Saturday, February 28, 2009

Trying On New Shoes

I was able to spend a day out at the Museum, since things are going well at home, so the first priority was to work on the blue cars so they'll be ready for revenue service this year.

As mentioned before, we want to replace all of the trolley shoe hardware with new parts that will be more reliable and easier to maintain, such as we use on the North Shore cars.

We started by removing the old trolley casting from one of the 308's poles - I should have taken a picture of the original casting to show how worn out it was. Here I was helped by Warren Lloyd and Jerry. Here's the top end of the pole. You may be able to see how the end of the pole is tapered to be narrower so the casting will fit over it.

The bottom end of the pole was rusted and broken. As suggested by Bob Heinlein, I checked the length of the other poles on the 308 and 309. This pole from the 308 turned out to be 7 1/2" too short - evidently it had already been amputated at least once. So we needed to patch in a new piece. I cut off the bottom 6 1/2" of the pole.

I then cut off a 14" length of spare pole material. In order to weld it onto the old pole, we needed a length of pipe as a stiffener. 1" ID pipe was slightly too big, so Rod turned it down on the lathe.

Then he polished and beveled the ends, as seen here.

Then we took the parts out to the mig welder, and Rod welded them together. The batteries for his automatic adjusting welding helmet had died, so I had to run to the hardware store in Marengo to get some new ones. The welding then went quickly.

After grinding it down, the patch looks like this. The weld is just perfect.

While this was going on, Max and Bob helped me with fixing the other two castings so we can finish this project. Two more poles to go!

After the pole cooled down, the new casting was heated up and the end of the pole inserted. Rod drilled a hole, and the casting was riveted onto the pole.

After assembling all the parts, the finished device looks like this:

It's now ready to install!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Strafford cars in winter

My job took me this past weekend to Rochester, New York, home to the New York Museum of Transportation. I happened to be there for an informal gathering of trolley museum types called "Winterfest," which included operation over the newly-electrified portions of the demonstration railroad shared by NYMT at the north end and the Rochester & Genesee Valley Railroad Museum at the south end.

The cars used have an interesting history and a Midwest connection. Originally built for the Philadelphia & Western's Strafford line, upon retirement cars 161 and 168 were sold to an operation over the electrified trackage on the Keokuk Dam in Keokuk, Iowa. During the 1993 floods, when the dam was one of the few ways of getting across the river, car 161 was used nearly round-the-clock ferrying workers and volunteers from Illinois to Iowa and back. Later both "Strafford cars" were acquired by NYMT for initial electrification of their museum line. Above left, car 161 is shown ascending the grade towards the NYMT museum site before a bleak Upstate New York winter landscape; on the right the car sits in the car barn with various trolley museum volunteers gathered around. Thanks to everyone at NYMT for a great time!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Down in the Hudson Valley

I was on the road for work again this past weekend, and of course I felt an obligation to do some railfanning. This time I was in the Hudson Valley of eastern New York state, which presented the opportunity for a side trip to the Trolley Museum of New York in Kingston.

TMNY is a small museum in the flats along Rondout Creek near the Hudson; they've recently rebuilt much of their main line track and are working on putting up trolley wire. This was a "drive-by photo shooting" by myself, so I just took some photos over the fence. To the left is one of their three Boston PCC cars; to the right is an overview of their yard showing (L-R) a work truck in front of a Whitcomb center-cab, a NYC subway car, a work flat in front of a Hudson & Manhattan work car, and the other two Boston PCC's in the right background. Their barn contains, among other cars, the only aluminum PCC ever built and their operating car, a Johnston streetcar rebuilt by a former owner with a diesel engine.

Right across the street these examples of marine preservation caught my attention; on the left is a PT boat owned by a group called Fleet Obsolete, with another PT boat under restoration in the right foreground. On the right is the 1898 tug "Mathilda," on display next to the Hudson River Maritime Museum.
On my way out of town I had to take a short trip down Route 209 and check out the forlorn sight above, that of Lackawanna MU car 4322 sitting on the side of the road. This car may someday see refurbishment and use but for now it's more of an abandoned roadside attraction.

And then there were the sights to be seen in Middletown, NY, where I was working. Below left is the old Erie station, which has been restored and readapted as the town library. To the right is the old New York Ontario & Western depot, which from 1936 until 1957 doubled as that railroad's corporate headquarters; a fire in February 2004 gutted the far end of the building and, from the looks of it, it's pretty much been awaiting the wrecking ball ever since.

