Saturday, February 28, 2015

Give Me a Buzz

Although spring has not yet sprung, we have only so many days during the winter to do restoration work before inspection season starts, and visitors start wandering through the barns, and one's controller hand starts itching, and so on.  So we need to just keep on stripping and painting.

I'm making slow but steady progress in the #1 vestibule of the 36.  This part of the front wall was sanded down and painted with primer.  The brake handle will have to be removed for stripping, but so far the set screw has resisted all attempts to loosen it.   Resistance, however, is futile. 

And the vestibule door was stripped, sanded down, and painted with first primer.  There's just no way to get far enough away from the door to take a good picture of it. 

On my one visit to the car shop, it was apparent that work continues as usual on the 24.  Tim has finished several of the seat backs and cushions for the Bowling Alley, and here they have been covered with paper for protection, and are stored on this rack.

The next one is in below-average condition, so it will need more structural repairs than the others.  

It looks like Keith is proud of the work he has been doing on the chandeliers.   There are three of them in the car: two have three bulbs, and one has four.  That adds up to ten, which is a multiple of five.   So the math works out.  The two clear bulbs are the type to be used; these are special bulbs with carbon filaments and high vacuum, so they're approved for railway car use.

And on the subject of equipment, here's the buzzer interrupter box on the 36.   The bare spots on the ceiling above it shown by the yellow arrows are the unmistakeable (to me) footprint of the earlier type of interrupter, as used on the 308 and 309 (below).  It's not clear whether the interrupter was replaced at Wheaton or at Cleveland, but it was obviously after the car was painted red, so it would be nice to go back to the earlier style. 

The long cylinder houses a basically inaccessible 5K resistor needed to drop the voltage to the buzzers.  I'm not aware that we have any of these in storage at IRM, so I'd like to find one that could be made operational if there are any in private collections.  Therefore, if you happen to know of one that we could acquire by donation, purchase, and/or trade, please give me a buzz.   Thanks!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

36 Report

 The last two third rail beams for the 36 are nearly complete.  Today the fuses were installed, as seen here.   Unfortunately the fuses may lead to an electrical dead end for the foreseeable future, but we can always pretend they're connected in back somehow, right?

 Tim helped me get them off the bench, since that's valuable real estate, and they're now sitting on the floor near Bill's workspace for CRT third rail beams.  Once the weather warms up, which may happen some time later this calendar year if we're lucky, they can be mounted on the car.

After that, it was time for more work on the vestibule.   The flag box was put back in place and painted blue.  Then the rest of this side of the vestibule, down to the floor.

 And more primer on parts of the front window frame, etc.  There is no real way to speed up this process very much.

Meanwhile Tim continues to work on the bowling alley seats.  Here he has rigged up a system of clamps to compress the springs on this 15' long seat frame so the new rattan can be attached under tension.

Monday, February 23, 2015

How They Did It In Boston

Bill loaned me an old book about Boston Rapid Transit with this interesting picture of third rail shoes on a steeplecab.  The picture on the left zooms in on the truck.

There are two wire brushes that can be pushed down by springs, but the springs don't look very strong.  I fail to see how this could be very effective.  In the picture, the brushes are both held off the rail by the wooden handles above them, which are in the vertical position.  And the shoe itself is just a flat bar bent into a U shape.  It can't be very heavy, but there's also a spring above it.  I guess it must have worked.   It appears to me that most rapid transit cars had the same type of third rail pickup, but without the wire brushes.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Let's Russell Up Some Snow

Today the guys put our CGW Russell plow into use for the first time at IRM, so let's see some videos.  Maybe it's not quite like the Sierras, but we needed to clear some road crossings between the main and the south yards for switching.  Thanks to Joel, Rich, Greg, and others for making this possible!




What your humble correspondent was doing is no doubt an anticlimax, but every man has to do what he can.

The third rail beams for the 36 got a first coat of gloss black.  Because they can be balanced on the parts that aren't being painted, there's paint on all four sides of the beams.  Aren't they pretty?

