Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Weightlifting Made Easy

...I hope. Here's the frame I built for lifting DB-15 contactors into place. The sheet metal cover of the box will be under the upper rails, and the lower rails will rest on a 4x8 sheet of plywood, which I can raise and level with scrap lumber. It's not quite done: I want to install carriage bolts in the tension stiles, and I can get those at the car shop. We've got lots.

The contactor itself is not designed to stand upright on a flat surface, so a piece of plywood with wooden strips is needed to keep it vertical, and also keep it from falling off. The jack I just took out of my car. I haven't had to change a tire for at least 20 years, so let's hope I don't have a flat in the next month or so!

This is the house that Jack built. The contactor rests on the plywood that sits on the jack, that sits on the frame, that goes around the sheet metal cover of the box. It actually balances. But don't sneeze!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

What's Behind Door #3?

Today I finished installing the new vermiculite insulation material in the third and last of the contactor boxes on the 36. Here are some in-progress shots.

I also did some more electrical testing, and started drawing up plans for a device for installing the contactors. With the right sort of frame, and a small jack, I should be able to do it myself. We replaced a contactor once before on the 309, many years ago, and it was a real pain. And I'm not getting any younger. And besides, I enjoy inventing new special-purpose devices like this, as you might have noticed.

Then there was more paint removal. This task is definitely lacking in novelty, but every little bit helps. And it's good exercise.

Have fun at the soirée, and send me some pictures!

By the Time I Get to Phoenix...

David Writes........

Last month, when I visited the Phoenix area for the weekend, I also visited the Phoenix Trolley Museum and the Arizona Railway Museum.

The Phoenix Trolley Museum:

The museum is located near downtown Phoenix. In its collection, the group has two cars, both double-truck Birney safety cars built by the American Car Company in St. Louis. One car 116 is cosmetically restored, complete with an interior.

The car was once operable, through a set of home made trucks and a single 300v mining locomotive motor. However, in recent years, correct Brill trucks from Japan were put under the car. The museum also has a mining locomotive and the body of car 504.

The Arizona Railway Museum:

The Arizona Railway Museum is located in suburban Chandler, Arizona. The museum houses a small indoor museum in an old mobile home, modified to look like a Southern Pacific Depot. The museum has a small, but interesting collection of rolling stock, including a Southern Pacific 2-8-0, pictured below.

The museum also has this Baldwin AS-616 diesel from the Magma Arizona Railroad.

A Santa Fe Superintendent's Car is also on display.

The museum, adjacent to a line of Union Pacific, also hosts several private rail cars. One of these cars was Promontory Point, a former Union Pacific business car, now lettered for the Central Pacific.
Also in the collection is this former Toronto PCC car. This car was formerly used by the transit authority in Phoenix as a display promoting the light rail line when it was under construction.

All in all, it was nice to get out to some warm weather and see some interesting railroad and streetcar-related sites.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

History of LSE 150


Pictures from the IRM Collection unless otherwise noted. Not for reuse without permission.


The Niles Cars
Modifications During Service
Conditions in Service
Adaptive Reuse
Appendix A
Preserved LSE Equipment


The Lake Shore Electric was the earliest big interurban system. Created in 1901 by combining and connecting several smaller electric lines in the area between Toledo and Cleveland, it set a pattern for Midwestern interurban development. The system's initial earnings reports were very favorable, and these reports helped fuel a rapid investment boom in interurban lines across the country, which continued until the Panic of 1907.

In 1906 the railroad began ordering a series of cars from the Niles Car & Manufacturing Co. in Niles, Ohio, and these became the best known of the line's wooden cars. They were rebuilt over the years, as detailed below, and several continued to provide service over all parts of the system until the end of passenger service in 1938.

