Saturday, June 29, 2013

Rainy Day

 It rained on and off most of the day, as seen here with the 409 and 431 in service.  Wood cars 308 and 319 are scheduled to operate next on July 4th, a Thursday, weather permitting.  I would have liked to pull the 36 over the pit for some quick inspection and adjustment, but that wasn't possible.  Maybe Wednesday.

But there are always plenty of things to do.  I installed both window wipers, recently repainted by Al.  They look nice.  Here you can see the shiny black wiper arms, and behind them the big blue handle inside. 

Then I spent quite a while cleaning windows.  The 36's windows evidently hadn't been cleaned since a previous millenium, so that was an improvement.  

And then I worked for a while installing some more window shades.  In this car, absent window shades are very obvious, compared to later designs such as the 309 where it's not so noticeable.

We seemed to have a good crowd of visitors, considering the weather, and volunteers were as usual working on all sorts of projects.  I was glad to see Frank Sirinek out today; he had become ill while on vacation in California, but seemed back to normal.  He was telling us all about his sightseeing in San Francisco, Rio Vista, and so on.  And of course everyone was talking excitedly about the huge Trolley Extravaganza which is now just a week away.  Aren't you?

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Singin' the Blues


As I mentioned before, one problem with putting the four-car train together was a leak in the gladhands for the control pipe.  These gladhands are of an unusual design, and hard to get.   Rich Witt and Bob Kutella helped me insert the hardware into a new hose, and the brake system then worked fine.  Of course, it looks pretty much like any other brake hose from this distance.  I then tested the control systems for both three cars and four cars, and ran the train back and forth a little.  With this ancient equipment, you can't be too careful.

Meanwhile, some of my friends were helping with other projects.  Al Reinschmidt painted up the parts for the window wipers at both ends of the 36, and they're now ready to install.

Rich is making good progress on making new first aid boxes for all of our CA&E cars.  Here we see two or three of the kits being glued together.

And here's another before and after comparison.  (L) Before, this plate for a side door on the 36 is scratched, rusted out at the bottom, and red.  (R)  After, it's whole, smooth, and blue.  With Al's help, I drilled the holes in the right places and painted it.

Tim Peters just doesn't know when to quit.  About 7, after I'd had supper, I went for a walk around the property.  Tim was still chopping away at the 1024.  That's why he gets more accomplished than any other three people combined, I guess.


 This is something that has not been seen since the early 50's, I think: three blue cars in a train.  I ran them over early in the morning to letter the 36.  Note that on this side, the 36 still has its red windows and doors, which looks a little goofy.  But that will be corrected.

Here's what it looks like during the lettering process.  I'm using One-Shot lettering enamel.  Placement is based on in-service photos.

This is easier than dragging a scaffold back and forth.

I did all of the yellow, and about half of the black outlining -- I just ran out of time.  I may still be able to finish the outlining, but from a distance, it's something probably only Frank and I would notice without prompting.

The 36 is ready for the next departure from Wells St.  Columbia Park is no longer on the card.

And here we are on Station 1, heading back to the barn.

Don't miss the pageant on July 6th.  You'll never forgive yourself.

An Author Looks at St. Louis Streetcars

In part of our ongoing literary look at streetcars, this passage from The Lost Boy a novella by Thomas Wolfe.  The story is a semi-autobiographical tale of Wolfe and his family's move to St. Louis for the 1904 World's Fair, where his mother ran a boarding house.  The death of Wolfe's older brother, Grover is the focus of the story.  Here, Wolfe describes the sounds of the neighborhood:

He would sit there and listen. He could hear the girl next door practice her piano lessons in the afternoon, and hear the street car coming by between the backyard fences, half a block away, and smell the dry and sultry smell of backyard fences, the smell of coarse hot grasses by the car tracks in the afternoon, the smell of tar, of dry caulked ties, the smell of bright worn flanges, and feel the loneliness of backyards in the afternoon and the sense of absence when the car was gone.

I read this story in undergraduate and remembered it after I moved to St. Louis.  As best I can figure, Wolfe lived near the private right of way for the 15-Hodiamont Line, which was the last streetcar line in St. Louis, ceasing operation in 1966.  

This Way to the Zephyr

Tonight I picked up a new donation to the museum - a neon sign that was once hung on the platform gates at Chicago Union Station indicating where the Burlington Zephyrs were boarding.  The sign is a bit deteriorated and has a broken neon tube, but the IRM Buildings & Grounds Department has certainly repaired worse and this may someday make a neat addition to the depot or to Barn 9.

