Wednesday, December 26, 2012

On The Second Day of Christmas

 ... a lot of people are recuperating, or something.  There were just three diehards in the woodshop: Henry Vincent, John Faulhaber, and Paul (the new guy) Cronin.  And one lonely misanthrope over in Barn 8. 

The three guys in the shop were all working on the Lake Shore Electric freight trailer #810.  When I happened to pass through, John and Paul were producing long lengths of poplar tongue-and-groove boards for the roof.  It looks just like the product of one of the old-time car shops.
And Henry was painting pieces of tack molding.  I should point out that there are very few interurban freight trailers in existence, and none of the others are in good condition.  The 810 is the only one being restored, and George and the others are doing a very thorough job.  This will be a restoration we can really be proud of!

 Having said that, I can't let some lowly freight car get the better of me.  I spent most of the day sanding the next ceiling panels in the 319, and then applying first primer, as seen here.  The center panels, the molding strips, and the lower panels were done.  I also started reinstalling one of the molding strip above the car cards, as seen last time, but didn't take a picture.  With two space heaters going, the main compartment gets up to a nice temperature for painting and woodwork.

Notice something missing?  When we got these cars from Cleveland, the wreck tools and first aid boxes had been stolen.  In the 319,  I had found some replacement wreck tools and installed them, but CA&E first aid boxes are scarce.  I'm willing to offer a reward for their return.

Since we will not actually need to break the glass for access to first aid supplies, a false front should be good enough as a replacement.  I have made another front of such a box, as I did on the 308, and tried it out.  It now needs to be painted and lettered.

Just so you won't worry, let me point out that every car in revenue service will have a large plastic emergency box with a fire extinguisher and nice new first aid supplies.  This will usually be stored under a seat or in some out-of-the-way location -- the crewmen will know where it is.  So there's never any need to break glass to get to an old first aid box, and it might be empty!  Phil Stepek of the Coach Dept. provides these boxes and their supplies, and keeps track of them so everything is ready for use.  Thanks, Phil! 

The Highest Speed

This neat advertisement was recently e-mailed to us.  It shows CA&E (then AE&C) car 32, identical to our car 36, in an advertisement for Stephenson printed around 1903.  At the time the "Great Third Rail" was brand new and one of its biggest selling points was its speed - the highest then attained under practical operating conditions.

High speed is what's needed today, too: there are only a few days remaining in 2012 for you to send in a donation to help fund Barn 14!  Your donation is fully tax-deductible and will help preserve indefinitely some of the priceless artifacts at IRM, including wooden interurban cars as well as other historic equipment currently sitting outside.  Put Barn 14 on the memo line or, to donate specifically to preserve members of our traction collection, put "RISWEC" on the memo line.  Only with your help can IRM preserve more of our rail history now.  Please consider sending in a donation to IRM at PO Box 427, Union IL 60180 today - and thank you.

Sunday, December 23, 2012


 There's a limited amount of time left to make your charitable donations for this year.  And we have limited resources available, so we still really need your support.  And there's a limit.... well, you get the idea.  Please don't forget to contribute to the Barn 14 construction fund if you haven't done so already!

Meanwhile, in the limited time available, let's get as much work done as possible.  Yesterday seemed like a good opportunity to clean up, sand down, and repaint the rest of the lower siding on the 36 with second primer.  It will be ready for first finish blue whenever the conditions are right.
Next, it's time to start working on the main compartment in the 319.  Near the #2 end on both sides, the middle molding strip had come loose.  The ceiling here is made of Masonite or some similar substance, about 3/8" thick.  Over the years, it's flattened out somewhat, thus pulling away from the carlines.  Replacing these huge panels (about12' long) is a last resort, so I just want to reattach the molding strips.
 Now the funny thing is that originally they were attached with fairly short screws that just went into the panels.  There was no attempt made to find the position of the carlines, and most of these screws have worked out, of course.  So I spent a while drilling pilot holes to determine the exact location of each carline, and then marking up the molding strips I had removed.  They will be attached with 2" countersunk screws, and the screws covered over with filler so the appearance is unchanged. 

On this side one of the wooden patch pieces has split, so it will be replaced, but most of the fabric of the ceiling will be retained.  The central ceiling is still in very good shape in the main compartment, fortunately.  Challenges like this are a welcome change from stripping, sanding, and repainting. 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Time For a Change

Rumor has it that winter is near.  Be that as it may, work continues without interruption at the Museum.  I suppose I should have taken some pictures of the various ongoing projects in the wood shop, but you'll just have to check on the department blogs for that.  Anyway, work continued on the 36.  More surface prep was done, but as usual when you get near the end of a job like this, Zeno's Paradox seems to take effect.  For a given amount of effort, half of the remaining work is finished.  There isn't much green paint left, but what there is gets harder to remove.