When service ended, there were few remaining electric lines interested in used interurban cars, and only three found continued use with other railways. But most of the remaining cars were sold for adaptive reuse as diners, houses, cottages, and sheds of various sorts all across northern Ohio. Dennis Lamont says that they still contained the seats, water heating system, bathrooms and baggage racks along with match strikers, ticket holders and miscellaneous little parts when they were sold off. At least 77 cars are known to have been disposed of in this fashion. As a result, for a long time there was a large number of carbodies still in existence. Sixteen of these have been acquired by various museum groups and individuals, among them car 150. None of them are operational, and most are in various states of disrepair. I do not expect any of them to be restored to operable condition in the foreseeable future, apart from freight trailer 810. Most of the other carbodies have by now been dismantled.

In 1938 there was no organized railway preservation movement. In contrast, 25 years later when the North Shore and CA&E cars became available, there were many active groups interested in electric railway preservation, and so a large number of cars were preserved with their equipment intact, from Iowa to Maine. Many of these have been restored and continue to operate. On the other hand, by that time nobody was any longer interested in using old trolley cars as diners or chicken coops, so there was no adaptive reuse. But I digress.


Dennis Lamont supplied us with several pictures, and made many valuable comments and corrections to the material.


(Dave Mewhinney collection)

In December 1905, the LSE ordered ten new coaches from Niles, numbered 150-159. These were single-ended cars seating 52, with a separate smoking compartment. They were furnished with a combination of hot-water and electric heat. As built, they had Van Dorn couplers and MU and bus connections, so a two-car train could be operated with one pole. Several cars were destroyed in wrecks or fires, and some were rebuilt into freight motors. A second order of similar cars, ten coaches (numbered 141-149, plus a second 152) and five combines (160-164), were built in 1907. Of these, three coaches and two freight motor bodies still survive.

Similar car 143 in service. Cars had only one trolley base, but carried two spare poles for emergencies.

Identical cars 158 and 155 meet in Norwalk, showing a comparison of the two ends of the car.

Interior of car 155.


One of the Niles cars as built. Van Dorn couplers, no MU jumpers, headlight in the up position.

Photos from the Dennis Lamont collection.

Cars 155 and 152 meet at Norwalk station in 1909. Again, we have the drop platforms, Van Dorn couplers, and MU jumpers below the floor.

Two Niles cars trained together, in original configuration.

155 and 152 in Fremont, 1910. By now the couplers have been changed to knuckles, the MU jumpers are mounted in the dash. Note the lower left lantern bracket and the one on the left side window post; this was to comply with Michigan regulations.

Modifications during service included:
  1. The couplers were changed to Tomlinson M.C.B. type with regular knuckles (c1910?), later (by 1925) to the larger knuckles.
  2. Angled "dasher" panels over the bumpers were eliminated (c1910?).
  3. Anti-climbers were added (c1910?).
  4. The arched end windows were squared off.
  5. Addition of sign boxes.
  6. Addition of right side mirror.
  7. Addition of exterior under-floor platform lights ("ditch lights"), c.1937.
  8. At some point, on this car the original Niles pocket doors were replaced with ordinary hinged doors or removed, but this probably happened after service ended. The 151 still has one of its pocket doors in place.

The motorman's position at the center window, looking through the open bulkhead door.

The following pictures were provided by Dennis Lamont and may not be reproduced without permission.
This is car 159 looking towards the front. You can see the controller at the front. The smoking compartment is not very big, so its bulkhead is near the front. To the left is the open door to the heater compartment, which was lined with sheet metal. Although these were single-ended cars, they had walkover seats.

This is a view of car 151, looking towards the rear. Nice closeup of the seats! The body of this car is still in existence; it was used as a workshop and storeroom for many years on Paul Eckler's farm, and was well maintained.

This is car 149 looking towards the rear. At the back, we can see the toilet compartment on the right side. At the top of the wall is a screened opening for ventilation. This car was lengthened by the LSE in 1923, and its body also still survives.

This inventory sheet from the LSE gives details on the car's equipment: WH-121A motors, GE C36A controllers, D2-EG compressor, etc.

