Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Memorial Day

The 309 and 319 operated on Saturday and Monday (wood car operations Sunday were canceled due to rain); I was only there for Monday so hopefully my father can post photos from Saturday. Memorial Day turned out to be a beautiful, virtually cloudless day, with temperatures and humidity both in the 90's but a stiff breeze that helped out a lot. The cars ran uneventfully all day and had good passenger loads for every trip.

The crew was (L-R): Greg Ceurvorst, motorman; Randy Hicks, trainman; Frank Hicks, conductor.

At 12:30 there was a very nice memorial ceremony behind the East Union depot which was led by one of the reenators who portrays a chaplain in the 82nd Airborne and is a deacon in real life. His remarks were followed by the playing of "Taps."

Bet you didn't know we had a WWII hospital car, eh? This is actually our Green Bay & Western coach, which in recent years has worn a light yellow livery applied by its previous owner, the Marquette & Huron Mountain. Lately it has seen use as part of the "Train of Terror." For the WWII event it was given a quick coat of olive drab. It may not be authentic, but at least it's close to Pullman green! This car is an "honorable mention" Hicks car, built by ACF to match cars the GB&W already owned that had been built by Hicks Locomotive & Car Works.

In the afternoon the always-popular Veracruz open car came out and made a number of trips. Frank Sirinek and his crew have refinished nearly all of the car's seats and it is a tremendous improvement.

Wood Car Schedule

The CA&E wood cars are scheduled to run the next two weekends. For now, it will probably be 309 and 319. This pair works well together. The 319 has a much better step design, so having it available for service is an improvement. Many of our visitors have a lot of difficulty with the steps on the 308 and 309, so we've decided the best thing is to use the yellow metal steps with the blue cars, as though they were L cars that have no steps.

In any case, we have crews signed up for both Saturdays, June 4th and 11th, but we need three-man crews for the Sundays, 5th and 12th. I can probably take one position if I have to, but we need more people. Please sign up if you can. Thanks! After that, we'll be off for a while.

I've started working on fixing some worn parts in the 308's controllers, helped by Rod. Once this problem is fixed, we can inspect the 308 and clear it for service. The plan is to switch off the cars during the summer to equalize wear and tear.

A Fitting Salute

The WWII Living History event which took place over the three-day Memorial Day weekend was a big success. Unfortunately I left my camera at the Museum, so it will be a few days before I can post any pictures. Until then, anyone who has some good pictures is encouraged to send them in.

To make a long story short: the weather on Saturday was mostly grey and overcast, but no significant rain, and everything went on schedule. The 309 and 319 operated all day. There were more re-enactors than last year. In the evening I stopped in at the USO dance in the old Legion hall in town.

Mother Nature certainly won the war on Sunday; there was a huge thunderstorm for much of the day. The wood cars did not come out, and I wound up working the Zephyr most of the time. Monday was sunny and warm, and we operated the 309 and 319 again. There was a Memorial Day service in front of the IC plaque by the depot.

I'm glad to say nearly everyone at IRM supported and helped with the program, and let's hope we can do even better next year!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Help the War Effort!

I hope everyone out there is planning to do their patriotic duty to help as much as they can with the World War II Living History Days over Memorial Day Weekend. Be sure to tell your friends and neighbors about it, and root out the slackers! To get us in the mood, here's a picture from our family archives. That's my father's cousin and his wife.

Lots of activities have been planned for the weekend. To see the details, here's the link: The Anzio Express

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Ready for Action

This post will cover two days, Wednesday and Thursday. On Wednesday I was able to complete inspection on the 309, apart from lubrication. Everything went well and the car is now ready for service. In the afternoon I stopped and did some more work on the 319. In particular, I needed to finish painting the floor in the #1 vestibule.

Meanwhile, as you might have noticed, it's been cold, windy, and wet. Yes, I know, whining won't help. Work on the street project is continuing: (L) new curbs in place along Depot St.

But the rain has made progress on this project difficult, to say the least.

Today I did the lubrication on the 309. I decided it's better to do the armature bearings over the pit. You add very little oil so it doesn't leak into the pit, as may happen with axle caps or main bearings. The GE-66 design is really wretched; the armature bearings are hard to see and nearly inaccessible, compared to the later motors such as 254 which open from the top. Note to self: The next time a customer orders interurban cars from Hicks, be sure to recommend a better motor design.

And I noticed this wrench in the oil shed. Don't let alcohol throw a monkey wrench into your life!

Finally, I made up the two-car train and got it ready for service this weekend. Pretty sharp, if I say so myself. It looks better in sunlight, I assure you. You will just have to see it in person.

