Monday, March 31, 2014

Trying to Scrap the 321

Bill Wulfert gave me copies of some interesting letters from the IRM files.  These concern the 321, which as you may know was originally acquired as a parts source for the TM cars.  Bill is always finding new things I haven't seen before. First is a letter sent by Warren Cobb in November of 1961 to Frank Sherwin, the owner of the foundry where the Museum's collection was stored at that time.

At first, they wanted to scrap the 321 at Wheaton, but when that wasn't allowed, they wanted permission to scrap the car at North Chicago.  Of interest is the statement that (in 1961) "The car body is in very poor condition which all but precludes restoration."  In the following 53 years it hasn't gotten much better, I'm afraid.

About eight months later, in July 1962 the three CA&E cars had been moved to North Chicago, and plans for the 321 had changed:  So Warren writes to Mr. Sherwin again:
Of course, the plan to block off the windows, install baggage doors, and make the car look like a Sacramento Northern combine (!) never happened.  Maybe they didn't realize that underneath the wooden siding the body contains 1/4" thick steel plates about 2' high which they would have to cut through without setting the rest of the car on fire.  Good luck with that.  

In the end, the car wasn't scrapped, and when the next barn is built and it goes back inside we will probably do some more cosmetic work on it, as an interesting display piece.  But restoration to actual service is probably no closer now than it was in 1961.  At least we won't sell it to the Diamond Scrap Co.!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Actually Cleaning Up

Yesterday we had a good crowd of people working on the car cleaning crew, and so we managed to get to every car on the list the operating department had provided, something that doesn't always happen.  Let me see, it was 714 and 749, 431, 415, 4290 and 4412, 1268 and 1797, 308 and 309, and two singles.  Whew!  I'm more likely to leave out somebody who was on the crew, but Jeff Fryman was the foreman, with Tom Disch, Jim West, Dave Rogan, Ray Erickson, Dan Buck, Linda Evans, Steve Jirsa, and who am I forgetting?  Larry Stone of course!   Sorry!!!

It was hard to get people to stand still for very long, so I didn't try very hard.  Too much to do!

And then there were several other projects being pursued at the same time, for instance the track crew closing up the gap in the steam lead.  I'll let them post their own progress photos on that.  If you missed yesterday's cleaning session, there is one coming up in a couple of weeks to enable you to fulfill your patriotic duty. 

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Time To Clean Up

Annual Spring Cleaning time is here, and the first day is this Saturday, March 29th! We need as much help as we can get to make the cars ready for passenger service this year. Show up by 10 o'clock in front of Barn 7. I'm going to be there, how about you? 

To get in the mood, I started by cleaning up the sidewalk.  Most of the day was spent finish sanding and painting the lower side roof on the 319 as  seen here.

But to repeat, we need anybody and everybody to show up on Saturday.  It will be most appreciated!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

As seen on TV or Such a Deal.

Al writes...

Came in from trying to tidy up the back yard. With the addition work, it's a mess. Popped on the tele and looked around for something to watch. WTTW was showing "North America's Steam Railways". This was being shown as part of their pledge drive. Well low and behold one of the premiums for the Conductor's level pledge was tickets to IRM. As they cut to shots at Union, 308 & 309 were amoung the features. So you can pledge to your PBS station and get to ride beautifully restored Interurban cars as well!

Ghost Town Locomotives

I was on vacation in Arizona last week, and we were mostly admiring the stupendous scenery, including southern Utah.  But for railway preservation, we found one interesting site.  The "Goldfield Ghost Town" is a private tourist attraction with old-time buildings, taverns, gift shops, a bordello, cowboys, a gold mine, and things like that.  But they also have three ancient electric locomotives from the Phelps-Dodge smelter in Douglas, which are reasonably well preserved for having been exposed to the elements for so long.

 These are all standard gauge, and operated only on captive trackage, of course.  #2 is the largest and most interesting; I hadn't seen anything quite like this before. 

It has a Westinghouse electro-pneumatic control system, much like a North Shore car.  The contactors are still clearly labeled. 

The traction motors are still in place.  Getting good pictures of the interiors is difficult in the bright desert sun.


Next in line is #18, which is smaller and looks more like a mine locomotive.  Of interest is the welded lettering on the side: 
which must stand for "Arizona Territory", to give you an idea of how old these locomotives are.  I did not find any builder's plates, so their date of manufacture is unknown.  I imagine they may well have been built at the smelter using purchased electrical parts.

