Friday, July 31, 2009

Dave's Depots - Rock Island Depot, Gerald, Missouri

Recently my travels took me through Franklin County, Missouri. U.S. 50 through most of Franklin County parallels the old Rock Island St. Louis-Kansas City mainline. The line is still in place, but "rail banked" and owned by the State of Missouri. A portion of the line from the old Rock Island Page Avenue Yard in St. Louis to the town of Union, Missouri is operated by the Central Midland Railway.

The town of Gerald is just west of Union. Just west of downtown, in a park, sits the old Rock Island Depot. The depot is in excellent shape, maintained by the local Chamber of Commerce. Signage at the depot indicates that it was moved from downtown to the park in the mid 1980s and is the only remaining depot on the line. While not on the old Rock Island anymore, the depot remains just across U.S. 50 from the old mainline.

As for the Rock Island line, there has been on and off talk the past several years about reopening the entire line. It is unclear if and when this would ever happen.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Demolishing a Railroad Car Made Easy

If you had a plan for saving the Camp Grant, sorry, it's too late.

The job is always easier if you have the right tools. Here half of one side plus the roof has been removed in maybe 20 minutes.

Then they do the other side. These guys are professionals at demolition, although they didn't have much experience with railroad equipment. The supervisor I talked to marveled at how strong the structure was. And I even got to help by setting the hand brake to keep the flatcar from rolling back and forth as the shovel worked on the load.

The carbody was basically a wooden car with steel sides, as seen here. I hadn't realized how much of it was wood.

By the end of the day, we are down to a flatcar sandwich.

But wait, there's lots more interesting stuff to report today!

First of all, we need another trainman for both Saturday and Sunday this weekend. Sign up if you can. Thanks!!

Apart from watching the scrappers, I was working on the 277 again. Here's my new workbench in the front compartment. Bruneau had removed some parts in the front compartment and stripped them; I finished painting them with a first finish coat. Later, after the paint was dry, I installed them as seen here. (R) I'll get around to restoring the front compartment eventually, but for now it's best to store the parts in place, I think.

In the main compartment, the paint has flaked badly on the sheet metal air conditioning duct along the center of the ceiling. I'm hoping that just scraping it thoroughly will be sufficient, and I'm going to try repainting the first few feet as a test.

Then I spent some time stripping a door post where the paint was likewise in bad shape. Notice the inlay which will, alas, have to be painted over again.

And I installed a repainted coat hook on one of the new wall sections. The rest of the hooks that have been removed need to be sandblasted and repainted. Joel Ahrendt has been doing a great job on the baggage racks, and Gerry Detloff has finished repairing one which was bent.

And then I brought the 277's "lobster trap" over from Barn 4, where it had been stored for who knows how many years, and measured it for replacing a few broken slats. That shouldn't be too hard; once it's done, I'll need some help to install it at the rear end of the roof. Again, it's safer stored in place, I think. These lobster traps were carried on the cars so the trainmen could let them down into Lake Decatur and catch dinner. Or so I was told by somebody who was actually there....

And I went to Woodstock to drop off the engineering drawing for new parts for the IRR 205 at R&B Metals, one of IRM's certified suppliers.

Finally, I visited with Fred Ash, who is fixing up one of the "Art Train" cars for displays. Here we see him removing the shrink wrap that been applied; underneath, this car is in remarkably good shape, I think. (R) The lights were off, but the inside is in excellent condition. The larger room has glass-panelled display cases, and once the car is repositioned and wired, this should be a professional-looking display car for rotating displays of various sorts.

Train Time at Wheaton

A westbound local has pulled into the north track at Wheaton in a light rain and the crew trades jibes with the shop men who will shortly run the cars into the CA&E's coach storage yard just to the west.
Actually it's Fourth of July 2009 at the Illinois Railway Museum; Mark Paulson captured this view of Les Ascher, myself, Randy Hicks and Nick Kallas with the 308-309 in the background prior to the start of the Trolley Parade. Photo is copyright Mr. Paulson and may not be reproduced without permission.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Mid-Continent Railway Museum

The Mid-Continent Railway Museum is located in North Freedom, Wisc. just south-west of the Dells. It suffered severe flooding last year when the Baraboo River overflowed; the river runs right alongside the property. However, the museum appears to have recovered pretty well, and the grounds generally look great. You probably wouldn't notice any evidence of flooding if you weren't looking for it.

Mid-Continent has always been expert at passenger car restorations, particularly their fine collection of wooden cars. Most of the restored cars are effectively displayed in the coach shed, as seen here.

We didn't have time to ride the train this time, but it's scenic and enjoyable.

Like IRM, MCRM has been unable to operate steam for a few years, but work is progressing. Meanwhile, some of them are nicely displayed outside near the depot.

