Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Latest Spring Fashion

 It's spring here in the western suburbs, better late than never.  And spring means you should be thinking about your summer wardrobe.  You want to look stylish, and this year that means a certain retro look.  It's time to backdate and make that uniform complete!

David went to considerable trouble to get these embroidered letters made for us, and here's what they look like when sewed onto a conductor's uniform.  Just like the old days!  My wife did the sewing, and it looks perfect.

Want some more fashion advice?  Don't even think about taking that stupid polo shirt you bought out of the closet.  Cut it up for use as tack cloths or cleaning rags.  Run, don't walk, to Henry's and get yourself a uniform that you can be proud of!  Prices will never be lower, because it's all free with your IRM membership card!

Monday, April 29, 2013

The Catcher and the Rye

David Writes......

This post could also be titled "Meanwhile in St. Louis..."  I've been attending work days at the Museum of Transportation more frequently in the last couple of months.  Of course, the main focus, electric traction-wise has been the ongoing restoration of St. Louis Public Service PCC car 1743.

While others work on the 1743, I have been attending other maintenance related tasks with our operating cars, including repair of a trolley catcher.  The catcher is a Ideal Trolley Catcher from our friends at the Trolley Supply Company of Canton, Ohio.  The trolley catcher is a reel, that has spring tension on it to "wind up" the trolley rope.  It also has a centrifugal brake device that detects rapid upward movement of the pole and rope, as when a dewirement occurs.  This "catches" the pole and hopefully saves it and the overhead from damage.  The catcher goes on our St. Louis Water Division car, number 10, a 1914 St. Louis Car Company product.  Prior to restoration, the car sat outside at MOT for a number of years and the original springs in the catchers were shot.  
When the car was initially restored about ten years ago, we tried making a take-up replacement spring, but it didn't work very well.  Over time the spring weakened to the point it would not hold a wind.  The rope would dangle from it, and it would not be able to "catch" a dewirement.  To remedy this situation, I found this replacement spring in our parts supply.  The spring is rather long, about twenty feet long when uncoiled.  The other volunteers in the shop were amazed at how good I got at winding the spring up into the base of the catcher.  I also found another complete serviceable catcher of the same make, which I took apart, cleaned up and repainted.  We will hold this as a spare.  

Here, we see the repaired catcher on the car.  Hopefully it will give years of service.

In addition to being up for the annual meeting, I was also up the following weekend, taking Amtrak.
During both trips, we had a series of editorial meetings of the blog staff.  All of my article title ideas were rejected.  Frank provided local shuttle service from Amtrak's stop in Summit.  While you can't really see him in this photo, Frank and I subsequently learned that longtime IRM member Dave Dote was the engineer on my return trip.  In other news, I gave Randy a bottle of Bulleit Rye Whiskey.  I think it may be the Official Rye Whiskey of the Hicks Car Works*

*Drink responsibly

Sunday, April 28, 2013

We've Got Connections

 One main priority right now is to get the 36's train door put back on the car, now that the barn is open to the public.  I installed the hardware on the inside and gave it all another coat of brown primer.  And talked to Henry Vincent about painting it with a first coat of blue, which he plans to do this Tuesday or Wednesday.

And this is a metal plate for one of the side doors, which needed a coat of primer on the inside to keep it from rusting.  The fresh paint makes a nice reflector for the incoming sunlight.

An electrical problem I wanted to address concerned the gauge lights on the 319.  The gauge light uses a small low-voltage bulb wired into one of the interior light circuits, so it's in series with five 36W bulbs running on 600V.  The wires from the socket run through the air, taped to the plumbing in a couple of places, and connect to the snap switch.  The gauge bulb is turned off by shorting it out.  At this end, at least, the insulation had started to crumble, so I needed to replace it with newer wires.  After making the new connections, however, I still find that neither gauge light works on this car, although all the interior lights are lit.  It's possible the gauges were disconnected, but I'd have to get up into the attic to check that out.  In the meantime, we seldom run at night, so this won't impact operations.  Both gauge lights work on the 36, and our other cars, though.

And most of the time was spent hoisting two more contactors into place in the center box.  This is not easy, but by the end of the day they were all bolted and wired in place, and I was able to check the connections.  So that's another step forward.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Progressive Trackwork

One of my wife's patients happened to leave behind a copy of Progressive Railroading magazine, so she brought it home for me.  I'm more into regressive railroading myself, of course, but it was interesting to look at.  I was very happy to see an article by my old friend Wally Weart, a long-time IRM member who now lives in Denver.  It's good to see he's doing well.  Here's part of a picture from his article on how to maintain track and avoid heat kinks.  The subject is long and complex, but we never seem to have problems like this with good old-fashioned stick rail, so maybe that's the price of progress.

