Saturday, July 31, 2010

Saturday Report - Updated

The blue cars were supposed to run today, and I was ready to be a trainman. But it was dark and cloudy, and drizzled on and off during the day, so Jim West and Bob Opal decided to run 4000's instead. The weather should be much better for the Transport Extravaganza tomorrow.

Two long-time friends of ours from the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum were visiting: Bill Fronczek and Bruce Wells. Norm and I talked to them for a while about various subjects., and we looked at some of the cars from Trolleyville. They've been here several times before over the years, of course.

I spent some time working on replacing a couple of parts in the 319's air system, and looked at the 321 again.

Many of the Car Department regulars went to East Chicago today to help get several South Shore cars ready for movement. They had been stored at a steel mill there, and are being transferred to East Troy. This may be the last time interurban cars travel on their own wheels over a regular railroad, so I'm hoping somebody will send us some pictures!

Here are the window frames from Elgin & Belvidere car 208, that Bob mentioned below. These are removable storm sash for winter use, since there's no way to raise the window.

Finally, Henry Vincent brought out the open car, Veracruz #19, for some training trips, and then revenue service. I got qualified on the car along with several others, and it should be running again tomorrow.

I had to leave early to go to a cocktail party, but I plan to be running the 308 and 309 all day tomorrow, along with hundreds of antique automobiles and other vehicles on display. You won't want to miss it!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Ready for Service

The main priority today was to replace the governor on the 309; I was unable to adjust it, and as a result the compressor was cycling on and off too rapidly. I was unable to get one from storage, so I decided to test the one that came with the 36. It had been replaced with another governor of an unfamiliar type, which had evidently had an electrical failure. In any case, I tested the J governor in the shop. It leaks, but not as badly as the one on the 309, and I was able to adjust it properly to reasonable limits, about 105/80. After some work, it was installed in the 309 and tested. The 308 and 309 are now ready for service this weekend.

I was glad to observe that we've had several people sign up, so we should have full crews for both days. Sunday will be the Transport Extravaganza, of course; don't miss it!

Then I spent a couple of hours working on the 321's tarp again. It seems to be holding up OK; I always climb a nearby boxcar to check out the top.

I applied several more of Joel's clamps, as seen here. I'm working my way around the east end of the car. I should be able to finish it next time.

We had bought a tarp for this car which was much too large, basically as a science experiment that didn't work out too well. I'm trimming the tarp as I go along to fit the sides, and this works much better.

"Does this tarp make me look fat?"

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

More Motor Work

Most of the work I was involved with on Sunday concentrated on the motors for the 36. When I arrived Rod Turner had spotted the 36's truck over the pit and Norm Krentel was gathering tools for checking on the motor armature bearings. The motors in this truck were rebuilt in the 1990's, while the car was at Trolleyville, so they're in good condition. However we discovered one oddity with the armature bearings. The GE 66 motor has two separate cavities to access the armature bearing, one of which is packed with waste and the other of which serves as a sump - this side, connected to the waste cavity at the bottom, allows for oil to be pumped into the armature bearing and also allows use of a dip-stick to determine the oil level in the sump. However on these motors both cavities had been packed full of waste, making it impossible to properly oil the motor armature bearings. Norm and I extracted the waste and then I worked for a while with Frank Sirinek to make some new waste bundles; some of them are pictured below soaking in compressor oil. Norm used a pump to suck the old oil, and quite a bit of water, out of the motor armature bearing sumps.In the meantime, Jeff Brady and Ray Schmid took a break from working on Michigan Electric 28 to come over and work with Norm on one of the axle caps. We had discovered some rust on the axle at one of the motor bearing surfaces, so the axle cap was removed to allow for inspection of the axle. Ray and I used pinch bars to slowly move the truck while Norm and Jeff sanded down some pitted areas, cleaned off the surface and re-oiled them. When the car is made operational we'll want to monitor axle cap bearing temperatures, but we should be fine. Below (L-R) are Ray, Norm and Jeff inspecting the axle cap bearing, which is to the left of Norm's head.After this was done we reinstalled the axle cap and called it a day; next week we'll pack the motor armature bearings and that should complete substantial work on this truck prior to installation under the car. I did take a few breaks from this job to check on other things. I laid out the hole for the headlight at the east end of the 205; Rod is going to look into whether it's possible to obtain a 6-1/2" diameter hole saw to cut the hole for the headlight. And the 308 and 309 were operating. The latter car's governor is leaking and will have to be repaired or replaced but the cars ran well and, with the good weather, ran at capacity most trips due to the large crowd we had out at the museum. Below, passengers disembark under the watchful eyes of Joel Ahrendt and Jim West while a crowd waits on the platform to board for the next trip. If the CA&E had had this many passengers, they'd still be in business!
I also can't resist adding: the paint on the 308 is holding up pretty well, check out how shiny it still is!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Get Your Kicks With a GE 66