This weekend is Memorial Day, and IRM will be hosting the WWII re-enactment again. This should be bigger and better than ever, so don't miss it!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Grand Rapids, Grant Haven & Muskegon #8's Rear End

As requested, the rear end of the Michigan interurban car. This car originally had an open platform and railing, somewhat like a steam railroad observation car. The railing disappeared, and the current owners of the car constructed some wooden "railing" to allow peole to walk up onto the rear of the car, without falling off.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Dave's Depots: Pure Michigan Edition

Work recently took me to what the roadside sign declared "Michigan's West Coast." After arriving at Gerald R. Fort International Airport in Grand Rapids, and appropriately stumbling down the air stairs from my plane, I drove to the Village of Spring Lake. After my work was completed, I stopped by Coopersville, Michigan to view a few interesting sights. Coopersville, historically, was the hometown of Del Shannon, and a stop along the Grand Rapids, Grand Haven & Muskegon interurban. The depot/substation is still in existence, and serves as a local museum.

Next to the depot is the body of Grand Rapids, Grand Haven & Muskegon interurban car number 8, the "Merlin." The car is a 1902 product of Barney & Smith and was part of the original equipment order for the line. The interurban, like other Michigan lines, was a third rail line, with trolley wire in the towns. The body is in good shape, having had some restoration work performed on it, and sits under cover. It sits on ex-CTA 4000 trucks. These cars had some unusual features, including an open rear platform, giant L2 controllers and only 2 motors. Both motors were located on the rear truck. These cars served the interurban until abandonment in 1928.

Across the street from the interurban station are the tracks of the Coopersville & Marne Railway, a tourist railroad. The railroad rescued the Grand Rapids, Grand Haven & Muskegon depot from nearby Spring Lake and moved it to their site. It sits on a temporary foundation, awaiting a permanent location along the right of way.

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Old Reliable

Today I started inspection on the 309. So far nothing unexpected has been found.

Part of air brake system testing is to check the setting of the feed valve and the readings on the air gauges. Here we see a calibrated gauge attached to the brake pipe glad hand. It reads 70 psi in release, as you can see if you look closely, which shows that the feed valve setting is correct.

I also gave the fare box to Frank Sirinek and helped him put into secure storage. I should also point out that Frank and Mike recently cleaned up the pit, making it a much better place to work. They deserve a lot of thanks for these civic-minded improvements!

I should also thank some friends who have helped with the 319. Joel Ahrendt installed new trolley shoes, since the old ones were badly worn, and has selected a new pole which we will install when we get a chance.

And Jamie Kolanowski generously agreed to paint the remaining eight windows for the car. They look great!

I drove over to Barn 2 to load up the windows. Jim Followell's helpers are hard at work finishing surface prep on the 714, so it can be painted soon. Not shown in these pictures is the noise level.

And speaking of noise, work on tearing up the old pavement on Depot St. continues at a steady pace.

Lake Shore Electric 150 was converted to a house in 1938, moved a couple of times, served as a store, etc. Almost the only electrical components remaining on the car are the jumper receptacles on the back. There are two on each side. The inner one is the 7-pin control receptacle for the control system, and the outer is the high-voltage bus jumper. The Lake Shore installed these bus jumpers so that they could run a multi-car train using a single pole, just as on the CA&E, the Illinois Terminal, and several other roads.

Long-time IRM member and old friend Dennis Daugherty was visiting today, and here he is (far right) with Frank and Nick.

Finally: we will fight to the death to protect our locomotives. That's why we have all these defensive positions set up. Actually, of course, this is in preparation for the WWII reenactment that will be taking place this weekend. This is going to be bigger and better than last year, so you won't want to miss it! See the Anzio Express website for more information.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Visit With Ed Allen

I needed to help my daughter move to Cleveland, where she will be working this summer, and that gave me an opportunity to finally meet Ed Allen and talk with him a little. He now lives in an extended care facility there. It appears to be a nice well-run place and he seemed to be in good spirits.

We talked about various things, such as the Trolleyville cars now at IRM. He's always very interested about what's happening with them. He also talked about various cars he had rebuilt over the years, such as the IT PCC's when they were on Shaker, and the WCF&N 381.

He also donated to IRM this Cleveland fare box which will go to the 63.

I know next to nothing about fare boxes, since they weren't used on the CA&E. This one is a very simple mechanism, but fairly large and heavy.