A visit to Mid-Continent is highly recommended if you're ever in the Dells area. And the website has lots of useful information.

Monday, July 27, 2009

277 Update

The 308 and 309 operated both days last weekend, and everything went well, I believe. While inspecting the cars today, I noticed a couple of minor problems to fix. One door on the 309 didn't lock properly, so I adjusted it. And the whistle cord had come loose, so that was re-attached. Then, since the 3007 was outside, I took some pictures to update the steam page.

After that, it was back to the 277. I started disassembling some parts of the wall on the left-hand side that will have to be replaced, as seen here. I'll need to make new molding pieces.

The paint on the smoker bulkhead is alligatored, as seen to the left. I used the heat gun to remove it on the right-hand part, being careful not to use too much heat to damage the wood. It was then sanded down and given a first coat of primer, as seen to the right. It will require another couple of coats of paint and sanding.

And then I stored some more parts, took a seat arm home, etc. But it's nice out, so let's go for a walk and see some scenery.

CTA S-329 started life as a Metropolitan wooden coach. After many years of service, it was demoted by the CTA to a flat car. Its frame then became a foot bridge across Boot Creek, until the floor rotted out, making it unsafe.

Across the creek and through the woods, we come across more of the Museum's farm land. Here the corn is doing well. Eventually the plan is to build a connecting line from the new south yards to the main line right through this area. The main is just beyond the tree line in the distance.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Running Around in Circles

For a change of pace, I spent the day operating Illinois Terminal 415 on the museum's streetcar loop. The 308 and 309 were operating on the mainline throughout the afternoon with Jeff Obarek as motorman; the recently adjusted brakes on the 308 were said to operate just fine. Public attendance seemed decent and the weather was gorgeous. My conductor for the day was Bevin Brouillet (above right). The 415 is actually designed with a conductor's position directly behind the motorman though it can be (and usually is, at IRM) operated as a normal one-man car.

At the end of the day, just when I was leaving, I happened upon a switch move involving the museum's attractive CB&Q S-4 Hudson, 3007. I was able to take a rare photo of the engine in the sunlight, out of its usual habitat in Barn 9.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Brake Cylinder Fixed

Today I managed to replace the return spring in the 308's brake cylinder. To do this, I had to put the car over the pit, so first we moved the locomotive out of the way. Then I disconnected the brake rigging and removed the end casting, as seen here. That was the last opportunity to take a picture.

Henry Vincent helped me put the cylinder back together with the new spring -- thanks!!! Sam Polonetzky and John Nelligan helped with switching. Gerry Detloff and George Clark provided useful guidance. The brakes now appear to be working OK after some brief tests, so the two cars should be in service again this weekend if it doesn't rain. By the way, we still need a trainman for Saturday!

After that, I didn't have the time or energy to start another project. So here, by way of scenery, is the Museum's corn on the south 40. This hasn't been a good year for corn, of course, so it's at least two or three weeks late.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

North Shore Mementos

While cleaning up the 277, I came across a couple of interesting items. (L) A tag for a "Prepaid Emergency Shipment" on the North Shore. This one is somehow stamped for IRM on Sep. 23, 1973. Perhaps this was for some sort of observance of the tenth anniversary of abandonment, but that's a little before my time.

(R) A fragment of a CERA bulletin from 1948. Mopst of the news is about the North Shore. It is still a going concern and has just purchased new freight locomotives, although streetcar service is rapidly being phased out.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Cleaning Up the 277

I had never been satisfied with the work setup in the 277. Several boards were laid across the tops of the seats on the left side, as seen here, and used to store paints, screws, etc., and to provide a work surface. This just isn't good for the upholstery. I decided the thing to do was to clear out the baggage compartment so I could set up a bench there. To do that, I had to remove all the seats.

This turned out not to be too hard; I moved some spare parts around in the 253 and opened up plenty of space to store the 277's seats temporarily. That took a while, but I ate too much over the weekend and needed the exercise.

Here is what the front compartment looks like when it's empty. Along the front wall (R), there's a bench that folds down for extra seating, or folds up for more baggage space.

The seat cushions are still stacked on a couple of the seats, but they're easy to move and don't damage anything.

After straightening up, I finished putting a first finish coat on the new wall sections in the main compartment (L). And I installed the restored bell cord hangers.

Del Toro's Tex Mex Grill

Our restaurant review feature continues with Del Toro's Tex Mex Grill in Huntley, a favorite of the Car Shop Sunday gang since it's open on Sunday evenings. The food is mainly Mexican and is quite good, though a bit pricier than some of the other local joints at about $10-15 for most of the entrees. The fajitas and enchiladas are highly recommended, as is the salsa served with tortilla chips before the meal. We'll usually go through several baskets of chips and a couple of bowls of salsa before the meal arrives even though the service is reasonably fast! The servers tend to be quite good at keeping everyone well stocked with salsa, drinks, etc. There's also a bar area next to the dining room.

