Monday, April 27, 2009

The Seven-Wheeled Streetcar

(Updated with a better scan)
Prior to the Annual Meeting, I was talking with my old friend Norman Krentel. He had told this story to a friend of his who wouldn't believe it. So here's visual proof.

In 1980, Norm Krentel, Jeff Brady, and I took a railfan trip through Ohio and Pennsylvania. We stopped at this carhouse in Pittsburgh and walked through the yard looking at the cars. Somehow we noticed that one of them was missing a wheel. "How did it get here?" As we were standing there looking at it, another PCC came in off the street and pulled up on the next track, and the two crewmen unloaded a wheel. They had been sent out to pick up the missing wheel!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

IRM Annual Meeting - Live Blog

Former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Tip O’Neil once declared that “all politics are local.” Tonight, the Illinois Railway Museum holds its annual membership meeting. The meeting is the chance for those who are full members of the museum to decide issues on the governance of the museum. Before the live blog begins for the IRM annual member’s meeting, let me say that my internet connection here in the VFW hall is spotty, at best, so bear with me.

The meeting was called to order at 7:30 PM CDT. The first item of business was the approval of the 2008 annual meeting minutes. Balloting for the Board of Directors election began immediately.

7:45 PM: Ballots are being counted, while IRM President Ray Piesciuk is giving his report.

7:51 PM: Ballot counting continues while Ray wraps up his report.

Well, I am sure that all of you were waiting in suspense for the outcome of the annual meeting. Right about the time it came to announce results, my ATT wirelss card for my laptop decided to find no coverage. Randy was right that the Legion Hall in Union isn't quite the Pepsi Center.

Anyway, Nick Kallas and Jim Nauer both won seats on the board. Nick gave a very consice report about the activities of the past year.

In other news, the membership voted to add North Shore 757 and CTA S-105 to the permanent collection.

277 Update

Some more progress on the interior of the 277 was made today. I started by putting a second coat of primer on the upper sash and painting the back of the wall section I had started on last time. After that had dried, more or less, it was installed in the car as shown here (red arrow). I made a test fit of the first "croquet hoop" (blue arrow) to verify the width of the next wall section; I then cut it to size and painted the front. The croquet hoop is only temporarily installed; the upper sash frame goes behind it.

In the afternoon I attended the annual Safety Meeting. Harold Krewer, our Superintendent of Operations, is in charge of safety training with Amtrak, so he knows what he's talking about and does an excellent job of explaining the issues so everybody can understand it. Several other important matters of interest were brought up. Here we are in the American Legion hall listening to Harold (just to the right of the screen.) And of course the Annual Meeting weekend provides the opportunity to meet several old friends I don't see very often.

After the meeting I flipped the next wall panel piece over and painted the front, as seen here.

And in other news from the real world, my wife had a biopsy recently and the cancer is gone, so we're very thankful. It appears that all will be well.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Dave's Depots - Special Liveblog Edition - Lincoln, Illinois

For today's installment of Dave's Depots, we find ourselves in Lincoln, Illinois. Lincoln is on the old Chicago & Alton mainline between St. Louis and Chicago. The photo was taken from the window of Amtak Train 302 as I travel to the Chicago area for a weekend at IRM. You can't see it in the photo, but the depot is in poor shape. Part of the roof over the freight house portion has been removed. However, somebody has taken steps to stabalize the structure to prevent further damage. A rubber membrane has been placed over the wooden platorms and over the tops of the brick walls on the portion of the depot not protected by the remaining roof.

For those of you wondering "How did he do that," the answer is simple. Thanks to the wonders of wireless internet technology, provided by my employer, I upload to the blog as long as I have a decent connection.

This is part of a multi-modal trip this weekend for your intrepid blogger. The trip started this morning on at the St. Louis Metrolink Station in my suburb, Shrewsbury. I took Metrolink to the new Gateway Transportation Center in downtown St. Louis to catch the Amtrak train. Once in Chicago, a quick walk to Northwestern Station, and Metra to Elmhurst to meet up with Frank.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Live-Blogging the Annual Meeting

The Annual Meeting will be held this Saturday, starting (in theory) at 7:30pm CST, as you probably know. And for the benefit of those of you who can't be there, David Wilkins is planning to live-blog it here at Hicks Car Works! Live-blogging by now is old hat for presidential debates and other political events, but we believe this is a first in the museum world. I'm afraid the American Legion hall in Union doesn't have the sophisticated infrastructure of the Pepsi Convention Center, for instance, but David is sure he can make it work. So to find out who's been elected and what else might be going on, you'll want to check in regularly at your only full-service IRM blog!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Family Portrait

Some of you might not know that I'm actually one of a set of identical triplets. Unfortunately, the other two aren't interested in railroads and wouldn't be caught dead at a low-class joint like IRM, the snobs. In fact, most of the time they don't even want to admit they know me or are related to me in any way. But at a recent family gathering, my wife was able to get this rare snapshot of the three of us together.

