Saturday, November 30, 2013

Mon Train Bleu

Perhaps it is not quite as suave and du haute monde as the French Le Train Bleu, but it's the best we've got.  The cars needed to be switched out today, and we don't let good photo opportunities pass us by.  

I needed to turn the 319 around to start working on the other side of the roof, and in order to do that the blue cars were pulled out onto the connector.  You get a slightly better view of the car in its partially unroofed state.  The 319 was turned around using the east half of the car line and the connector track.  It wasn't until I had pulled the 319 up to the door of the barn that it struck me that the whistles had been removed because they were in the way of any work on the ends of the roof  So I just shouted "Toot toot!" and proceeded. 

While waiting for the L cars to return, I was able to install the next seat frame in the 309.  Some more work will be needed, but this project is going well.  Jerry and Ray ran the 6000's out on the line to check that everything will work well for the Happy Holidays Railway, and when they came back the cars were cleaned and decorated.  They look great!

After the 319 was back in the barn, I started removing the old canvas, tack molding, and so on from the other side.  Then it was time for some heavy lifting.

Joe Stupar, Joel Ahrendt, and I spent a couple of hours starting to unload parts we got from Trolleyville about four years ago.  For a lot of these things we just don't have available storage space yet, but there are always some items we need now, and of course they were at the front of the trailer.  We worked slowly and carefully, and were able to unload several seat cushions and backs, some miscellaneous parts, and four CA&E third rail beams, or parts thereof, which I'll need for the 36.  I can't thank them enough for the help.  They were then deposited behind Barn 4.  Once the metal parts are on hand, we can confidently start drilling the holes in the new third rail beams we've made to attach them.  

And fortunately my old friends Dan and Chris Buck were on hand, so they volunteered to help with this a little.  They wire-wheeled all the rust and other crud off of one of the shoe assemblies, so it looks much better.  I'm hoping the entire set can be processed over the winter so the beams can be mounted in time for the operating season.

And of course Tim Peters never stops.  Here is the current status of the roof-mounted destination box he's assembling for the 24, based almost entirely on pictures.  These bizarre devices were removed about 1914 and none survive, so recreating them is a real challenge.  But Tim is not easily discouraged.  

For that matter, most of the rest of us are not easily discouraged either, although everyone has a different threshold of pain, I suppose. If you don't want to spend the next four months of your free time watching TV, you can come out to IRM and volunteer.  There are many projects that need help, and our heated shop areas can accommodate lots of people.  On Saturdays, Sundays, and Wednesdays at least, you won't be lonely!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

309/319 Report

No self-respecting Chicagoan would let a little cold weather deter him from attending a football game, for instance, and those of us who are more interested in railroads than sports are just as committed.  (Insert comment here.)   So there were several projects of various sorts being worked on today as usual, some of them outside.  The sun was shining, so our solar-heated barn was warm enough for roof painting.  I finished putting a coat of black on the north side of the car, lower roof, lower tack molding, and upper tack molding.  The back lighting makes it tough to photograph, but you'll just have to take in on trust, it looks nice.

After that, it was time for more work on the seats in the 309.  Here is the next new seat frame installed.

And after the cushion and arm rest are attached, it's ready to sit in.  It sure is nice to be able to remove the cable ties I was using to hold the seat backs together on the defective frames.

And then I started on another one.  The arrows point to places where the track had parts broken out of it, allowing the brackets on the seat back to come out.  I really don't know why so many of these were defective.  None of the other cars have problems like this on more than a single frame or so.  I wonder if this was caused by the firemen putting out the fire.   You may notice that this frame has a wooden shim between it and the wall.  I installed that several years ago because the wall behind it had some problems, but that has been reconsidered.  The shim will be removed and a better fix made to the mounting. 

Notice also that this frame has one of the cantilevered pedestals, which provide clearance for a motor hatch.  We have a couple of these from the 300, as part of the seat frame collection, but I prefer to keep the original pedestals attached to the floor whenever possible.