Dennis Lamont collection

This is Paul Eckler, who after the end of service acquired the 151 and had it on his farm as a workshop for many years.

A nice drawing of this series of cars, probably prepared for modeling use, drawn in 1961 by Fritz Hardendorf.

IRM collection

151 at Beach Park shops.


The Lake Shore Electric was fairly typical of interurban lines in the Midwest. In contrast with the lines radiating out of Chicago, which adapted over time to become primarily commuter carriers, the LSE always subsisted on intercity passenger traffic. The main line ran from Cleveland to Toledo, with through service continuing over the Detroit United to Detroit. Much of the passenger traffic carried by the railroad was local traffic to towns along the line: Lorain, Elyria, Vermilion, Norwalk, Bellevue, Fremont, and Sandusky, where the railroad's main shops were.

For many years the LSE ran through trains in cooperation with other interurban lines, mainly to Detroit via the Detroit United, and to Lima via the Western Ohio. Many of these trains would use one car from each line, so the LSE car would be MU'd with a DUR car, for instance. Another unusual aspect is that there were two routes between Ceylon Junction and Fremont, as you can see from the map. So a westbound two-car train would be split at Ceylon Jct., and the two would take different routes to Fremont, where they were joined together again.

One of the earlier interurban systems, the LSE was not a very high-speed operation. The interurban cars were not geared for high speeds such as those seen on the CA&E. Car 150 would have seen extensive low-speed operation down city streets, including access to the city centers of Cleveland, Toledo and Detroit, as those cities lacked a rapid transit network that could be used by the interurban lines. The limited trains between Toledo and Cleveland generally took a little over four hours. (You can now drive this on the interstate in less than two hours.) Times varied over the years; the fastest schedule ever attempted took 3 hours and 45 minutes, but that didn't last long. A limited from Cleveland to Detroit was carded for six hours.

Much of the LSE's business came from local traffic. There were over 310 designated stops on the main line, about three per mile. Most of these were little-used flag stops, but a local car was required to stop at any of them.

By the late 1920's automobile competition was increasingly affecting the business of interurban lines like the LSE, and the railroad saw freight traffic as one way to offset these losses. Freight business was emphasized and more freight motors and freight trailers (like LSE 810, now preserved at IRM) were acquired. Some coaches like car 150 were even rebuilt as freight motors, and two of these have been preserved. The limits of the railroad's infrastructure, though, severely limited the effectiveness of these efforts. Tight-radius curves on city streets precluded the haulage of railroad freight cars and circuitous routes slowed down service. As passenger traffic continued to fall during the Depression, the victim of a poor economy combined with better roads and more automobiles, the LSE could not compete. In May 1938 service was abandoned.


As mentioned before, when the Lake Shore Electric abandoned passenger service in 1938, many of the carbodies were sold for adaptive reuse. The body of car 150 became a house in Milan, Ohio, from 1938 to 1964. It was then moved to Fostoria and used as a house there by James Jencks from 1964 to 1977.

Photo by Tom Hunter

In May 1977 it was moved to the Station Square complex in downtown Pittsburgh, and modified for use as a flower shop. There it was placed on trucks from Chicago 4000's purchased from IRM.

In 2000 when the station complex was being redeveloped, the 150 was sold to the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum which immediately resold the body to IRM. It was then moved to Union in October 2000, placed on another set of CTA 4000 trucks, and put on indoor display.
(Photos by Scott Becker)

In 2005-2006 it was partially repainted in LSE colors, some window repair work was done, and an anchor casting was fabricated and installed under the rear platform. Other than this, no significant restoration work has been performed. For current pictures of the car's interior, go here.


All equipment listed is missing its original trucks and electric control equipment.
  • #7 - wood coach, built 1900 by Barney & Smith, adapted for unknown reuse (likely storage or dwelling) after abandonment, in private ownership. Picture here.