On the left is my brother who's a college professor, and then there's the one who's a bon vivant and man about town. And then there's me, the uncouth slob. I'm still sort of irked because Mom always liked them best. But other than that, we're just one big happy family!

Dave's Depots - Mt. Vernon, Illinois

For the second installment of "Dave's Depots" we see the former Louisville and Nashville Railroad depot in Mt. Vernon, Illinois. This depot is also on the L&N Evansville Division, running from East St. Louis, Illinois to Evansville, IN. The L&N has a soft spot in my heart, due to my growing up in Bardstown, Kentucky where the L&N operated a branchline to serve the bourbon industry. Then, as I grew older, I became involved at the Kentucky Railway Museum, which has a large L&N focus.

Anyway, Mt. Vernon is the county seat of Jefferson County, and the home of the Illinois Court of Appeals for the Fifth District. The L&N recognized this role by building a larger depot, often called the "county seat" depot. The depot is in standard L&N style, and similar to many L&N depots constructed from the 1890s onward.

For those of you playing at home, Mt. Vernon, IL is approximately 408.11 rail miles from 9th and Broadway in Louisville Kentucky (L&N Milepost 0), via Amqui, Tennessee. For an all L&N routing to St. Louis, once upon a time, one had to take the train south from Louisville, to just north of Nashville, Tennessee, then up the Evansville division to St. Louis. Later, the L&N bought the Louisville, Henderson & St. Louis Railroad, giving a more direct route from Louisvlle to the Gateway City via Owensboro, KY.

The depot today is in poor shape. It appears to still be railroad owned. One side wall of the depot has been removed and replaced, eliminating the operator's bay. Despite its condition, the depot still has a surprising amount of its original architecture and woodwork.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Dave's Depots - Nashville, Illinois

Today, I am starting a new feature. As some of you may know, I'm an attorney who travels throughout rural Missouri and Illinois from my home office in St. Louis. This gives me a chance to find and photograph some railroad and interurban-related sites around both states. Starting today, I am going to share some of these finds;

Here, we have the former Louisville and Nashville Railroad Depot in Nashville, Illinois. Of course, the "Nashville" in the railroad name referred to Nashville, Tennessee. The depot is located on the former L&N Evansville Division which ran from East St. Louis, Illinois to Evansville, Indiana. Part of the line remains in operation, from Evansville to Okawville, IL as the Evansville and Western, a regional railroad. The light rail system in the St. Louis Metro area, Metrolink uses the right of way from East St. Louis to just west of Belleville, IL near Scott Air Force Base.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Two Heads Are Better Than One

Frank and I were both able to be at the Museum today, a fairly rare conjunction of the planets nowadays.

The last trolley pole for the 309 had its new casting riveted in place last week by Rod Turner, so it was ready to install. Thanks, Rod! With Frank's help, I got it into place and checked that both poles are securely fastened in place. Frank also took the photo at right showing one of the new shoes in the foreground.

It was suggested that the new roof boards on the 277 should be painted with a finish coat of some sort to protect them. Of course the color doesn't matter because it will be covered by canvas. I found that we have more than a gallon left of the light green used on the interior of the 308, which shouldn't need repainting any time soon, so this was an obvious choice. I painted the roof as shown here.

I then did some work on the interior of the 277. Bob Bruneau had acquired the necessary pieces of plywood to replace the deteriorated sections of the wall panels, and I trimmed the first one to size as a test. (R) Here we see it in a test installation. The new plywood, not yet painted, is indicated by the red arrow. To its left is a part of one of the wall panels; this piece was broken off the "croquet hoop" but serves for a convenient test fit. Note that the plywood is not supposed to be flush with the pieces to either side; it's thinner. Don't ask me why.

(L) I then painted the newly-trimmed piece of plywood with white primer. (R) And here's the upper sash, as shown previously.

(L) I got another light fixture from our friend Phil Stepek and mounted it inside the 277, so I have some better lighting. Thanks, Phil! (R) I then removed the last remaining piece of panelling from the right side of the car (shown last time). It came off more easily than I expected. Behind it on the cross pieces was a 96-year old collection of spare parts, dust, and cobwebs.

Some work was also done on the doors for the 205; the remaining surfaces of the "window sticks" that will hold the window panes in were painted orange and the various pieces of door hardware were rounded up and installed. These include the rollers at the top of the door and the backing plates for the bolts that hold the hinges in place, both pictured at left, as well as grab-irons.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Prototype Streetcar

About ten years ago we took a trip to New Orleans. This demonstration prototype from the Czech Republic wandered in front of my camera. It wasn't here very long, and Frank informed me that pictures of it in service are very rare. So I dug this picture out. You don't see Czech-built equipment very often. (And I even resisted the obvious stupid puns!)