36 Report

 It's too bad we missed "Talk Like Shakespeare Day" this year.  I might have had something eloquent to say.

Instead, it'll be all business as usual, and all about the 36.  I'm glad to report that the remote control projects are progressing nicely.   On the train door, I decided to install the kick plate, which was already in primer, and then put a second coat of red on the outside.  I would like to be able to put the door back on the car soon.  Henry Vincent and his grandson have done a lot of good work on it.

And then Paul Cronin and Joel Ahrendt have been working on the defective grid box.  Here we see some piles of defective grids, reusable grids, and replacement grids from stock.  The rubber tire goes to something else, I hope.  We really appreciate the help we're getting from the guys in the shop.

However, the grids won't do us much good unless they can be energized.  I spent more time working on the control system, without making a lot of progress.  One intellectual breakthrough was to realize that the center junction box, which connects the control system to the contactor drum switch, is wired backwards.  The ten terminals are numbered 0 to 9 on the standard GE base, but the wires are connected as though it was rotated 180 degrees.  (This is the fault of Wheaton, not Cleveland, I should point out.)  This junction box is not easy to get to, as it's right over the brake rigging.  In the picture above, that's the live lever on the right, blocking your view.  But I already have a list of things to do next time, including bringing some Vaseline to clean the controllers.

While we're down here, let's look around. This is the brake cylinder, with the marking "6-57" plainly visible.  That must have some mystic significance.  In front of it is the tie rod.  I might point out that the brake cylinder on this car is mounted such that it's remarkably hard to see from outside.  When doing initial brake tests, it's good for the trainmen to be able to see the brake cylinder clearly, but on this car you have to know just where to look.  Sorry!

We talked before about the wooden beams holding up the grid boxes.  One of the reasons new 2x4's were sistered onto the old beams is that they were partially burned by an overheated grid, as you can see here.  Of course, the best way to make a fix like this is to drill a hole right through the weakest part.  Be that as it may, operators should take this as an object lesson in what may happen when you stay on resistance points too long.  Replacing these beams may be another major project.

So let's turn to some easier tasks.  One of the next contactors in line for installation had an arc chute box that had come apart (L), but fortunately we have some spare arc chute assemblies ("bird houses") on hand.  Replacing the arc chute was quick and easy  -- THAT doesn't happen very often! 

In the #2 vestibule, where the train door is in the shop, here's the lettering above the door.  If you look very closely, you may be able to see that there's an earlier version of "#2 END" below the later black on red lettering.

Sand it down carefully, and sure enough, the yellow on blue lettering appears.  That's good enough to be traced. This is about the best we can do here.  As usual, the surface of the underlying wood is not completely smooth, due to the vertical planer marks that you should be able to make out.

And even on a Thursday, there are other projects in progress.  Maybe we haven't seen Tim Peters recently.  Don't worry -- he's hard at work on rebuilding the roof structure on the 1024. 

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Annual Meeting report

The 2013 IRM Annual Meeting went off without a hitch and was shorter than usual.  Congratulations to Norm Krentel and Joe Stupar, both members of the Electric Car Department, on being elected (Norm) and reelected (Joe) to the Board of Directors.  Joe is also the new museum president!

Other business included an impressive presentation by museum treasurer Fred Ash on recent trends in IRM attendance and funds and a brief run-down by Max Tyms of a proposed solar farm project.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Board Meeting

 Today was the annual Safety Meeting, among other things, and of course safety is of prime importance for our Museum.  Since the four of us were there, we were able to have an in-person Hicks Car Works board meeting, which doesn't happen too often.  (Photo by Zach - thanks!  But maybe my camera needs to be fixed.  That big white spot on Al's face is not actually there.)  Lacking anything to argue about, we agreed to keep doing what we're doing.  You'll notice we're all carefully clutching our rulebooks.  Harold Krewer gave us some updates to the rules, spoke about various issues we need to be aware of, and Bob Opal instructed us how to fill out the new Hours of Service forms.  Safety First!  Of course, this may not mean much to those of you who don't operate trains at IRM.  So let us advise you not to play with matches, don't run with scissors, don't smoke in bed....

 I would normally go out to the Museum on Thursdays, but this week there was lots of flooding in the area, and my wife wanted me to stay home and keep an eye on the sump pump.  So I finished up some cushions for the 319, among other things.  Here they are, installed in the car.

I also worked on the 36's control system, and made some more slow progress.  I managed to finally get the wires to the defective resistance tubes disconnected.  But since there was no DC power, further testing was not possible.  But I did a lot of cleaning and sorting.  And:

 When the system was being disassembled at Cleveland, one of the set screws on contactor #7 broke off (yellow arrow).  So rather than fix it, the cable was cut in two.  After reinstalling the contactor, I stripped the cables, managed to realign them, and put the new crimp connector in place (white arrow).  Max has a power crimp tool that will do the job, so I'll borrow from him next time I have a chance and finish connecting this contactor.