We haven't forgotten about car 36,
Or the couple of things we need to fix,
And just as sure as our name is... OK, OK! I'll stop!!! I promise!

There are still a few minor issues that need to be addressed with the 36's motor truck. One brush holder is defective, so I found a replacement and removed it from one of our spare GE 66 motors from the 318, which we acquired back in 1977. Here it is on the bench, ready for inspection and installation.

I also went out to check on the 321's tarp; everything still appears to be fine.

I spent some time trying to adjust the governor on the 309, helped by Bob Heinlein's expert advice, but without much success. The adjustment screw doesn't seem to have any effect, and the governor is leaking worse than ever. I'm really not sure what to do next.

I went over to Barn 2, where Cody was working. He showed me how to mix some of the Centari paint used on the cars for brush painting, and I painted all of the handrails and the remaining folding steps as seen here. It's quite a bit different from the house-type paint I'm used to; once mixed, it's only good for a couple of hours before it starts to turn to goo, he says. On the other hand, it dries quickly, so I could put two coats on in less than two hours. Brushing it is not difficult with a little practice.

And Tim is making good progress on removing the rotten parts of both ends of Chicago Rapid Transit 1797, which is now in Barn 4. He already has a substantial load of new lumber inside the car, ready for making replacement pieces.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Dave's Depots -CB&Q- Burlington, Iowa

This mobile edition of Dave's Depots takes us to Burlington, Iowa. Burlington is on the bank of the Mississippi River, and along the mainline of the Burlington's main east-west line. The depot, a modern one, built around 1940, looks more like something you would see in a Heywood Wakefield furniture catalog, or something designed by Ray and Charles Eames.
The depot is in use, for Amtrak service, and as the local transit company's bus terminal. Otherwise, the building looks abandoned, and is well-worn. The waiting room is abandoned, with a sign laying on the floor that says "This Place Matters," laying where it fell after once being on display in the window.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


Just a photo of a Pennsylvania Railroad B6 Electric switcher. The Pennsy and Long Island had a fleet of these for switching at passenger terminals, namely 30th Street in Philadelphia, Harrisburg, and Sunnyside in Long Island. The Long Island and some Pennsy versions were DC, via third rail, while this version is an A.C. model, powered by the overhead. I never had the pleasure of seeing one of these in action, but I have read that they were much louder than a GG1. Photograph taken July 16, 2010 at the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania in Strasburg, PA.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Sitting Is Dangerous

Scientists agree: sitting is dangerous! But you can avoid this risk by volunteering. We need crews on the blue cars for this weekend, so sign up today with Jim if you can. (I'll be out of town at a family reunion.) Thanks!

And you'll want to check out Bob Kutella's history of Sand Springs car 68.