In any case, we all have much to be thankful for.  Have a happy Thanksgiving Day!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Top to Bottom

After all the TV excitement, work goes on as usual at the Museum.  The tack molding on the #2 end is complete, so it got a coat of primer.  Then I went along and finished removing all tacks and nails from the flashing for the lower canvas on the north side of the car.

The next thing that needs to be done in order to install the lower canvas is to replace the tack molding at the #1 end.  At this end, there was just one long piece -- about 9' long, and slightly over 12" in width, once I was able to flatten it out.  As you may be able to see, it's pretty rotted out at one end. 

     Then I removed more of the old canvas, and installed and fitted the next corner piece for the lower tack molding.  This takes a while, but the results are worth it.

While we're at it, let's see what Tim is up to.  He's making good progress on the distinctive roof signs for the 24.  

Still a little body and fender work needed on the platform, however....

I ran out of things to do on the 319's roof, since now I need to buy more wood, and turn the car around when I get a chance.  So I turned to a project I've wanted to work on for a while: replacing seat frames in the 309.  We purchased a car's worth of replacements from our friends at Mid-Continent a year ago, but I hadn't gotten around to actually installing them yet.

Here's the old frame removed.  I will be retaining the reupholstered seat back and cushion, and the nicely restored arm rest.  Also the pedestal.

Here's the "new" (from car 300) frame with the seat back installed.  It fits into place perfectly -- nothing like interchangeable parts!
It needs some lubrication, but I didn't have the right stuff on hand.  But the cushion fits easily, so everything should be fine.  This took a little less than two hours to accomplish, so that's encouraging.  I expect that some of the frames will require repair of screw holes in the wainscot, so that will take longer.  Also the arm rests, but those I can do at home.  It's been embarrassing to have the seats fastened together with plastic straps so they can't be reversed, and I hope to have them all in operation by next year's operating season.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Long-Lost Twin

I thought this article (found in RyPN Flimsies) was interesting.  The body of Michigan Electric car 29, a residence, doughnut shop, and shed for the last 80 or so years, has been rescued by the local historical society in Grass Lake, Mich.  This is from the same order as our car #28, which Norm Krentel rescued from a similar status about 40 years ago, and which is now undergoing thorough restoration at IRM.  The 29 was never really lost, of course: Norm has always been aware of its existence.  The society plans to do some restoration work with the help of local volunteers.  Good luck! 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

No Regrets At IRM

Tonight is the TV episode of "Chicago Fire" recently filmed at IRM.  We're all eager to see what happens, since this was probably the biggest such project the Museum has ever hosted.  Of course, the previews shown so far are teasers.  We are told that "With Honor Comes Sacrifice" -- now that sounds ominous.  Of course, it would probably help if I had ever watched some of the previous episodes....

9:01:  Various characters are seen going about their normal lives while off-duty.  Somebody's father thinks the firehouse is "dysfunctional."  Uh oh.

9:11:  Firehouse looks great to me.  Nice and clean, built-in kitchen, comfortable chairs, what's not to like?

9:14: Just as the fire chief announces he's retiring, the railroad wreck alarm comes through.  So he's probably doomed.

9:16: The excitement starts!  The firemen arrive in no time at the wreck site; there's a small fire next to Bob's overturned tank car, and passengers are trapped inside the derailed bilevels.  The Great Northern hopper sure looks nice.  Bad news: the tank car is full of propane.  The chief looks worried.

9:20: Lots of rapid action. The inside of the bilevel is a real mess.  Plenty of blood everywhere.  Then a big explosion, followed by the next commercial break.  This is great!

9:29:  Big panic to put out the propane fire and rescue the dying.  One of the characters from "The Good Wife" seems to have wandered into the wrong program.  What's he doing here?  Meanwhile, the seals on the water pipes on the tanker fail, so no water.  Meanwhile the tank car is burning like a blowtorch.  Yikes!

