Monday, June 30, 2014

Hesston Steam Museum

Last year we visited the Hesston Steam Museum, east of Michigan City, Indiana, since I needed a steam fix, but for some reason I never posted a trip report.  Better late than never, I hope.

The museum has railroad trackage of four different gauges: 3', 2', 15", and 7 1/2".  Each has a loop through the woods and fields of about a mile or so.  We'll go from largest to smallest.  

The only 3' locomotive appears to be this Shay, which was not fired up that day.  The first mainline loop is dual gauge, 2' and 3'.  Here's an example of a three-rail switch.  Is there any other 2'-3' dual gauge trackage anywhere?

A 2' gauge tank from Czechoslovakia (I think) was running.  We rode the open cars, built on flat car frames.

Here's the connection between the locomotive and its three-car passenger train.  And the line has some pretty steep grades.  That's why we rode the open cars.  I told my wife to be ready to follow instructions.

And on the 15" line, we rode the Kiddieland train.   I can remember this equipment from when it was running at the park in Maywood, back in the good old days.  This is the Hudson; the Northern was back in the shop. 

One of the more interesting things for me is that Hesston has the complete collection of Elliott Donnelley's 15" gauge railroad from his estate in Lake Forest.  My father worked for R. R. Donnelley, and I can remember visiting Mr. Donnelley's home to ride the trains a couple of times.

The line was called the "Stet & Query Central"; "stet" and "query" are proofreading terms that anybody in the printing business would recognize.

And of course Mr. Donnelley was also an important friend of IRM in its early days; he purchased and donated our Shay, for instance.


It looks like I didn't take any pictures of the little trains, most of which I believe are privately owned and brought in by the owners.

There are two or three pieces of standard-gauge equipment on display.

And a number of steam tractors, stationary engines, and miscellaneous mechanical devices.

Finally, Doc's Soda Fountain is quite impressive.

Since it was a busy day and a lot of different things were operating, it was certainly an enjoyable visit.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Black and Blue

Frank writes...

My trip out to IRM today mostly involved painting.  The primary goal was to get the south (R side) side sill and east (#1 end) bumper/anticlimber painted blue.  I was able to get this done though we are running low on Washington Blue paint.  The before photo:

And the after photo:
Note that on the second photo I used my camera's special "tarped car" filter.  Actually there was some switching going on in preparation for next weekend's Trolley Pageant, including bringing a string of freight cars over to the inspection pit track for inspection and lubrication before they're used in the demonstration freight train.

Anyway, after I was done with the blue paint I switched to black and put a first coat on the #1 end tack molding, which was still in primer (see previous post).  Thanks to Greg for helping to get everything set up for this.  And then to cap it all off I put a first coat of silver on the #1 end headlight bracket.  The train door at this end has not been repainted yet since we received the car from Brookins, so the door handle and grab iron are still inaccurately painted black, but otherwise this end of the car looks pretty much correct now.
At the end of the day I removed the #1 motorman's brake valve and took it to the shop for Rod to look at.  It had a noticeable leak around the stem gasket which we are hoping to fix.  Unfortunately the circular gasket between the upper and lower portions of the brake valve tore when I was removing it... rats.  I think we have more of these but we will need to dig them out.

And now for something completely different: one of the switch moves involved Milwaukee Electric snow sweeper B48, which is not commonly seen outdoors.  This car underwent a partial cosmetic restoration back in the 1980s, or maybe early 1990s.  It's an interesting piece of equipment, particularly with that big elephant snout on it.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Things Are Heating Up

CA&E Day, the Trolley Pageant, and North Shore Day are only a week away, so things are heating up!  Lots of activity to get ready for next weekend was in progress.  You could almost feel the warmth and humidity.  But we won't let that stop us....

In the morning I started by tacking down more of the canvas on the 319, until it got too hot to continue.  But it's going well.

Then it was time for a second coat of primer on the side sill and #1 end bumper on the 36, as seen here.  Next time these parts will be painted blue.  