Back to the 205

For those who were wondering, the 205 cosmetic restoration hasn't been abandoned - it has just taken a back seat to the work on the new Trolleyville cars. On Sunday I got a chance to move work on the 205 a bit further along. I brought out the new window post caps that had been made for the car last fall (below left) and had been primed at my house. After some discussion, Rod Turner recommended using epoxy to assist with affixing these to the car, so I used a wire-wheel to clean up spots on the backs of the post caps and on the car's original window posts (below right). The next step will be to actually install the post caps, after which prep work will move to another area of the car. The 205 is getting fairly close; the only areas still needing attention are a couple of wide window piers towards the ends of the car, the letterboards at the ends, and the east end dash, which needs the headlight and MU socket installed.

Afterwards I went back to working on CA&E cars. The Baldwin MCB truck we acquired from Connecticut had been missing one of the axle cap lids, so I went out to container row and removed one from one of our spare GE 66 motors and installed it (before and after, below). I also checked the waste in the axle caps - one will need to be re-packed, the others are likely fine - and removed a bit of water from one of the axle caps.

The main event of the weekend was Diesel Days; unfortunately I managed to miss the "Parade of Power" but I did snap a photo of this unusual (for IRM) creature spotted on the west wye. I suppose it's only a matter of time before this unit, or one like it, graces our rails as a legitimate member of the collection.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Dave's Depots, Reading Co., Valley Forge, PA

This segment of Dave's Depots takes us to the Reading Depot in rural Valley Forge, PA. This depo was built in 1911 by the Reading Railroad, as part of their line to Pottstown. The station is built from local stone, and was designed to match George Washington's headquarters, nearby. Today, the station is owned by the National Park Service, and is in the process of being restored. I first visited this station in 1995. Then, it was locked up and in a state of disrepair. Today, the station is in very good shape, and contains exhibits about Washington's headquarters, and the village of Valley Forge.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

We Need a New Governor

Yes folks, we need a new governor. Our current governor has been wasteful and incompetent, as shown by several leaks. This puts an undue strain on the rest of the system, which can no longer be tolerated. So I say it's time for a change! First, however, we'll have to break the power of the union.

The governor, of course, regulates the air pressure in the main reservoir by turning the compressor on and off at preset values of pressure. With use, however, many of them start to leak air, and the 319's was leaking very badly. Fortunately, Bob Heinlein helped me locate a good candidate in storage, at the back of a shelf. We have a good number of these Type J governors, but most of them were already tagged as defective. We took one back to the shop and tested it on compressed air. It doesn't leak and was already set correctly, for 100/80.

Here's a Type J with the cover removed. The air portion is on the left; on the right are the electrical connections with a plunger (yellow arrow) which is pushed out rapidly when the air pressure exceeds the "off" setting. At the same time, a puff of air helps extinguish the arcs.

To the right is the far end of the air portion, showing the two adjustment cylinders for the on and off settings.

And here it is with the cover installed. By the end of the day, I was able to install the new one in the 319 and test it. It operated just as we had hoped, so this is another step forward. I'm afraid our ex-governor has been sentenced to life without parole in the dreaded "blue reefer," one of our maximum-security facilities.

I also drilled some holes to finish installing the handrails, and I attached the rope guard at the #1 end of the car.

We have been having problems with the controller at the #1 end of the 308, and also with the brake valve. I know what the problem is, but there's no way to fix it in a hurry. The blue cars are not running this weekend due to Diesel Days, but they will be the next two weekends. So the easiest way to avoid this problem was to switch positions of the two cars. I first retested the controllers, brakes, and whistles at the #2 ends of both cars, then switched them out. They should now be ready for continued service.

And while taking a break, I took some quick pictures of the current displays in the Art Train car in Yard 5. It's nicely set up with low level lighting, so these flash shots don't really show it very well.

A display about railway mail clerks.

Posters and other info about railroads in WWII.

Interurbans along the Fox River.

Fred Ash worked on this until health problems occurred; Ray Bellock and Phil Stepek have been doing most of the work since then. John Cloos provided the interurban display, and others are in the works. They're doing a good job of providing some educational displays that look very professional. And the car is air conditioned, so what's not to like?

