WEPCO L7. The reason that the L7 was brought along for some of the moves was because the equipment at the west end of tracks 82 and 83 was, as mentioned previously, out from under the end of the trolley wire. For some of the cars, that meant that the L7 could serve as an "idler" or "handle," just a way for the 4 to couple onto something beyond its own reach. But for equipment at the far end of the tracks, the L7 was actually used as the motive power. It has a reel of heavily-insulated wire on one of its hoods that's attached to a stinger, an "extension cord" that can be hooked onto the trolley wire and allow the locomotive to go a few car lengths beyond the overhead. The caveat is that the L7's air compressor is currently down, so a hose (visible alongside the 4) was run from the 4's main reservoir to the L7's main reservoir. In this way the L7, trailing an extension cord and air hose, could go a couple of car lengths past the end of wire. Some interesting stuff happens when the go-to diesel switcher is in the shop being repainted!
After the "Peoria" was put back into the barn on track 83, this was the new lineup. The X4 could use a bit of sprucing up, notably a headlight, but it's in pretty good condition and is certainly an unusual piece of equipment to have up at the front of the barn.
Here's the 1808, IT 101, and Milwaukee Electric M15 in Yard 6. All of these cars had been stored on track 83 and ended up on track 82 at the end of the day.
The L7, which had been needed because of its extension cord, usually lives behind the three in-service CA&E steel cars so they came out to afford access to the steeplecab. This is always a nice sight! The 409 and 431, with their easy-to-sanitize leatherette seats, are going to be one of the regular main line service trains when we reopen in a couple of weeks.
And here's the Russell plow. It is supposedly going to a new home at the west end of track 34, to be trailed by a string of restored freight cars, some with newly-created exhibits. The switch move wrapped up in the late afternoon and most of the people involved took a breather - the heat and humidity were really tiring. Besides the aforementioned engine crew, the switch crew included myself, Jeron, Richard, and Joel, who was tirelessly running around everywhere coordinating things and making sure everything went to plan.
Back at the car shop, Bill pointed out the D3-EG air compressor shown above, which has just been rebuilt (I believe he said by Dan F) and is going to be installed on the 1754. That car's pump, which functions but could use some work, will then be removed and - if all goes according to plan - it will be rebuilt to go under CA&E 36. That will make the 36 fully operational again, which will be a big help.
While the switch moves had been going on over in Barn 8, Greg and Good Nick had been hard at work on CTA 30. This car is being restored to its mid-1960s Skokie Swift appearance complete with bow trolleys. It was towed out from under wire in the middle of the day so that the bow trolleys could be raised all the way up, allowing the trolley base connections to be tightened down. Unlike with a trolley pole, you can't just swing a bow trolley off to the side to raise it higher than the wire height! Then they hooked up the electrical connections, uncoupled the other 6000s, and...
Voila! The first-ever operation of a bow trolley-equipped car at IRM took place on the pit lead. This was also the first time car 30 has operated solo at IRM, as it arrived without any rooftop equipment and previously had only run at the museum taking power from an adjacent car with poles. There's certainly more work left to do, most notably hooking up the small motors that raise and lower the bow trolleys (for the test, this was done like a normal trolley pole, by hand using a rope on the end of the car). But it was pretty interesting to see. Thanks to Zach Ehlers for taking this photo.
And I also brought a couple of windows from the 18 over to the wood shop. These had their rotted bottom rails replaced by my father, so I did some sanding in preparation for a coat of primer and then finish paint. Installation of these will help close up the car, which when we open later this month will be on public display for the first time in many years.
The 30 wasn't the only bit of good news from the 'L' car department: after the spam cans went back to the barn, the 4000s came out. Thomas brought car 4410 over, coupled it up to "Baldy" 4146 inside Barn 4 on track 41, and ran both cars out to the pit lead. The electrical gremlins have (at least for the moment) been tracked down and banished so the "Baldy" is now fully operational for the first time in a few decades. Later in the evening, the two-car train made a main line test trip, which was - as far as we know - the first time the 4146 has ever been to Kishwaukee Grove. Thomas is working away steadily at making the car ready for service, repainting the interior and getting ready to reinstall the seats after that is done.
And here's a late-in-the-day photo by Zach showing the two-car 4000 train. The 4146 is certainly unique among our 4000s and it is great to see all of the progress on the car.

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Obtain Your Grain

Our friend Ray Piesciuk has been scanning CA&E bulkhead advertising cards (the ones hung in the bulkhead windows between the cars' smoking and main compartments) from the Julie Johnson collection. A few duplicates have been passed along to us so that we can either use them in the cars or easily get them copied. The batch he's working on currently seem to mostly be from 1939-1940. These will all eventually end up on the fascinating archive site Ray and Julie manage.

Saturday, July 4, 2020

I Love a Parade

...but in the absence of any real parades, including the Trolley Parade, we'll just have to imagine we're watching a parade go by as the bands play.  Happy Independence Day!

Friday, July 3, 2020

Happy Third of July!

