Saturday, March 31, 2012


It was fifty years ago to the day that the 309, 321, and 431 left Wheaton for the last time and moved to IRM, which was then located in North Chicago. A lot has happened since then!

Today was a busy day. It seems I was too busy to take any good pictures. Anyhow, the first thing to do was to move the rest of the scaffold from Barn 6 over to 8. I also picked up several things I had left in the center aisle there.

I don't know if this gives any idea of what the scaffold actually looks like. The lighting in the barn is a problem.

Anyhow, then several volunteers showed up for the car cleaning extravaganza. In the absence of official supervision, I talked them into cleaning the 319, using my own vacuum cleaner and supplies.

They cleaned the interior up nicely, and a good time was had by all. Thanks!

I spent most of the rest of the day working on the exterior of the 36, removing paint and sanding it all down. I then applied white primer to the parts which will be grey or red. The lighting's bad, the scaffold's in the way -- I can always find something to whine about.

By the way, Bill Buhrmaster told me an interesting story: back in early 1962, Mid-Continent had acquired the Copper Range combine, and was looking for seats for it. His father, Ray Buhrmaster, was in charge of finding them. It had originally had rattan upholstery. He went to Wheaton and tried to buy the seats from car 36, since it was one of only two cars left with rattan seats. But Gerald Brookins had already bought the car, so he had to settle for the leather seats from car 300, which were later installed in the EJ&S #2. And those are the ones we'll be acquiring next month. Meanwhile, the 36 still has its rattan upholstery. Whew!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

New Paint

The Museum will be opening for the public this Sunday, and the first car cleaning session is this Saturday. So we need to get ready. I put a first finish coat on the remaining buzzer cord hanger, as seen here. Later in the day it was dry enough that I could reconnect the buzzer cord. The 319 will soon be ready for inspection.

Al Reinschmidt
was out again today and helped a lot. We finished scraping and sanding on the siding and the molding strip below the window sill, and then started applying a first coat of primer. He also helped me assemble the scaffolding so we can do a thorough job on the upper parts of the exterior.

And I did more paint removal on the #2 end. Photo by Al Reinschmidt, of course.

By the end of the day it looked like this. We also went out to look at the 321 again.

I hadn't really focused on this before, but the two ends of the car are slightly different. The #2 end (L) has two vertical molding strips on the corner posts, whereas the #1 end (R) has only one. Also, the #2 end has a different type of marker bracket casting than the #1 end and all our other cars, so I'm sure this dates back to some rebuilding on the CA&E.

Meanwhile, we've received some generous donations to the 309 fund to help pay for the seat acquisition, but more is needed. You can help! We're now planning on probably moving the seats in early May, since April seems to already be booked up with exciting IRM activities.

Monday, March 26, 2012

New CA&E Seats

This is exciting news -- we now have the opportunity to acquire a set of spare walkover seats of the right type for the 308 and 309. These are being offered to us by our friends at Mid-Continent, under basically the same terms as the North Shore seats we got last fall.

Six or seven of the seat frames in the 309 have parts of the end castings broken, so that the seat backs come out of their tracks when you try to walk them over. So we currently have several pairs of backs connected with cable ties to keep them from moving. It's embarrassing. If we can get complete frames, it will be easy to fix this situation.

When Mid-Continent acquired EJ&S #2, an ancient wooden combine, back in the early 60's, it had been in camp service and was missing its seats. For a while, it had been running in passenger service with people sitting on folding chairs. So MC bought all the seats from CA&E car #300 to equip it. Interurban seats are too narrow and not the right type, but they were available, and a big improvement over folding chairs. Now, however, they have the time and resources to do a more thorough restoration, so the seats seen here are surplus.

As usual, we need money. It will be $1500 for 15 complete seats, plus a couple hundred more for the transportation. Your generous donations to the 309 fund (R309) will help make this a reality. We hope to be able to make the move sometime in the next month or so. Please let us know if you can help. Thanks!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Spring Cleaning

All of a sudden, operating season is just around the corner. Yikes! Where did winter go? Well, we gotta get ready anyhow.

But first, I would like to keep assembling the control system on the 36. The next contactor, #6, was installed with relative ease, although this box is located so that it opens towards the middle of the car. That gets us up to the third point. The next contactor has a problem. One of the motor circuit leads could not be removed from the contactor, since the set screw broke off. So they just sawed the cable apart with a hacksaw. Rod gave me a crimp sleeve which should connect the two parts of the cable just fine. Max has the hydraulic crimping tool to finish the job.

