Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Arrowhead Restaurant

The Arrowhead Restaurant is located at the interstate behind the Citgo station. All three of us recently ate breakfast there and can recommend it. The food and service are good, about what you'd expect for a truck stop. Frank was disappointed in the biscuits and gravy, but he should know better -- we have never found any restaurant where it's nearly as good as home-made! We have not yet tried this place for lunch or supper.

We should note that the Arrowhead is now open 24 hours a day except 9PM Sunday to 5AM Monday. (Unfortunately, 9PM Sunday is just when IRM members are often looking for someplace to eat!) As always, anybody who has more comments on any places reviewed here is urged to submit them.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Dave's Depots - Marion, Illinois - Chicago & Eastern Illinois

This installment of "Dave's Depots" takes us to Marion, Illinois. Marion is the county seat of Williamson County. Marion is also home to this former C&EI depot. The depot, which is built mainly of brick, is probably a C&EI "county seat" depot. Its construction is much more substantial than the depot at West Frankfort, Illinois, also along the C&EI. Just imagine for youself the CE&I's crack limited "The Egyptian Flyer" calling at this depot, with its 4-4-2 and passenger cars!

Now used by the local Lions Club, the building seems to be relatively intact, save for the elimination of some windows and doorways.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Revenue Service

Today the blue cars were in operation again. Jim West was the motorman, Dave Hammer the trainman, and in order to have our regulation three-man crew, I was the conductor. Here we are, posing in front of the 309. Usually I'm the motorman, but it's an interesting change to be the conductor. I get to talk to people a lot more, and as usual, I think, people were pleased with the cars and the whole IRM experience. Man, was it windy! I lost my cap several times. Once it blew under the train while it was moving, but emerged unscathed. Whew!

Another interesting thing today is that our oldest trolley bus, CSL #84 (Brill, 1930) was operating, along with a much newer articulated ETB. Jerry Saunders was driving the 84.

We also had a "Take the Throttle" customer who was going to get to run the 309, but I had to leave before this started. Jealous? You too can always sign up for "Take the Throttle" -- call Phyllis at the office.

By the way, the next big hole in the operating schedule is that we need a motorman and a conductor for the 308/309 on Sunday, July 12th. I can probably do one or the other, so we need somebody else who's qualified. Help!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

277 Update

Progress was made on the roof today, in spite of the heat. All of the saddles and roof boards are in place and partially assembled. Half of the saddles are now caulked to the canvas and screwed down; I ran out of caulk. But the more caulk the better. My plan of preliminary assembly of the parts before installing the canvas seems to be working out very well.

Then it was time to move to the interior, where at least I could have some forced air ventilation. Yesterday I got a correct mix for the side walls in the car, and today I was able to put on a finish coat over three double window sections plus the rear wall, as seen to the right. Photographs actually show much better color contrast than you get in person; I'm now sure that Bruneau must have painted the window shade boxes a different color than the window frames and shade tracks, although that's not obvious when you're inside the car.

Meanwhile the 308 and 309 were operating in revenue service, with motorman Jim Nauer and conductors Steve Jirsa and Jim Windmeier. All went well.

And Frank Sirinek is now in the business of marriage counseling. It was basically "We need money, so empty your bank account. If your wife objects, threaten to divorce her." Thanks, Frank! What could possibly go wrong?

Friday, June 26, 2009

Antimacassar Update

Today I met Bernie Rossbach, an IRM member who seems to be the go-to guy for antimacassars. He let me inspect one of the IT ones in his collection, so I could get good measurements and pictures, and he gave me some scans of the lettering:

This is silk-screened, which is good. Since I had to go to Des Plaines to get some more paint mixed for the 277, we met at Des Plaines Hobbies. Thanks, Bernie!

Now I just have to determine how much it might cost to produce these in quantity. We need 20 to equip the car. I notice, for instance, that the holes at the top where it hooks onto the knobs on the seats are sort of key-hole shaped; that's got to add to the cost. Great.

Anyhow, at least I now have a new slogan:

Hicks Car Works -- stopping macassar one seat at a time!