The sign was donated by Fred Lonnes, who acquired the sign from being scrapped many years ago when Union Station was being renovated.  Thanks, Fred!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Four Cars

This morning Rich Witt and Bob Kutella helped me assemble another control pipe hose, with its unusual gladhand, and that was all that was needed to get the brakes on all four cars working in unison.  I checked the control systems, for which I needed another control jumper.  Luckily, the 409 and 431 were nice enough to let me borrow theirs, which they weren't using.  And everything worked!  I only ran the train about a car length back and forth, but that was good enough as a proof of concept.  We're ready for the pageant!

Tomorrow, if the weather is favorable, I would like to pull the 36 over to 50th Avenue for lettering.  There won't be any pictures until then, but there will be several other projects to look at also.  Don't go away!

IT 170 - You Can Help

Below this post is an article detailing the history of one of the museum's streetcars, Illinois Terminal 170.  This car is our only Birney and is one of only a couple of surviving cars from the many small-town street railway systems that once dotted Illinois.  Although acquired as a stripped car body, most of the parts needed for the car's restoration have been acquired and are currently on hand.

The single large exception is the car's Brill 79E truck.  Though several major components of this truck are on hand, the museum still needs to procure several other parts.  Fortunately a consortium of trolley museums is currently working together to cast new replacement 79E truck parts, and IRM is trying to raise money to procure parts for car 170 as part of this project.  This is a unique opportunity to assemble all of the remaining components needed to restore car 170 and add it to the museum's fleet of restored and operating streetcars.  If we do not obtain the truck parts for car 170 as part of the current consortium effort, it will be much more expensive to do so in the future.

We are asking for your help.  Please consider donating to the Illinois Terminal 170 car fund.  The truck components currently being manufactured will cost around $1,400 so even small donations will help immensely in reaching that goal.  With your help, the last Illinois Birney will once again take to the rails.  Thank you for your support.

History of Car 170



Development of the Birney
St. Louis
Appendix A: Mechanical Specifications
Appendix B: Rail & Wire Accounts

Alton car 170, now preserved at IRM, operates through downtown Alton around 1935.  Stephen Scalzo Collection.

When small-town street railway systems were at the precipice of extinction in the years following the First World War, the one thing that bought many of them a reprieve was the Birney car.  Arguably the most standardized streetcar design in the history of electric railways in America, the Birney was – as with so many successful designs – not so much a transformational leap in technology as it was a marriage of several different designs and technologies that had already been proven.  The design was for a lightweight, single-truck “safety car” that could help street railways cut costs and improve efficiency.

One of the foremost innovators in lightweight single-truck car design during the mid-1910s was the Illinois Traction System.  The ITS operated a sizable network of interurban lines across central Illinois and also had a number of subsidiary street railway operations in small- and medium-size cities across the state.  One was in Galesburg, Illinois, a town of about 25,000 people located 50 miles south of Rock Island.  The Galesburg system was one of dozens that ordered Birney cars at the peak of their popularity, around 1920, and operated them until the end of streetcar service in that city.  Most then made their way to the system in Alton, Illinois, where they remained until they were scrapped after cessation of streetcar service.  Except, that is, for one car, number 170, which after an unlikely stint in the St. Louis interurban subway found its way into preservation as the only Birney from Illinois to be preserved.

Stephen Scalzo’s previously unpublished research into the history of the Galesburg and Alton street railway systems was invaluable in writing up the history of car 170, as was his provision of in-service photos of the Alton Birneys.  Don Ross and Don Leistikow, who were closely involved in saving car 170 in 1957, provided photos and information about the car following acquisition by IERM.  Bob Bruneau, who helped maintain and gather parts for the car during the 1970s and 1980s, provided information on its current condition.

By the mid-1910s, all of the significant design characteristics that would be incorporated into the Birney car had been developed.  The earliest was its small four-wheel design, which was a throwback to the earliest electric streetcars built in the 1880s.  Those cars had evolved by the turn of the century into larger double-truck streetcars; by 1910 the majority of street railway companies were ordering double-truck cars and only the smallest operations were ordering four-wheel cars.  However as traffic levels began to fall during the late 1910s, interest in more economical four-wheel cars increased.

Much of what made the Birney car so economical to operate was its lightweight design, another major distinguishing feature.  Electric streetcars had been getting progressively larger and heavier since their invention, but by the early 1900s the disadvantages of running large, heavy cars were becoming obvious.  Excessive electrical power usage and increased wear and tear on the track made the cars expensive to operate.  Lightweight cars that could stand up to the stress of daily operation could not be developed until the advent of steel car construction late in the first decade of the century; during the 1910s steel construction was refined and the per-passenger weight of streetcars dropped by nearly half from its high during the wood construction era.