Thanks, Ed!!!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

From the Mailbag: Memories of the CA&E

We recently received an email from Christopher Brown, with some recollections you might find interesting:

I am 65 years old and grew up in Aurora, Illinois. I spent countless hours in my youth at the riverside platform of the Chicago Aurora and Elgin Railroad observing arrivals and departures, helping to flip seats, unload newspapers, and generally sitting and talking with many motormen and conductors.
One motorman, "Andy," who was younger than the others, spent time explaining how everything worked and even allowed me to ride for free up to Forest Park and back. I was told to "duck down" every time we approached a grade crossing however, so Andy would not lose his job since I wasn't supposed to be in the motorman's compartment with him. He said there were company "spotters" who occasionally were positioned along the right of way to report any illegal employee conduct!
Although I had ridden the C A & E all the way into the loop Wells Street Terminal before the line was cut back to Forest Park in 1953, watching Ed Allen's colored film footage of the turning loop brought back a lot of memories too.
In 1961 or 1962, when I was old enough to drive, I spent a lot of time tracing the C A & E right of way to see all the original buildings and bridges before they were removed, like the Batavia Power House and various depots along the line. I also drove over to Wheaton to witness the burning of most of the C A & E's fleet of cars and freely walked through the Wheaton shops buildings which were wide open at that time. I gathered all the original blueprints and roller signs I could which later went to RELIC in South Elgin, along with the original "end of the line" black lantern with red lens that I liberated at Aurora before the scrappers arrived. I also gave them everything I found in the old Aurora Station on Broadway behind the ticket agent's booth, such as numerous rubber stamps of all the destinations. By that time bums and hobos were already inhabiting the Aurora Broadway terminal building. Another artifact I gave to RELIC was an original handbook of rules from the former Chicago Aurora and DeKalb Railroad which had ceased operations many years before the C A & E.
You many not believe this, but I was so aggravated when the C A & E suspended passenger service that I actually telephoned Frank Flannigan, then president of the railroad, at his Wheaton residence to protest! I was only 12 or 13 years old at the time!
He listened patiently to me and said he hoped the interurban would resume service soon and that "it would be a tragedy if it didn't!"
For several years I read every newspaper story I could find about the C A & E and how Governor Stratton wanted the State of Illinois to buy and operate the line and Lambert O'Malley's periodic progress reports about the railroad's imminent return to passenger service and "one-seat" ride to the loop! Of course none of it was ever to happen.
Then, six years later the North Shore Line succumbed to the same fate, and according to John Horacheck who I occasionally speak with, many of the same "players" who had been involved with the systematic demise of the C A & E were again involved with the demise of the North Shore Line! He has gone over original NSL company files for years that were given to him and found their names. Horacheck is trying to find a publisher for his new book about the Electroliners at this time.
By the way, I rode a Silverliner on the final day of North Shore Line operations up to Milwaukee and back to the Roosevelt Road station in Chicago. I'll never forget how damned cold it was that day, but it was toasty warm inside that Silverliner however.

Panic Mode

The past few days have been quite busy. We have a lot of inspection work and final prep to accomplish in a short time. On Monday and Wednesday this week I was doing inspection on the 319; the previous post by Frank details much of what had to be done. Next week the 309 will need the same treatment. I've been too busy to take many pictures.

This morning I pulled the car outside for some touch-up. When the sides were spray-painted, overspray got on various parts of the underbody, as perhaps you can see here. There's both the grey primer and the final red. Frank hopes to work on the underbody over the summer, but in the meantime, we wanted to paint over most of these places, which I did.

And here the car sits for a portrait.

I then had to shuffle the three cars so the 309 is at the door. It will be inspected next week, starting Monday if all goes according to plan. Here we see the 319 and 308 during the switch move. The 308 is now adjacent to the Lake Shore 150, two cars built in 1906 by Niles. The 308 has certainly had an easier life!

Then there were several other tasks. The interrupter for the buzzer circuit was missing a couple of parts, so I made new ones, helped briefly by Rod. I should have taken some pictures of the mechanism but didn't. It really seemed like a crummy design, and I wasn't sure it would ever work again. But I hopefully brought it out to the Museum and hooked it up, then pulled the cord. Amazingly enough, it buzzes! That's quite important for train operation. Then I worked on window hardware and did some more painting in the vestibule.

Finally, here we see Tim Peters using his motorized platform to work on the roof of the 1797. You'll notice that it uses wind power to get him where he want to go.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Pit Stop

I took a day off work and headed out to IRM today to help my father with the annual inspection on the 319, which was especially thorough since this will be its debut in regular operations at IRM. On Monday the car had been moved over to the inspection pit by my father, who had then finished much of the inspection. But today we were mostly working on the control and air components. We started off by inspecting the contactor box (photos of many of these components are shown later in the post), where one of the interlocks was found to not be closing correctly and was fixed. My father nailed some upper deck tack molding on the roof back into place (at a later date the car will have to have its canvas and tack molding replaced) and then he went out to the 321 to procure a replacement for the 319's air strainer, which had damage to its cast cap and retainer ring. It had also been held in place by hardware store pipe straps, so we tightened up the piping and removed the pipe straps.