New Feature: Classics in Railroad Reading - The Nickel Plate Story

Rehor, John A., The Nickel Plate Story. Milwaukee, Wis: Kalmbach Books, 1965.

A few nights ago, my friend and fellow railroad enthusiast Tony Pellegrino was over at my apartment. We began to discuss the “classic” railroad books. Most of the books we discussed were originally published from about 1960 to 1980, with a few exceptions. A majority of the books were originally published by Kalmbach, though Howell-North, Golden West, and Interurban Press books came up. We also discussed the “annuals” such as CERA Bulletins, some of the Interurban Press books, ERHS Bulletins, and Colorado Rail Annuals. There have been a lot of great railroad books published in the last 50 or so years. The goal of this feature is to cover, and review for the younger generation, some of the “classic” railroad books. I personally have been building a railroad library for about the past 15 years (much to the detriment of my savings account and wallet). It is my goal that these mini-reviews provide a guide for those wishing to build up their own railroad libraries, so that you may include the “classics.”

Our first installment is a real classic: John A. Rehor’s The Nickel Plate Story. Kalmbach first published this book in 1965, and it went through several printings. My own personal copy is a late 1980s reprint. The book is a real monster, 484 pages, 527 black and white photos, 15 illustrations, and a dust jacket that contains a painting by Gil Reid of NKP 765.

The book is a well-written corporate history of the New York, Chicago, & St. Louis Railroad, known as “The Nickel Plate Road.” Chapters also cover some of the railroad’s predecessor companies, such as the Lake Erie and Western, the Clover Leaf Route, and the Wheeling and Lake Erie. The book was originally published just after the Norfolk & Western acquired the Nickel Plate in 1964, so the coverage is thorough. The back of the book contains a very good locomotive roster of NKP steam, including disposition information.

Besides the technical, Rehor was a great writer. The text is engaging and interesting, or at least as interesting as a railroad corporate history can be. The research appears to be superb as well. The book covers how the railroad, originally somewhat ill conceived as the third route between New York and Chicago became a fast freight forwarder, and strong competition for the New York Central and Erie railroads. An early embrace of Super Power 2-8-4s from Alco and Lima helped the railroad compete and carve out a niche by promising fast delivery of freight from the western railroads to the east. Unlike its competitors, the NKP was a single track railroad with passing sidings, which still managed to give its larger competitors a run for their money.
There are a lot of used copies of this book out there. While you can try those internet sources, I always see a copy or two in the IRM used book store for purchase. Get your copy today!
Our next mini-review will be of Frederick Westing's Apex of the Atlantics

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Modern Stadstrafik

We get around. Frank supplied a picture, which you'll probably recognize immediately, for an article published in the Swedish magazine "Modern Stadstrafik" (Modern City Transit). The author, Björn Stråhle, wrote a long article about American PCCs, and there we are. He then sent Frank several recent issues, which are quite interesting. You'll want to subscribe if you can read Swedish. In his description of the Chicago cars, "typ 19" refers to a table of PCC variations elsewhere in the article; it's not a standard designation. (And "470" is a misprint for "570.")

Among other things I noticed: there are some modern European systems which are basically trolley buses with one center rail in the street for guidance, using either one or two trolley wires. I'd never seen anything like that before. Tusen tack fro Hicks Car Works, herr Stråhle!

Be a Docent

We have an ongoing need for tour guides or "docents" -- people who are interested in sharing some of our cars with our visitors. There are two beautiful parlor cars in Barn 3 that cannot be open unless they are staffed (for security reasons). This is an excellent way to help out the Museum for those of you who enjoy talking to people! Phil Stepek is in charge of the passenger car docents, so look him up in or near the Yard 5 streamlined cars, or email him at pstepek at sbcglobal dot net. He can always use someone in the Yard 5 cars as well.

In addition, Ray Bellock has a need for folks to be able to conduct walking tours as well. They will supply you with all the information you need. Thanks!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Henry's Fine Clothes For Men

Men! Are you worried about your professional appearance -- afraid it may be holding you back? Are you tired of wearing those stupid polo shirts that make you look like a caddy at a country club instead of a railroader? Pay a visit to Henry Vincent at Henry's Fine Clothes For Men. He has a huge selection of fine suits in dark blue and in several different sizes, available now at rock-bottom prices! In fact, he's literally giving them away! Here's his latest satisfied customer, smiling because of the huge savings. Thanks, Henry!