9:35: Now we gotta rescue people trapped in the partly-wrecked building.  The chief leads the way into the wreckage, when suddenly things start to collapse, the lights go out, and ... more commercials.  Who could have seen that coming??

9:38: The chief is trapped, but the tank car is about to explode, so he orders everyone to get away.  Of course, there are always a couple of loyal soldiers who won't abandon their CO...  or something. 

9:42:  The chief has no regrets he gave his life to save his men...  but wait, maybe there's hope!

9:44: Bleeding victims keep showing up in odd places. The fire is put out.  But while our backs are turned, the chief is somehow extricated from the building.  The crisis is suddenly over.  Time to turn in your badge, chief.

9:53: During the commercial break, the chief rethinks his decision.  He looks at his badge.  The house won't be the same without him.  The guys want him to stay....   What will he decide to do?   Meanwhile, various subplots are wrapped up for this week.

9:57:  The chief decides to stay, and makes an impassioned speech to the bureaucrats.  He has no regrets.

I hope we don't either!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Roof Work -- Before, During, and After

Let's start with something completely different.  Our doodlebug, UP M-35, was being switched out, and we don't often get to see it outside.  Unfortunately the weather wasn't very conducive to good photography.

The engine compartment is very cramped.  The original Winton prime mover was replaced many years ago.

Doodlebug Dan and Bob Sundelin were eager to get it switched back into the barn, since the roof still leaks a little.  But replacing it is part of the long-term restoration plan.

I spent all day working on the roof of the 319, as usual.  The second piece of tack molding was installed at the #2 end, as seen here.  The sharpest curvature occurs in the middle, where the two pieces meet, so forcing the wood into place was a challenge.

Our friend Chris Chestnut from the Connecticut Trolley Museum was visiting; Nick was showing him around, and then left him with me for a while.  So we looked at the 36 and 319, and talked about various things.  He was properly impressed with how many different projects were in progress on a dreary November day.  Among other things, John Faulhaber was painting the new canvas on the LSE box trailer.  So that roof project is nearly done!  And Tim showed me the sheet metal pieces for the big roof-mounted destination signs for the 24, and so on.


Here's another view of the end of the 319's roof.   The upper curved tack molding is being pried out for replacement.  It goes over the lower canvas, so must be replaced.  Later, Dan came by to look at the roof project, and helped me set up a clamp for the two molding strips.

So by the end of the day both pieces are in place; a little more planing and sanding may be needed, but then they can be painted.  And the focus will shift to the other end of the car.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013


Update: The "Chicago Fire" episode filmed at IRM will be shown on NBC on Tuesdsay, Nov. 19th, at 9PM Central.  Here's a link to two short video clips for the episode.  I guarantee you won't regret it.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Up In the Attic

After the big party (see below), it's time to get back to work on the 319.  Installing the curved tack molding around the ends of the car is a challenge.  The curvature itself is a problem, and most of the screws have to go through a metal plate.  The first piece of molding I had taken home for some modifications, and then reattached it.  The outer end fit OK, but the center curvature is a smaller radius, so more work is needed.

It isn't clear from outside just how thick is the wood to which the molding is being attached, so I decided it was necessary to get up into the "attic" (the enclosed space above each vestibule).  The only way to get into the attics is to drop the dome light.  Here we're looking up, before work starts.

Four molding strips had to be removed, and at least two were already in bad shape.  So I later took them over to the wood shop to be replicated.  My buddy Rich Witt was telling me last night that they're looking for work over the winter, and this should be a good short-term project.  (I might point out that the moldings at the other end are completely different, and they're both different from the 321's.  Typical, just bloody typical.)  Anyway, when the dome light is unfastened, it can be dropped down and perched on the door.  Of course, the wiring is still attached.