I finished stripping and sanding on the lower parts of the last door frame, and by early afternoon it was ready for brown primer, as seen here.  The middle section isn't quite ready.  A window that refuses to open is part of the problem.  The rest may have to wait until spring.

I also finished woodwork on making a new window sill at the #2 end, as seen here.  The original was badly deteriorated, and much of it was missing.  New wood was fitted for the sill, and brown primer was applied since I had the paint out.  The brackets for the classification signs at this end are mounted on small blocks, which is unusual.  One of them was missing, so I made a replacement. Eventually the entire vestibule will be painted blue.

Finally, it was time to prepare for the next task: finish repainting the main compartment of the 319.  I hope to get this done in time for revenue service in May.  The seat cushions were stacked up, plastic covers were placed over the seat backs, the ventilators were closed, extension cords were placed to supply power for two space heaters, and so on.  So this will be the focus of activity for the next couple of months. 

Stoby's Restaurant

 We have received pictures of another Arkansas diner from blog reader Bill Pollard, who has now been appointed as our Arkansas bureau chief.  This diner is still in business, and Bill writes:

Here are photos of the ex Illinois Central car, currently in use as part of the dining room of Stoby's Depot & Restaurant, a popular sandwich shop in Russellville, Arkansas.  This car was built as IC coach 3661 in 1918.  It was completely rebuilt by the Centralia shops in 1948, receiving roller bearing trucks, tight-lock couplers and a new "modernized heavyweight" appearance which allowed operation on streamlined Illinois Central trains between Chicago, Memphis and New Orleans.  It was also renumbered 2697 at that time.
The car was purchased by the Rock Island in July 1972 for conversion to maintenance of way service.  In this usage, it became RIMW 196695, but continued to wear its IC orange and brown paint.  The car was in the Biddle (Little Rock) yard when the Rock Island shut down, and was sold at auction in 1981.  Moved to Russellville, it was incorporated into Stoby's restaurant, attached to a building designed to be architecturally similar to Missouri Pacific stations.  The restaurant sits across the mainline from the actual MP station in Russellville (now a community center and museum).

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Caught In a Trap

 Tim Peters reports more progress on CRT 1024:  Here's today's archaeological treat. For the first time in over 100 years, we have a picture of the motor trap opened on the trailer end of the car. Yes, the trailer end. You will note the holes for the motor leads on the right side. This is very interesting since this was a two motor car and they were both on the other end. Also interesting is that the bulkhead door rollers were hitting the bare heater feed wire drooping above them. Shocking!

Miniature Train Co.

Another one of our friendly readers sent us a scan of this flyer from the Miniature Train & Amusement Co., which was located in Addison.  This is the company that built the train set we recently acquired as seen here.  He says the building still exists, but it was remodeled several years ago for a dental facility that is now also out of business. 

Monday, December 17, 2012

Arkansas Diners - Updated

 A friend recently sent me these pictures of two classic roadside diners in Arkansas.  They were taken in the early 1960's by the late Earl Saunders (As usual, these images are copyright and may not be reproduced without authorization, etc.)  In both cases, the original identity of the cars is unknown, so please take out your detective caps and let's get to work!

 Pine Bluff

Enough advertising signs for you?  Hidden behind them appears to be an unusual rapid transit or excursion car of some sort, #572.  Can anyone identify it?   The (nameless) diner itself was demolished some time in the 1970's.

DeValls Bluff

The Coffee Cup was located in downtown DeValls Bluff, which was also a station on the Rock Island.  It was razed in the 1980's.  This car reminds me of the original cars built for the Brooklyn Bridge, as implausible as that seems.  But there were no rapid transit lines in Arkansas, so anything's possible.

Update:  That didn't take long!  Bill Wall has the answers:

The two cars you have as diners in your blog are ex Manhattan Elevated cars that were sold off in 1942 for use around the country during World War 2.   I believe there was an arsenal at Pine Bluff that used these cars, and they wound up all over the country, including some (original composite construction subway cars) that wound up on the Illinois Terminal.   All were locomotive hauled, with the exception of the famous Shipyard Railway in California (of which Bay Area has two cars).

Anyway, 572 is a trailer car built in 1878 for the Metropolitan Elevated (later Manhattan Railway, then IRT) that was used until 1940.

The other unknown car is also a Manhattan Railway trailer, early 1880’s, built by either Pullman or Bowers Dure.  There were several deliveries spread out over a number of years, so without a car number it is tough to say which one is which.  These were also retired in 1940.

1940 was the year the 2nd Avenue el closed above 59th Street and the 9th Avenue el closed except for one short remnant, which rendered the cars surplus.

Hope that clears up the mystery.  572 looked pretty decent as a carbody in those photos.

Bill Wall

Branford and NYCT.

