Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Trolley Poles

The big news for today is that the 36 now has trolley poles.  It looks much better, like a motor car should.  There was a choice between installing the poles in the barn and doing it on the pit lead outside, and a combination of the damp weather and the hassle involved in getting the car over to the pit lead and back meant that the decision was taken in favor of the barn.

Unfortunately these bases have no latches, so they need to be held in the more-or-less down position with wood blocks as wedges.  So a long, but not too long, piece of pipe is placed in the base and pushed down against the springs until the correct blocks drop into place.  If you're lucky.  The other nice thing about doing this in the barn is that there's nobody around to watch things go wrong, offer unwanted advice, or make snide comments.  (Not that my fellow volunteers ever do such things, but there's always a first time.)  When the base is blocked correctly, the pole can be inserted and clamped into place.  By the way, of course the power to the barn is carefully locked out first!  And I should mention that this project couldn't have been completed without the help of Rod Turner and Joel Ahrendt.

After that was complete, the weather had improved a little, and I was able to switch the cars around for revenue service.  The old reliables, 308 and 309, should be running this Sunday for the Vintage Transport Extravaganza, and the train was made up and checked.

It will look like this.  Who among us doesn't like antique automobiles too?  This is, they say, the largest antique car show in Illinois each year, so don't miss it!   By the way, we still need two trainmen for Sunday, so sign up now while you still can.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Beep, Beep

 The list of things that need to be done for the 36 to run under its own power is steadily getting shorter.  One item is that we need to be able to connect the wires from the car to the motors correctly.

Ordinarily this should not be a problem.  On our other cars, it looks like this.  There are four (or five) wires from the control system motor circuits that are carefully arranged from left to right, clamped between two pieces of wood.  They terminate in quick disconnect hands.  The motor leads then attach to these wires from left to right, and as seen here on the 309, it's very straightforward.

But guess what: our esteemed colleagues in Cleveland decided to remove the wires from the clamps, for some occult reason, so that it's no longer obvious what order they were in.  Thanks, guys!  Here we see the leads to motor #2 hanging from the car, after I'd traced out the circuits and labeled them.

Now in order to trace the circuits, we ordinarily use what is called a ringer, which consists of a large battery and a doorbell ringer, with two long test leads.  If the two leads are electrically connected, the bell rings.  Last time we looked, however, the one working ringer had gone missing, so I decided to make a temporary replacement with what I had lying around.

 In my case, what I had lying around was a spare 15V transformer and American Flyer's version of a Diesel horn.  Actually, it's just an anemic beep, not very convincing as an air horn.  But it's fine for this particular purpose.  And in no time, we have a way to trace out motor circuits -- just listen for the beeps.  You need to plug it into AC, but otherwise it's just as good as a battery-powered ringer.  The components are carefully packed in a small box to protect them.

It turned out that the wiring of the reverser to the motors was not what I expected, but will work perfectly well, of course.  I then worked on getting the leads arranged back into the clamps in the correct order.  The tubes which should cover the disconnect are missing, and were replaced with electrical tape, so that's another thing to take care of.  But I should soon be able to hook up the motors when we're ready.

While I was out of town last weekend, Rod took care of removing the harps from the spare poles and installing them on the new poles we'll use for the car.  I installed the shoes and attached the shunts, and here we see a before and after picture of what these harps look like.  They were later painted with primer, and the poles will be ready to go onto the car anytime.

And then I did more stripping and repainting on the truss rods, as before.

In other exciting news, Tim Peters informed me that the E&B right-of-way through Camp Epworth is now up for sale for back taxes.  The price is something like $800, yes, less than a thousand.  I myself am not interested in starting my own competing museum along the old E&B, but if you are, Tim can help you out.  He'll be glad to show you the door.

Friday, July 26, 2013

In All Directions, Pt. 2

 On Thursday, the remaining trolley hook was installed, and all connections tightened.  Also, we had decided to remove the brush holders from the old compressor, for possible use in getting the new one to work.  In particular, the various insulator parts may come in handy.  The compressor without the brushes looks like this.  The old brush holders are badly corroded, and one of them has a brush jammed in it that I was unable to remove.