A bigger project was repairing the car's safety valve, which was sticking, and calibrating the air gauges in the cabs. Rod Turner was instrumental in both of these projects, lending us his calibrated air gauge and drilling a hole in the safety valve cap to allow built up air pressure to vent. After this was complete, we ran the car outside; checked (and added to as necessary) the oil in the motor armature bearings, pump, axle caps and main journal bearings; and ran the car back to Barn 8. Other than some painting that still needs to be done, the 319 is now ready for service.

And now, friends, allow me to introduce to you the underside of CA&E 319. Though identical to the 321, the car's equipment is considerably different than either the 308 or 309. First, the contactor box. The car has DB-260 contactors, which GE evidently developed in the early/mid-teens. Only a single contactor box is required for a four-motor car, as opposed to two boxes for the c1904 DB-131's like the 308 has or six boxes for the c1901 DB-15's that the 309 has. Below left, the front of the box showing how compact the contactors are; John Nelligan is taking photos as reference for work on the Charles City steeplecab, which also has DB-260’s. Behind the contactor box are the grid boxes. Below right, a portion of the back of the box: (1) these interlocks make and break electrical contacts when the contactor to which they’re attached closes, moving the interlock shaft (2). Some contactors don’t have interlocks, and many of the control resistors (3) are attached to the back of these.

Then there’s also the reverser, shown below. It’s a DB-409 type, but is generally similar to the earlier DB-20 type found under the 308 and 309. One difference is in the handle (4), which sticks out the front of the reverser box when it is closed so that the reverser can be thrown by hand. This is important because the reverser must be thrown in the direction the car is going when it’s being towed, which is not true of the 308 or 309. The reverser is basically a big rotary switch with contacts for forward and reverse as shown (5).
Below is the D3-F air compressor, a more modern type than the D3-EG pumps used under the 308 and 309 and the same type as used under the earlier CA&E steel cars. In the upper-right foreground, the air strainer has been removed for cleaning.
Then there is the below photo, which shows a few different electrical components. On the left, (6) is the headlight resistor box; (7) is a box mounted to the underside of the floor which is a part of the lightning arrestor system. The other wood cars don’t have anything like this. At right, (8) is the main fuse box and (9) is the end of the contactor box.
Finally, in the photo below of the two main reservoir tanks, (10) is the safety valve which had to be repaired.

Monday, May 16, 2011

205 Progress

I was out at the museum on Saturday and made some more progress on the 205. Mainly I was concentrating on applying body filler to the car's corner posts, where we had put in metal patches to cover over large holes rusted through the post sheets. After a couple of applications with sanding in between these areas are nearly ready for primer. I also started working on patching holes in the car's west end letterboard and completed patching the northeast corner post. Below left, patching work in progress; below right, work on the letterboard. Note the rusty patch above the new body filler; this is the former location of the mounting bracket for the horn installed by Portland Traction.

And, just in case you haven't gotten your fill of road construction photos, here's a shot of the hardy Buildings & Grounds crew at work on Depot Street in the rain. Left to right are Les Ascher, Jerry Lynn (in the ditch), Wally Ostopowicz and B&G Dept Head (and coordinator of the 205's move back to Illinois in 1993) Dave Diamond.

Sunday, May 15, 2011


We would like to have the 319 in service in just two weeks, and things are going along pretty much on schedule. On Saturday I did more painting:

The platform door got a first coat of red over the white primer seen last time. This method seems to work well. At least one more finish coat will be needed, but that's true for the whole vestibule compartment. I then put primer on one side door and some other areas (R). And finished priming the floor.

There are several miscellaneous issues that needed to be addressed. Rod helped me with fabricating a new part for the buzzer interrupter, which I'm repairing at home. And I needed a controller cover as a temporary replacement, since one of them is over in the paint shop, waiting for red paint. And more cleaning and straightening. Inspection will take place this week, starting Monday, I hope.

It was cold and wet, but that doesn't stop the heroic B&G crew. They were hard at work in the adverse conditions, excavating trenches in several different places to locate old utilities and install a lot of new electrical conduits.

(L) Dave is in the trench, with Jerry helping up above. (R) Max aligning the new conduits.

Some of these celebrities have started to object to the presence of paparazzi like us, I'm sorry to say. But we can promise you we won't stop digging for the news that you, the public, need to know!