Saturday, November 29, 2014

Now We're Cooking With Gas!

 I hope everybody had a pleasant and rewarding Thanksgiving holiday, as we did.  That's why there was no post this week, which has actually led to some complaints.  Yowza!  So now it's back to work.

 The end bulkhead on the smoker now has a first finish coat from top to bottom.  Pretty spiffy, eh?  The pocket door and its frame are painted in "36 Lower", the sides are "36 Middle", and the ceiling, of course, is "36 Upper".   (I didn't repaint the back of the car card holder, since it will be covered.) 
As usual, these pictures are hampered by the lighting conditions, but I hope you get the idea.  It's not clear to me how they came up with these paint schemes.  The exteriors were very uniform, as a rule, but the interiors were often one of a kind, it would appear.  I suppose it made an otherwise boring job more interesting.

And I worked on stripping and repainting various window shade tracks.  Larry has helped on these, and the first four were installed and painted with first finish.  A couple of them are seen here.

Dan Buck stopped by to visit, and Max fixed a problem with the control circuit so we can now turn the overhead lights in Barn 8 off and on as needed.   Thanks, Max!

This is probably the worst possible picture, but a new gas heating system is being installed in the Barn 4 inspection pit, and the 604 is a good platform for installing the piping.  Here Dave Diamond and Jerry Lynn are on the platform, and they're being helped by Max Tyms and Al Choutka on the ground.  This will enable work in the pit to continue through the winter.  You don't have to be a physics teacher to wonder what might keep the hot air from rising out of the pit, so tarps will be provided to reduce the heat loss.  This should make several important projects possible during the winter months, so as my father would say, "Now you're cooking with gas!"

Meanwhile, back in the already climate-controlled shop, Tim is making his usual amazing progress on the 1024.  Here are all the various new window frames in the drying rack, as the varnish hardens. 

And here are the ceiling panels for the 1024, with enough for the next L car, whenever that might happen.  I got the impression I shouldn't reveal what the plans might be.  Only good little boys and girls get to know, ho ho ho!

Of course there was lots else going on, such as switching.

And finally, as the sun sinks quickly in the west, at about 4:30, we have this nice sunset.  What a beautiful day!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

36 Progress

Painting in the 36 continues.  I didn't take many pictures today, so this will be brief.  Mostly, it was surface prep and second primer.

There are just so many surfaces I can stand to sand down, prime, sand again, etc.  For the insides of the hinged windows over the pocket doors, which visitors can hardly see, I think it will be enough to just wipe a coat of new paint over the old.  By the way, I noticed that at this location the two walls on either side of the door are not even parallel to each other.  The more I learn about this car, the stranger it gets.

Anyway, it's nice to have a new coat of "36 Middle" on part of the wall to compare to the ceiling color ("36 Upper").  The three colors used in this paint scheme are not all that different.  Next time, the rest of the end bulkhead should be complete and it will be much more interesting.  I promise.

And of course, there were lots of other things going on.  The track ballasting, in particular, just never ends.  The ballast train was running all day, it seemed.  And the facilities in Barn 4 are being upgraded in some way, but you'll just have to wait to learn exactly what.

Frank is in Boston this weekend on business.  Bill Wulfert handed me a picture from an old issue of Headlights of "Sullivan cars" on the IC, which I'm supposed to give to him.  Since I have to scan it in anyway, I might as well share it with you. Here we have the distant ancestors of the Highliners, and it's too bad none of them survived.  They would be just right for the Casey Jones engine!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Smoker Painting

Painting the smoker progressed nicely again today, in spite of the cold.  It's not too hard to warm up the smoking compartment to a comfortable temperature.  All of the end bulkhead, including the inside of the pocket door, was prepped and primed. 

Since the subject of the baggage racks came up, I decided to try a section.  The front rod was scraped down, and the other parts were wire-brushed as much as possible.  This is more of a challenge than the usual woodwork. 
After a first coat of primer, it looks like this.  Painting the wire network is difficult, and may be unnecessary.  The railroad painted all these parts without primer, and that may be part of the reason the paint is flaking off so badly.

On the subject of pocket doors, the one at the other end had a spring catch of the type usually used for swinging doors attached near the top.  The spring part is missing, though you can see where the screws were, and I'm sure that's because it was an accident hazard.  Anyone taller than myself could easily bump his head into it and get a bad scrape.  It may have been installed by the railroad, but is certainly not original and no longer needed.  The CA&E may have had problems with pocket doors rolling back and forth during high-speed travel, but that doesn't seem to be an issue under our conditions of service.  Anyway, I decided to remove it.