Wonder, No. 7 of a Series

There was once a time in America, when just about every young boy wanted to be an engineer, or work for the railroad. Back then, the railroad was a more accessible and visible to the American public. From hanging out with the telegraph operator at the local depot, to the Railway Express Agency truck delivering a box of baby chicks, the railroad was an ever present force in our lives. Today, it still is, but much less visible. When I rode the Strasburg Railroad, I noticed this scene at Leehman Place Junction, while the locomotive ran around the train. Like me, the boy and his father were caught in the wonder of watching a real, live steam locomotive run around the train.

I see this look at IRM and at many other museums. While the railroad may not be as visible in our lives, it still has the ability to make young and old watch with wonder.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

319 Report

It was another hot one today. One has to be careful not to work too hard.

The first thing to do was to take a hike through the Great Southwest Desert and check on the 321. The clamps I've installed already seem to be holding up well, so that's good news. The tarp seems to have stopped shifting. I cut off another excess acre or so of tarp and attached some more of the clamps provided by Joel. Thanks again!

Now that the scaffold is in place, I was able to finish painting the roof black, as seen here. Unfortunately the scaffold is in the way of the camera. I hope the fresh paint will quickly acquire enough dust to match the rest of the roof!

Joel also made up three new trolley ropes for me, and I replaced the one on the 309, as mentioned earlier. I think I'll wait until the rope guards are installed to put new ropes on the 319; I may be able to start on that this Saturday.

Then I installed the six remaining handrails, as seen here. There's still a couple of holes to redrill, and of course they need to be touched up, especially the screw heads. But they look good.

Then the brake rigging. I was able to reposition both top rods so there is less piston travel. Standing travel in service is now 6", which is still a little more than desired, but a noticeable improvement.

Tim Peters is hard at work on the 1797, as seen here. He is hoping to have it moved into Barn 4 soon so he'll have more room to work. Both ends are being stripped in preparation for body and fender.

And it looks like Barn 9 now has a vistadome section!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Opportunity, No. 6 of a Series

The piece of equipment pictured here, a Sumitomo-Built South Shore car, may just end up at IRM one of these days. These cars are important. After all, their delivery in the early 1980s allowed the South Shore to transform itself from "The Little Train that Could" into a modern commuter operation. Here, the Interurban Era lives, possibly in grander scale than even Insull could have imagined.

Those of us "youngsters" in the railway preservation movement often bemoan the fact that particular types of pieces of equipment were never preserved. Be it a New York Central Hudson, a Pennsylvania Railroad T1, a Pacific Electric 1100, or a complete TMER&L interurban car (especially one of the all steel ones built by the St. Louis Car Co.).

In making these wishes, or "complaints" we often forget the constraints that early railroad museums and preservation organizations operated under. In some ways, the "problems" are the same, time, space, money, and volunteers. With this in mind, we need to be thinking of equipment that operates today, like this NICTD South Shore car, and of it's post-service future. These cars will be retired one of these days, will we have the foresight we often accuse those who came before us of lacking?

Monday, July 12, 2010

Something Different

Maybe you'd like a change from our usual format of "All CA&E, All the Time"? Andrew Cornillie recently sent me a brief video from last year's Showcase Weekend that features the three-car IT special and the two redbirds on their first main-line trip. Enjoy!

A Day on the Railroad

I took a break from doing actual imitation work on Sunday and served as motorman of the regularly scheduled "blue car train," accompanied by my wife Bevin, who acted as company photographer. Other than a few minor issues - the controller on the 308 still needs some tweaking, one of the seats on the 309 won't throw over all the way - the day was a success.

It was, however, a shorter day than anticipated. After the 3:00 run conductor Tom Disch noticed that the rope at the east end of the 309 (right) was badly frayed. As current department policy is to run the train with both poles up, the decision was made to put the train away and annul the 5:00 trip. Thanks to Dan Fenlaciki for his help putting the train away! Thanks also to Tom, Jeff Kepka and the other Operating Department crews who operate the 308 and 309 on a regular basis out at IRM. It's always nice to see the cars out on the railroad in operation, being enjoyed by the public.