And I spent some time stripping old paint and rust from the truss rod.  These truss rods have had a hard life.

Meanwhile, out around the property, big changes are being made with new drainage and roadway construction underway.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

In All Directions

In order to see the progress at IRM, you need to look in all directions.

First, look down.  Here we are under the 36.  It's not very comfortable, but this is where all the mechanical and electrical systems are located.  The new grid box recently assembled by Frank is hoisted into place, using our special contactor hoist with a piece of Masonite to adapt it for use with the larger grid box.  Al helped me get it installed, and then we made the connections and tested out the motor circuit.  This revealed a couple of loose connections I hadn't noticed before.  Our buddies at Cleveland had loosened up several connections to the grids, for some infernal reason, and left them that way.  The parts then rusted, of course, and so some work was required to correct that.  But we should now be getting power to the motors on all points.

Next, look up.  Can't see his face, but whoever it is, he's tightening the bolts to hold the trolley bases and hooks to the running boards.  This is another big step towards making the car run under its own power.

Later that day, it's a beautiful evening out at the farm, so let's go for a walk and look around.  The clouds are delightful.  And I couldn't do this if I tried, but you'll notice one of our little winged friends is right in the middle of the picture.

Let's look to the south.  This will eventually be the right-of-way for a streetcar line extension.  (And while I was out there, I also checked on the 321.)

And as anybody who's been out to the Museum recently has probably noticed, the foundation has been laid for a new parts storage building at the southwest corner of the property.  This building will be expanded as money becomes available.

And meanwhile, our contractor has been hard at work on drainage and preparation for new streets in the area west of the steam shop.  This is the new retention pond.

If we look just slightly left, to the north, the Schroeder Store comes into view.

 And as I wandering about in the twilight, I noticed the Steam Shop was open.  Tom and several others were taking a break, but they were working late into the evening on the 1630.  This is a huge project, and they're doing everything they can to complete it.

Well, that was Wednesday.  Thursday will have to wait until tomorrow.

Crane Training

Everybody likes railroad cranes, at least if you're reading this blog, I bet.  They're always fascinating to watch in action.  And let's face it, you've always wanted to be able to pick up something big and heavy with a crane.  Mark Secco has spent a lifetime doing so safely, and now he's ready to share his knowledge with you.  He asked me to pass along the info on the crane safety training course he's offering.  Read the course outline below, and send Marko your name, email, and/or phone number.  You too can be an operator!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

36 Report

Several things were accomplished by Al Reinschmidt and me.  We drilled out rivets in several trolley poles, so that the correct harps can be installed on the two that have been selected for use on the car.  Then Al helped me mount and connect the rebuilt grid box.  I bolted both trolley bases in place.  We also tested the motor circuit.  This identified a couple of loose connections, and after some work, these were fixed.  The control circuits and motor circuits now appear to be ready for service.  I won't be able to post pictures until tomorrow.  Check back then!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Before You Know It...

.... Labor Day will be here.  Not really, of course.  We still have more than a month to go.  But if you plan ahead, unlike myself, you have several good reasons to make sure you get to IRM over the Labor Day weekend.  It's IRM's "Railroad Extravaganza" and there are special events planned.

Such as operating steam!  There should be two, count 'em, two operating steam locomotives visiting us over the weekend.  There will be the 4-4-0 Leviathan, which has been to IRM before, and the Lehigh Valley Coal Co. #126, an 0-6-0, which hasn't.  You can find out more about these engines at the Kloke Locomotive Works site and the Gramling Locomotive Works site ("Have Engine, Will Travel").  Traveling locomotives like these add variety and interest to our operations, and may well be the wave of the future.

And meanwhile, as you should know if you've been following the department blogs as we have instructed you to do, our own Steam Team are working heroically to make the 1630 operational again.  There are no guarantees in this difficult business, but they are making good progress.  So keep your fingers crossed, don't walk under any ladders, and so on.