This one has a much simpler control system, it appears.

Finally we have little #8.  The two smaller engines still have trolley poles.  The locomotives are at the back of the extensive property and are hard to find if you're not looking for them.  I doubt the management plans to restore them in any way, as everything else in the ghost town appears equally weather-beaten.

And I suppose this is an example of the cars they would be pulling at the smelter.

The ghost town also has an actual narrow-gauge train ride.  This is an internal combustion-powered locomotive, which is awfully loud even when idling, and you have to see it in person to really appreciate just how ugly it is.  We somehow avoided the train ride, but the gold mine tour was actually quite interesting and informative.  Anyway, pardner, IRM it ain't.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

2014 Operating Schedule

The 2014 operating schedule for the CA&E wood cars has been tentatively finalized (how's that for an oxymoron?).  I say "tentatively" because, as always, operations are subject to weather and mechanical considerations.  The plan is to operate on May 26th (Memorial Day), June 7th & 8th, June 21st & 22nd, July 4th (informally "CA&E day"), July 5th (Trolley Pageant, no revenue operation currently planned), August 3rd (Vintage Transport Extravaganza), August 30th & 31st, September 1st (Labor Day), and September 20th (Members Day/Museum Showcase Weekend).

At the moment the 308 and 309 are slotted to hold down service with the 36 available as backup, at least once its compressor is swapped out.  The three-car "blue train" will likely make an appearance for the Trolley Pageant and for Members Day, though again that's dependent on mechanical and weather considerations.  Availability of the 319 will depend on how quickly roof work progresses.

As usual, there are plenty of slots available for motormen, conductors and trainmen, so if you're rules-qualified please make sure to sign up for a day or two during the year - thank you!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Back Here in Winter

While my father has fast-forwarded himself to springtime (or maybe even skipped that and gone right to summer) by flying to Arizona, we're all still stuck here in the depths of winter.  I did, at least, have a chance to make it out to the museum on Sunday so made a little bit of progress on the 36.

I removed the two metal panels from the last side door on the car, needle-chipped and wire-wheeled both of them, and then put a first coat of primer on both sides of each.  One of them had a tan-colored enamel paint on the inside surface; this may have just been a first coat but I didn't paint over it just in case it was a sample of 1930s tan from the "coffee and cream" era.  A number of cars acquired the metal-panel doors during that period so you never know.  Anyway, the "before" picture is above and the "after" picture is below.
That was about it for me, as I didn't get out to the museum until about 3:30 in the afternoon so didn't have much time.  It's hard to believe that opening day is only three weeks away, what with the mountains of snow everywhere.  There was discussion of clearing the snow drifts away from the barn doors so that we can get a car or two inspected for our first day of public operation, and I heard that the Diesel Department was out clearing the railroad on Saturday.  Inside the car shop, Jeff was working on the Michigan car while Rod, Joel and Greg pitched in on the effort to rebuild magnet valves for CTA 4410's switch group.  Once that job is complete, that car should be back in revenue service along with 4290 and 4412.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Use Your Imagination

Not too many pictures today, so you'll have to use your imagination.  And if you're imaginative enough, you can even picture what spring might look like.  Not like this, to be sure!

Out at the Museum, however, work continues.  The last two repainted windows were installed in the 36, so that's an important milestone.  Frank may be out this weekend and start on the one remaining side door.  We're looking forward to being able to operate the car for the public occasionally this summer.

Mostly I worked on the 319 roof project, though.  Some woodwork still needs to be done, in particular the curved tack moldings for the #1 end.  I cut out the pieces to fit the arched ends, as seen here.  They were then taken home for further work which can be done using my home table saw and hand-held router.  On this end the tack molding was a single piece, but I have been unable to acquire a big enough piece of poplar, so it will be made in two pieces and lapped together.

And I worked on some miscellaneous wood parts of the roof.  I was able to finish planing down the upper edge of the lower tack molding, and then sanded it down with the Department's belt sander.  It's good exercise.

Warren and Rich brought two trolley bases from the field into the shop, and had more or less completed rebuilding one by the time I left.  These will be used on a pair of recently acquired L cars, although I don't remember which type.  Since none of the newer cars ever had overhead pickup, some engineering has to be done to provide them with trolley poles.