This is the anniversary of the sudden abandonment of CA&E passenger service in 1957.  When service was cancelled at 12:17PM, thousands of passengers were stranded, mostly in downtown Chicago, and had to find other ways to get home.  We've been re-enacting this event for a long time.

I believe the first time was in 1987, for the 30th anniversary.  At that time, the main line had just reached Seeman Road, giving us a place to "strand" the passengers.  And we had only two operating CA&E cars: the 431, and the partly-restored 309.  I took a couple of slides of the occasion.  In the first picture, the arrow points to Frank, who was five years old.

And since the passing siding wasn't finished yet, as I recall we just had the passengers reboard the cars for the trip back.

Since that time, we've added a passing siding, so the stranded passengers can ride railroad equipment to get home, and there's a platform, of course.   Here's a picture from 2007 for the 50th anniversary:

And since then, we've been documenting the process here.  

Of course, nothing is happening today, but just wait till next year!

Thursday, July 2, 2020

You'll Wonder Where the Yellow Went

It was certainly hot today, but with proper precautions, such as drinking plenty of water, it's still possible to get a lot done.  Here we have some more progress on the 451.

I got a nice new length of trolley rope and attached it to the #2 end pole, which is the only end I have safe and convenient access to right now.  

Tim helped me pull it out of retrieve, and everything seems to be working OK.  So I got to put the pole up for the first time since it got here, I think, and run the MG a little.  More to come!

While standing there with the door open, I noticed this revolting yellow color on the inside edges of the frame and the door.  This must have been the last remaining evidence of Gerry's yellow and green paint scheme, and it was an eyesore.  So I sanded it down and put a coat of primer over it.  There are many other places in the vestibule that will need to be painted red, and this is one of them.

I also was able to reposition a few things on the roof and get the cables into correct position.  This took a while but was well worth it.  And I did some sorting of parts.  Later, I went back to Barn 8 and did some cursory inspection on the wood cars.

I also installed a knife switch in the electrical cabinet to cut out the battery when not in use, so it won't run down.  In service, the cars would always have power on, so that wasn't necessary.  We of course don't do that, so these cutout switches are necessary.

Tim was the only other Car Dept. person working there today.  He's attaching the new longitudinal seats.  The backs will be held in with decorative brass screws attached right through the rattan.

Like this:

He says it's correct, but I'm still a little dubious....

But we also have some non-Car Dept. progress to report today.   Bob wanted me to show you what the Track Dept. have been doing: installing a switch down at South Jct. that will lead to Barn 12, which is next on the construction list.  We're looking east, with Barns 10 and 11 behind us.  Notice how the new switch overlaps the one on the car line.

And when I was there, I ran into an old friend, Mark Secco, working on his crane.  Al Choutka is supervising in this view.

Marco is an expert at anything crane-related, and he wanted me to point out how he is able to cut and trim heavy cables with his pocket knife.  Don't try this at home, kids.

Other people helping him with this project have been Carina Borst and a new member, Ken Ferguson.  Sorry, that's not a very good picture of Ken.

Meanwhile, be sure to keep an eye on the IRM website.  In particular, you will want to read the recent announcement of re-opening in late July.  See you then!

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Popular Prices for the Hollywood Ice Revue

Our friend Ray Piesciuk has been scanning CA&E bulkhead advertising cards (the ones hung in the bulkhead windows between the cars' smoking and main compartments) from the Julie Johnson collection. A few duplicates have been passed along to us so that we can either use them in the cars or easily get them copied. The batch he's working on currently seem to mostly be from 1939-1940. These will all eventually end up on the fascinating archive site Ray and Julie manage.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

There's Always More to Do

It was hot on Monday, which limited how much work could get done on the 451's roof, but we keep going.  I was able to do a little painting:  the grab iron needed for climbing onto the roof....

and the rope guard at the #2 end, also the windshield wiper.  The car needs to be moved before I can install these parts at the other end.  And I started on fixing the way the roof cables run from one end to the other.

And then I took out the lightning arrester and started checking it.  This is an oil-filled capacitor, and it meggered OK.  With a light box, I was able to verify that what I thought to be the ground connection on the roof was indeed grounded.  Generally speaking, you don't want anything on the roof to be grounded to the frame of the car for safety's sake.  For instance, there is an insulated pipe joint in the piping to the horns, so they are electrically floating and don't pose a danger to someone working with the trolley poles.  But the lightning arrester is an unavoidable exception.  One end has to be grounded, and you need to be sure to avoid it when on the roof.  You have been warned.

Other regulars were on the job, as usual.  John and Gerry were working on the 306:

But I didn't get any pictures of Tim or Pete working on their projects.   Sorry!

Other than that, the main thing was that we received a donation of a large collection of stereo slides taken by Richard Hartweg, which I mentioned before, and we can't thank the donor enough!  Along with the slides, we got a stereo slide viewer, projector, and a scanner.  These are all greatly appreciated.  And maybe in the future we can start posting some of the scans.  Of course, you'll need a stereo computer monitor or stereo smart phone to get the full effect.