And here Tim is varnishing the new clerestory window frames for the 24 in the shop.  And work continued on ballasting the south yards in spite of the sub-zero wind chills.  Dress warmly!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Helping Others Helps

 ... or something like that.  Larry Stone came out today to help on the 36, so a lot got done.  There were several loose parts removed from the smoker that I could have him work on in the wood shop, and so Buzz and some of the others could provide help and advice when needed. 

Here he is wire-wheeling the metal frame from the smoker. I always like to show people, including myself, using the appropriate safety gear.

So we have the car card frame, the window over the wrecking tool box, some window shade tracks, and panic cord parts to work on.  Every little bit helps.

And later, he gets to paint the newly-cleaned parts with white primer.

Meanwhile, I continued to work inside the car, sanding down window posts and other parts of the wall, which were later primed.

And by the end of the day, the other side of the lower ceiling had a first finish coat.

In order to pay for the new ventilators for the 36, I needed to help Andy Sunderland remove usable parts from the Shafer car which is being scrapped.  As you can see here, it's beyond hope. 

It's unfortunate, but we have two other THI&E carbodies in better shape being preserved, as we saw earlier.  They're now shrink-wrapped.

Andy has the tools and the truck needed for this work.

The Signal Dept. guys were working on the crossing gates which will be installed at the pedestrian crossing near the entrance.  This will help when we're using 50th Avenue, for instance.

And finally, we have exclusive videos of the CTA control group tester in operation, courtesy of Rich Schauer and Eric Lorenz, the gurus of this technology.  Of course, it's even more fun to watch it in person.  They're hoping to be able to put it in one of the barns, with appropriate protection, for visitors to use.   As Rich says, the possibilities are endless.

 It's fun and educational too!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Paint and Suffering

Actually, I don't think there was any suffering.  Another day of sanding and painting in the 36 went by uneventfully.  Here are a few pictures.

(L) As you can see, this is one of the worst corners in terms of the molding strips not matching.  I suspect this dates back to the rebuilding early in the car's life.

By the end of the day, we have first finish color on the lower ceiling on one side of the smoker, as well as lots more primer.

 And as usual, other people are hard at work too.

John McKelvey works day in and day out on upholstery.   Here he is rebuilding the end arm rest for a stationary seat.  I didn't ask him which car this is for; I would guess it's the Lake City, but I could be wrong.

And Tim is working on the 24 (1024), of course, no doubt about that.  Here is one of the new clerestory frames after staining and varnishing, compared to the prototype.

And this is the huge front window for the motorman's cab.   This was actually a drop sash, although it must weigh a ton with the original plate glass in place.  It was later changed to be immovable, but for the 1914 time period it should be able to lower.  It will just take a helper or two to raise back up.

Well, that was about it.  There will undoubtedly be more to report on Saturday.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Readers Responding

 Our loyal readers keep contributing interesting photos.   First, Chuck Amstein has a photo he took on a visit to Japan (and he has lots more, if anyone's interested!)  We've been discussing how to turn a rail-bound automobile around on a center turntable jack -- here's the same thing done with a steam locomotive!  I'm sure this is a very small loco by U.S. standards.  Notice the man on the right, and the track gauge for all the steam railroads in Japan was 3'6", until the bullet trains came along.  Still, especially with a little tank engine like this, what's the big advantage of turning it around in the first place???

 And Stephen Scalzo has some more pictures from the Snowflake special.   (R)  This is a good comparison of the new cars with the Highliners.  Among other things, they have the operating cab on the upper level, as on all the push-pull gallery cars.  We'll have to plan on providing extra-high storage tracks in Barn 37 or so to handle them, I suppose.  And again, thanks to Chuck and Stephen!!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Snowflake Special Report

Frank writes...

The Snowflake Special traction fan trip is an IRM tradition dating back to the 1970s.  Most have been run on the CTA, starting with 4000s, then spam cans, and most recently Budd and Boeing cars.  A couple were run on the Illinois Central and maybe even on the South Shore, but none has ever been run on Metra since the agency was created 30 years ago.  None, that is, until now!

