Thursday, May 31, 2012

Cafe 20

We haven't had any new restaurant reviews for a while, so last week Frank and I visited Cafe 20 on the east side of Marengo, about four miles from the Museum. It's changed hands a couple of times over the years and is currently an Italian-themed restaurant. Wednesday happened to be German night, though, and Tuesday is tacos, etc. so there's some variety.

I had the Jägerschnitzel and Frank had the pork tenderloin sandwich. The food was very good and service was fine.

Sandwiches start at about $8 and entrées at $11 or so, going up to about $25 for steaks. And there's a full bar. So this establishment is currently recommended by our team of culinary experts.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Four for Four

It wasn't really planned this way, but attention was paid to all four of the CA&E wood cars today. At least those in the barn.

First up was the 319. There had always been a couple of minor problems with the so-called "trap door" at one corner. One of the bolts holding up this molding strip had broken off, so it hung down at an angle. It really doesn't have much structural function; there was no danger that the step would collapse or endanger anybody, but it looks like we don't care about appearances. And that's not true. After some work, I drilled a new hole and installed a screw to hold it in place.

Next was the trap itself. There's a coil spring which is supposed to lift the trap, but nothing was happening. You can lift the trap by brute force, but that annoys everybody, even me. (This is basically the same design as the North Shore cars or the CA&E steels.) Also, maybe you can see that the plate holding up the spring-loaded bearing is loose and falling away from the car. That's not good.

I was afraid that the spring was broken and would have to be replaced, but after some work I found that it was OK and just had to be adjusted. With some longer lag screws and new bolts, the plate is firmly attached to the car and the trap springs up as Jewett intended. Case closed, for now.

I meggered the compressor on the 308 and it still appears that the field coils are a dead short to ground. That's pretty grim. I really don't know where we go from here. So the 308 probably won't be in revenue service this year, although the rest of the brake system works and we could run it in the middle of a three-car train for the pageant and Members' Day.

And I spent some time disassembling the replacement seats for the 309 and sorting parts.

Like all of our wood cars, the window sills (aka belt rails) on the 36 have rotted-out places here and there. The section shown here was the worst, but the other cars have had far worse sections, so this is not bad at all. Bondo™ is the answer. I removed all of the window blanks on the (south) side, the one we're currently repainting, and filled all the cracks with body filler, and then sanded it all down. This could all be done from inside the car, which makes it much easier than dragging the scaffold or stairs back and forth. The entire sill now needs another coat of white primer, that'll happen next time.

Finally, during a break I caught Dave and Carl assembling more of the locomotive on Ray's new playground. Ray Bellock himself was supervising, as usual, but he must have moved out of the picture before I could snap. As you might have noticed, some of us are wanna-be celebrities, others aren't.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Happy Birthday, Frank!

Frank chose to spend his birthday running the 309 and 319, and here he is with his conductor, Joel Ahrendt. A good time was had by all! I'll let him post more about what went on, as I was only there for one trip.

Here the crew poses with an unidentified visitor who shoved his way into the picture.

But since it was also Memorial Day, of course, my wife and I went to the parade in Naperville in the morning.

And in the spirit of Decoration Day, we spent most of the day driving around to the various cemeteries to decorate the graves of my parents and grandparents.

In any case, now that Frank is no longer a young man, we'll keep his age a secret!

Frank adds...

A good time was indeed had by all.  The cars ran very well and many thanks to the Car Department workers who took care of the air leaks on the 319!  The crowd seemed decent and the weather was nice; despite 95 degree temperatures, a steady wind kept things quite pleasant.  I had a great time working with Joel and having my wife Bevin, who gamely joined us for the day, along for the ride.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

More Photos from Yesterday

As usual, our friend Chuck Amstein was there, taking lots of great pictures. Here are his videos, posted toYouTube:

CA&E 319 and 309 departing eastbound at East Switch:

Leviathan departing eastbound at East Switch:

Departing station area eastbound in CA&E 319:

CA&E 319 and 309 arriving at station area:

Leviathan arriving at station area:

Leviathan on main line westbound, passing 'L' cars arriving eastbound
at station area:

And here are just a few of the stills he took: (The usual restrictions apply!)