 And see the comments for links to pictures that are exact matches.  Problem solved!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Keep Your Powder Dry

 It was raining off and on all day, so keeping anything dry required some effort.  We had visitors coming to ride the Happy Holidays train, which is good, but many of them were carrying umbrellas that seemed rather incongruous.  What can you do?

With painting out of the question, I spent most of the day stripping paint. All of the large areas of the old green paint on the 36 are now gone, which is very satisfying.  There are lots of little places that need to be processed, perhaps another day's work or so, but this tiresome job is nearly complete.  Whew!

I'm sure you're bored with this, however, so what were other people doing?

Recognize this man?  Probably not, because he's wearing all the proper protective gear: goggles, respirator, ear muffs, and gloves.  Our volunteers' safety is important!  Anyway, this is Ray Pollice using a wire wheel to clean up part of one of the woodworking machine.  This is hard, unglamorous work, but the results are worth it.

And this is a template Tim Peters was making for the end platform on the 1024.  It's marked with the locations of all the holes that will need to be drilled in the replacement wooden buffer.  I went through a similar process when replacing one end on the 308.  Because the car is slightly more than 8' wide, a piece has to be patched onto one end, as indicated by the Jorgenson clamp at the end nearest the camera.

 Finally, here's something that I found quite interesting.  Our electric cars use lots of these 30A or so cartridge fuses for 600V DC.  Recently, Joel noticed that one of the fuses for the heaters in the 749 was emitting steam!  When the fuse was taken apart, it looked like this:

DC cartridge fuses are filled with a flame-retardent powder so that if the fuse opens, a chemical reaction will extinguish the arc.  The powder burns up and you are left with a small amount of ash in the cartridge.  In this case, however, the seal was bad so the powder had absorbed moisture from the air.  And when the fuse melted, the wet powder continued to conduct electricity, although it heated up and started to produce steam.  The arrow points to part of the ribbon fuse itself.  Fuses designed for AC don't need this chemical, because the current passes through zero every half cycle, and arcs tend to extinguish themselves much faster.

As a practical matter, I don't think there's much that operating crews can do about this.  It seems like a very unusual situation -- I'd never encountered it, and I've blown out several fuses over the years.  Just don't store your spare fuses under water.  Anyway, there's your physics lesson for today.  And this will probably be on the next test, too!

Friday, December 14, 2012

John Stephenson Plant Redux

I received a fascinating series of e-mails recently from Fred Cassel, a Captain and 25-year veteran of the Linden Fire Department of Linden, New Jersey.  He had read my blog post (click here) from two years ago on the John Stephenson Car Company plant in Elizabeth, which borders Linden.  He had quite a bit of information on the plant that I didn't have - not least of which was the fact that the plant isn't actually in Elizabeth!  Though Stephenson billed themselves as being an Elizabeth company, their plant was always just over the city line in Linden.

But that's not all.  Captain Cassel has been researching the Stephenson plant for a book he plans to write on the history of the facility and sent me information on its history.  Built in 1896, the plant in Linden replaced Stephenson's earlier facility on 27th Street in New York City that the company - not to mention the cars themselves - had outgrown.  For over two decades, until Stephenson closed down in 1917, the plant turned out streetcars and interurban cars like our own car 36.

When electric car production shut down, the Standard Aircraft Company took over the large complex and virtually overnight converted it into one of the world's largest aircraft manufacturing facilities.  Handley-Page O/400 bombers, among the largest in the world at the time with a 100' wingspan, were produced here during the Great War.  After the war ended, Standard Aircraft shut down and the factory was sold to the Simmons Mattress Company.  Simmons owned it for decades, until within the past 20 years or so, until it was sold.  Currently there are a few different companies occupying various parts of the old plant.

How can you help, you ask?  Contact me at fullparallel at wideopenwest dot com if you've got any photos, maps, diagrams, paperwork or information on the Stephenson facility.  It would go a long way towards fleshing out the Linden plant's first two decades of history.  Any information is appreciated!

Captain Cassel also sent me a number of interesting photos of the plant that were taken within the past year or two.  All photos are by Fred Cassel and may not be reproduced without permission.  The first looks down an alley behind the original varnish shop (near left) with a building called the "print shop" further down on the left.  To the right is a large structure built during the plant's aircraft days.