Now you can stick your head up into the attic and look around.  I hadn't been up inside the 319 before.  This attic is quite clean and organized compared the the 309's attics, for instance.  They're still full of wood shavings from the car's construction.  Here we're looking slightly down towards the back of the piece to which the curved tack molding is attached.  The cable running to the bus jumper is attached with leather straps.  According to my calculations, the backing piece is about 3" thick, but it appears to be pine, so sometimes the wood screws strip their threads.

And here's what the 600V wiring generally looks like up there.  At the top left is the conduit from one end of the car to the other, carrying wires for the headlight and lighting circuits.  To the right is the roof cable, carrying power to the #2 electrical cabinet - the pump and lights.  And various wires for the lights, buzzer, and so on, which can be traced out if necessary.  I generally prefer not to think about it.

Of course, I don't want to have the dome light assembly hanging from the wires, so here it's attached to the door closer mechanism with a couple of pieces of baling wire, which I always have on hand.  If wood screws aren't going to hold, the tack molding can be bent and held in place with nuts and bolts, or rather flat head machine screws.

But the first piece is nearly aligned, and I planed off the upper edge, followed by rasping and sanding.  That doesn't seem like a lot of progress for a day's work, but there's always a learning (or relearning) curve, so the next three should go faster.

Anniversary Bash

The 60th Anniversary Gala was a big success, and everyone seemed to be having a good time.  Good food and drinks, good fellowship, good music, good speakers telling us what wonderful people we are -- what more could you want?  

Here are past President Barb Lanphier and retired WGN broadcaster Tom Peterson.  Mr. Peterson is a long-time IRM member and did an excellent job, of course, hosting the event.

President Joe Stupar gave a great speech outlining the status of the Museum, and he presented Malcolm McCarter, the only surviving one of the original ten, with an award of appreciation for his 60 years of service.  (Photo by G. Stupar)

Bob Opal provided the musical background and he's going as strong as ever.

Here our featured speaker Jim Wrinn and Nick are talking to Ray Cook (I think).  Mr. Wrinn spoke about the challenges facing the railroad preservation movement, the changes taking place, and what we can do to ensure continued success.

Lots of old friends were there.  Jeff Brady, Norm Krentel, and my wife Maggie.

Some of the people we were sitting with: Rich Witt, Fred Zimmerman, Mike McCreary, Mark Gellman, and Kevin Brown.  Not shown: Ray Bellock and his wife.  "Gretchen" says there were about 120 people in attendance.

Some of the silent auction items.

Other long-time friends.

Charlie King is member #1, and here he is showing some pictures to Ted and Andrea.  Barb presented a slide show showing IRM through the years, and Frank Sirinek received a standing ovation for his work.  And there was lots more happening.  We should do this more often.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

319 Progress

These roof reports may be somewhat monotonous.  And it might even get worse before it gets better.  That's why I'm glad to have things like the Reims photo collection and reports from SF for variety.

A lot of woodwork got done today, based mostly on parts made last time and finished off at home.  The curved backing parts for the west end were installed and attached, and that allowed me to install the last of the upper (straight) tack molding lengths.  

But the lower canvas will be put on first, so the main priority is to start attaching the end tack moldings.  The blanks were cut out on the big bandsaw last Saturday, and at home I did the routing and slotting. 

Getting it bent to shape is not easy, but it's going along steadily.  This piece is nearly done, and I should be able to go faster on the next one.  Then I an hour or two painting the roof black.

Speaking of black: Ted had asked about having a third rail on display.  We have a collection of third rail parts, and I noticed that somebody had painted a couple of CA&E chairs black, out behind the woodshop.  Here's what they look like.

And another ongoing project we may not have mentioned is repair of the 50th Avenue station.  The B&G team have replaced all of the lower (horizontal) siding, patched up several other parts, and one of the guys was painting the trim today.  So that's a nice improvement.

Our next post will probably be coming to you from the Anniversary Banquet, reporting on what passes for high society at IRM. We can hardly wait!