Builder's photo of Galesburg car 15.  This car was from the same order as car 170, which was originally numbered 7.  American Car Company photo, Pennsylvania Trolley Museum Collection.

The third significant feature of the Birney was that it could be operated by a single man.  The majority of streetcars at the turn of the century were operated by two men, a motorman and a conductor.  One-man operation had existed since some of the earliest horse-drawn streetcars but as streetcars increased in size, the larger passenger loads required a conductor whose role it was to collect fares.  Around 1905, difficulties in fare collection were eased by the invention of the Pay As You Enter (PAYE) system, where passengers paid as they boarded rather than paying a roaming conductor.  This helped to make one-man operation possible; as long as people passed the motorman as they boarded, he could take fares and make change from his station.

One significant drawback of one-man operation was safety: if the operator suffered a heart attack or was otherwise incapacitated while the car was in motion, there was no one else on the crew to bring the car to a safe stop.  The solution was the fourth major characteristic of the Birney and the last one to be developed: “safety car” equipment.  Safety car equipment was developed with the goal of stopping the car safely in the event the operator became incapacitated and was the brainchild of J.M. Bosenbury of the Illinois Traction System.  Bosenbury developed a control system that would automatically stop the streetcar if the operator let go of the controller, a feature known as “dead man” control for its addressing of the problem of the operator dying suddenly.  Safety car equipment was first used on ITS streetcars built in 1913 and was applied to all Birney cars built.

Builder's photo showing the interior of the Galesburg Birneys, of which car 170 was one.  Note the spartan interior.  American Car Company photo, Pennsylvania Trolley Museum Collection.

In 1915, several different car companies began constructing single-truck lightweight safety cars of generally similar design and appearance, but it was in 1916 that the Stone & Webster Company, which owned a number of electric railways spread across the country, ordered cars of this type from the American Car Company in St. Louis.  The car design work was done by Charles O. Birney, a Stone and Webster employee, and American – a Brill subsidiary – began selling cars conforming to this design to other cities.  With the end of the First World War the popularity of the design exploded and soon the American plant in St. Louis couldn’t handle all of the orders; starting with an order for 200 cars for Brooklyn in 1919 the main Brill plant in Philadelphia began building Birney cars as well.  At the same time competitors like St. Louis Car Company and Cincinnati Car Company were building cars to essentially the same design, and soon similar designs for double-truck or curve-sided versions of the Birney car were being produced as well.

It was with smaller streetcar systems in smaller cities that the Birney car found its true niche, and the Galesburg Railway Lighting & Power Company (GRL&P) was typical of Birney customers.  Galesburg had had streetcars since its first horse car line had been built in 1885.  In 1892 the Galesburg Electric Motor & Power Company had absorbed the horse car lines and begun electric operations, with route extensions gradually expanding the size of the system over the ensuing 25 years.  In 1903 the system was sold to the McKinley Syndicate, whose subsidiary Illinois Traction System (ITS) operated a network of interurban lines and several city systems in Illinois, and was soon rechristened the Galesburg Railway & Light Company.  Route expansions and equipment acquisition continued and by the end of World War I the company was operating 36 streetcars over 21.6 miles of track.

It was right at this time that the ITS was energetically working to modernize the fleets of its various city operations, and in 1919 the GRL&P was granted permission to operate one-man streetcars in Galesburg.  An order for 20 Birney cars, numbered 1-20, was placed with the American Car Company and the new cars arrived in January 1921.  Although automobile competition was affecting passenger levels, expansions continued; a rural line to nearby Abingdon was purchased from People’s Traction Company in 1923.  Shortly thereafter, a corporate reorganization of the ITS changed the ownership of the Galesburg street railway system.  It was now a subsidiary of Illinois Power & Light Company (IP&L) and lost its GRL&P name, becoming simply the IP&L Galesburg Division.

Galesburg Birney 12 is shown in service in the only currently-known photo of a Birney in operation in Galesburg.  Stephen Scalzo Collection.

The Galesburg lines, only marginally profitable even in the best of times, continued to lose passengers.  A review undertaken by IP&L concluded that the company could not justify major capital investment, such as that required when streets were to be repaved and the railway company was required to rebuild its tracks.  It became company policy to abandon streetcar lines as repaving projects arose.