Quality Blogging, No. 5 of a Series

Quality blogging doesn't come easily. It takes a lot of hard work to make the Hicks Car Works blog the most-read blog on the Hicks Car Works. With the Internet, there are lots of choices to get your IRM and preservation related news. We know that. We often tout the high standards that we have here at the Hicks Car Works Blog. For every post you see, three to five posts end up in the "circular file" of our ruthless editor.

Just having a computer and rudimentary web-design skills isn't enough to be a good blogger. Having a nose for news, and keeping a camera handy helps make a quality blog. Here we see Frank Hicks do just that, snapping a photo of Randy Hicks as we waited for the Trolley Pageant at IRM on July 4, 2010.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

319 Brake Work

We had noticed that the 319 was not operating quite right when running in one direction; there was a rubbing noise and a noticeable retarding effect. I pulled it over the pit today to investigate. We were suspecting a problem with one or more motors, but now think this is due to a brake problem. That's good news; it will be perhaps easier and certainly cheaper to fix a problem with the brake rigging. I made some changes to the brake rod connections and replaced two brake shoes. We'll want to replace at least two more. Joe Stupar helped a lot with this difficult task.

The 308 and 309 were operating today; they'll be running again tomorrow. Jerry was working on two of the 1-50 cars, which gave me an opportunity to move our scaffold back to track 84. This will enable us to finish work on the roof.

And our friend Ray Cosyn was visiting from California. In late afternoon, it started to rain, so we had to put everything away quickly. It was just like one of those cartoons where there's a little dark raincloud right over somebody's head, pouring water over him while everybody else is dry. But we're used to it.

"The Great Splinter Fleet," No. 4 of a Series

Back in the 1920s, the New York Central advertised its passenger trains as being "The Great Steel Fleet." Some sand house wags called the nearly all-wood fleet of the New York, Ontario & Western "The Great Splinter Fleet."

Here is IRM's "Great Splinter Fleet" which has recently grown by two more cars. Here we see the 309, 308, and 319 at Schmidt Siding on July 4, 2010 as we awaited our orders for the IRM Trolley Pageant.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Trip Report - Branford Electric Railway

On the Sunday of the "IRM Comes to Connecticut" trip, we had to fly home in the afternoon but we had the morning to goof off. Hence, a trip to Branford! Branford, a.k.a. the Shore Line Trolley Museum, is one of the three big New England trolley museums and is the closest trolley museum to New York City. They have an outstanding collection of historic equipment from the northeast, including a lot of really unique pieces and an impressive number of fully-restored cars. Above, Branford's most recently completed major restoration is New Orleans 850, shown here in front of Sprague Station (more on Sprague below). Below, the four of us are shown in front of 850: L-R Frank Hicks, Norm Krentel, Randy Hicks and Jeff Brady. Sprague was built in the 1950's at the end of a street near downtown East Haven, CT and named for electric railway pioneer Frank Julian Sprague. The museum's streetcar tracks start in front of Sprague in the street, and extend past where the street ends towards the main museum site and beyond it through a very scenic tidal marsh to the end of the line at Short Beach, a mile or so off.

Inside Sprague is a gift shop, washroom, member's office and a small but extremely well designed museum area. Included in the museum is a small movie theater and some really neat displays, including one shown at left where rotating the handle of a K-controller lights up different panels on the wall showing the change in the motor circuit. There's also a neat display showing how trolley poles, wheels and overhead wire work, and some displays of historical photos. Jeff Hakner met us at Sprague and took us for a tour of the museum.

After a nice ride on the line (no photos, I just relaxed and enjoyed the scenery), we were deposited at the well-maintained museum site shown at right. The museum is situated on the edge of a tidal marsh and has virtually no space to expand - the opposite situation IRM is in, fortunately for us. Most of their collection is under cover in the barns shown. The car in the middle is a New York subway car similar in general design to IRM's Broad Street subway car. It is on a shop truck while motor work is done.

