Monday, February 28, 2011

Streetcar tour

Turnout in the Car Shop was low on Sunday: for much of the day there were only four of us out. When I arrived I was taken on a whirlwind tour of recent streetcar work courtesy of Frank Sirinek. This included updates on the Veracruz open car, for which he is refinishing seats; the West Towns car, which is nearly ready to have its control group sequenced; the Shaker Heights/Minneapolis PCC from Trolleyville, which has had its interior repainted and its windows replaced; and the Kansas City PCC, which is Frank's next big project. On the latter car he and his crew have replaced or rebuilt the windows and seat frames on the entire blind side of the car and will next proceed to the door side after some interior painting; below Frank is shown behind the operator's position. This car was given a "corn broom" paint job by yours truly about ten years ago and it's terrific to see all the work that Frank is putting into it!Following this I turned my attention to the 205, right across the aisle from the KCPS PCC, where I did some more interior cleaning. All of the remaining aluminum drip rails have now been removed from the car and discussions are in the works about shipping them to Yakima, Washington to be reunited with the cars which (I think) they belong to. Among the last of the pieces that were stored atop the car's seats were some ~15' long planks which formed the "walls" over the side windows. Too large to slide underneath the seats easily, it appeared that the easiest place to store these would be in their original location. Greg Kepka (below) helped install the ones on the north side of the car; the ones on the south side of the car will wait until after the 205 is painted since removing the side windows will be much harder with these planks installed.
Below left, the interior of the car as it appears now with most of the materials off the seat backs. Note the wall planks installed on the left while the ones on the right are temporarily stored on the seat backs. My final project for the day was to complete chemically stripping the last of the paint off of the 205's final brass end window, shown below right upon completion of this project. This was taken over to the car for future installation.

Besides helping on the 205, Greg was working with Rod on repairing and reinstalling the motorman's signal whistle and valve in the 277 and Andy S. was working on the compressor for the 1100.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

We're So Soirée

(Note: For more serious news, see the following post.)

One of the highlights of the IRM social season is the annual Midwinter Soirée (pronounced "sorry") organized by the Operating Department. The food, fellowship, slide show, door prizes, and general bonhommie are eagerly anticipated. Many of us who worked most of the day even wash our faces and put on clean clothes, and that's what counts as evening wear at IRM. So I attended this year in my capacity as society columnist.

Jim Nauer does his usual effective job as Master of Ceremonies.

Food and drink are always priority #1. We eat more than any similar-sized group of people in the county.

OK, everybody, smile!

I was sitting with the CTA group.

On the far right in this picture is Jerry Pyfer, who gave the slide show.

Jerry Pyfer's slide show covered Chicago-area operations in the early 70's, as well as his experiences working for the Milwaukee Road at that time.

He was working out of Sturtevant. At the interchange there was a curve on a steep hill, which happened to go by the local police station. One evening as a drag was making its way up the hill, the police phoned the operator to report that sparks were shooting out of the locomotive. So the operator replied: "If you were trying to pull 1200 tons uphill, there'd be sparks coming out of your ass too!"

End of an Era

The entire IRM membership, as well as many throughout the museum community across the country, mourn the recent death of Julie Johnson, as reported earlier. This is a loss that cannot be replaced. Julie provided an unparalleled level of both financial and active support to the Museum for more than four decades. Our magnificent signal system stands as a monument to one person's expert direction and unflagging dedication; nobody else has anything like it. And, of course, there are the many cars whose acquisition were made possible, including the Trolleyville collection, the moving of the Marengo depot, and on and on. And then there is the vast collection of historical artifacts and documents. It is now up to the rest of us to ensure that this legacy is preserved and displayed as Julie intended.

At the Soirée, Dan Buck gave a brief eulogy in tribute to Julie's many contributions to the Museum, followed by a minute of silence and prayer.

Anything else I could say can only seem trivial in comparison, but work must go on. The Illinois Terminal Society meet is only two months away, and several things need to be done on the 277 and 518. I discussed with Rod the woodwork that will be feasible, and took measurements so I can get the right sizes.

(L) This double window post needs to be rebuilt. The metal plate covering it is in good condition, so I should be able to complete this rapidly.

(R) There's also a section of window sill mssing, and a similar place on the 518. Fortunately, these moldings are relatively simple.

Then there was time for more paint removal in the #1 vestibule.

And I touched up window sills in the smoker with black paint.