In 1924 the eight-mile line to Knoxville was suspended, reinstated briefly in 1925, then permanently abandoned in favor of buses in 1926.  Meanwhile the line to Abingdon, bought only two years earlier, was abandoned in 1925.  The following year saw one of the busier Galesburg routes, the North Broad Street line, partially converted to bus, followed by the rest of the North Broad Street line and the Clark Street line in 1928.  By this time the 20-car Birney fleet had been reduced to 14 cars; three had been transferred to the IP&L Jacksonville Division in 1927 and three more sold to Jefferson City, Missouri in 1928.  By mid-1929 ridership had fallen off so much that only eight of the 14 cars were required to hold down service.

The Galesburg lines requested regulatory authority to abandon all streetcar operations in mid-1930 but the request was declined; however by the following summer it was clear that streetcar service was doomed and authority to abandon the street railway system in Galesburg was granted.  The last cars ran on April 30, 1931 and the wires were all down within a week.

The fourteen remaining Galesburg Birney cars were stored on a siding east of the car barn for nearly a year, until in February 1932 the cars were all transferred to the IP&L Alton Division.  Alton, a city on the east bank of the Mississippi just north of St. Louis, had been an early adopter of street railways.  Its first horse car line had been built in 1867, steam dummy service had begun in 1889, and its first electric streetcars had been put into service in 1895 by the Alton Railway & Illuminating Company.

In 1904 the Alton Granite & St. Louis (AG&SL) had been formed to take over the Alton city system, then consisting of 16 miles of track and 18 streetcars, and to build a suburban electric line south along the Illinois bank of the river to East St. Louis.  Lines were built to Edwardsville and to East St. Louis via East Alton and Granite City.  Acquisition of the AG&SL by the East St. Louis & Suburban in 1906 meant that the streetcar fleet in Alton grew in size, the beneficiary of various cars transferred in from other ESL&S routes, however the AG&SL was still operated as an independent company.

As in Galesburg, decreasing ridership hit the AG&SL hard following World War I; the company went into receivership in August 1920.  The receiver pledged to put the funds raised by a hasty fare hike into property improvements and, like so many smaller street railways, one obvious way to improve operations was to purchase Birney cars.  Ten Birney cars were purchased from the American Car Company in 1921 and the older cars kept in service were converted to one-man operation.

Alton Birney 163 is seen in operation in 1933, not long after it was acquired from the Galesburg system.  Stephen Scalzo Collection.

Ridership continued to fall; the State Hospital line was abandoned in 1925 and in 1926 the courts ordered that the AG&SL, still in receivership, be broken up.  The Alton Railway Company took over city operations, with 28 streetcars operating over 20 miles of track.  In 1930, the operation was purchased by IP&L, by which time operations had been reduced to 19 cars operating over 15.6 miles of track.  Then in March 1931 the Alton system was sold again, this time to the newly-formed Illinois Terminal Transportation Company (ITTC), a subsidiary of the Illinois Terminal Railroad.

Alton car 172 in operation during the 1930s.  Robert E. Bruneau Collection.

The ITTC purchased the 14 Galesburg Birney cars, which were in better condition than the ten worn-out Alton Birneys, and moved them to Alton to maintain service there.  The cars were renumbered into the 160-173 series, with Galesburg car 7 becoming Alton car 170.  It was only a matter of time, though, as ridership continued to fall during the depths of the Depression.  Buses replaced streetcars on parts of Broadway, College Avenue and Washington Street in 1933 and the Middletown line was abandoned at the end of the year.  By 1935 only eight of the Birney cars were needed to hold down service and in early 1936 authority to abandon all streetcar service in Alton was granted.  The last Birney ran on August 27, 1936.

Alton Birney 169 is at Alby & 6th Streets on Memorial Day 1935, only a year or so before the end of streetcar service in Alton.  Stephen Scalzo Collection.

The remaining Alton Birneys were operated under power, with disabled cars being towed by operating ones, to LaClede Steel to be scrapped.  The one car that escaped scrapping was car 170, the body of which was removed from its running gear and given to the Illinois Terminal Railroad.  The Birney body was transferred to downtown St. Louis, where it was placed in the subway at the entrance to the IT St. Louis terminal for use as a yard office and storage locker for the railroad’s employees.

Car 170 remained there underground for over 20 years, longer than it had been used in regular service and twice as long as either of its previous assignments.  During World War II and the decline of IT interurban service in the 1950s, the Birney body sat neglected alongside the tracks at the St. Louis terminal.  It was used for storage and as a yard office.