110 in the Shade

That's what it felt like today out at the Museum. I didn't get a whole lot done, mostly cleaning and straightening up. There's always plenty of that to do, though not very picturesque.

Instead, let's look at what some other guys have been doing. Joel Ahrendt has been working on the 277's baggage racks, and here the first two have a first finish coat. They look great.

He's also working on the trolley base. Here we see it disassembled. Some of the pins holding the springs are badly worn; I managed to find one good one, but many of them in spare bases are frozen, and I was unable to get them free in the heat. I'll have to keep working on it. Thanks, Joel!

Then in CA&E news, Al Johansen, who works at Strahorn, brought in this nice 3rd rail chair assembly. It was donated to the Museum by a friend of his. We have others, but this set is perfect, so I stored it in a safe place.

Are you a fan of the 277?
We could always use more!

I carried my shop vac over from the 321 and vacuumed the floor and the upholstery in the 277. And then removed a baggage rack that was coming loose from the wall on the north side of the main compartment. But it was easier to take pictures.

Towards the rear of the main compartment is a large grill that is hinged to the ceiling. Inside (R) we see the motor that drives the fans for the forced-air system. Though we won't try to get the air conditioning working, Bruneau says this fan motor used to work, although it's worn and sparks a lot. So I haven't got up the nerve yet to try it.

Notice that the seats in the main compartment (L) are a different type from those in the smoker (R) although it's the same red striped material. In the smoker, the frames are the original walkovers with new cushions and Art Deco arm rests. They were modified so they can no longer reverse. But I'm not sure why a single-ended car needed walkovers in the first place.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Dave's Depots - Union Station, Saint Louis, Missouri

For today's installment, we take a look at St. Louis Union Station. Union Station in Saint Louis was built by the Terminal Railroad Association of St. Louis (TRRA). The TRRA is a unique operation whose owners are its users, though all of its users do not own the railroad. All users, including owners, pay the railroad for the services they use. The TRRA treats all users, even non-owners equally in regard to access to the routes, bridges, and right-of-way.

The cornerstone of the station was laid on July 8, 1893 and construction began on the $6.5 million complex. When construction was completed and the station opened on September 1, 1894, Railroad Gazette declared that the station was one of the largest in the world, in term of track facilities.

The station sits on Market Street, a major east-west street in downtown. The head house was designed by a local architect, Theodore Link, who won a $10,000.00 award for his Richardson-Romanesque Design.

Behind the station is a massive train shed that covered 32 tracks. Later, 10 additional tracks were built just west of the train shed and covered by umbrella sheds. In total, the station's 42 stub-end tracks had a capacity of around 539 80-foot passenger cars. In addition to the head house and train shed, the station boasted a power house, separate express, baggage, and mail handling facilities, and a large subway tunnel under the 42 tracks to allow quick transportation of baggage and mail wagons next door. (The subway is now used by the Metrolink light rail system).

Near the station, at 14th Street, the TRRA built an engine service facility to service locomotives that arrived at the station. Some railroads, such as the L&N preferred to service their own power at their own East St. Louis, IL roundhouse, instead of paying TRRA to use their facility. As a result, passenger trains from Louisville or Nashville would have their road locomotives cut off at Relay Depot in East St. Louis, and be pulled over the Eads Bridge into Saint Louis by a TRRA 0-6-0.

TRRA Tower One controlled all movements into and out of the station. The tower controlled 315 switches and 315 signals into the station. The original Tower One burned on July 22, 1940, forcing the TRRA to hire an additional 100 switchmen to handle the 107 inbound and 106 outbound daily departures. The new Tower One was dedicated on November 30, 1940. The shell of this structure still stands, but is largely inaccessible.

During World War II, the station handled 315 trains and 100,000 passengers every day. After World War II, the station suffered what Trains Magazine's editor David P. Morgan termed "Execution by Expressway." By Amtrak Day on May 1, 1971, only six railroads continued to operate passenger trains into St. Louis Union Station, with 11 daily arrivals and departures.