And then it was time for the Soirée! (Next post)

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Julie Johnson

We've received sad news today of the passing of Julie Johnson, longtime IRM member and CA&E supporter. Julie was heavily involved with CA&E history and preservation since the railroad quit running and was aboard the very last car to return to Wheaton on July 3, 1957. She was active at IRM in the Track & Signal Department for decades, starting in the 1960's and continuing to the present day; was responsible for funding numerous acquisitions including CA&E 308, IT "Peoria," the THI&E cars and the lion's share of the cost of the Trolleyville acquisition; served on the board of directors and as President several times; and was generally one of the museum's most active volunteers. In recent months she made her enormous collection of CA&E historic materials available online at no cost at We extend our condolences to her friends and family. Her support and hard work will be sorely missed. We will update the blog with information on memorial service arangements as it becomes available.

Above photo: Julie in CA&E 409, July 4, 2010

UPDATE: John Cloos has commented with memorial service information:

Services information.

Julie Ann Johnson 1942-2011

Visitation will be held on Thursday, March 3rd, from 4 to 8 PM at Hultgren Funeral Home, 304 N. Main Street in Wheaton, Illinois.

Services will be held on Friday at 10:00 AM at Wheaton Bible Church, 27W500 North Avenue in West Chicago.

A graveside service will follow at Wheaton Cemetery.

Family and friends may sign a guest book at

Friday, February 25, 2011

$100 A Month

In the smoker of car 150 there are three or four car cards that might date back to service on the LSE. Unfortunately they have been covered with some substance, perhaps shellac, that has turned red and is very opaque and alligatored. I'm leary of trying to remove it, since the cards might be wrecked in the process. The coating also makes the flash reflection worse. This card has an address at the bottom in either Cleveland or Toledo, I don't remember which.

In any case, this dates back to the days when one could evidently live well on $100 a month.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

319 Report

This was another not-very-eventful day. Mostly I worked on the vestibules; also, some parts and tools were removed from the 319 and put into storage.

The #1 vestibule is nearly done. I finished paint removal and sanding on most of the motorman's side, and by 2:00 the ceiling looked like this. At this end, the inside of the side door and the door to the cabinet are in good shape, so they will merely be touch sanded and then repainted.

While the primer was drying, I started burning off paint in the #2 vestbule, as seen here. This end had slightly more paint cracking and peeling, for some reason. This is the door to the #2 cabinet, which was badly checked.

Meanwhile, there was activity along Main Street. A couple of contractors were busy patching up the Schroeder store, attaching new subsiding and installing new windows, as you can see here.

And this is the front of the store as seen from inside, looking out towards the plywood panels serving as shutters.

And the news from Cleveland looks like this. The lights were on but nobody was home, so there's little more I can say.

Thursdays are pretty quiet, but the weekends are always active throughout the winter here at IRM. I would urge everybody who can to come on out on the weekend and lend a hand with the many projects in progress. We can always use your help. And then, of course, there are social activities such as the Soirée and the Snowflake Special. Don't be left out!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

What's the Buzz?

Everywhere I go -- the office, the car shop, the inspection pit, any of the barns -- the air is buzzing with excitement. People are talking about only one thing: the upcoming Snowflake Special on March 27th. You too can be part of this exciting journey over the CTA, including various sections of track that are never used in regular service. You won't want to miss it! Go to the link above for more information.

Here's a brief update on the interrupter from the 319. If you look closely, you can see one of the stationary contacts for the interrupter mechanism; the other is missing. I should be able to make a replacement from brass stock. The frame which holds the movable contact appears to be OK. The two magnets which pull the contacts up are electrically good, which is important. They'd be hard to replace.

The 5K resistor which is installed in the long tubular part of the mechanism is open. However, I can wire around it and install a replacement resistor; power resistors like this are easy to order. This happened with the resistor on the 308's buzzer; I replaced it with a set of three 15K tubes in parallel, mounted to a board up in the attic. This works well, and I should have the buzzer circuit working again by the time the car enters service at the end of May.

Dave's Depots - Chicago & Alton - Alton, Illinois

This edition of Dave's Depots takes us to Alton, Illinois, just up the Mississippi River from St. Louis. Alton, in its heyday was quite the industrial center, and rated no less than two C&A depots. One depot, Alton Union Station was located in downtown Alton, near the depot used by the Illinois Terminal Alton cars. To access this depot, the C&A and later the GM&O had to navigate in-street trackage just north of the depot, and a rather steep grade as the railroad climbed out of the Mississippi River Valley. Later, the C&A built the "high line" which skirted the east side of town, which eliminated the street trackage and the steep climb. The street trackage was later abandoned. With the high line, came this depot. It is still in very good condition and is used by Amtrak's Lincoln Service and the Texas Eagle.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Tomorrow's Men

Tomorrow's men are still boys today, so they need a club. This card is in the Lake Shore Electric 150, but I would think it must be later than the end of service in 1938. And that applies to some of the others we've seen, such as Khruschev, of course. On the other hand, this one has a penciled note saying "LSE Ry car #97" so I'm not sure what to think. The 150 has been through so many different uses it's hard to know what, if anything, is original.
(Note: #97 was a city car; when service ended in 1938 it became a cottage at Sage's Grove and survived at least into the 50's, so it is possible this card came from that car.)