And the Zephyr is scheduled to operate on Sunday and Monday.  The CA&E wood cars should be operating, along with several other things, so if you have planned to be anywhere else that weekend, you have made a serious mistake.  But we are hereby giving you enough time to correct that mistake, I hope!

P.S.  We still need crewmen for all four days.  You'll have a great time being part of this Extravaganza.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Grid Box Deja Vu

Frank writes...

I was out at IRM on Sunday working on grid boxes again... wasn't I doing this last month?  Anyway, this time it was reassembling a grid box for the 36 that had been taken apart by others a few months back.  As we are now pushing to get the car running this year, it was decided that we may be wanting this grid box at some point soon.

So above is the completed project.  All of the box frame painting had already been done but I wire-wheeled contact faces on grid elements, procured one needed replacement mica tube, and also hunted down some miscellaneous hardware.  The elements in this box ended up being "shorter" than in the other one; when taken off of the car there was about 1-1/2" of mica washers at the near end of the box acting as spacers, but Rod recommended using steel pipe and steel washers instead so as to be able to tighten down the box better.  So we did that, with Rod cutting the pipe to length.  With a quick lift from Ahrendt Taxi Services over to Barn 8, the box was deposited at the 36 so that it can be installed.
And above is a Pyrene fire extinguisher that was donated.  This may end up in one of the CA&E cars; it's not exactly the right type but is very close, and will be a good stand-in for the foreseeable future.  Little touches like having original-type fire extinguishers in the cars can really add to the rider's overall experience, I think.
I was in the office doing paperwork for much of the Diesel Parade but I did make it up to Car Line Junction in time to see one of this year's more unusual pieces, Milwaukee Road E-9 37A, shown above.  This locomotive hasn't run in 19 years, or so I was told, but was motoring on one of its two engines for the parade.  The Parade of Power is always quite a show!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Diesel Days

Chuck Amstein, our staff photographer, has come through again with a great set of pictures from Saturday's Diesel Days Parade.  To see the pictures, click here.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

We'll Give You the Air!

Today was the annual Diesel Pageant, and the weather was better, so we had a good crowd of visitors.  I was unable to watch the pageant myself, but we may have more about it later.

We would never actually give you the air, of course -- that would be rude.  But the car has to give us the air to make the brake system (and whistles) work, so today was mostly spent working on the air system.  Al and I installed a correct governor in the 36 last year, but the wires were never connected, so I spent some time doing that and then testing the wiring to make sure the compressor will work correctly.  The next big task is to replace the current compressor, which is probably unsalvageable, with a rebuilt one.

Then I had to fix an obtrusive air leak under the #2 end.  This was traced to a loose union that could not be tightened, and after replacing it, the leak disappeared.  This took a while, at some cost to my personal appearance, and friends accused me of stealing dirt from the Museum.  But if we're going to dish out dirt on the web, we've got to collect it first, don't we?

I also tested the two retrievers that came with the car.  One works OK, but the other apparently has a broken retrieve spring, so I need to trade it in to Joel for a working one.  Joel also will be finding the parts for the trolley poles (harps and shoes) that I need.

By the way, Joel also told me of an amazing offer -- free oil change!  Just run your car over the pit, and you can have the compressor oil drained and changed -- for free!  You can't beat that with any local oil dealer!

The next thing was to clean and lubricate the triple.  Here it is on the bench.  This cylinder cap is much different from any of the others.  Looking through my Westinghouse manual, the cap is an early version of the emergency or quick action system.  Later caps are much smaller.  I was unable to disassemble it, but it was washed out with solvent and oiled lightly, and later tested.

The rest of this M2A is pretty normal.  The slide valve and graduating valve parts were a little dirty, but not badly worn, and they appear to lap well.  So they were cleaned and lubricated, and the valve was reassembled.  The old gasket had failed and was replaced, and everything tested out fine when installed on the car.  (In this case, the air was graciously being supplied by a friendly neighbor, the 308.)

And Rich Witt has started painting some of the first aid boxes with white primer.  They'll look great.