Branford's line is on the right-of-way of an old Connecticut Co. line and they have an outstanding collection of ConnCo equipment. At left is the interior of ConnCo parlor car 500, built by Brill in 1904. It's a beautiful car and is restored and operational.

Branford has a tremendous collection of New York-area equipment of all descriptions including various streetcars, elevated and subway cars, and work equipment. In the latter category is this open-cab derrick from the South Brooklyn Railway which was recently restored. Most of Branford's equipment is stored in barns with tight aisles but they have a couple of display barns which are nicely set up for public viewing. Like most non-railway museums, most of their collection is in storage and visitors mainly see the highlights.

You may be asking yourself, "what is this... and why do I care?" Well, it's a GE C-18C controller off of a 1907 subway car owned by Branford, IRT #3662. The reason it's interesting is that this design is nearly identical to the C-21 controllers that the 321 has - except that while the CA&E removed the automatic acceleration feature from their C-21's, the IRT kept that feature in their C-18's. I took some video of this thing in operation too, however I'm having problems uploading videos to YouTube at the moment so that will have to wait.

We then got to visit the Branford shop, where shop manager Ted Eikmann was working on their current big project, Atlanta streetcar 948 (below left). Since the water table at the museum is very high due to their location adjacent to the marsh, they have an above-ground pit where the pit track enters their shop elevated on a fill and is supported on wooden posts. Below right is one of the trucks under the 948, both of which were completely rebuilt by the museum.

We then got a special tour through a couple of Branford's more historic, albeit unrestored, rapid transit cars. First was the "Mineola," the only preserved (maybe the only ever built) subway private car, constructed in 1904 for August Belmont. Branford got its body from the Magee Museum in Pennsylvania in the 1970's; below Randy Hicks takes a picture of one of the compartments. I'm not sure whether the desk is original to the car.
After this came Interborough Rapid Transit (IRT) instruction car 824. This car was built in 1881 (!) as a steam-hauled elevated car and was rebuilt as an instruction car in 1902 when the Manhattan Elevated was electrified. Again, why should you care? Because the Manhattan Elevated electrification was the impetus for the creation of the first successful GE Type M multiple-unit system: a pair of C-6 controllers operating a pair of GE-66 125hp traction motors using DB-15 contactors and a DB-20 reverser. This was the system used by the CA&E for its original fleet because at the time the CA&E was built, in 1902, this was the most modern system of motors and control available that could provide the power and speed the CA&E needed. The difference was that the CA&E cars needed four motors per car, but since the Manhattan Elevated only needed two motors per car that's what the DB-15 contactor had been designed for. The solution? Two complete sets of contactors, reversers and resistance grids under each CA&E car. And that's what the 309 has to this day. There will be a test at the end of the semester.
Instruction car 824 is full of neat displays, interactive and not, that were used to teach men used to steam engines how electric cars worked. Above we see that the car's contactors, rather than being mounted under the car, are actually inside the car so that their operation can be observed.

Below left, here's a neat thing: a big steel bench with two Van Dorn coupler heads (same as used on the CA&E) mounted facing each other, with the one on the right attached to an air cylinder that could be used to couple and uncouple them. And at below right, you can see a sample coupling complete with air hoses and control jumpers. The significant thing about this is that while the rear control jumper sockets have normal hinged covers, the front sockets have semi-spherical clamshell-style covers. These were used on the original CA&E cars (later replaced with hinged covers) but this is the only example of the clamshell covers I have ever seen in person. The one on the left is open, the one on the right closed.

And so our trip to Branford came to an all-too-early close as we had to get back to the airport and fly back to Illinois. Many thanks to Jeff Hakner for showing us around! Branford is a great museum with an incredibly historic collection, arguably the most scenic ride of any trolley museum anywhere, and some great restoration and museum facilities. It's a must-see if you're ever in New York or Connecticut!