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Who Could Ask for Anything More?

Every so often I ask myself: are you crazy? This is all so difficult, so tiresome, so dirty, so annoying, so boring! Is it really worth it? Does anybody really care?

A day like today provides the answer that keeps me going, and that goes for the rest of us too, I imagine. Everything went very well, we had a good-sized crowd of visitors, everybody seemed to be enjoying themselves, and we put on a good show.

The Leviathan was certainly the star of the production, and we can't thank Dave Kloke enough for all the effort and resources he put in over the years to make this experience possible. He puts the rest of us to shame, I would be the first to admit. It was great to be running alongside this stunning locomotive.

Dan and Chris Buck were my conductors today. As always, they did a great job. The 309 and 319 ran without problems, like a fine Elgin watch. Almost every trip was nearly full. And of course all of the steam trips were packed.

Speaking of watches, I brought along my GPS device today for the first time to use as a speedometer. I guess the cars aren't quite as fast as I had thought. It's very difficult to get over 30 MPH in series. Based on this, I'd say any claims that the cars could do 70 or even 80 are probably an exaggeration. But nobody had any modern technology back in the old days.

But we can't all be railfanning. A large group of B&G guys and helpers were putting together Ray's playground. It's going to be a real asset for the Museum! Thanks, Ray!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

We're Ready

This report will cover two days of preparation for revenue service. As usual, there was lots going on I didn't get a chance to photograph.

I cleaned up the 309 and 319, checked a few more things, and put the train together.

One thing I wanted to do was to clean and repaint all of the arc chutes on the 309 with Glyptal. This is a "before" picture, I guess I forgot to take an "after". Some were better than others.

In any case, after the locomotive unloading was done, Al and I ran the train outside and back and forth a couple of times to check the brakes, check for leaks, and verify that everything seems to be operating OK. Except the pole filter on my camera.


The Leviathan arrived on Wednesday, along with its caravan of support personnel. The locomotive itself, with its stack, is on one trailer. (L)

The tender is on another trailer, which also includes a small machine shop and a crane for lifting the stack, headlight, and coupler into place. Dave has thought of everything.

To unload, the trailer is lowered and the front part drives away. Then there's a ramp to be connected. You'll have to use your imagination, I was busy elsewhere.

It had to be moved over to the turntable leads to have the stack, pilot, and headlight installed, where there's no trolley wire.

(Photo by Al Reinschmidt)

And here it's being moved into position for loading water. Jamie K. is on the left, Rod is running the engine, and Dave Kloke on the right.

Later, I helped switch it into Barn 2, and got to ride it a little (being pushed cold by the switcher, of course.) But that was fun.

John Faulhaber and Gerry Dettlof are putting new canvas on the cabs of the D-13. It's an unusual design, and the pieces are not very big. This is a piece over a cab extension installed by TM, so it has some weird corners, and there's no tack molding as such.

In the evening I walked over to 14 to check on the 321. Here's part of the sunset as seen from the area near South Junction.


Mostly I worked on seats in the 309. I decided not to try to replace any frames, in case I was unable to complete the project today. But I managed to get a couple of them working much better by adjusting various pieces. There are several different things that can go wrong. Not much to show for this work, except that we'll have some more operating seats. In most cases, you need to push the back in the middle, not just using the handle at the aisle side.

Meanwhile, Al Reinschmidt spent all day painting the 36. He completed the lower siding with a first coat of brown primer, then went back and put a second coat on the first five sectors. It's looking good!