Of course, apart from the pageant, there were lots of things happening in every direction.  Be sure to keep up with the department blogs.   It's never a dull day out at IRM!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Heat Is On

Nobody gets left out in the cold at IRM, at least during a heat wave like this one.  We have a nice air-conditioned shop facility in which to work, but that goes only so far.  Railroad cars don't fit into the shop.

Working outside can be brutal.  But we watch over each other and make sure everybody's drinking plenty of water and taking breaks as needed.  The heat must have fried my usual sense of concern for you, the viewer, since I failed to take many pictures of what was happening.  But I can describe most of them.

The first thing on Wednesday was to switch the 36 over the pit.  The brakes badly needed adjusting, but that went smoothly and the system now works much better.  Adjustment changed the standing travel from 7+" to about 3 3/4", just about right. 

And I inspected the motors.  They were rebuilt at an electrical shop in Cleveland and look great.  Pole clearance is fine, the commutators are beautiful, etc.

After the 36 and 309 were at the pit, a string of five freight cars was switched onto the lead for inspection, which occupied many of the freight car guys all day.

 I also put a finish coat of silver on the two trolley poles and hook.  And went to the container to collect parts, but it's unbearably hot inside, so I didn't get very far.

And Rich Witt now has assembled the first complete first aid box, and it's ready for paint.  See the department blog for more details. 

 On Thursday the 36 was brought back on the pit lead so that the two trolley bases could be lifted onto the roof.  Rod ran the big forklift, of course.  The base is just perched on one fork.  It looks rather precarious, but with the right person at the controls (not shown) it goes quickly and smoothly.  I can climb onto the roof and pull the base into position with little difficulty. 

The bases need to be bolted down at some point, before the poles are inserted, but we have all the parts.  Another big step forward.

And there was some more cleaning and painting of parts for the grid box we're planning to rebuild.  I showed Pete Galayda the various parts on Wednesday, and he thinks we can probably reuse pretty much everything from the original box (apart from the melted grid elements, of course.)   So progress on the 36 is more than satisfactory.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Visit to Washington

Frank writes...

Over the weekend business took me to Washington - Pennsylvania, that is.  The Pennsylvania Trolley Museum is one of the more successful trolley museums in the country and has been very good at putting their collection under cover, drawing school groups, attracting business from parties and business organizations, and generally raising their profile as a major tourist attraction in the Pittsburgh area.  PTM is unusual in that it operates on 5'2.5" gauge, which was used by most Pittsburgh and Philadelphia area traction lines.

Bruce Wells is one of their regular volunteers and maintains a blog of activities at PTM here.  He was nice enough to show me some of the progress being made at PTM including restoration work on their West Penn curve-side car, the only Cincinnati curve-side that was preserved intact, as well as a major effort he's engaged in to document, preserve and reproduce advertising cards.  As shown above, I also got to go for a ride on the museum's open car.  This car was originally from Rio de Janeiro and, when in service, would have looked quite a bit like IRM's Rio open car.  Ours would need a bit of work to look this nice, though!
Another highlight was seeing the new Artifact Preservation Building going up at PTM, shown above framed out.  This building is about 40'x220' and is designed to house the museum's collection of spare parts - motors, control parts, air brake and mechanical components, you name it.  The middle of the building will have two storage tracks on 10' centers for storage of "long-term project" cars (the building will not be connected to the rest of the museum's trackage) while the walls will be lined with heavy-duty shelving.  The entire building will be paved to ease access to stored items.  Along one side of the building (to the right in the photo) is an open-sided lean-to where trucks can be stored, out of direct weather but also easily accessed if needed.  It's a well-planned building with an enviable purpose, that of safely housing the spare parts that are so important to keeping museum cars running.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Salt Lake City Preview

David writes.....

I traveled to Salt Lake City this past week to join Katy in looking for a place for us to live.  Moving day is fast approaching.  Katy was already out there, at meetings with her employer.  After arrival, I pretty much had Friday to myself, so I decided to tour Salt Lake City the way IRM's Tom Hunter recommended, via light rail and commuter train.  