With retirement of the 1970s-vintage Highliners looming, IRM volunteers led by Richard Schauer lined up a unique fan trip with four cars covering the entire Metra Electric district.  The electrified district includes the main line, with Randolph Street at the north end and University Park at the south end, and two branches, the South Chicago branch east of the main line and the Blue Island branch to the west.
The trip began at Randolph Street and headed south with a photo stop at 53rd-55th-57th before proceeding down the South Chicago branch.  This is an interesting line; at one point it paralleled the B&O, had a now-abandoned (but still easily identified by the derelict catenary bridges) yard, and in the good old days was flanked for part of it length by a CSL car line.  See here for a CERA photo of a streetcar crossing the South Chicago branch at 79th.  The above photo was taken at the line's terminus at 93rd.
A number of friends from the Car Department were there including Ray Cook, who just retired in September after 49 years working with the Illinois Central and later Metra.  In recent years he had been running trains on the electric district and provided a lively commentary.  Above he is shown pointing out the most noticeable difference between Highliners built by St. Louis (left) and Bombardier (right): the collision posts, which were I-beams on the earlier St. Louis cars but following the 27th Street wreck were changed to solid steel columns on the Bombardier cars.
The train then retreated back up the South Chicago branch and proceeded at speed down the main line all the way to University Park, the southern end of the electric district.  Above can be seen a BNSF freight train sitting over on the freight tracks waiting for a delayed northbound Amtrak train to clear.
And just south of the platform in the storage track was one of the most recent Highliner II gallery cars, 1308.  At this point there are still about 80 of the old Highliners in service but they are being retired weekly.
And then it was north to Richton Park where the train stopped for lunch.  Our train headed north while we grabbed food; above is a quick video of it coming back into the platform.

And then we took the train down the Blue Island branch, which normally doesn't have any service on Sundays.  We couldn't go all the way to Blue Island, because they park trains at the platform there on Sundays, but we did go to Burr Oak.  And before that there was a photo run-by at Racine Avenue.
The Blue Island branch is not what you think of when you think of mainline electrification; the area is very residential for most of its length and the entire branch is single-track with just one passing siding.  Racine Avenue used to feature a Dutch Boy paint factory north of the branch but that site is now a solar panel field, visible in the background of the photo below.
And then it was on to Burr Oak, where I took the photo at the top of this post.  After that we headed back to Randolph Street, stopping for photos at 11th Street before calling it a day.  Overall the trip was wonderfully planned and very ably executed.  Missed the trip?  Well never fear, you can you can still help out with acquiring a pair of Highliners for IRM by sending in a donation to the Highliner fund.  Every little bit helps!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

In the Mail

I was out of town over the weekend, but loyal readers contributed some interesting material.  Bob Olson of the Track Dept. sent a couple of pictures he took of the finished product in Yard 13:

"Almost ready for barn construction!"

And Chuck Amstein sent a link to a photo of an inspection car similar to ours, in the process of being turned.  Ours is equipped with exactly this type of jack:

The Flickr photostream includes several other pictures of this car.  I hadn't thought about the need to carry some additional blocking in the trunk, to serve as a base for rotating the car.  But this whole process looks a little worrisome to me, I must admit.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Stay Inside

It was a beautiful day today, as long as you were inside.  We're lucky to have so many historic cars stored inside, safe from the ravages of the weather.  We're never satisfied, so the track guys were hard at work getting ready to build two more barns.  Meanwhile, inside Barn 8:

A first coat of finish cream was applied to the center ceiling.  It looks delicious!  

The car numbers at each end are decals, but it may not be easy to get correct decals made.  In the smoker, the paint and decals were in pretty good shape, so I tried painting around them.  With a little more adjustment, this may work out pretty well.  Unfortunately, at the other end things are noticeably worse.  I'm researching the available options, so stay tuned.

And there was more sanding and painting as the day wore on.

The process of  prepping and painting the entire ceiling makes it obvious how many parts don't fit together quite right.  I suspect that this is because the entire interior was removed from all  of
these cars back in the 1910-1915 
era to install steel reinforcements to the car's framing.  This was illustrated in railway trade journals at the time.   And putting it all back together required exposed screw heads in various places, and parts that don't quite fit.  I doubt the car looked like this when it came from the builder.  The 309, in contrast, never received the steel reinforcements, so there are no obvious mismatches like this.  Just another bit of historical trivia.

Part of the bulkhead is hinged to open to access the wheels on the pocket door, but it no longer closes completely.  Another casualty of the rebuilding, as I take it.

The 321 has been moved from Yard 14 to the front of Barn 11.  I would like to apply another tarp sometime soon, when it's not so windy, and this is a more convenient location.

And in Barn 4, Tim is working as always on the 24.  Here he is stripping paint from the ceiling.

And for more modern L cars, we now have this test stand for the control system on the 2200-series cars.  Since the CTA no longer needs it, they gave it to us.  The attached plate says it was used for training motormen on these cars.   We could use more of these!