In 1957, soon after Illinois Terminal interurban service had ended and with only the suburban operation to Granite City remaining of the once-mighty IT traction empire, the forlorn Birney got a reprieve.  Members of the Illinois Electric Railway Museum in North Chicago purchased the car body.  It was the first car body ever acquired by the museum, but it was acquired with the intention of fitting it with the truck, motors, and mechanical equipment off of a Birney that was being used by the Cleveland Transit System as a work car.  This car, CTS 0800, had been built in 1920 for the Mahoning & Shenango and was bought by Cleveland Railway in 1934 to use as a rail grinder.  Transferred to the CTS rapid transit line in the mid-1950s, it was due to be scrapped in 1958.  IRM arranged with the scrappers to cut up the body and hold out the truck, motors and equipment for the museum, but in an unfortunate mistake the instructions got garbled.  Museum personnel discovered that the scrappers had cut up the motors, wheels and much of the truck.  Though some of the components needed for car 170 were saved, IRM ended up with only an incomplete “kit” of a truck along with some miscellaneous parts.

Car 170 is shown at North Chicago in December 1957, six months after acquisition, stored on cribbing.  On the right is North Shore 354 while behind it is wooden elevated trailer 1268.  Both have since been restored.  Don Ross Collection.

As a stopgap, car 170 was soon fitted with a Brill 21E truck salvaged from Mason City & Clear Lake 35.  Though incorrect for this car, the 21E was used on many pre-Birney single-truck cars.  Unfortunately the museum was never able to find a correct 79E truck, so the car still sits on the 21E truck it has had since its North Chicago days.  The car was moved out to Union, IL along with the rest of the Illinois Railway Museum collection in 1964 and was generally stored outdoors until Barn 7 was built in 1985, when it was moved into indoor storage and given a coat of Traction orange.  Bob Bruneau rebuilt about half of the car’s side windows around this time, and installed a set of seats in the car, but other than that no significant restoration work was done.  The car has been on display in either Barn 7 or Barn 8 for the past three decades in its incomplete and painted, partially lettered state.

It’s 1967 and car 170 is in Yard 1, the current location of 50th Avenue Station, with what appears to be Milwaukee 966 to the left and Sand Springs 68 in the right background.  Don Ross Collection.

However, the car has been far from forgotten.  It has periodically been the recipient of efforts to collect parts for an eventual restoration, including door motors salvaged out of a Birney body in Aurora, Illinois and new-build 79E truck parts procured in cooperation with other museums around 2010.  GE 265 motors similar to what the car had originally are on hand, as are most of the other mechanical and electrical parts that would be needed to fully restore the car, and if the remaining missing truck components could be replicated – as well as a pair of wheel sets, which would be no small task – then the car could be placed on the correct truck and would be substantially complete.

The body of car 170 has suffered from some rust, but overall is in fair condition.  The side sheets are rusted out along the floor line and the floor would likely need partial replacement.  The roof was tarpapered for most of the car’s life outdoors and this prevented much damage to the interior woodwork.  The condition of the wooden roof is uncertain but it is likely that some wood replacement would be necessary if the car were to be restored.  All windows are present however the car’s original doors are missing; the doors currently fitted to the car, dating to its days in the St. Louis subway, are from scrapped Illinois Terminal interurban cars.

When it was located in St. Louis the car was a stripped shell, but most of the parts needed for car 170’s restoration have been procured by IRM.  Seats were found and are currently located in the car.  Controllers and brake equipment are in storage, as are motors and an air compressor which can be used under the car.  Some components, including doors, steps and resistance grids, are missing but have been replicated for other projects in the past.  The largest missing item, of course, is the 79E truck, for which only some parts are on hand.  Journal boxes were fabricated around 2010 and other replacement castings are currently being sourced, of which wheel-and-axle sets would be the most expensive to obtain.

Car 170 in its current state, shown during switching in December 2009.  Photo by Randy Hicks.

Built: American Car Company, 1921, order #1263

Length over bumpers: 27’10”
Width overall: 8’3”
Height overall: 11’10”
Height over running board: 10’0”
Height rail to floor: 2’4”
Total weight: 18,250 lbs

Seating capacity: 30
Fare register: International
Heaters: C.C.H.Co. single coil type

Motors: WH 508A (2)
Controllers: K-10Q (2)
Truck: Brill 79E
Wheelbase: 8’0”
Wheel diameter: 26”
Journal size: 3”x6”

Brakes: SME
Motorman’s valve: M28
Air compressor: DH-16
Emergency valve: E1
Governor: S6B
Brake cylinder: 8”x12”

Galesburg livery: unknown two-tone color scheme

Alton livery: Traction orange; tile red doors, windows, roof; black lettering, underbody; white herald with carmine red background

Information on the acquisition of, and early restoration work on, car 170 does appear in several issues of Rail & Wire, the Illinois Railway Museum’s newsletter, from the period.