That reminds me of a funny comment I read once.
All good news stories fall into one of three categories:
1) Arrow points to defective part
2) We reveal the guilty man
3) Everything you know about X is wrong!

But now, it's time to start getting ready for service. I reinstalled the next buzzer cord hanger in the 319 and painted it with white primer, as seen here. There were also a few other minor things that needed to be cleaned up in the 319.

I had noticed in the 36 that three of the special street railway bulbs had been replaced with ordinary house bulbs. That's not good. There was a discussion about this recently on RyPN and that prompted me to replace them. I then proceeded to clean up the area around the 36, since the Museum will be opening for visitors next week. We all need to fix any accident hazards and make the display barns as presentable as possible. The windows on the 36 were also very dusty, so I cleaned them all. Dirty windows tempt visitors to write names and slogans, which is undesirable for several reasons.

By the way, you can help! Cleaning sessions are the next two Saturdays, March 31 and April 7. Many hands make the work go fast. So there's fun and fellowship. Thanks!

While cleaning up around the 36, it was obvious I should close up the contactor box facing the aisle, since work on it had been finished. But it was just too stiff for me to do by hand. Then it occurred to me that the contactor lifter would be effective in raising the cover into postion. VoilĂ !

Friday, March 23, 2012

Arch-Bilt School Buses

Many of you were probably just as unaware as I was that we also have a school bus manufacturing division. Al Reinschmidt is a bus enthusiast and found this nice advertising folder for me. If you need an all-steel "Arch-Bilt"body for your Studebaker bus chassis, for instance, write for more information!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Good News, Bad News

Like most sermons nowadays, let's start with a funny story. While the 36 was at Cleveland, the original type J governor either failed or was thought inadequate to the task of running on a 750V rapid transit system, so it was replaced with a newer model. (Rod could tell us what it was, I forget.) Anyhow, in service it flashed over and started burning, and the car filled with smoke. They hit it with a fire extinguisher, but the smoke got worse, so it was pulled out of the subway out onto the bridge until the panic was over. And that was the end of that, until today.

Here's what the area looks like before we start. Fortunately, none of the car's wood was actually burned; only a small amount of paint on the floor was singed. The white stuff is powder from the fire extinguisher, and the black stuff is soot. So let's just vacuum and scrub until it's nice and clean.

The goofy red paint will have to be changed, of course, but otherwise all is well. Al Reinschmidt was out today to help, and together we recoated the interior of the new governor with Glyptal, checked that we had the right piping, and Al installed it as seen here.

The wiring meggers OK, but looks a little tired. We may want to replace the wires with new material, but that isn't affected by having the governor in place.

Then we started inspecting the compressor, and here the news is considerably worse. The commutator is grounded, the fields are grounded, and the brush holders, with the leads disconnected, are grounded. We could not understand how the isolated brush holders could be grounded, but there it is. And the commutator is badly worn. This compressor is probably not worth trying to fix. We looked at the spare compressors along the avenue, and at least one appears to be a better candidate to the naked eye.

Al helped me retest the parts of the control system that have been installed so far, and everything appears to work fine. So that's a relief. I wanted to install another contactor, but it turns out there's not quite enough clearance. The second box, which opens towards the center of the car, is mounted lower than the others, so I'll have to rebuild my little platform. Thus there will be a slight delay.

We went out to check on the 321. Here is the nice new access road to the south yards, which was installed last fall. I guess this is an extension of Railroad Avenue. Anyway, it's nice and solid, and here's the stone culvert over the drainage ditch between 13 and 14.

Finally, Al helped me clean up the interior of the 319 so it can be cleaned for service. The Operating Dept. cleaning days are coming up soon, and this help is greatly appreciated. The 308, 309, and 319 are ready for some TLC.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Update on the Fernley Boxcars

We have some good news to report on the status of the boxcars at Fernley, Nev., the only preserved freight cars built by the Hicks Locomotive and Car Works, which I had posted about earlier. Craig Brinkman of the Association for Railroad Passenger Car Preservation has been working with several groups including the Fernley Preservation Society, and has an agreement worked out with the Central Nevada Museum in Tonopah to preserve these cars. They were built for the Tonopah and Goldfield, so this is an ideal preservation location. He says:

These cars are so important, both from the perspective of the Hicks Car Company, but also historic NV railroads that we need everyone to pitch in to make sure we get what we need to complete the work.

We are looking for underbody components, including arch-bar trucks, brake rigging, couplers, etc so anyone with a lead to "age appropriate" components we want to hear from. Also anyone with additional information or photos of the cars is encouraged to respond.

