Monday, September 30, 2013

The Name Game

Frank writes...

I was able to make it out to IRM for a partial day on Sunday and the first order of business was to paint the Indiana Railroad's name onto the letter board of the 205.  This was originally dark green with silver outlining, like the rest of the exterior lettering on the car.  I had previously penned in double outlines, for both edges of the silver outline, so I just had to get the edge of the green area in between those double lines so that when the silver outlining is done it will cover the edge of the green.  It was slow work but certainly rewarding - it's nice to finally have this name back on the car for the first time in 72 years!
I managed to forget my camera so took the above photo with my cell phone, hence the crummy quality.  I also figured I'd snap a photo of the brief period during which IRM had a streetcar from the sub-continent.
I also took some measurements to prepare for making up "P.S.C." stencils for the car, but that was about it.  The "Doodlebug Duo," Dan and Bob, were in the wood shop working on car lines for the M35 and Joel Ahrendt was buzzing around on various errands but overall it was a pretty quiet day in the car shop.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Abandoned Branches

If it's a nice day for a walk, what could be more interesting to explore than an abandoned railroad?

When Argonne National Laboratory was started back in the 1950's, a branch line of about 1 1/2 miles was built off the Santa Fe, north up the hill to the site, for transporting building materials and equipment. It was abandoned many years ago, but substantial traces remain, including much of the track.

Most of the line was removed and made into an access road, but most of the ties and many spikes and tie plates are buried under the gravel.  The stick is pointing to a tie plate with spikes still in place.

And for whatever reason, most of the first half-mile of track remains in place, although it's buried under dirt and/or brush and hard to see.

But it's easy to get to, and not far from the walking paths.

After the Argonne branch was abandoned, a new branch line was built in the 70s westwards at this point to serve some new industrial parks, and this line is still in service.  The new line crosses over the old grade.

You can see the original line straight ahead at this point.  From here westwards, the old branch was double track.  There was a long siding for storing cars and switching, and one switch is probably still there, although it's buried.

Looking east at the "junction".  Notice the two tracks.  The east switch was probably just beyond the newer track.

And farther downstream, across from Lockport, the grade of the old Material Service branch line has been turned into a nature walk, on the south edge of the Lewis University campus.  The track was completely removed, apart from a few piles of old ties, but it's very nicely kept up and rather scenic.  The line went down into the valley through some hairpin curves on a steep grade.  Loads would be going down and empties coming back up, though.  

The main point of interest, however, is that IRM considered locating here back in 1964.  It's amusing to imagine what our operations would have been like.  On the east, we'd have a grade crossing with the old Route 66, now a busy four-lane highway.  West of here, the line would be passing through a university campus, then through modern subdivisions, under a major interstate, then into the quarries, now owned by hunting clubs.  Trying to buy buffer properties would be hopeless.  So I would think we're better off where we are. 

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Roof Work

Today we'll focus on roof work, in particular on wood and canvas roofs.  These are real-life examples of the lessons summarized in our FAQ on Canvas Roofs.  

 I guess we'll start with things to avoid.  You will notice that the running boards on the 319 were made in rather short sections, some shorter than 3', and that they don't even line up.  But I guess that was considered good enough.  Also, the roof cables are held in place by bungee cords.  No, this wasn't photoshopped, I'm not that good!

It will be convenient to leave the poles and bases in place as long as I can, enabling the car to move itself, so I started by removing the running boards in the middle of the roof.  And it was observed with relief that the underlying wood structure seems to be sound.  On the 321, the roof is noticeably flattened where both bases had been, but that's not the case here.  This took a while to accomplish.  The replacement boards were attached with Phillips screws, and I didn't have a large Phillips screwdriver, since I never needed one before.  It's annoying because they strip easily, but sooner or later the Cleveland running boards can be removed.  They make a satisfying thud hitting the ground.
While doing this I have the DC locked out, of course.  And in nature notes, you will notice that the end of the trolley wire is decorated with a wasp's nest.  You could get stung in more ways than one!

And I worked on other parts of the roof, as well.  One interesting thing is this thin metal plate, which I decided to remove, although it must have been installed at Wheaton.  The 308 and 309 have this feature too: at one time there must have been a pipe leading up through the toilet compartment to the upper roof.  I'm not sure what it was; it may have been the air intake for the compressor. 

In this picture you should be able to see the hole in the lower roof also.  It won't be hard to patch this up.