Well, tomorrow I'm off to Arizona to visit my daughter.  There probably won't be a lot of railfanning, but perhaps I can post something of interest from the Valley of the Sun.  It'll be a welcome change! 

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Spring Ahead

Conditions were favorable to resume work on the roof of the 319 today.  Larry Stone was there to help, so we spent most of the day finishing up work on the flashing for the lower canvas.  A few places hadn't been done, and we worked our way down the length of the car, making sure that all of the nails and tacks were out of the way.  Two sets of eyes and hands are always better than one, so we got this side of the car ready for lower canvas.  I still have some woodwork to do, but that should not take long.

Here's what it looks like after we're finished.  The canvas needs to be tucked in under the flashing, then nailed down.  The lower edge of the canvas will then be tacked to the lower tack molding.  We can probably do this in Barn 8.

And the windows for the 36 are nearly done.  We installed 25 and 26, and the two spares from the 310 or 318 were put back into storage.  Later, I finished painting 27 and 28, so they'll be ready to install next time.  Woohoo!

Several other projects were being attacked, as usual, such as the Cleveland PCC and the Newark PCC.  And of course talk of politics (IRM politics, that is) filled the air.  Don't hesitate to fail to reject the candidates who oppose policies that don't make the success of our beloved Museum less unlikely!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Trek Into the Unknown

Today seemed like a good time to go out to Yard 14 to check on the 321, especially since I recently received this inspirational artwork from our friend Tim Fennell.  This time I remembered to bring my snow shoes.


 The first landmark we reach on this route is the signal shed at South Jct.  That's funny, I remember there being tracks somewhere around here. 

And next we pass this wig-wag.

Followed by a switch stand and a dwarf signal.  It doesn't look like anybody has been this way for months.   But at least we haven't got lost yet.

At last we're in Yard 14.  Snowdrifts are everywhere, and often fairly deep.

As usual, I checked the tarp and its straps, and climbed up a nearby boxcar to check the top.  All appears to be OK.   And inside, it's about the same as always.  And there are places to sit down and relax.

I suspect I'm not the only one who has become a little weary of this winter weather.
Meanwhile, back in the barn, the floor of the inspection pit has a thick layer of ice on the floor.   This makes inspection work even more challenging than usual.  Be sure your skates are sharpened. 

Everybody needs a hobby.  I've decided to take up back surgery.  I'm hoping it's something you can learn by trial and error, as long as you have a supply of patients with bad backs willing to be operated on.
Here's one with some serious back problems.  Evidently some miscreant pulled way too hard on the seat handle, pulling the large screws out of the wood and splitting the back frame.  And I have little experience with rattan upholstery, so let's take it to the shop for examination.
It looks painful.  I will have to carefully pull back the rattan, which is held to the wood with large numbers of tiny tacks.  This will be time consuming, so the back was taken home so it can be worked on there.

 Almost everything about the seats in the 36 is different from the later Hale & Kilburn models in the later cars.  Here we see that the side brackets are not fastened to the back with screws, but instead slide into a matching bracket attached to the frame.  Anyway, this is the only seat in the car with a serious problem.  The others need to be cleaned and repainted, and should look fine.

 And then there was the ongoing project of repainting all the windows.  25 through 28 got new paint on each side.  25 and 26 will be ready for installation next time. 

Saturday, March 1, 2014

36 Report

Today's first task was to install the repainted door in the 36, so that it would be out of the way in the shop.  The entire interior of the vestibule needs to be painted blue, eventually.  I also took some more pictures of the interior for the article I'm writing about the 36 for Rail & Wire.

And by the way, here's what those metal brackets I was making will look like when installed.  They hold the copper fuses away from the wooden beam, and presumably keep the loose ends in place if a fuse blows.  Of course, we won't be blowing any fuses.

And then it was back to painting windows.  25 and 26 got another coat of paint on each side, and 27 and 28, the last two windows, were sanded down and then painted with white primer on both sides.

So that's the last we'll see of the ugly red windows, an important milestone.  Next time I'll plan to start on the last side door, unless the weather improves.  I'm way behind schedule on the 319 roof project, since it has been basically impossible to work on it during this severe winter.  But we should be able to have the 36 in revenue service, at least for protection.  So we'll still have enough cars available.  Unless the tracks are still deep in snow in May.  By now, I wouldn't be surprised.