Lastly, the Fernley Preservation Society has gone through a gut wrenching experience in the loss of their collection. They need to be commended by the community for having saved these important artifacts and encourage supportive communications to them and donations to assist in their next phase.

And we would also like to encourage anyone who could help to do so. Thanks!

Visit to Boston

By the rude bridge that arched the flood....

We've just returned from a short vacation in Boston. A lot of interesting historical sights to see, and so on, but not a lot of railfanning. And some of the interesting things we did see from the train went by too quickly to photograph.

Down in the Boston subway, on an unused stretch of track, there are two streetcars preserved in excellent condition, but hard to view very well. One is a "Type 5" which I found impossible to snap, and the other is a PCC. But it's nice that they're on display.

The Boston Science Museum has some nice models!

And somewhat off-topic, on the way back we had a two-hour layover in Rensselaer, so we decided to walk over to Albany. And we found this WWII destroyer escort on display. Of course, it wasn't open for tours on a late Tuesday afternoon, but it appears to be well maintained. So that was interesting.

And we will quickly resume our regular programming.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Full House

It was nice and warm today, so there was a lot going on. Among other things, I worked on the grids under car 36 for a while. There are several loose connections, where the clamps were unbolted at Cleveland, and the bolts are rusty. So that's another minor annoyance. I may have to wait until it's over the pit. There are also some melted grid segments, all in section R1, which indicates the car was being operated on the first point for long periods. But that's what typically happens when you buy a used car that's no longer under warranty. And the manufacturer went out of business 95 years ago.

Then I installed the final contactor in box #1, as seen here. This one won't actually work until two others are installed, but it's nice to have the box finished. There's a lot of heavy lifting, so I've decided one a day is enough. It gets slightly easier with practice, though. And it's always nice to twist the controller and hear the thunks under the car as the contacts close.

I went out to check on the 321, and brought back a few items. There were two J governors stored there, and I thought I would bring them back for testing. We need one for the 36; the original governor was replaced with a modern design at Cleveland. It then flashed over and started a small fire, which was quickly put out. Here's a picture of one of them, which seems to work OK, so it's going to be installed after I apply some more Glyptal inside the cover. And just for today, I will resist the temptation to joke about governors.

And I decided to bring back my rolling tool chest from the 321, where it wasn't doing me any good. I should take some pictures of the new road that has been extended out to yards 13 and 14. It's very convenient.

And Tim Peters continues his yeoman work on the 1797 single-handed. Literally. Here we see him sanding down the side of the car, and later spraying doors in the shop. We're all hoping his left arm is healing properly. Then, presumably, he could do twice as much!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Spring Forward

It's time to spring forward! Nature seems to spring to life effortlessly, which is more than you can say for mechanical objects. But after a lot of effort, the control system on the 36 is coming alive. Two more contactors were installed, wired up, and tested, and the system so far is working well.

Here we see contactors 1, 2, and 3 installed (in this box, they're right to left, which is unusual) and 11 is on the other side. These are the four that energize on the first point. I don't have the motors connected, of course, but I can turn on the light box through the contactors, which is encouraging. Bob Heinlein came over to Barn 8 to check out the singles scene, so to speak, (don't tell his wife!) and helped with testing. If the motors were tested, cleaned, and connected, the car could move under its own power, though only on the first two points. But first, I think maybe I should see if I can get the brake system to work. Hmm.....

The Michigan Electric crew were hard at work today: Norm, Jeff, and Ray. Here we see Jeff and Ray working on the beautiful upper sash windows.

And I took some pictures of the rattan upholstery in the 36 for a friend of mine.

Finally, here's the Johnson collection of CA&E outbuildings. I believe the waiting shelter is from Fanette. Eventually these will be installed at appropriate places around the campus.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Heavy Lifting

I managed to install two more contactors today, as seen here. There are always little details that take time and effort to resolve, such as getting all the wiring connected properly. And the insulation needs to be patched up. In yet another bizarre twist from Cleveland, almost every wire had a couple inches of insulation removed for the sole purpose of making it easier to attach paper labels. You have to see it to believe it.

So that's three in place, and ten to go. These things are heavy! I'm turning grey just thinking about it.

Rod found the right sort of rubber tubing to make replacement grommets to hold up all these contactors, and I checked that they will fit properly, and only need to be cut to length. So that's another step forward.

And in other news, Ed Oslowski continues to make progress on the interior of the 277. But somehow we never seem to be working in Barn 8 on the same day. I dropped off some more window hardware for him, which came from a 318 window. Luckily for us, the 318 hardware is just the right type for the IT cars, and is not used on any of our operational CA&E cars. Also, we're missing one window shade track in the 277. If you have it, please give it back soon. Otherwise I'll have to make one.