Salt Lake City's light rail system is called TRAX and is operated by the Utah Transit Authority.  Currently, there are three lines in operation, with the addition of a single track "streetcar" line to the Sugarhouse neighborhood in the final stages of construction.  All three lines converge into a single trunk line just south of downtown.  Salt Lake City is different from St. Louis or Chicago in that there is a lot more outdoor activity, from mountain biking to skiing.  It seems every car has a roof rack.  People seem to be a bit more fitness-conscious.  While waiting for the train, this passenger decided to get some exercise in.  

Downtown Salt Lake City has very wide streets, originally intended to aid in the turning of wagons pulled by 8 or more horses.  When Brigham Young laid out the street grid for Salt Lake City in the 1840s, he unwittingly made it easy to run light rail down the middle of the streets.  Some TRAX lines run with three car trains, not a problem for the street trackage, as seen here.  

I rode to Salt Lake Central station, the end of the Green line, and a true multi-modal facility.  It is located about a block behind the old Rio Grande Depot and contains a Greyhound bus station, a TRAX terminal, stops for UTA's intra-city busses and is a stop on the Front Runner heavy rail line.  Front runner runs from Ogden in the north to Provo in the south.  I took a quick ride from downtown Salt Lake to Murray, just south of downtown, where I could connect back to TRAX.   The cars are fairly new, with the addition of some rebuilt Jersey Arrow cars added to each consist.  

Finally and most importantly, we managed to get a house rented.  We wanted to get a better feel for the area before we bought.  It's a little more suburban than I wanted, being located in Sandy, but it's only 2 miles away from a TRAX stop with ample parking.  

Well, I need to get back to packing.  North American shows up August 12.  There's a lot to do!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Odds and Ends

The Steam Department Benefit at Sanfilippo was another big success, and greatly enjoyed by all.  We'd posted photos of the collection in past years, but as Chuck points out, if you read the fine print they don't want pictures posted on the internet.  You have to see it in person to believe it.  I did take some candid pix of IRM members, but I think I'll hold them back for purposes of blackmail.  In other news, the 50-50 raffle drawing was won by Frank Sirinek.  Rigged!

Here is a link to a great video of the Trolley Pageant by Damin Keenan, about 30 minutes.  It's all there.

As for the "1892", I would not want to suggest that if people start offering a little money that the body might be saved.  The guys who are actually doing the work have a plan for what's going to be saved and what extra parts are needed, they make the decisions based on the available resources of time, effort, and money, and that has to be respected.  The 2153-2154 are going to represent this series of car with the actual service paint scheme.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

36 Report

 Before we get to the 36, let's take a look at our latest acquisition from the CTA.  This is an 1892 car from the South Side Rapid Transit, as one can tell from the paint scheme, and if we were to get this running, it would be by far the oldest operating car at the Museum.  But I'm told it will probably be scrapped instead.  Oh well.  I wish Dave would let me turn it into a roadside diner along Main Street, but you know how hard to satisfy he can be.

I finished repairs to the 36's control system, so that all contactors are now operating correctly.  The next thing we need is trolley poles, and Joel and I picked out two 12' poles from storage, along with the other trolley hook.  They will both need new shoes, and one at least probably needs a new harp, but this is a big step forward.  Here we see them leaning against a bracket in the barn.

  I wire-wheeled both of them in preparation for painting.

Ray Pollice helped with this project, which is much appreciated.  He also did a very good job taking the hook down to bare metal.

I painted these parts with brown primer, and next time they will be painted silver.  I also had to spend some time straightening up the container which we share with the signal display.

On Wednesday, I hope to pull the car over the pit to adjust the brakes and do some inspection, and on Thursday I've arranged to lift the trolley bases onto the roof.  So the project is progressing well.

What's wrong with this picture?

The 36's triple valve is located under a corner seat, as seen here.  At some point I'll need to clean and lubricate it.  It looks somewhat different from other M style triples, however, so I'll be interested to take it apart.

Tomorrow is the Steam Department Benefit, and now my conscience is bothering me.  Maybe I didn't talk it up much this year.  Sorry!