On the subject of painting, I spent most of yesterday repainting our deck.  My wife happened to pick out a color which is remarkably close to the blue-gray of the final CA&E paint scheme.  But when I pointed this out, she quickly warned me not to even think about painting any part of the house bright red!   Maybe some day when she's not looking....

Joel was busy getting the IT train ready for service, among other things.  I helped him a little with changing a brake shoe on the 234.  Here he is putting the slack adjuster back in place.  Unlike the CA&E or North Shore cars, this truck has only one slack adjuster, right down the middle.

I also helped him with switching.  I was too busy to get a picture of the IT cars, but the 229 was also switched out in preparation for the Pageant.  This, they say, was the 1920's version of FedEx.

Just for Ted, we have the two-car CA&E steel train resplendent in its scarlet and grey. 

 And the 1630 was running again, and of course attracting visitors, many with cameras. 

Tomorrow is the incomparable Steam Department Benefit, and we'll be there.  It's probably not too late to order tickets on-line if you haven't done so already.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Visit by Bob Bruneau

On Wednesday, Curator Emeritus Bob Bruneau was able to the visit the Museum and see the progress that has been made recently.  He certainly enjoyed being able to be here again, accompanied by his son Chris and his wife, and a professional caretaker.


He was able to have lunch with several old friends, such as Nick.  

 He wanted to see the Brookins collection, so we pulled a couple of the cars out for him.  I did not want to go too far with the 319, since I was in the middle of locating the new canvas on one side.

And then we had a special charter trip on IT 101, which Bob bought back in 1956 with a loan from his parents. 

Among other things, I wire-wheeled the side sill of the 36 which Frank had needle-chipped last time.  I have mentioned that this side sill has a splice about 10' from one end.  The rest of both side sills on this car have "PHOENIX" cast into them, but the short piece says "CAMBRIA", upside down.   This wasn't noticeable before, due to the many layers of paint.  I take it as confirmation that this is a repair due to a serious wreck at some point.  It also proves that the rest of the car's underframe is in fact Pre-Cambrian.  That's older than we thought!

After several hours of work I was able to stretch out the second piece of canvas and caulk and nail about a third of the upper edge, as seen here.  And also a short section of the lower edge.  It's going well.

 We hope to run the 36 along with the 308 and 309 in revenue service on July 4th and 5th, so there are several minor tasks to take care of first.  I fixed a leak in one of the whistle valves, and checked the rest of the system for slow leaks, nothing too serious.  I started installing the new bolts and nuts that Rod ordered for the compressor mounting.  These are a big improvement and will make it easier to replace if we ever have to do that again.  The side sill got a first coat of primer.   And I even started washing windows, something that hasn't been done since the car arrived, I'm afraid. 

Tim continues to make amazing progress on the 24; here the east end of the car is being put back together.  It really looks great.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Summer Day on the Railroad

Frank writes...

Sunday I signed up as motorman on the wood train.  It was a quiet day; there wasn't much of a crowd despite the weather being pretty nice, in the low 80s and sunny though with some humidity.  My conductor was Mike McCraren, shown below boarding passengers for one of our trips.
The cars ran well though a few minor issues cropped up.  The most significant was that one of the armrests on the 309 came loose, but between trips I was able to take it over to the car shop and effect a quick repair.  We also need to look at a baulky take-up spring on one of the 309's retrievers.  Each retriever has two springs, a "catcher" or take-up spring which simply keeps the trolley rope taut and a powerful retrieve spring that yanks the pole down if it dewires.

"Doodlebug Dan" Mulvihill went for a training trip with us later in the day, after which I needed to leave early - fortunately our indefatigable crew caller Jim West came to the rescue and took the 308 and 309 out for the last trip of the day.  Thanks, Jim!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

More Inspection Cars

Paul Schneble recently pointed me to a couple of interesting inspection cars not unlike our own.  The first is a Rock Island unit, #564.  I'll leave it to you to tell me what type of automobile this is.  It appears to have the same general sort of narrow treads and steel flanges as ours.
(Otto C. Perry photograph, courtesy Denver Public Library, Western History Collection)

The best part about this one are the brooms mounted to the front bumper to sweep the rails.  What sort of railroad has that much loose debris on the railheads?