But don't go away.  Watch this space for further exciting news!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Our Friend IRMA

IRMA has been updated with additional articles about various subjects.  There are a few minor enhancements: we rearranged the tabs on the "Browse" page to indicate what the articles are actually about.  For instance, under "Diesel Locomotives" the tabs list the titles: "Early Diesel Engines", "Streamliners", and so on.  And under Links, the links now have titles indicating what you're linking to, rather than just the URL

There's one known issue: under the "Visit" category we added a campus map, courtesy of Pete Schmidt.  But you can't zoom it up, so it's not very useful.  We have this figured out, though, and it'll be fixed in the next release.

Meanwhile we're hoping to have signs put up soon at the Museum to tell visitors about this new app.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Smoke Along the Fox

Today I had an opportunity to stop out at the Fox River Trolley Museum in South Elgin, where Dave Kloke and a crew of workers were testing and adjusting the world's newest steam engine, Northern Central 17 "York."
It's a beautiful engine even in slightly disassembled state, missing its pilot, headlight and some covers.  The locomotive was built by Kloke for Steam Into History Inc., which plans to operate it in southeastern Pennsylvania near Gettysburg.  The crew working on it were making adjustments to the engineer's side slide valves while I arrived and then took the locomotive out on the FRTM line for a test trip.  A small platform with two crew members on it was bolted to the side of the cylinder to aid in inspecting the motion. At top, the engine departs Castlemuir on a trip; middle, the locomotive sitting prior to its trip with the platform in the foreground; bottom, the locomotive returning to the FRTM property with the inspectors riding on the platform.

Monday, April 15, 2013

The disappearing railroad car

Where did the end of this interurban car go?  What happened to its siding? its windows?  What's going on here?  Why, long-term outdoor storage, of course!

The car body seen above was acquired just recently by a northeastern museum which is now working valiantly to try and save it.  And they've got their work cut out for them.  But this didn't happen overnight; over time any wooden car stored outdoors, as this one was, will naturally deteriorate.  The only real solution is indoor storage.  And indoor storage is something that many of the historic railway cars at IRM are currently lacking.

But fear not, readers - you can help!  IRM is now raising funding for building a storage barn which will house dozens of historic and irreplaceable cars and will preserve them for the future.  But donations are still badly needed to help get the museum the rest of the way towards building the next barn.

Donations towards the Barn 14 Fund or towards any of the department-specific indoor storage space funds - Electric Car, Freight Car, Internal Combustion, Passenger Car or Steam - may be sent to the Illinois Railway Museum, PO Box 427, Union IL 60180.  Or you can quickly and easily help out by clicking here and donating online.  All donations are fully tax-deductible.

Thank you for your help in preserving our history!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Meanwhile in St. Louis.....

While Randy wrestled with grids all day, this is what I contended with down in St. Louis at the Museum of Transportation.  Note, the pole isn't supposed to be like that, nor is the catcher supposed to be on the ground.

Repair or Replace

 It was snowing when I left Naperville this morning, but at Union it was much nicer, partly sunny but unseasonably cold.

So if you want to do any painting, the shop is the place to be.  A first coat of finish red on the 36's train door seemed like a good place to start.  Red is always a relatively transparent color, so this first coat is only a start.  But it would be nice to be able to install this door sometime soon, and I really appreciate all the work Henry and Jonathan have been doing on it.

I discussed the grid box issue with Bob Kutella, and so the worst of the boxes was brought to the shop.  Paul volunteered to start work on it.  He put penetrating oil on the various parts that will need to be disassembled, so that's a step in the right direction.  We have a couple of other grid projects in progress right now, such as the 141, which is of course a much higher priority.

I then spent some time testing and trying to fix the 36's control system, without making much progress.  But another idea came to me on the way home, so I will certainly keep plugging away at making it operational.  I also tested the brake system, with better results.  The standing travel is too large, so adjustments will be needed, but that should be fairly routine.  Otherwise the brake system is in good condition.

 While I was stuck under the 36, a new member named Brian Patterson came along and offered to help.  He had been working with the cleaning crew most of the day; they were cleaning the various steam road cars for service.  Great, have I got a deal for you!  Here is something I'd wanted to do for a while, but needed a helper.  One of the grid boxes on the 319 was defective, and had been "fixed" at Cleveland by shoving a spike into it, as seen here.  We really don't want to have a car in revenue service with this hokey repair.  Ironically enough, all of the grid boxes under the 321 are in good condition, so the best solution would be to swap out the corresponding box with the 319.

Brian and I drove out to 14, and were able to remove the box from the 321 without too much trouble.  We carried it back to barn 8 and started to remove the box from the 319.