Issue #2, March 1957 – “A Birney in Sight At Last”

At a special meeting of the Board of Directors on March 2nd, approval was granted for purchase in whole or in part of Cleveland Transit System #0800.  This is the last Birney owned by an American transit system and was used as a rail grinder.  Since the body is not in the best of condition, it was felt that the truck and electrical equipment could be applied to one of the many bodies in this area.  Actual purchase is dependant on financial ability.  Larry Goerges has started the ball rolling by pledging $100.  Any more contributors?

Issue #3, April 1957 – “More on the Birney”

The Illinois Terminal has offered to sell us a Birney body for $50 if we will move it from Saint Louis.  It looks more and more in favor of our finally having a Birney.  Our biggest need is financial aid.  Now about some donations to the Birney fund?

Issue #5, June 1957 – “Another Car”

Last month we mentioned that it looked as if we would have a Birney.  We got it!!  On June 9th, a semi-tractor and trailer rolled into North Chicago after a day and a half trip from Saint Louis with our Birney.  Upon arrival it didn’t look like much as it had almost two decades of accumulated dirt from the Illinois Terminal subway where it had been used as a yard office.  After it had been unloaded on cribbing, members went to work on it with a hose and a couple of boxes of Soilax.  It wasn’t too long before it began to glisten in Traction Orange with maroon trim.  Even the old number from Alton came through-170.  Since then, a headlight has been installed and broken windows have been replaced.  Negotiations are going forward on purchase of parts from the Cleveland Transit System #0800 rail grinder Birney.

On June 29th, a group travelled to Long Lake, Wisconsin, to strip the body of North Shore Birney #333 which has been used as a shed since 1949.  This was in the nick of time as the owner plans to burn the 333 for scrap in the immediate future.  A number of necessary fittings were secured as were a few other usable parts for some of our other cars.  The group consisted of Larry Goerges, Dave Shore, Joe Barth, Jim Becker, and Don Ross.  The mosquitoes of the area were happy to see such a large group out for supper.

The gang involved in moving the 170 from Saint Louis included Don Leistikow, Walt Murphy, Larry Goerges, Dave Shore, Tom Jervan, and Don Ross.  Thanks also go to the two drivers from Geuder Paeschke & Frey who handled the big job of wheeling the truck over 700 miles.

Issue #6, September 1957 – “Birney”

As reported in our last issue we have now purchased Birney #0800 from Cleveland.  Howie Odinius and Walt Murphy went down to Cleveland to scrap the car and save the parts we need.  Unfortunately, after their departure the scrap dealer took more than he was authorized and then refused to pay for what he had taken.  This is a case of really being taken to the cleaners.  Walt, who doubles in brass as Counsel, is now taking legal steps to recover what is rightfully ours.

Issue #10, December 1958 – “North Chicago Notes”

170 – Status quo.  The search is still going on for a truck for our Birney.  Meanwhile it is serving as additional storage space, and it too is overcrowded.

Issue #20, July-August 1962 – “Car Progress Report”

Lastly, work has commenced on preserving Illinois Terminal #170, our Birney.  Warren Cobb spent several Saturdays removing the rust, stains, etc. from her sides and has primed and painted orange everything below the belt rails.  The windows have been cleaned, reglazed and painted yellow.  The doors, which are not correct for the car, have been given a fast cleaning and one is painted red with yellow window trim – the other to match soon.  We are perhaps a step closer to restoration of this car.  July 27 and 28 Bob Bruneau and Warren Cobb drove a truck to Mason City, Iowa where they picked up a Brill 21E truck from the Iowa Terminal Railroad, belonging to the Connecticut Electric Railway Ass’n.  This truck has the proper journal boxes for the Birney and it is hoped they may be exchanged for some others we have at the Museum.  Suffice it to say that those were long, long miles, all 750 of them.

Issue #25, May-June 1963 – “Car Progress Report”

Illinois Terminal #170: Long left unattended because of the substation, this car has received only a little work until a week ago.  Cobb had replaced the headlight and repainted the south end windows, posts, etc.  On the 4th, Bob Bruneau and Warren Cobb removed everything from the roof to start the job of rebuilding.  One small spot was found where the roof had been on fire – possibly caused by a trolley wire break, way back in the days.

Issue #26, July-August 1963 – “Car Progress Report”

The Birney car (#170) now sports a new roof – of sorts.  Warren Cobb, with plenty of assistance from Bob Bruneau, “stripped” the roof of vents, etc. and has replaced about half of the roof boards with new 3/8 plywood, a not unpleasant task with Miss Ellyn Rogge helping with the painting.  The roof is now covered with 30 lb. felt paper, and to date has sprung no leaks.