Del Toro's is located on Route 47 on the north side of Huntley in the Huntley Center shopping mall; visible in the above photo is the Huntley water tower right behind the mall. But beware when you go: the parking lot in the mall has a large light pole in the center of it that has a reputation for having jumped out in front of a particular member's truck, giving Del Toro's its IRM nickname: Andy's Truck Stop.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Anticlimber Interlude

Due to supply issues (i.e. I need to buy more Bondo and Rustoleum primer) I didn't get as much done on the 205 today as I had hoped, but I did get about a third of the anticlimber at the west end of the car wire-wheeled clean and ready for primer. The car will need to be moved from its current location about 1" from the coupler knuckle of South Shore 504 before I can do the center part of the anticlimber, but that will happen in good time. In the meantime, before and after views:

Later I had a lengthy conversation with regular blog reader Dan Fenlaciki and a friend of his who wishes to remain anonymous regarding the mechanical condition of the 205. Arguably the most interesting part of this conversation was opening up the switch group boxes on the car for the first time, which confirmed that the unit switches appear to be intact.

During a break from wire-wheeling I spent about an hour working as ground man for US Army 8537, the museum's 44-tonner which only recently was restored to working two-engine configuration. Joe Stupar (left) was engineer on the 8537 for the Parade of Power during the annual Diesel Days celebration. The highlight of this year's parade was undoubtedly Burlington SD24 504, shown below, which was just repainted and is 99% done following a seven-year restoration. This is truly top-notch restoration work and the project included backdating details such as steps, markers and headlight arrangements. Kudos to the Diesel Department on a fantastic job!

Finally, a quick photo of progress around the grounds. While negotiations continue to obtain ballast for finishing the fourth track in Barn 11, work on the structure continues. The east end of the barn is pictured; the aircraft hangar-style door for tracks 112 and 113 has been added within the past few weeks.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

277 Progress

Today I applied filler and then put a second coat of primer on the next section of wall paneling, as seen earlier. After it was dry to the touch, I was able to install it as seen here. I also filled in all the nail holes. The right side wall of the main compartment is now complete. Of course, some more painting is required.

I helped Joe with a switch move for a little while, stored some spare parts, and showed some friends through the 309. There was a good crowd of visitors out today!

Here's what's left of the interior of the Camp Grant. It's almost down to bare steel. I risked life and limb to take these views so you don't have to!

I left somewhat early to catch the 4449 on its way into Chicago. I'll add this to the steam page when I get a chance. Here it is travelling at track speed through Sugar Grove. Wooeeee!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Veneer Repair Made Easy

Today, let's have a lesson in replacing the veneer on wall panels. This is how I did massive repairs on the 308 and 309, but that was before this blog started. For the 277, there was one corner of one of the panels that needed replacement. And since the walls are painted, matching is no problem.

First, I use a heat gun to lift the old veneer. Then the core is sanded smooth.

Next, cut out a piece of new veneer to fit exactly. I like this -- wood you can cut with a pair of scissors. This modern veneer has a paper backing so it doesn't split and can be worked easily.

Contact cement is used as an adhesive. This is not the contact cement you might have used in grade school, but an industrial-grade adhesive used for laminating counter tops and things like that. Not for use by children.

An even layer of cement is applied to both surfaces. Then it is left to dry for 20 to 30 minutes. While drying, it gives off noxious fumes, so this seems like a good time to go have lunch. We're lucky there's a fine Greek restaurant nearby.

Mmm, that was delicious. Now comes the only tricky part: aligning the work correctly. The glue makes an immovable bond as soon as the two parts come into contact, so you only get one chance to put the veneer in the right place. This is a pretty small piece, so it's not too hard. Then press it down hard, and it's set. No clamping required. On the can it says it only acquires maximum adhesive strength after seven days, which was news to me. But since I only want to paint it, maximum strength isn't needed.

There were also some areas on the panel where the veneer had come loose, but was still good. These I attached with epoxy and clamps, in the obvious fashion. Then a first coat of white primer on the whole panel. After the first coat dries, I'll need to apply some filler in a few places, sand, and repaint. And the right side wall in the main compartment will be complete.

I also removed the rest of my tools from the roof, and tightened up some bolts and connections. And more sorting of parts and straightening.

In other good news, this eyesore (the Camp Grant) is being put out of our misery. Three workmen from a demolition firm were demolishing the interior.

And finally, some campus scenery from the material yard. Nature does her kindly best to camouflage our mistakes.