A couple of years ago I started making new tack molding for the 319, but since then it's been gathering dust.  Eric Lorenz and Lorne Green helped by moving ceiling panels for the Cleveland car out of the way so my wood could be brought out. The lower tack molding is complete and just needs to be painted; some more work needs to be done on the upper tack molding.  The lower canvas should be installed first, so that will work out fine.  Also, we located the new canvas for the car, which we ordered from Chicago Canvas back in 2010.

Meanwhile in Barn 4 the guys are hard at work stretching the canvas on the Michigan car.  As this is an arched roof, it's somewhat simpler.  Various clamps and tie-downs are used to apply tension to the canvas.  (L to R) Jeff Brady, Norm Krentel, Ray Schmid.  Tim Peters is helping as a consultant, since he's done a couple of these most recently.

We use #8 duck, which comes in a width of 6' maximum.  So for these roofs, a sewn seam is necessary.  Our supplier does a good job on this project.  I can't even imagine how I'd try to go about sewing two 60' long pieces of canvas together.

So far it's only been stretched end to end, but the side to side will come next.  And then we can start tacking.

And as usual, lots of other projects were going on, and visitors were visiting, and new volunteers were volunteering.  You could be one of them.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

That Was Too Easy

Today it was time to start working on the roof of the 319 in earnest.  Located where it is now, I can move the scaffold up and down the aisle, and access the lower part of the roof on one side easily.  I estimated it would take a day to remove the lower canvas, the lower tack molding, and perhaps the upper tack molding too.

Here's what it looks like before we start.  Not bad, if you don't look too close. But the upper edge of the lower canvas is held on with very few tacks, and not sealed where it meets the clerestory deck.

And I had noticed this before, but the lower edge was attached by inserting a tack every 6" or so from inside, and then folding the canvas up over it.  I cannot imagine why this was thought a good idea.  As a result, the canvas came off way too easily.  Just pull it a little by hand, and it separates from the rotten tack molding.

That goes along fine until we run into this big ugly thing.  The ventilator was never removed during the canvas job, and you will notice the flanges are not tacked down, etc.  The new canvas was just installed around it.  They must have really been in a hurry.

Now here's something I actually like.  A thin molding strip was installed along the upper edge, caulked, and fastened with nails and screws.  I will probably want to do something like this.  The problem is that it was only installed for about 12 feet.  You have to wonder why.
The canvas itself was not in bad shape, and we may find a use for it later.  So it was rolled out (here it's upside down) to check for tacks, then rolled up and stored.

That went quickly.  Then I started working my way back west, removing both the lower and upper tack moldings.  The lower tack molding was very rotten, split almost its entire length, and came off easily, but the letterboard to which it's attached seems to be good..  The upper tack molding wasn't much better, but the wooden rail to which it's attached will need to be replaced.

But a job I had estimated to take a day needed less than four hours.  I suppose we should count ourselves lucky the roof held together as long as it did.  On the top, especially, in many sections the canvas was keeping the tack molding in place, rather than vice versa.  Be that as it may, it's always nice when progress is being made.

However, looking down, it appears I must have accidentally dropped a few pieces of wood and what not on the sidewalk.  And I'm afraid Dave Diamond may not approve.  They say he has very little tolerance for things like this.  Fortunately it doesn't take long to pick up and sweep up everything and deposit it in the nearby dumpster.   Then I worked on the 36 some more, and then started removing the rail behind the upper tack molding.  That has to be done carefully, so progress is slower.

Meanwhile, a contractor was repainting the Great Northern tank car.  The light grey color is the epoxy primer, and the finish coat is black.  This was taken about 2 PM. 
Progress is rapid   By about 3:30, most of the first finish coat is on.

And shortly after that, they're nearly done.

It's not often you can see your reflection in the side of a tank car.  It's like an amusement park mirror!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Same Seat, 73 Years Later!

Dick George chartered a railfan trip on the Indiana Railroad just before it went out of business in 1940.  Three of the modern lightweight highspeeds were used: cars 65, 57, and 58.  Here he is seen on the left riding lead car #65 on May 19, 1940.  Of course, the 65 is the only one of these cars to be preserved in its original configuration.

Now we fast-forward an amazing 73 years.  Dick George is riding the same car, same seat at the Illinois Railway Museum on September 22, 2013.  He was riding IRR 65 to help kick off fundraising to help pay to reupholster the seats in the car.  Seated behind Dick is Thomas G. Hoback, President and CEO of the modern Indiana Railroad.

Funds are needed to reupholster these seats and can be mailed to "Illinois Railway Museum, P. O. Box 427, Union, Illinois 60180-0427."  Please specify on your donation to direct it to the Indiana Railroad No. 65 Restricted Fund.