Hopefully you enjoyed this trip through the Hudson Valley... more (actually IRM-related) news to come soon!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Visit to Western Pennsylvania

Work took me to the Pittsburgh area last weekend, and on Saturday night I was able to visit our friends at the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum. I was given a tour of the PTM shop by Bruce Wells, who is also that museum's resident blogger, and got to see the work being done there. Most of their efforts are concentrating on Pittsburgh Railways low-floor car 4398, the recent subject of a gorgeous frame-up rebuild, and on recently-acquired Rio de Janeiro Tramways open car 1758. The latter was acquired to add an open car to the roster moreso than as an historic piece, and a lot of work is going into getting it ready to run on PTM's wide-gauge track. Pictured below left is a rebuilt and re-gauged truck for this car, and below right is the next car in line to get a complete rebuild: West Penn 832, the only Cincinnati curve-sider preserved intact and a member of the last order of curve-siders ever built. (To see it in service click here.)

Work had me in Greensburg, PA all weekend, which was in West Penn territory, so Bruce clued me in to the surviving West Penn freight and passenger stations in downtown Greensburg. They are shown below in photos taken on a grey Sunday morning. Note that the freight station is built on the side of a hill and that the loading track went onto a concrete trestle towards the downhill end of the building!

Shown below is the surviving "FREIGHT STATION" sign complete with West Penn emblem from the uphill end of that building, with the substantial passenger station - now used as Greensburg City Hall - on the right.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

A Postcard from Texas

I received a nice note from Steven Holding, who has been an IRM member since the early days. He now lives in Texas and is a BNSF dispatcher in Fort Worth. He writes:

I read with much interest your work getting IT 277 and 518 back on the road at IRM. I have been a member since 415 ran on a summer day from Olson Road east to the creek.
I grew up in Aurora and used to drive the trolley lines both in town and around Northern Illinois. We used to make a trip to RELIC, then out to Union, and then go to the Little Q and I would hear them complain nothing was ever getting done. So just having gotten out of high school, I decided I was going to do something about it and started to volunteer. I wound up working for Bob Bruneau on the Class B, and then the IT cars came. We scraped paint and painted, and found out the 518 was a wood car with steel sheets screwed on with round head screws and the slots filled. We even had some wood siding slide out the bottom of the car. I used to sleep in the 234. Just before I went into the service in '69 we rang the circuits out in 277. While doing that someone was kind enough to put the pole up. The arc from putting the screwdriver in shot the thing across the cab. I was on the bell end and it smoked the bell. We were then done for the day.
After the service, I got a new job with BN. I wound up working weekends, and a wife and growing family kept me away till I finally got a job with weekends off, but by then we were living west of Galesburg. So it was about once a month I got up, just before they moved me to Ft. Worth (I work as a Train Dispatcher.)

This is North Texas Traction car #25, which was restored by volunteers (including Mr. Holding) and is now on display in Fort Worth.

I did pull the maintenance at McKinney Ave before the attached project pulled me away from there -- that and my Dr. telling me to slow down. I have been able to make it up a couple times over the years, generally like last year one Wednesday working with Kutella. I had quite a bit of time on SS 68 and leaned how to repair roofs from Kutella, which I used to repair the North Texas Traction car. The front windows I scratch built. And all the side upper sash I repaired before they were sent out for glass to be put in. I got a lot of the research done and roughed in a lot of the repairs before the Dr. said quit. And I left it for other projects.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Railroads Deliver the Goods!

From the archives, here's a 16-page booklet put out by the AAR. I cannot find a date on it, but I would think this must be from the Korean War era, due to the steam-Diesel transition and the emphasis on national defense.

Plot synopsis: a young man, whose father is a railroader, is starting out on his first day. He learns first-hand how wonderful railroads are, and what a great place to work they can be.

Of course, when I was young I actually believed all this propaganda.

LCL - how quaint.

This kid gets a cab ride in a 4-8-4. No big deal!

Orders are still being hooped up.

That idiot truck driver (to the right) is driving right down the middle of the road. Get those guys off the highway!

There wouldn't be any national defense without railroads.

And here men are putting blocks of ice into reefers!

That's funny, I didn't see anything about the accidents, wasted time, and general screw-ups I'm always hearing about from guys I know who actually work for the railroads! Maybe things were different back then?

Well, we hope you enjoyed your trip back to the fifties!

Monday, February 2, 2009

How To Build a Flat Car

From the Hicks Car Works archives, here are the specifications for our standard 40' flat car. No date is given. Operators are standing by to take your call, so order one today!

Sunday, February 1, 2009


Today was another day spent working on the roof of the 205. First off I spent some time leveling the roof boards using shims made last weekend. After that I set to work mounting the trolley hooks, which had been needle-chipped and painted by Paul Kattner about three years ago (yikes, has this project been going on that long already?). This involved use of the family brace-and-bit, borrowed from the 277 project, among other things.

Note our 21st-century technology drill on the left side of the left photo; on the right side of that photo is the recently-installed roof ladder. The final result is seen at right. Dan Mulvihill assisted in final bolting down of the trolley hooks. Now, whatever will I be able to hook under these...
I finished the day by spray-painting the car's trolley poles black . I also moved the trolley bases, hiding behind the sawhorse in the above photo, out into the barn next to the 757 to get them out of the way. I will be working the next few weekends so there won't be any more 205 updates for a little while.