By the end of the 1970s, TRRA sold the station and its train shed to a private developer, and Amtrak moved out to a "temporary" station (which served until 2004). The tracks were torn up and the station languished until its conversion into a retail/hotel complex in the 1980s.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Looking for IT Antimacassars

Would anyone happen have an original Illinois Terminal antimacassar? If so, I'd like to have measurements and a good picture or two of one. I'd like to see how difficult/expensive it would be to make repros for the 277. Thanks in advance!

Stop that macassar before it stops you!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Chicago Day

There was lots of activity for Chicago Day. All three of us were hard at work. The 308 and 309 were not scheduled to operate, but we pulled them outside on the Barn 8 lead to give visitors an opportunity for photographs.

David helped me on the 277. First, we got all the tools and spare parts I'll no longer need down off the roof - this is much easier with a helper. Then he helped me get the new saddles and roof boards up onto the roof. Next time I'll start installing them. Then we spent an hour or two sorting out parts and supplies inside the 277. It looks much neater now. Several parts were taken over to the 321 for painting, as seen here. I also carried the trolley pole over to Barn 4, where Stan is planning to replace the trolley harp, as we did on the poles for the blue cars. And there's more news to follow, so don't touch that dial.

On the floor of the 277 I found a couple of pictures of the portable substation, presumably at Lakeside. (L) Notice the ramp for loading it onto a trailer.

Chicago Day, Part Deux

I was out for Saturday of Chicago Day Weekend along with the rest of the Hicks Car Works blog team. I spent much of the day working on the 205, though I got to do some "fun stuff" too like help move the 308 and 309 out into the yard for photos and ride the Illinois Central MU cars on a few short test trips up and down the inspection pit lead. Most of the time spent working on the 205 was spent wire-wheeling. I did most of the remaining wire-wheeling above the belt rail, finishing off the letterboard at the west end and the remaining extra-width window posts towards the end of the car:Towards the end of the day, David Wilkins and I were able to extract the last remaining wooden end window from the car. While it was in Portland in the 1940's and 1950's, three of the car's six brass-frame end windows had been replaced by wood-frame ones. The replacement was haphazard; the car came to us with two wood windows at one end and one at the other. We obtained three "close" brass windows to replace the wooden ones (which, besides being incorrect, were junk) and installed those at the east end of the car some time back. The sole brass window remaining at the east end was removed and the paint stripped off of it at that time. On Saturday David and I were able to remove the wood-frame motorman's window at the west end of the car (at right, David unscrews the post cap before replacement and, afterwards, reinstalls the cap) and install the previously prepped brass window. The center window from this end was removed concurrently to be chemically stripped at a later time. More progress in the backdating department!

Chicago Day, Part III: First Blood

As was mentioned in the two above posts, I was up at IRM this weekend to help Randy on the 277, and provide a brief assist to Frank on the 205.

What wasn't mentioned was what happened to my right index finger at the end of the day. I was helping Randy close up Barn 8 by closing the doors at the track-end of the barn. While placing one of the metal security bars across the door, which would prevent intruders from opening the doors, the bar slipped from my hands and I pinched by finger because my right hand was under the bar.

Lots of bleeding ensued. Thankfully Frank helped me clean and dress the wound, and after a couple of bandage changings, cleaning with peroxide, it looks a lot better.

This is probably a good time to talk about shop safety. Always be aware of your surroundings, including, but not limited to, potential pinch hazards. Had I done this, I wouldn't have pinched by finger, and had to deal with the resulting bleeding/soreness, etc. In other words, don't do what I did!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

More Paint

Today was mostly the 277 again; I started by tacking down the new canvas with a double row of tacks completely around the periphery. I then put on a second coat of paint. The first coat needed a gallon to cover about 70 square feet, the second coat needed less than half a gallon. Next step: start reinstalling the saddles and running boards!

I then took some time to investigate a couple of minor issues that had been reported with the blue cars. It's nothing serious, and we will be able to continue operating as scheduled if we have enough crew members sign up. So check the list.