Thanks to Jon Fenlaciki and Norm Krentel for arranging all this and sending us the pictures!

Details: After the Indiana Railroad abandoned service in 1940, the 65 was sold to the Crandic in Iowa, largely due to the efforts of IRM founder Howard Odinius.  The Crandic replaced the original seats with what were essentially bus seats.  IRM had wanted to install the correct seats from the beginning, of course, and a set of the correct type were acquired from one of the ex-WB&A cars on the CA&E, when that line went out of business in 1962.  But after all these years, the current seats are badly worn and need new upholstery. 

Dave's Depots: Brigham City, Utah

David writes.....

Brigham City, Utah is the last town of any real size one passes on the way to Promontory Summit from Salt Lake City.  Brigham City is also the county seat of Box Elder County.  Befitting its status, the Oregon Short Line, a Union Pacific subsidiary built this handsome depot.  Now owned by the Golden Spike Heritage Foundation, it houses a museum.  The museum was closed when I stopped by.  It is still a very nice building.  I hope to check out the interior one day.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

What Lies Beneath?

Saturday was another very busy day at IRM.  Several things were going on, any one of which would be more than enough for most of our fellow museums.  The woodworkers convention was going on in the woodshop, but I never had time to visit it.  I'm sure Bob will be posting plenty of pictures, though.  And then there was the CERA visit, which we've already mentioned.  And the movie crew was still there, although I'm not sure what's going on just now.  As I understand it, they're making an educational film about the physics of AC voltage conversion (anyone want an explanation of Lenz's Law?), but I could be wrong about that.

Personally, though, I'm mostly interested in replacing the compressor on the 36, and the car needed to be wyed so the compressor is on the south side.  And it happened to be convenient to do this in the midst of these other activities.

With trolley wire over the connector track, we can turn cars around without using the wye.  Chris Buck was supposed to be running the 3142, but the car line was blocked by the Zephyr, so he was at loose ends.  And he had a radio, so he was a great help in helping me run the 36 and 309 around the loop to South Jct., and then back into the barn.

The next really big project, however, will be to recanvas the roof of the 319.  The canvas was replaced at North Olmsted in the early 90's, but not correctly, and we have always needed to redo it.  Exactly where the new canvas will be applied is not yet definite, but at least I can start by removing most of the old canvas and fixing any of the underlying wood that needs repair.  The morning's switch move also put the 319 at the west end of the string, so it was right up against our scaffold.  

After a few minutes of work, I was able to reveal some of the wood structure.  It basically looks pretty good, which is what we were hoping for.  The car has been stored inside since about 1963, so little damage from the weather has been done.  It is frighteningly easy to pull the old canvas off, since it is held on by very few tacks, and some staples.  (!)

I was surprised to note that the boards on this end are not cut at an angle to match the curve of the tack molding, as they are on the other cars I've worked on, including the 321.  But that's the way it came from Wheaton.

 The places where the upper roof meets the lower at each end are always a weak spot in the whole structure, and it's not surprising there's some damage here.  This can be patched up, however.  Of course, the old tack molding is in bad shape and should never have been reused.  I've already made most of the replacement pieces, which have been gathering dust in the Lean 3 for a couple of years.  And I have all new saddles, most of which I made back about 1976 for the 321.

But then it was time to get ready for the CERA charter trips.  I was the conductor on the three-car CA&E steel train, with Dan Buck as motorman.  In our previous post, you can see plenty of excellent pictures of the operation taken by Chuck Amstein.  I was too busy to take more than a couple.  I believe the last time the CERA made an official visit was in early 1998, for the 60th anniversary.  At that time, the 431 was undergoing restoration and was not accessible.  The 309 had been completed, but was running on only two motors, so I did not want to try operating it in service.  It was pulled outside for pictures, though.  Our CA&E collection has come a long way in the last 15 years.

And we had a good number of CERA members, as well as a good crowd of other visitors, with whom I had several good conversations.  A good time was had by all, I'm pretty sure!

CERA 75th Anniversary Visit

This year marks 75 years for the Central Electric Railfan's Association, and on Saturday they visited IRM.  Several special trains were run, and our staff photographer, Chuck Amstein, was there to record the action for you.

These images are copyrighted by the photographer and may not be reproduced without permission.

First, here is the video.

The South Shore cars were running for the public for the first time in many years.  Chuck says he had never ridden them at IRM, so he was especially glad to be able to ride them again after about 40 years.

Jeff Obarek was the motorman.

And here's my old friend Jerry Kosinski, perhaps the biggest South Shore fan I know, whom I hadn't seen for several years.