Issue #27, September-October 1963 – “Car Progress Report”

The last little item of car progress is the completion of the exterior woodwork on IT #170, our Birney.  Ye editor has one letterboard to go and the exterior will be complete, but with a new felt paper roof, the car now faces the winter in better shape than in many years.

Bruneau, Robert E. Interview by author.  Telephone. Chicago, IL., June 6, 2013.

Bruneau, Robert E., Warren Cobb, and Don Ross. “Car Progress Report” et al. Rail & Wire, various issues (1957-1963).

Car Inventory RecordSt. Louis, Missouri: Illinois Terminal Railroad System, 1932.

Cox, Harold E.  The Birney Car. Harold E. Cox, 1966.

Scalzo, Stephen M., “The Alton Streetcar Story,” Hicks Car Works, accessed May 29, 2013.

Scalzo, Stephen M., “The Galesburg Streetcar Story,” Hicks Car Works, accessed May 21, 2013.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Knoxville Streetcar

A poet looks at the streetcars of Knoxville:

People go by; things go by....  
A streetcar raising its iron moan; stopping, belling and starting; stertorous; rousing and raising again its iron increasing moan and swimming its gold windows and straw seats on past and past and past, the bleak spark crackling and cursing above it like a small malignant spirit set to dog its tracks; the iron whine rises on rising speed; still risen, faints ; halts, the faint stinging bell; rises again, still fainter, fainting, lifting, lifts, faints forgone: forgotten.
  Now is the night one blue dew.

From "A Death In the Family" by James Agee.  This passage was even set to music by Samuel Barber as part of his song "Knoxville: Summer of 1915". Your IRM Classical Music Department recommends the recording by Eleanor Steber with the composer conducting.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Into the Sunlight At Last

Car 36 finally made it outside today to show off its new paint scheme, during a needed switch move.  Basically it looks very good, although there are several things still missing.  The most obvious is the lettering on the letterboard, which I still hope to do before the pageant.  Then there's the side sills and end bumpers, and the car itself needs poles and bases.  And on the other side, all the windows and doors need to be repainted.  But we're getting there.  

Here's the obligatory 3/4 shot with the 309 in the background.  I had wanted to do this switch job yesterday, but a thunderstorm was approaching fast so we had to put the 308-319 back into the barn as quickly as possible.

Here's what the four-car train will look like.  This picture is a little deceptive: the train isn't actually made up, since I need another control jumper, and there are some problems with the control pipe gladhands.  But those will be addressed soon.  And it turns out we have just enough room for all four cars between Central Ave. and the connector switch. 

A few years ago I wrote a post lamenting that "Blue Is Going Out of Style".  That's no longer true!

Time For Some Canvass Work

Frank writes...

Sunday was an "all hands on deck" day for the Hicks blog team; as mentioned previously, my father was a trainman on the CA&E wood train while David and Al were running the streetcar.  I spent most of the day working on the replacement grid box for the 309 with the assistance of Dan Fenlaciki (shown below).  The components of the grid box had been previously assembled with the exception of the taps, which I procured from the electrical parts car and sand-blasted.  Then Dan and I painstakingly assembled the new grid box.  The old grid box came off pretty easily, but mounting the new one was a pain due mainly to a couple of the mounting bolts being ever-so-slightly bent.  With the use of the jack out of my automobile and a few choice phrases uttered when not in earshot of the public, we finally got it in place.  Dan works for Metra doing car maintenance, so his help was invaluable!

Afterwards we uncoupled the 309 from the 36, ran it back and forth on track 84 in the barn a few times to check for any arcs or sparks (there were none), and coupled it back up to the 36.  The original plan was to swap the order of the wood cars late in the day, so that the 309-36 were at the barn door and the 319-308 were buried, but a late afternoon line of thunderstorms came through and the service train had to scurry back to the barn.  The car order will be swapped later in the week.

In other news, you've read before on this blog about canvas, but what about a canvass?  I've recently started working on compiling a public survey of the museum's visitors.  This survey is not meant to be a customer satisfaction survey but rather is compiling information on how effective our advertising is as well as collecting e-mail addresses so that we can stay in touch with our visitors after they leave.  Dave Diamond has been tremendously helpful with this and procured a pair of survey collection boxes which I outfitted with signage - and, in the case of the one in the diner annex, a gently used stool.  As shown below, these boxes are being placed in the diner annex and in the main station; visitors will be handed a yellow survey form when they purchase their ticket and can fill them out at their leisure.  Attention operating crews: if you could remind your riders to fill out their surveys it would be much appreciated; mentioning this just before the train returns to the station from Jefferson Street is probably ideal when possible.  Thanks!!