And here are the trucks for the dome car, still waiting for wheels. Phil is working hard to get the wheelsets we need so the whole thing can be assembled. You've probably had the same experience: you buy this nice kit, but when you open the box, parts are missing, and it takes forever to get what you need from the manufacturer!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

LSE Advertising

Dennis Lamont
sent me this advertising flyer for the Lake Shore Electric from 1903. Thanks, Dennis! They claim a schedule speed of 55 MPH. I suppose that's possible for segments of the trip through the country, but there's no way they could ever have a schedule speed like that through the streets of Cleveland or Toledo.

Some of the other advertising claims are a little suspect too -- such as "scenery unrivaled"! Between Toledo and Cleveland? Really? Of course, maybe this is before the development of systems like Pacific Electric, Sacramento Northern, the Laurel Line, Wilkesbarre and Hazelton, and several others.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Russell Plow

I read on the department blog that IRM now has the opportunity to acquire this CGW Russell snowplow. Your donations to restricted fund CGW 4051 will be most appreciated! This will be an important addition to our collection.

The CGW 4051 is of course one of the later steel versions, but the overall design is little changed from the earlier wooden plows, such as this Lackawanna Russell plow I photographed at Scranton many years ago.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

First Contactor

The exciting news for today is that the first contactor was installed and tested. Everything went pretty much as planned. I decided to start with #5, since it's the only contactor that rises by itself, in series with a set of control resistors. (Frank was always a big Star Trek fan, so I try to work in an allusion now and then.)

By far the hardest part was getting the contactor onto the platform, since it's up inside the box to some extent. I need to think about this a little more. But after that, things went smoothly.

Yo ho and up she rises!

The nice thing about this system is that once the contactor has been raised into position, I have all the time in the world to get the rubber insulator, washer, and nut into position, and tighten everything up. That certainly isn't the case if you're trying to raise it by hand! This one was more of a challenge because the two bolts on the left are right against the wall of the box, and hard to reach.

But here it is in position. And it works! Bill Wulfert was on his way to Barn 8 to measure windows on the 1024, so he helped by running the controller. And I talked to Rod some more about making new rubber parts for mounting the rest of the contactors. We'll need a total of 78, but have only about 25 spares on hand.

And among other things, I did some more paint removal on the 36. Ugh. I concentrated on the molding strip under the belt rail, as seen here. And I redid some electrical testing. Contactors 1, 2, 3, and 11 will be next. I just can't wait!

But please keep reading...

Save These Boxcars!

We have just received some distressing news from Fernley, Nevada. The Fernley Preservation Society has acquired and preserved the only two surviving freight cars built by the Hicks Locomotive and Car Works, along with the town's historic depot and several other pieces of railroad equipment. Unfortunately, the city now wants to redevelop the depot as a cultural museum, and all of the railroad equipment has to go elsewhere or be scrapped. (Us railroad guys, we ain't got no culture, dat's fer sure.) I would hate to see these cars be destroyed, so I'd like to help find a home for one or both of them if I can.

Moving them to Union is not an option. Apart from other practical problems, the reason these wooden cars are still as good as they are is because they've always been in the Nevada desert. I'm sure this wood is as dry as a bone. If we brought them to IRM, they'd start sucking up moisture and rot out in no time.

The Nevada State Railroad Museum is an obvious choice, and has already been contacted. But it has severe financial problems and is in no position to acquire anything. I know people at Rio Vista, Orange Empire, and Niles Canyon, and I plan to contact them about the possibility of acquiring one of these cars. (I'm sure Ted Miles will read this immediately!) If you know of anyone else in the vast Western spaces who might be interested, please let me know. Luckily, my contact in the preservation society thinks they probably have a year to arrange something, so there's time to find a solution. Let's hope for the best!

CSL 4001 Pictures

Bill Wulfert found some nice pictures of the 4001 in the files and made copies of them for Frank. Since Frank wasn't there, he gave them to me. And since I'm in a generous mood, I'll share them with you. No extra charge!

These two I think we've seen before.

But these we haven't. The one on the left is evidently a test run. The car cards have information about the new car and its revolutionary design, such as the forced air ventilation and cork floor. A card on the left says: "The car will be submitted to tests in actual service to determine the merits of the new entrance" (?)

And if you're not aware, the picture on the right is pretty much what the interior looks like today!

Update: However, it's been tarped and is stored in Yard 14. So this is what it looks like from the outside today.