Monday, April 13, 2009

Paint by Numbers

'Twas cold and damp today, so painting was confined to primer. But there was plenty to do. It's relatively warm and dry inside the 321. All of the new roof parts got a first coat of brown primer on all surfaces, as seen here on the workbench. If you look closely, every part is numbered. We use Roman numerals for the same reason the Romans did -- it's easy. All you need is a screwdriver (for wood, at least) and a hammer to whack it with. I also finished putting primer on the running boards, which are on horses in the center aisle.

Then some work on the interior of the 277. Bob had refinished all of the window shade boxes, with his usual flawless precision, and reinstalled them. But they're in the way of trying to replace the missing wall panels, so I started by removing one of them. Then I noticed that one storm window was coming apart, and indeed I was afraid the glass would fall out the next time we moved the car. Note (circled in red) how the rail is coming out of the stile -- the tenon has rotted away completely. So this sash was removed -- that's a time-consuming task. I started on another one, but I really need to rig up better lighting inside the car.

I also picked out the parts I need to repaint for this section, such as the upper sash shown below. Originally it held a leaded stained glass window, but now it's just a piece of Masonite. I cleaned it up, and now need to get some new white primer, but that's no problem. Note that there are no screw holes -- these sash are not fastened in, but just rest on top of the window shade box. I really don't know why the IT cars are arranged this way.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Gospel Train

It's a long-standing tradition here at Hicks Car Works to celebrate Easter by posting a railroad-related hymn of some sort. There's not a lot to choose from, but here's this year's entry. Sinner, don't be vain, but come and get your ticket!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Time for More Paint

I had to leave early today, and so didn't have time to get as much done as usual. Jerry Lynn showed me what they've been doing inside the Salem Diner over the winter, so I'll update the diner page with lots of great interior shots.

I managed to get the running boards and all the other new pieces down off the roof by myself, and cleaned up my tools and other parts. I then swept it clean, and put a second coat of primer on all the bare wood, as seen here.

I also picked up all the junk that was on the ground between the car and the wall of the barn.

I then put a first coat of primer on the top surface of the new running boards. You will notice the countersunk holes in the wood.

Frank and I drove this ancient high-rail Suburban out to Pennsylvania and back in 1998, and at that time I had thought it was on its last legs. But no! It's still being driven around the property, although I hope it doesn't go too far away.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Easy Come, Easy Go

I did more work on the roof of the 277 today. I drilled out holes and installed the two outer screws through the running boards into every saddle, and drove the screws nearly all the way. (But didn't tighten them down, on purpose.) Now when I reassemble the whole thing, there won't be any guesswork. All the saddles will line up exactly where they should be.

It really wasn't necessary to install any of the other parts, but I decided to drill the holes and attach the two plates for the trolley base, as seen here.

It may not be obvious from these pictures, but clearances are so tight that when I'm kneeling on the running boards, my back is up against the trolley wire. It's reassuring that I can lock out the switch so easily, thanks to Max!

Now you see it, now you don't. I then disassembled the whole thing, and started sweeping all the sawdust away so I can put another coat of primer on the new wood. Getting it clean is actually a real problem with all the various parts in the way. I think I'll need some help to get the new wood down off the roof so it can be painted.

Although it was rather chilly on the ground, with the sun beating down on the tin roof, it's quite warm up on the roof of the car. This is a good time to be working up there -- in the summer it may be unbearable. I even took off my shirt. But one picture of me in my undershirt is enough for a while, I think.

Tim Peters is now working on the 1268 over in Barn 4, so the 68 was moved to the east end of track 83. Here it is alongside the 308.

At this point, I decided I'd had enough fun working on my hands and knees. I did some more sorting of parts inside the 277. (L) It may be hard to see, but there were still lots of old nails sticking out of the posts where the old siding had been removed. I spent some time pulling out or breaking them all off. Note that this is exactly the same basic body structure as on the CA&E wood cars.

(R) This is the only old panel on the right side of the car still in place, but it's pretty bad. I'm not sure why Bob didn't remove it, so I should ask him, I suppose. I don't think it can be reused.

The so-called "croquet hoops" (the arched side wall pieces over the double windows) had been stored in another car in another barn for some reason, so I brought them over to the 277. Bob Bruneau did his usual perfectionist job of stripping them down to bare wood, although they will be repainted. One is broken and needs to be glued back together, and some repairs are needed, but they are basically in good condition and will be reinstalled.

I also took some pictures of the 637 and 4963, so watch the steam page for updates!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Orange you glad you came out in this weather?

It may have seemed like May on Saturday, but by Sunday afternoon we were back to February. What started as a nice day turned, by about 4pm, into wind, sleet and snow. That didn't deter opening day operations, though: IT 101 ran successfully all day (just getting back into the barn before the snow flew). The department is planning on running a different electric car each operating day this month, weather permitting - see the calendar on the IRM home page for details.