(OK, maybe your aesthetic sense is more nuanced than mine.  Please don't rub it in.)


In the afternoon I worked on the vestibule.  Most of the paint on the pocket door was in bad shape, so I decided to strip it all down.  It's an open question whether it's better in these cases to remove the red paint or just sand it down and put primer over it.  Either way, it takes a long time.

This narrow vestibule is not hard to warm up, so later I started painting the ceiling and other parts with a first coat of blue.  Once the flag box is put back in place, it will be nearly impossible to paint the parts above and behind it.  Since this is a flash picture, you will have to take my word for it that the paint is actually much darker than this.  As usual, it looks better in person.

On the subject of our Russell plow, Victor has been doing a lot of work.  Here is the rebuilt headlight, which will replace the sealed-beam headlight with which it came to us, sitting on top of the stove that he has restored.

And here Tim is conducting a seminar on how to install new rattan on bowling alley seats.  IRM is an educational institution, and the learning just never stops.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

CRT Markers

Since someone asked about what replaced the elegant rotating brass marker castings on CRT cars, Bill Wulfert dug up an ancient photo of a wood L car with the daytime marker paddles.  I believe these particular ones were gloss white, and of course there were other colors in use.  This picture was taken during the period when wood cars were often mixed with 4000's, something that was no longer done when the 1797 became operational.  Thanks, Bill!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

At the Health Club

The weather outside keeps getting colder and colder, so it was another good day to stay inside and work out by lifting weights at the East Union Health Club.   Did I mention that dues are very reasonable?
Let's limber up those muscles by assembling a couple of third rail beams.  As you lift the parts into position, remember to bend your knees, not your back.  Then you get to spend plenty of time finding, sorting, and tightening nuts and bolts.  They say it's "aerobic", whatever that means.

To relax, you'll want to make the little wooden plates that cover the bolts holding the heavy shoe assembly.  I imagine they are supposed to prevent flashovers to the truck frame.

 And then the parts get another coat of primer as needed.  We've decided the parts below the beam don't really need to be painted.  The original beams don't seem to have any paint on those parts.  Next time we can start painting them black.

Tim helped with some of the heavy lifting, but was mostly working on the seats for the Bowling Alley.  Frank Kehoe and Jim Heinlein were working with him, but I didn't get a picture.  Sorry!

And you can see the sparks fly as he grinds down some more parts.

Once the third rail beams were done, I did some more surface prep and painting in the vestibule.  These vestibules are small, so a single space heater can easily warm them up to a good temperature for primer. It will be nice when this can start turning blue. 

And then I took the flag box to the shop to finish stripping it, and put on a coat of primer.

And I guess everybody needs to take a break now or then.  Here's an anonymous entry in our modern art contest.

Say, you probably made a New Year's resolution to get more exercise.  Better get down to the health club toot sweet!

The Secret Science of Sleet Scraping, Part II - Pantographs

David writes......

In Randall's original article on sleet scraping for third rail and trolley pole electric railway properties, a commenter asked about pantographs.

I've read that the Pennsylvania Railroad normally operated with the rear pantograph up. During sleet storms and other conditions where the overhead could ice over, the front pantograph would be raised, but cut out from the electrical system, so it could knock off ice on the wire before the rear, power-collecting pantograph came into contact. Above, here is a photo from Marty Bernard showing both pans up on a GG1 at Potomac Yard, near Washington, D.C.
This also appears to have been the case for the South Shore, though some older photos show cars in good weather condition running with the front pantographs up, while others show the rear pantographs up.  Could one of our readers enlighten us?

In the photo above, we see a standard St. Louis light rail car. Note the pantograph in the front, just behind the headlight. This is a sleet scraping pantograph. These sleet cutters appear on some Siemens light rail cars . They were developed by the late Fred Perry when he served as a consultant for the Metrolink system in St. Louis. Of course, Fred was a friend of IRM and many other traction museums until his untimely death about ten years ago. St. Louis, as I well know from living there for nine years, gets a lot of ice storms compared to other parts of the country. Such storms create havoc on the streets and the transit systems. Fred directed the installation of a spare pantograph on the front of one of the Metrolink cars. The pantograph was not wired to collect power, but was wired into a resistor, which in turn would head the collector blades on the top of the pantograph. The front pantograph was also apparently tuned to place more pressure on the overhead. The end result was a heated sleet scraper that would clear the overhead before the power-collecting pantograph came into contact with the wire.