Sorry, the drop light is obscuring the determined look on his face as he works on dropping the old box.  The nuts and bolts are rusty, of course, but the job progresses steadily, and soon we're ready to install the replacement box.

Here's a somewhat better picture.  In about 2 1/2 hours we had the new box in place and connected.  It's gratifying to be able to make a constructive repair like this after struggling with a screwed-up electrical system.  Thanks, Brian!

Did I ever mention that new members are always welcome?  It's safe to say we won't run out of interesting projects for you to work on in the foreseeable future!  And various other exciting things were going on all day, which I was unable to photograph.  You just had to be there!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Signs of Progress

Frank has made up a first roundel for IRMA as a test, so today I brought it to the Museum to try out.  It appears to be the right size and should work fine on nearly all of the signs we'll want to attach one to.  Of course, they will all have different numbers.  "391" is just the last three digits of 4391.

I left the sample with Dave Diamond, who was very satisfied with it.  He thinks the best way to attach them will be with an adhesive.  For these pictures, I used masking tape, which lasted long enough to snap a photo!

The Wednesday guys keep working, of course.  Henry and Jonathan have  put a first coat of primer on the 36's train door.  It looks good, and we should be able to install it in a few weeks. This is the outside surface, and the inside is painted also.  Thanks again!

Today was cold and damp and drizzling most of the day, so painting was not an option.  I spent most of my time working on the 36's electrical system. The first grid box has several bad elements and needs a complete overhaul.  So I needed to drop it from the car.

For future reference, here are the connections before they were disconnected.

Removing the box is not that hard to do, except that all the nuts and bolts were badly rusted.  I let it down onto a bucket for a platform, then onto the ground.  Here you can see several repairs that must have been attached at Cleveland.  Evidently they didn't understand the concept of "running points" and "resistance points". 

In any case, I'll want to take the grid box to the shop.  I'm hoping the shop guys can schedule it at some point.  We have several grid box experts who know just what to do.

And here's where it used to be.  The five grid boxes are hung from two wooden beams, which had started to rot.  So a couple of ordinary 2x4s were sistered onto them, as you can see here.  I'm not real happy with this solution, so that's another thing that may need to be addressed.  I'm leaning towards replacing the sisters with hardwood, but am open to suggestions.  (Hey, I'm always open to suggestions.  I've got a trash can right here!)

And I installed the next contactor in the series, the one on the right.  It's been about a year since I worked on this, but it all comes back in a hurry.  This box is under the car and opens inwards, so working conditions are very cramped.  But I'll try to keep the whining to a minimum.  

The next problem that cropped up is that evidently this classy old C6 controller with the original style handle needs some adjustment.  I could hear it hissing while trying to test the new contactor, and after removing the cover, could see the arcing taking place.  So that needs to be worked on also.

In any case, we're making progress.  Of course, we can always use more help!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

User's Guide to IRMA

We have developed a smart phone application - the IRM Tour Guide - which is now available for Android.   This IRM App, "IRMA" for short, can be downloaded for free by anyone, but is intended mostly to enhance the visitor experience. As you tour the Museum, your Android phone can display text with additional information about the artifacts, pictures, and links to videos of the equipment in operation.  IRMA will also give you important safety information and helpful hints on planning your visit.
Our intent is not to have information on every piece of equipment, but to tell stories about railroading in general using selected artifacts as examples.  Dining cars, private cars, labor relations, technological developments, and various aspects of preservation are a few of the types of subjects we want to cover.  More will be added as time permits.

If you have an Android phone you can try out IRMA at any time.  Go to the App Store and search for "IRM Tour Guide"; it's listed under the category Educational.  As you may know, once the app has been installed on your phone, it will be updated automatically whenever we upload a new version.  And once the Android version is finalized, we plan to port the app to iPhones.

Here are some current screen shots, and a brief user's guide if you're having trouble running the app.  IRMA starts with the "Browse" tab (L).  If you're touring the Museum, you will come across roundels like this one displaying a large number.

Press the "Search" tab at the top: this takes you (L) to the Search page.  If your phone doesn't have a hardware keyboard, you need to touch the input box to get the input keyboard (R) to pop up.  Type in the number (such as 65) and press the icon on the right.

You now get a page of information about the chosen topic, using the particular artifact you're standing next to as an example.  In this case, it's the founding of IRM itself.

If you press the "Photo" tab at the top, you get a nice picture (R) of the artifact, whenever possible of its use in service.


If you press the "Links" tab, you get one or more links to Internet files.  Some of them may be YouTube videos, such as this one. On your phone you would now be hearing the horn sounding as the car rushes past.

If you're just trying IRMA out at home, when the "Browse" page comes up, you can press any of the buttons to get a list of available articles.  For instance, if you press "Electric Cars" you get a drop-down list of all the various articles centered on electric cars.