And now for our Quiz of the Day.  The below photo was taken in which of the following:

a) IRM's new 1940s-themed cocktail lounge
b) one of United's new Boeing 787 airliners
c) Nick's living room
d) the Electro-Cafe
If you guessed (d) you were right!  Late in the afternoon I briefly helped a crew including Joe and Gwyn Stupar, Greg Kepka, Dan Fenlaciki and Warren Lloyd with moving some parts in our North Shore Electroliner.  The cafe car, shown here, and one of the end cars will be open for public viewing on North Shore Day, July 7th, one day after the "Trolleypalooza" super-pageant.  Don't miss it!

And finally, in keeping with the recent poetry theme on the Hicks Blog, David employs one of the new survey boxes to reenact Casey at the Bat.  Who says we're not erudite?

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Mark Your Calendar

 The CA&E wood cars were scheduled to run yesterday but didn't, due to the rain.  Today worked out much better.  And the air was pulsating with excitement over several upcoming events.

The 308 and 319 were in revenue service most of the day.  Jeff Obarek was the motorman, Sam Polonetzky the conductor, and I was a trainman.  We had a good crowd of visitors.  No crew pictures, however -- it was rather hot and humid, so we weren't quite dressed to the nines.  Jeff refused to put on his overalls, I refused to wear my jacket, and so on.  But otherwise a good time was had by all.  Operation was slightly different from usual because the Track Dept. are working on the mainline, so westbound trains had to come in on Station 2 to unload, then go west to transfer back to Station 1 to load for the next trip.  

Meanwhile David and Al were running the 3142.  You'll have to take my word for it, but here Al is running the car piloted by David.  And Frank got a lot done: he assembled a new grid box for the 309, and then installed and tested it with the help of Dan Fenlaciki, for which we are most grateful.  We were once again too busy for a round of "Hail, Hail, the Gang's All Here" today, unfortunately.

You need to mark your calendar. Now.  Flip over to July -- ready?  First, of course, is the world's biggest Trolley Pageant on Saturday, July 6th.  We plan to have 60 cars running to celebrate IRM's 60th anniversary.  If that doesn't wear you out, the next day will be our commemoration of 50 years since the end of passenger service on the North Shore Line.  You won't want to miss it.  The North Shore was inconsiderate enough to abandon service in January, so we've moved it to July for your convenience.  You're welcome.

And then, on Sunday, July 14th, will be the Steam Department Benefit at the San Filippo Estate in Barrington.  If you haven't been there before, you're in for a real treat!  If you have been, this year promises to be even better than before.  I was talking to Jeff Calendine of the Steam Dept., brother of organist Dave Calendine, and he mentioned some aspects of this year's benefit you'll have to be there to appreciate!

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Halsted Street Car

      COME you, cartoonists,
      Hang on a strap with me here
      At seven o’clock in the morning
      On a Halsted street car.
            Take your pencils        
            And draw these faces.
Try with your pencils for these crooked faces,
That pig-sticker in one corner—his mouth—
That overall factory girl—her loose cheeks.
            Find for your pencils        
            A way to mark your memory
            Of tired empty faces.
            After their night’s sleep,
            In the moist dawn
            And cool daybreak,        
            Tired of wishes,
            Empty of dreams.

Carl Sandburg, Chicago Poems, 1916

Friday, June 21, 2013

Danbury Railway Museum

On our recent trip we made a quick tour of the Danbury Railway Museum in Danbury, Conn.  The museum occupies the old New Haven station in Danbury, as well as most of the railroad yard. 

I didn't get a picture of the station building, but inside there are several interesting displays and several model railroad layouts, some of which operate.  In order to get to the equipment stored in the yard, you have to cross the active tracks used by the commuter trains.

The museum operates excursion trains down the length of the yard, a couple thousand feet.  Sometimes this RDC is used, I believe.

New Haven MU cars.

And this, of course, is an FL-9 in the McGinnis paint scheme.  I guess if it has third rail shoes it can't be all bad.

This wrecker from Grand Central Terminal is quite impressive.

Their one steam locomotive is this B&M 2-6-0, nicely displayed.

And there's lots more.  The museum's website has more information.  There is currently no inside storage for any of the equipment, but they are conducting a capital campaign to raise $1,000,000 to build and equip a six-stall roundhouse.

And I suppose I should mention that the people we talked to were all helpful and informative.

Finally, there's this whimsical "Insulator Garden."  I guess they only grow in rocky soil.