  • #38 - steel freight motor, built 1920 by L.S.E., made into a hunting cabin after abandonment, recently sold into private ownership and stored in Avon Lake, OH
  • #39 - steel freight motor, built 1920 by L.S.E., adapted for unknown use (likely storage shed) after abandonment, in private ownership.
  • #42 - wood freight motor, built 1907 by Niles as coach 141 (identical to 150) and rebuilt by the L.S.E. for freight service in 1929, used as a storage shed east of Sandusky after abandonment, preserved at the Northern Ohio Railway Museum (NORM). Picture here.
  • #46 - wood freight motor, built 1906 by Niles as coach 152 (identical to 150) and rebuilt by the L.S.E. for freight service in 1929, adapted for unknown reuse (likely storage or dwelling) after abandonment, preserved at the Mad River & NKP Railroad Museum in Belleview.
  • #149 - wood coach, built 1907 by Niles as coach 141 (identical to 150), body lengthened by L.S.E. in 1923, adapted for unknown use (likely storage or dwelling) after abandonment, purchased for preservation in 1965, now at NORM. Picture here.
  • #151 - wood coach, built 1906 by Niles (identical to 150), sold for use as a backyard storage shed after abandonment, now at NORM. Picture here.
  • #167 - steel coach, built 1915 by Jewett, adapted for use as a summer cottage near Vermilion after abandonment, purchased for preservation in 1962, now in private ownership in fair condition. Picture here.
  • #171 - steel coach, built 1918 by Jewett, turned into a diner in Monroeville, O. following abandonment, acquired by the Seashore Trolley Museum in 1987. Pictures here and here.
  • #174 - steel coach, built 1918 by Jewett, sold for use as a dwelling south of Vermilion after abandonment, acquired 1996 by The Works in Newark, O. and cosmetically restored. Picture here.
  • #181 - steel coach, built 1918 by Jewett, adapted for use as a cottage west of Vermilion following abandonment, acquired 1985 by NORM. Picture here.
  • #464 - wood freight trailer, built 1919 by L.S.E., adapted for use as a pig pen after abandonment, acquired 1979 by NORM. Picture here.
  • #810 - wood freight trailer, built 1924 by Kuhlman, purchased from Michigan Electric 1630 in 1929, used as an agricultural shed following abandonment, acquired 1984 by IRM and currently under restoration. Pictures here.
  • #C - wood snow sweeper, built 1910 by McGuire-Cummings, adapted for unknown use (likely storage shed) after abandonment, currently in private ownership. Picture here.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Scrap Metal Theft

I was asked to pass along this news about a serious case of scrap metal theft at the Connecticut Trolley Museum. Three cars were severely damaged in the process. We have friends there, and I'm sure they're as infuriated as we would be.

As for IRM, all I can say is that we need to be on the lookout for suspicious activity. Especially during the off-season, don't hesitate to (politely) challenge anybody you don't recognize. People with a legitimate purpose on the property should be glad to tell you what it is. Beyond that, maybe Dave or others will have more specific instructions on what we should be doing to prevent this type of crime.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Get Out And Get Under

The second contactor box under the 36 opens up towards the center of the car, and it faces the row of grid boxes. As a result, it's not very accessible, and work on it is more difficult. But we won't let that stop us. And note that the open cover serves as a convenient place to store our tools!

This box is designed for five contactors, whereas the one I did first only has three. It also has more wires emerging from the back of the box.

As long as we're down here, look up at the floor above us. Although the car was built without a toilet compartment, one was later installed, and then removed in 1946. That location is now where a branch pipe goes up to the emergency valve, located under a seat.

I might also point out that all of these wooden contactor boxes have a layer of canvas on top, to protect them from blowing rain and snow. That's true on the 309 also. We don't run the cars in the rain, so I don't plan to do any replacement of the canvas. It still looks more or less watertight.