According to Fred, when he told me this story at the Museum of Transportation years ago, the Siemens engineers were horrified at first when they heard that this modification had been made. After they inspected it up close, it became an optional feature on some of their light rail cars. I know some of the cars used by the Utah Transit Authority here in Salt Lake have the same sleet scraping pantograph. In the photo above, we see a similar setup. I've noticed that not all of the UTA cars have these. Having lived here for about 18 months, I can say we don't seem to get as many ice storms as I experienced in St. Louis.

So folks, there you have it! The complete science of sleet scraping!

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Cold Hard Facts

The fact is, it was a good day to stay inside.  The bitter cold, biting wind, and blinding sun outside were brutal.  But at IRM we're lucky to have a nice warm shop to work in, so we made a lot of progress on making new third rail beams for the 36, among other projects.

In the morning I even had a new helper for a while.  John Heid has been a long time member and blog reader, but was living in New Jersey until recently, so he hasn't been volunteering for very long.  He's a member of the Steam Team, which is fine, but due to the Board meeting there was nobody in the steam shop in the morning so he wandered over to the car shop.  And I put him to work wire-wheeling third rail parts.

Wire-wheeling is done out in the barn, but it isn't quite as cold and of course there's no wind so it's not bad.  John did a very good job on the first two or three parts that had to be prepared.  Thanks!

Don't worry, the parts are not actually this blurry.  If only I knew someone who could reliably take good pictures....  Sorry, Chuck, that was a joke, of course.

Larry Stone was out again today and he and I worked on the wooden beams.  We did some more drilling, chiseled out mortises as needed, and checked that the parts will fit together as planned.

Then we started painting the wood and the cylinders with first primer.

So by the end of the day they looked like this.  Next time I can bolt them together and put on another coat of primer to seal everything.

But probably the most dramatic project recently completed is painting of the markers for the 24.

Tim can be justly proud of this accomplishment.  As he says, nobody has seen anything like this for the last hundred years.  And Rod did all of the machining to make this possible, but prefers to avoid the limelight.

The next step is making the handles to rotate the markers.  The lights are mounted on the roof at the ends, and the shafts extend down through the ceiling of the open platform vestibules.  Then you have these handles, as seen in a catalog illustration from 1898 or so.  And Rod is machining the parts to make it all work.  It doesn't get any better than this!

The other regulars, such as Buzz, Victor, Rich, and several others were out working on various projects, so it doesn't get lonely.  But of course, we can always use more help.  Come on out!

Friday, February 13, 2015

The Secret Science of Sleet Scraping

Ice is an insulator.  So if ice or sleet forms on the third rail or trolley wire, as often happens during the winter, it can bring an electric railroad to an embarrassing and expensive halt.  To solve this problem, we need the aid of Science.  So if you like scientific details, keep reading!

We shall, of course, start with the CA&E.  When the line was built in 1902, nobody had much experience with keeping a third-rail interurban running. In the early days they tried putting a tank of either brine or calcium chloride solution in the front vestibule and letting it drip through tubes onto the third rail.  This was a real mess, as you can imagine, and it damaged the rails, the insulation, and so on.  The third rail fixtures themselves were in a state of flux at this time, but by about 1913 or so the road had settled on the third rail beam design that was used until the end.  This design includes pneumatic sleet scrapers.

Here's what the standard sleet scraper looks like.  The cylinder is fed through a flexible hose, and the piston pushes the cast iron scraper shoe down onto the third rail.  There's one on each side of each truck, and all four operate in unison.

The cylinder looks like this, upside down.  The shaft goes down through a slot in the wooden beam, and the shoe is bolted onto the bottom.  You can see the spring that pushes the piston up when air is released.  I meant to measure the vertical travel, but it's about 6".