Here we are inside the varnish shop, which was the largest building in the original plant and incorporated the electrical shop located at the far end of the building.  IRM's car 36 was almost certainly in this building at some point in early 1903.
Inside one of the other original buildings, possibly the "print shop" building.  Note the bricked-over windows; originally there were open spaces and/or transfer tables between the different buildings, but these have largely been filled in with other structures since Stephenson quit.
And a shot of the outside of the old mill shop, presumably where much of the woodworking for the interurban cars built by Stephenson was done.  Just south of the mill shop was a large yard for outdoor storage of wood. 
Below is the erecting shop, again, likely the brief home to our own car 36.  Those dormers have seen better days!
And finally, a shot of some old electrical panel in the building.  Captain Cassel reports that there is virtually nothing recognizable left over from its days as an electric car production facility.
The feature most commonly associated with the facility by people in the area is the large structure below, partly because of its height and partly because it's just off the on-ramp for the Goethels Bridge to Staten Island.  This building was built in 1917 for assembling O/400 bombers, which were too big to be assembled anywhere else in the plant, and was an open-air roofed structure until Simmons enclosed it and put in a second floor.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Over the Cliff

Sorry, folks, it looks like we've fallen over the fiscal cliff.

Not the U.S. government fiscal cliff, but the Hicks Car Works matching funds fiscal cliff, since the limit has been reached.  We certainly want to thank again all who have contributed to the various Barn 14 construction funds.  We're that much closer to the goal!

But don't get the wrong idea.  IRM is still in need of your tax-deductible donations to this important project. Your support is vital and will be greatly appreciated!

Epoxy 101

IRM is an educational organization, and that's good, because we all have a lot to learn.  I think.  Discuss amongst yourselves.

I could certainly use some instruction on the use of modern epoxies.  Tim Peters is an expert and helped me with gluing up some of the third-rail beams we're making for the 36.  Due to the difficulty of getting good white oak in these sizes, the beams are made by gluing two pieces together, as seen here.  We actually have some product placement in the background, but it may be hard to identify.

 The supplier Tim prefers makes a variety of products.  There is the thin stuff, which we usually think of as epoxy, and then a putty-like substance that we see him mixing up here.  You can then mix the two types together in any desired ratio to produce varying degrees of thickness.  Here we are mixing up what Tim calls "pancake batter", which should work well for this application.  And it has just about the same color as pancake batter, too.  Mmmmm!  (Hint: don't lick the bowl.)

 After applying the epoxy and smearing it around with an old brush, the work is clamped together, and preferably the pancake batter starts to ooze out at the joints.  Tim is removing excess material and putting it back in any voids.  We glued up two of the four beams and left them to set up.

One of the boards was too short, so I had to make a ship lap to complete it.  We also glued the two parts of this together, as seen here.  Luckily our shop has a pipe clamp that can be extended out to 6' or more.I plan to insert a couple of vertical carriage bolts just to be sure.

And lest anything should go to waste, Tim applies what little is left over to one of the third rail beams for the 1024.  The CRT design is much smaller.

For much of the rest of the last two days, however, it was mostly more paint stripping and surface prep.  But the result was that I was able to put primer on four more sectors of the window posts, followed by first finish blue on six sectors of the lower siding, as seen here.  So that part is now more than half done.  As you may notice, it gets harder and harder to take a picture of the completed part.

And I also applied blue to the bumper at the #1 end, where it had been stripped and primed.

And here's another one of those oddities I finally noticed for the first time.  These windows are both as high as they can go.  The window tracks in the 36 have metal strips with steps for the latches, but they are of four different lengths, from 17" to 24", and there's no apparent pattern to the various sizes.  This is certainly the way the car came from the CA&E, but I have no idea why this should be.  On each of our other cars the tracks are all the same. 

Tim is continuing to work on the 1024, and making good progress.  The gates have been removed and stored, and the metal underframe is being prepared for welding where needed to strengthen it.  And the roof has been cleaned of all the hardware, old canvas, and other items.  This will really be a jewel when it's complete!

Yesterday's holiday luncheon was a great occasion to talk to old friends and meet new people.  A good time was had by all, as we have seen in Al's post.  You too could be part of this rambunctious group!

National Sound Check Day (121212) or the Department Christmas Party

Al writes…

I have to say I guess I'm getting slow in my old age because it took me a while to get that national sound check day idea. But 12 1212 turned out to be a very good day  as it was the annual Wednesday crowd Christmas party. We had more than 40 people participating and once again demonstrated one of the nice aspects volunteering at IRM.

Besides the sense of accomplishment that one achieves in helping to restore a piece of equipment you also get the benefit of fellowship with other volunteers.  For us retirees it's nice to get out of the house and to work with some real people and not have to sit and watch that wasteland that is daytime television.

Even as the food is available some continue to discuss their projects
Discussions on 1024's  progress
I won't spend a lot of time naming the folks that are in the photographs as I'm sure to miss many. I'll just share the photos with you. You easily see how much we enjoy getting together and I'm sure you'll recognize some of the usual suspects . Thanks to everyone involved in both organizing this party as well as those who contributed food, supplies and cash to the cause.

We here at the Hicks car works want to wish you and yours a Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday Season. And if you have the ability, please remember IRM and the barn 14 fund in your year-end "dodge the taxman"giving.