Keeping Busy

The weather was nice today, and there was a crowd of people on the property, so a lot got done. You'll have to look elsewhere for news on most of it.

I started by finishing up the tool box in the 319. After painting the parts installed last time, I put the glass in place. And it now looks like this. I can only hope we never have to use it.

The next target was the recalcitrant interrupter for the buzzer circuit. I had to drill out a screw, but finally managed to detach it from the ceiling. Here we see it hanging by a thread. Or rather, two wires. Note that the top surface never got painted.

It was then taken home for repair. Here it is sitting on the workbench in my basement. Somebody at Cleveland picked the paint off the brass plate. It says:

"THIS DEVICE IS PATENTED. Legal action will be taken against anyone attempting to use it in connection with other apparatus without the consent of the CONSOLIDATED CAR HEATING COMPANY". OK, OK!!! I promise!

Speaking of buzzers, I decided this was a good time to install the 309 buzzer cord hanger we had painted earlier. It's a spare we got from Trolleyville. Pictures of the 309 definitely show one in this location. The original must have been destroyed in the fire, but I never found any remnants of it, so we've managed without it until now. It was nice to be working in the 309 again.

And I put some parts into storage.

Then there was more paint stripping in the #1 vestibule of the 319. I cleaned off another grab iron and the handle for the Armstrong window wiper, as seen here. The vestibule is getting close to being ready to paint.

And as just a small sample of the other projects going on, the B&G guys were working on the interior of the O'Mahony diner.

Dave Fullarton is cleaning decades of grease from the ceiling.

Jerry and Dave are installing replacement parts behind the counter. It's going to look great!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

319 Report

The 319 smoker is pretty much done for now; the only thing remaining is to touch up the window sills, for which I'll wait until I can open the windows. Although I suppose I could have done that today. Anyhow, I put the seat cushions back in and it looks ready for service!

Then I spent some time working on the wrecking tool box. The tools that came with the car disappeared at some point, so I'm replacing them with spares I had on hand. I got new leather straps from Tim, as reported last time, to make sure they're held in securely. The sledge hammer/axe is mostly secured by wood, but it's still best to have reliable leather too. Some of it was held in with remarkably small screws, so I used bigger ones. Safety first!

I had planned to paint everything today, but I decided instead to put white primer on the new leather and various parts of the wood, so that will wait until next time. Then a finish coat of white, and I can put the glass back in.

The leather straps are also used for pulling the buzzer cord in the vestibules. Here are the new ones I brought from home, with one of them installed in the #2 end.

The next priority is to get the buzzer working. At least we know what's wrong: there's a broken contact in the interrupter. It's in a very inconvenient location, as seen here. The cylinder part (white arrow) holds a 5K resistor to limit the current, and the interrupter mechanism is at one end (yellow arrow). I tried to remove the whole assembly from the ceiling without success, and then tried to remove the one good contact, with like results. But I'll keep trying. These things need to learn you can't put off the day of reckoning forever!

Then there was more paint removal in the #1 vestibule; I'm getting close to putting white primer on the rest of the surfaces. And I walked out through the mud and snow to check on the 321. The tarp is still in good condition, as it appeared from the road. And as usual, I was able to climb up a nearby box car and check that the top of the tarp is still good. That's a relief.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Chocolate and Butterscotch

The floor paint for the 319 looks just like a big can of chocolate syrup -- mmmmm! The weather today was warmer, so application went well. And it matches with the butterscotch color on the walls, so what's not to like?

While still drying, it looked like this:

Once that was done, I had time to do more work on the vestibule. I finished cleaning up the metal parts Frank had done last week, and cleaned up a couple more, then installed them as seen here. They were then painted with white primer.

I also did a lot more paint removal on the walls.

And Tim Peters donated some leftover leather strips which I will need for new straps attached to the buzzer cord in the vestibules, and for holding up the tools in the wreck tool box. Thanks!

It was good to see Bob Kutella again; he has had to stay home for several weeks due to medical problems. As usual, there were several other projects being pursued by various people.

Over in Barn 2, work is progressing on painting the Cleveland PCC. Since it's alongside the 451, it's difficult for work on both cars to proceed simultaneously.

Happy Birthday!
We heard that the reason Dave Diamond wasn't at IRM yesterday was his 40th birthday bash at home. Where does the time go? It seems like only yesterday he was just a teenager working at the Hines lumber yard in downtown Palatine.