The shoe looks like this.  They tend to be pretty worn down.  The shoe has an electrical connection so it will act as a current collector when in use.

The scrapers on the lead car are controlled by a valve to the right of the brake valve.  On the wood cars there's just a simple on-off valve as seen here.  

On the steel cars, however, there's a more complex valve that uses a second brake handle, of the same type as the M-23 motorman's valve.  This is more than a simple on-off valve, but I'm not sure how it works since we never use it.  I must confess that David was basically correct about this, although I doubt this was actually a motorman's brake valve of some sort.

Because of the great force the pneumatic cylinders could exert, I would assume it was necessary for the motorman to raise the scrapers wherever there was a gap in the third rail.

The CRT/CTA has always been able to use simpler means of scraping the rail, largely because traffic is much more frequent on the rapid transit lines, and during sleet storms they would send out extra trains just to keep the rails clear. Here's what one of the more modern scrapers looks like.  At the top is a long leaf spring, which drives down the scrapers at each end.  Ordinarily these are kept in the up position, as here, by means of a lever.  By turning the handle, the scrapers drop into position.  Of course, they are then always down and cannot be raised while the train is in motion.  But that is evidently not necessary with the flexible scrapers used here.  I think most of our rapid transit cars had these scrapers on only one truck.  

As for other third-rail equipment at IRM, the Michigan Electric car had pneumatic scrapers similar to the CA&E's mounted on the front truck only.  The Com Ed 4 and the S motor used an under-running third rail where sleet would not be an issue.

But of course sleet can be a problem with trolley wire as well as third rail.  The greater flexibility of trolley wire (particularly simple suspended) makes it easier to knock the ice off, but most cars can have only one pole up and you have to remove the ice and collect current at the same time.  Somewhere we have examples of sleet-cutting trolley wheels and I'll try to get a picture of one.  It looks sort of like a miniature turbine wheel.

Here's an interesting solution from the Illinois Terminal.  Combine 277 has a trolley pole mounted near the front of the car with a special sleet cutting shoe.  During the winter, a retriever would be mounted so the front pole could be raised.  This would enable the rear pole to collect current reliably.  Of course, if the front pole dewired, a crewman would have to climb onto the (presumably icy) roof to take care of it!  We are certainly lucky that IRM can just shut down during the winter.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Grid Project Completed

Now it can be revealed: the roof-mounted marker lights for our CRT open platform car 24 (1024) are essentially complete.  They're in the process of being painted, as you can see, but that's a simple if time-consuming process.  These fixtures were removed about 1915 or so, and none of them survive.  The new fixtures were re-engineered based on photographs such as the one seen in the picture.

Tim made the wooden forms for the brass castings, and Rod did the machining on the rough cast parts.  He estimates it would cost about $5,000 to produce these commercially.  And we wanted to wait until today so Frank Kehoe could see them in person, since he's put in a lot of effort on this project.

This picture was taken on Saturday.  It's unfortunate that the beautiful brass castings have to be painted, but that's the way it often happens.  It will be exciting to see these in service!

In the morning I finished the grid box project.  The remaining old beam was cut apart with the help of Tim's Sawzall, and then the new beam was placed and all the bolts installed and tightened up.

Then the platform was removed, and I collected the old parts and cleaned up.  I checked the electrical connections to make sure they were still tight.  I didn't find any loose wires, but I did find a loose bolt sitting on top of one of the grids.  That wouldn't be good!

And the afternoon was mostly spent in prepping various parts of the vestibule.  This part of the bulkhead now has first primer.  There are many nooks and crannies, so it takes a while.

And Gerry showed me the new 40x40 tarp they've acquired for the Electroliner.  Once the first unit is over the pit, the tarp can be placed over it and fastened down to keep the heat in for people working in the pit.  There should be enough room for the motors in both motor trucks at this end to be removed for rebuilding.  Then, presumably, the train can be wyed and the other end get the same treatment.  The center truck has no motors.  So I promise we'll be keeping an eye on this project.