In other exciting news, the very first of the final orange paint went onto the 205 today! Well, went on to a part of the 205 anyway - the new Hicks-built doors got a first coat of orange in the warmth of the shop. We cracked open the gallon of Centari orange that we obtained through Jon Fenlaciki as an add-on to his order for orange paint for the 65 for the first time; it turns out that it seems to brush on pretty well! The fan of sticks visible in the background of the below photo are the "window sticks" that will hold the window panes in.

Once that was done, I briefly helped Tim Peters and several others mount a couple of heavily rebuilt side doors back on Chicago Rapid Transit 1268 (below left), and then Rod Turner drove me over to container row to look through the department's store of spare retrievers. We picked out a pair of OB models similar to what the 205 had when in service in Terre Haute and brought them back to the shop to be refurbished later (below right). All in all, a successful day!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Ah, Spring!

Hibernation is over, and it's time for the beasts to start waking up.

I started by replacing the triple valve on the 308. The valve that came with the car had some problems, so it was expertly rebuilt by a friend of our who wishes to remain anonymous. This is the replacement valve we had been using.

The rebuilt original valve now works much better. I checked the compressor, pumped up the air, and ran the car out and back a few hundred feet to check the operation of the brakes.

Then the car cleaning crew showed up and did a thorough job on both the 308 and 309. Here we see Rich Witt (L) and Phil Becker (R) doing windows in the 309.

I also checked out the walkover seat frames and lubricated all the working ones. Unhappily, several in the 309 still don't work properly.

Greg Ceurvorst (L) helps Jim Nauer with vacuuming, and Paul Sprenger (R) is mopping the floor. There were several others helping out besides.

Thanks to all those who were cleaning cars today! If you missed out on the fun, you can join the team next Saturday.

I also did some more inspection items on the 308. By the way, here's a technical note for you mechanism fans: The normal M-15 brake valve has three "apply" positions: slow, medium, and fast. However, the valve at the #2 end of the 308 has only two positions, which seem to be fast and faster. I have no idea how this happened, but it makes it harder to control the train. So I always try to make up the train so the #1 end of the 308 is on the outside.

I then started working on the roof of the 277. I finished the laps and trimmed the running boards to length. Then I attached them at each end and started drilling holes so they will line up correctly after the canvas is installed. Here we see the roof starting to look more complete.

I had to stop when a large switching crew came along to shuffle the El cars. (Lots of featherbedding on this railroad!) So I did some sorting of parts in the 321 and watched the trains go by.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Blue Car Operating Days

Here are the dates on which the blue cars are scheduled to operate this year:

May: 25, 30, 31
June: 13, 14, 27 ,28
July: 4, 11, 12, 25, 26
August: 1, 2
Sept: 7 ,12, 13, 19

Of course, these dates may be canceled or changed due to the weather, or lack of trainmen. Currently we need additional trainmen to sign up on every one of these dates except May 25 and June 13. Help!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

CA&E Cash Fare Receipt

Here's a cash fare receipt I found under a seat in the 309 when I first started working on the interior about 1979. 23 cents from Forest Park to Garden Home, dated June 6, probably 1957. The original is very fragile, of course.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Benefits of Volunteering

There are some things you can just never trust: weather reports -- the stock market -- campaign promises -- the latest "deal of the week" -- but there's one thing you can always trust: the accuracy and reliability of the information you get here at Hicks Car Works. We bring you the latest scientific knowledge that directly impacts you, things you can't find on any other railfan website -- it's truly "News You Can Use"!

Scientists and social workers have long suspected that volunteerism brings important benefits not only to the community as a whole, but directly to those who volunteer their time to make their community a better place. But scientific proof was lacking, until now. A recent study published in the prestigious McHenry County Journal of Medicine provides surprising confirmation of this: people in the study who started volunteering had dramatic increases in their health, self-esteem, and general well-being. You may find these results hard to believe. But remember that this is a scientific study published in a peer-reviewed journal, and that it is full of numerical results like "84.7%" so you know it must be correct. Here is a typical case study.

Before becoming a volunteer, subject is bored, depressed, morose, even anti-social. With nothing to do in his spare time but watch TV and eat junk food, life lacks purpose and meaning. Has few friends, little to talk about other than sports. Subject has very poor self-esteem and absolutely no sense of humor.

Same person after becoming a volunteer at a local non-profit organization. Subject is now much more active and engaged. Self-esteem is improved by 84.7%. Subject has made new friends and acquired new skills. In fact, subject even appears younger, healthier, and has better teeth.

We cannot guarantee that your results will match those in this scientific study. But you won't know until you try it, will you? You have nothing to lose! The time to join the volunteer team at IRM is now!