Then it was back to the interior of the 277. After some more sorting, I cut out and installed the last piece of plywood on the right side of the main compartment. Then a first coat of primer on the smoker bulkhead. The bulkhead had been stripped by Bob Bruneau, as seen in a picture before painting (L). After painting it looks like this (R). Of course, another coat of primer and two finish coats will be required.
Note on the roof: The 277 really needs a complete roof job. The original canvas is in bad shape and has many rips, holes, and missing sections; it's been patched with tar paper and canvas, and there are patches on patches. Some of the wood is rotted out and needs to be replaced, etc. This job would require a set of scaffolds which we can't set up in Barn 8 and more time and manpower than will be available in the foreseeable future. So I decided to fix up this one area of the roof, because it's where the trolley base is located and was something I could do without scaffolding. And it's something that one person could accomplish in a reasonable time, about a year. The car will still not be watertight, since I haven't yet addressed any of the problems with other areas of the roof. Perhaps over the next year or so more patching can be done so we won't have to worry so much about getting the car even slightly wet. Hope this helps.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Monticello Railroad Museum

On Saturday I got a chance to visit Monticello again. The most important news is that the restoration of Southern 401 is still on schedule, and they hope to fire it up later this year. As mentioned before, it has a brand new boiler, and everything else has been rebuilt. The backhead (R) appears pretty complete.

Here is the rebuilt cross-compound air pump waiting to be installed.

And one of the cylinders, with a string lined up to guide the boring process. Thanks to Paul Taylor who took some time to show me through the engine shop and talk about the project.

The revenue service train consisted of this IC combine (L), a Rock Island commuter car like the ones we all know and love....

a flat car converted into an open-air excursion car (note the lack of benches)

and this Wabash caboose. Everything is nicely painted.

Monday, June 15, 2009

277 Progress

Today I finished stretching and tacking the new canvas, followed by a first coat of canvas paint on the rest of it. No pictures, it's pretty much the same as before.

Then I started putting on a first coat of the finish color in the main compartment, as seen here; two double sections of the upper walls, plus the end wall. The end wall is metal, since it encloses the hot water heater. The paint was dirty and faded, but otherwise in very good shape. I also put a second coat of white primer on the next section, and installed the next piece of new plywood.

And I checked that the blue cars had been locked up properly, and mounted the signs.

Short Day at the Farm

I wasn't able to get out to IRM until 4:30pm today but decided to go anyway to check on the CA&E cars, which were in revenue service this weekend, and to take some quick measurements on the 205. I arrived with barely enough time to board the 308-309 for their final trip of the day. To the right is my none-too-good interior shot from my seat in the car. Jim Nauer was motorman and Joel Ahrendt conductor; Jim is seen at right below sweeping out the car after the last run. We always appreciate how well the train crews take care of the cars!

After this I headed over to the 205, where I took some measurements for window post caps. As seen at left, many of the original window post caps are badly rusted through. These caps provide part of the window track but are not major structural members. One of the solutions to this issue that was suggested was to make caps to fit over the original post caps, as a kind of sleeve. This would make for a good cosmetic appearance and would be fairly straightforward. I drew up a quick diagram of the proposed caps; we'll have a test piece made and, after any necessary adjustments, will have enough made for the whole car.

Finally, I helped out a small bit with closing up the Illinois Central MU cars, which were over at the pit being inspected. It was nice to see these cars out of the barn for the first time in a few years.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Mattoon Depot

The IC depot in Mattoon is undergoing a massive restoration, and here are some pictures I took of it yesterday, while visiting in-laws. This project is being funded by a combination of federal grants, city and local fund-raising, etc. and they have a very complete and detailed website here with lots of pictures and intricate features. Parts of it are open during restoration and it still serves as the Amtrak station; here you can see people waiting on the platform for the next train.

The building is interesting due to its two-story design; the north-south IC main is in a cut, and originally an east-west branch of the Big Four crossed over it on a bridge to the north of the station. (R) The north side of the station had this now-useless platform for the long-gone Big Four.

Here's a view of part of the interior. As I say, the website has more and better pictures, although most of them are artist's renderings of the completed project. Your tax dollars at work!