And there's a gap on track 83 that enabled me to take some better pictures of the 972. It looks good, and all those who have been working on the car over the years can be very proud of their efforts! You'll notice that it's now mounted on interurban trucks, so it's higher off the rails. These trucks will enable it to travel at much higher speeds. And our next project will be to equip the car with Van Dorn couplers, so it can train with the CA&E cars. That will be exciting!

Illustrated Guide to Van Dorn

Here's everything you always wanted to know about Van Dorn couplers but were too busy to ask.

 Let's start with the case where we want to couple two cars together. Oops! It looks like one coupler is higher than the other. It might work like this, but why take a chance? In a matter of seconds you can move the link over to the higher coupler.

That looks much better. Of course, the link is held in the coupler with the large pin through the center hole in the link. We'll call this coupler #1, and the other one is #2. The small pin in coupler #1 can be either in or out, it doesn't matter.

In order to couple, in coupler #2 you need to have the large pin in the offset hole, as shown by the white arrow. The small pin must be out, as shown by the yellow arrow. The small pin keeps the leaf springs inside coupler #2 from flexing, and we need that flexing action while coupling.

We now shove the two cars together, taking all the usual precautions of chocking, etc. The link snaps into place in coupler #2 with a satisfying thud, and the draft gear will probably test the slack action for you. We're coupled! Now be sure to insert the small pin in its hole in coupler #2 to prevent accidental uncoupling. See, that wasn't so hard.

Want to uncouple? With the slack pushed in, it should usually be possible to pull one of the large pins out, and that's all it takes. If that doesn't work for some reason, do NOT EVER try to pull a pin while moving one of the cars. Instead, we have a handy uncoupling device which should be hanging in the toilet compartment of the 309. It has a length of chain, a long spring, and two hooks. The red hook is placed over the grab iron, as shown, and the large hook is connected to the large pin (of the same car!) Push the slack in and out, and the pin should be pulled.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


Work went well today on making sure the CA&E wood cars will be ready for revenue service this weekend. The Car Dept. finished their work, and the leaks have been fixed. I put the train together and tested it, did some cleaning and straightening, and we're ready to go! There won't be any pictures until I get home tomorrow night.

Meanwhile, Dave Kloke and his crew unloaded the Leviathan today, and they will be working over the next two days to get it ready for steam this Saturday. So the air is filled with excitement. Don't miss the activities this weekend!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Battles Everywhere

This weekend was our WWII reenactment at IRM. We remember with gratitude all those who fought for our freedom in the war, and the reenactors do their best to recreate this dramatic history. Everybody I talked to had a great time and appreciated the experience. It was quite gratifying to get compliments from many of the visitors who enjoyed their time there today.

Jim Nauer
and I were running the CA&E steel cars 409 and 431. Here I am with an Army Air Corps officer who rode with us.

And here, for instance, we have a Canadian soldier saying farewell to his sweetheart. There were many other touching scenes like this, but I was too busy to photograph them.

Allied soldiers are riding the 431 on their way to the battle (OK, there's a little poetic license here) and discussing their plans.

And here some German soldiers are talking to a nurse.

Jim and I just had to battle the weather, which probably reduced the attendance somewhat. In the morning it was hot and muggy, and in the afternoon it was dark and threatening. On the final trip, there was a strong wind storm, and as I was approaching Seeman Road, my vision was obscured by a huge dust cloud. That was a little scary! As we returned, it started to rain. Fortunately, the steel cars are pretty watertight, but we were glad to finally put them away.

Meanwhile during the day, several of my Car Dept. friends were battling some leaks on the 319 for me, including Rod, Greg, Joe, Joel, and Dan Mulvihill. It took several tries, but they got it put back together and we now think the car is ready for revenue service. I can't thank them enough for all the help!

In other news, installation of the equipment on the Bellock Playground has started, as seen here. In the distance, you can see some more of the parts which will be assembled soon.

And of course several other projects were in full swing, in spite of the violence and chaos all around. Here Ray and Jeff pretend to be making progress on the 28. I guess some people have what it takes to be skillful reenactors, others of us just don't.