I also tightened up the truss rods. They were both quite loose for some reason, probably associated with moving the car at some point. With some magic Kroil and a crowbar, adjustment is easy. You can easily gauge the tension in the rod by hitting it with the crowbar and listening for the resonant frequency. It helps to have perfect pitch-- I prefer to tune the cars in D major.

OK, it's time to get back under. After a few hours of work, here's the completed installation of the new insulation.

I also walked out to check on the 321, and attached a couple more straps. I figure that if nothing else, all these straps are helping hold up the truss rods.

Another thing to notice is that some of the motor leads have solid connectors on the ends, while others are just bare stranded wire, as seen here. I don't know why this is. I decided to try soldering a copper sleeve onto one of them as a test. This should provide better conduction at the junction point.

It's hard to solder here because the heavy cable conducts heat away rapidly. I probably need to find a bigger soldering iron.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Trip Report - Pennsylvania Trolley Museum

Work took me to Pittsburgh this past weekend, and fortunately I had time to make it over to the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum in nearby Washington, PA on Saturday night. Bruce Wells, one of PTM's longtime volunteers and fellow trolley museum blogger (his blog at weaklyreports.net is highly recommended!), braved the cold and snow to meet me at the museum and show me some of the progress that has been made.
The highlight had to be West Penn 832, seen above in the PTM shop building. This is the latest of the museum's signature frame-up restoration projects that have been made possible by a unique combination of successful grant applications, extensive fundraising, and well-managed coordination between volunteers and contracted firms. WP 832 is the only Cincinnati curve-side car that was preserved complete. It recently returned from Brookville Equipment in Pennsylvania, which did major body work, replaced the car's roof, rebuilt the trucks and largely rewired the car.
The photo above shows the car's interior as it exists now. PTM's volunteer crew has been making steady progress on repairing or replacing interior appointments and fixtures, and once these are ready for installation the car's interior will be reassembled.
Another highlight of the trip was seeing the cars that PTM acquired from Trolleyville in Ohio. I hadn't visited the museum since the Trolleyville collection was auctioned off, so for me this was the first time I had seen these cars since they were in North Olmsted. Above is Cincinnati Street Railway 2227, the only complete streetcar from that city in existence. The story of its trucks, as related to me by Bruce, would make for a lengthy blog post in itself; suffice to say that PTM is having the car's trucks and motors rebuilt for operation on their wide-gauge line and that the car will likely be running within the next year or two.
Another car acquired from Trolleyville was Jones high-floor car 4145, shown above. PTM owns an example of this type that was rebuilt for work service but car 4145 was restored in the 1970's to its passenger-carrying days. Since arrival PTM has rebuilt its trucks and made this car operational.
The third ex-Trolleyville car at PTM is the "Toledo," a remarkable and unique example of a Midwestern street railway private car. Though the body was restored at Trolleyville, it is just on shop trucks at the moment; PTM is looking into options for replacing the car's original motors and GE Type M control.

And then there were a couple of cars that weren't from Trolleyville that piqued my interest. At left is ex-Rio de Janeiro open car 1758, acquired by PTM a few years ago and recently made operational following extensive work to re-gauge it to conform to the museum's 5'2-1/2" gauge track. Except for the ends, which were rebuilt around 1970 by a different museum, this car is basically identical to Rio 1889 which was acquired by IRM in 2010.

And then there's West Penn 739, a center-door car of the classic type usually associated with that unusual interurban system. These cars operated on one of the hilliest interurban lines in the country without air brakes: all braking was done with electro-magnetic track brakes and with hand brakes. WP 739 is a body and is missing quite a few parts, but Bruce and his family have recently performed a cosmetic restoration not too dissimilar to what we're currently doing on Indiana Railroad 205.

I'm hoping to make it back to PTM sometime in the next couple of years during warmer weather so that I can ride on some of this equipment. The museum is highly recommended for anyone who might find themselves in the Pittsburgh area!