And the next one is a 1940 Buick used by the Missouri and Arkansas, an Arkansas short line.
( Courtesy Witbeck Studio, Hammond, Louisiana, from
Clifton Hall, Shortline Railroads of Arkansas, c. 1969)

The interesting thing here, I think, is that it appears to have ordinary tires and no flanges.  Perhaps it's just an unmodified auto, and if you steer carefully enough you can keep it on the track?!?

Update: And Bill Buhrmaster pointed out that on Ebay there is a photo of Milwaukee Road #23, which appears to be identical to our #30, except that it has a small spotlight on the front of the roof.

Meanwhile, our inspection car still needs money to pay for track space, as well as cosmetic restoration, at least to begin with.  Please donate to the Milwaukee Rd. #30 restricted fund.   Thanks!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Chicago Day

Chicago Day at IRM commemorates the end of streetcar service in the city on June 21, 1958.  I don't know how many people actually remember Chicago streetcar operation, but we'll keep it alive as long as we can.  I was too busy to take many pictures, so you'll just have to imagine the 4391 making its rounds.

The 308 and 309 were running again today.  Bob Opal was the motorman, and Larry Stone the conductor.  The cars performed flawlessly, as usual once in a while.

We had a good crowd of visitors, and everybody seemed to be having a good time.  We got a lot of compliments on the cars, and were able to answer many good questions.  This makes it all worth while.

Woodman, spare that tree!     .... oops, too late.  Tree trimming was in full swing.

And we had several different rapid transit trains running.  The wood cars 1268 and 1797, two singles, and the 2200's, as seen here.  In the afternoon, a storm cell was approaching, so we put the CA&E cars away somewhat early.  But all in all, it was a great day to be out at IRM.

Ed Oslowski was working on IT 277, so I was able to talk to him and take a few pictures.  We're usually not working at the same time.  He's making good progress on the front compartment.

The 277 and 518 are planned to run on Sunday, July 6th, the day after the Trolley Pageant.  There's a practical limit to how many electric trains we can run on one day.  So if you want to ride in comfort on the "Road of Good Service", mark your calendar now!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Shrink to Fit

 Our #1 priority is still the roof of the 319.  Since the car was wyed on Tuesday, the other side is now accessible for canvas.  First, I checked that all of the flashing was up, there were no remaining tacks, etc.  so that the canvas can be applied.

We saw this process a couple of months ago, but the next step is to roll the canvas out on the grass and soak it as much as possible.  Watering the canvas with a hose probably looks pretty dumb, and the result is that it shrinks rather than grows.  In fact, it shrinks a lot!

After letting it dry in the sun while I enjoyed some pizza and root beer at the Deluxe Diner, I rolled it out onto the roof.  It's on the upper roof because it will just fall off the car if I try to roll it onto the lower roof.   But wait -- it's way too short!  I even began to suspect that some miscreant had cut several feet of it off while it was stored in the shop, but after consulting with Tim, cooler heads prevailed.  It's probable that after the canvas has dried, we will be able to stretch it out quite a bit.  And my wife confirmed that cotton shrinks more in hot water than in cold, and it was certainly hot today.  So the next time I can spend a day working, it should be possible to start installing the lower canvas on this side.

After this was done, there wasn't much more I could do on the 319, so I spent some time checking the air system on the 36 and trying to identify (and fix, if possible) any slow leaks in the system.

We still need trainmen for this weekend.  Sign up now if you can.  Thanks.

Paul Schneble gave me a couple of pictures he had copied of rail inspection automobiles, but I left them at the Museum.  They're pretty interesting, but we'll just have to wait until next time.  Sorry!