Monday, January 30, 2017

In Memoriam - Robert E. Bruneau, 1933-2017

"Let me tell you a story." I can't remember how many times I heard that from Bob Bruneau during the years I was volunteering in the Car Department while he was the department head. Bob was one of my best friends at IRM and was something of a mentor, not only to me but to many others.  And along with being a department head, historian, machinist, and general repository of knowledge, he was a story teller. Frequently he would hold an entire room of people in rapt attention talking about riding his beloved Illinois Terminal through central Illinois back in the 1950s - or have his audience practically on the floor laughing telling stories about a long-gone model railroad club or hijinks during the early days at IRM. He was a compelling mix of gregarious yet shrewd; full of information and experience yet self-effacing and unpretentious. He was an irreplaceable trove of stories, information, and memories, and had the ability to make a friend out of a stranger within moments of meeting him. Not only is IRM the poorer for his passing, but so too are all of us who knew him.

Bob was born in 1933 and by his early 20s had become a fan of the IT, a passion that would be lifelong. He would take the Rock Island to Peoria on a Friday night and ride the interurban from there down to St. Louis, spending the weekend riding and observing the last of the truly typical Midwest interurban lines. When mainline interurban passenger service quit in 1956, he borrowed money from his parents and purchased two IT cars, combine 277 and suburban center-entrance car 101. He donated them to IRM (then the Illinois Electric Railway Museum in North Chicago), becoming a regular member in March 1956. Drafted into the army and serving in Korea, Bob missed the end of IT passenger service in 1958 - which he always regretted - but upon his return he quickly became a vital member of the museum's volunteer corps. In 1964, when frantic work to move the entire museum from North Chicago to Union was underway, Bob quit his job as a machinist ("one of my many retirements," he'd say) and essentially lived at the museum for a time. He was in charge of the North Chicago end of the moving operation and would travel home to Chicago once a week to do laundry and pick up food and supplies. He was in charge of a myriad of tasks including prepping cars for movement, making sure needed parts made it to Union, selling spare components for scrap to raise badly-needed cash (he would recall sadly sending brand new GE traction motors from ComEd, still in packing crates, off to scrap), and cleaning up the property.

At Union, for a time Bob was the museum's General Manager and over the years he participated in a number of restoration projects, many - but not all - on Illinois Terminal cars. He always had ambitions to rebuild the 234, perhaps his favorite of the mainline IT car fleet, and return it to an earlier appearance with railroad roof and arched windows. He also rebuilt one end of line car 1702 and did maintenance and repair work on the 101, 415, 277, 1565, and other cars at one time or another. Around 1989, in the middle of acquiring a raft of cars from East Troy, he became head of the Car Department, a post he held for nearly 20 years. The car department has always been a large department in terms of number of volunteers and has long been relatively laissez-faire in its direction; Bob led in that spirit. He was always available to help out a project with advice, experience, or the procuring of spare parts from mysterious hiding places. And he set the standard for quality of work; he painted wooden window frames so perfectly they had the appearance of an automotive finish.

I got to know Bob when I started spending more time volunteering at IRM in the late 1990s and early 2000s. At that time Bob would take the train out to Crystal Lake on Saturday night (to my knowledge he never had a driver's license nor owned a car) and someone would give him a lift to the property. He'd then stay out in Union until Wednesday at dinnertime, when he would either take the train back to his house in Chicago or be given a ride. For years, Saturdays in the Car Department were the non-smoking days, when some of the younger guys and "L" car fans would come out and volunteer, while Sundays were for the "Bruneau crowd" - mostly cigar smokers. Bob himself always smoked Muriel Air Tip cigars and for years the sight of those little plastic cigar tips here and there in the ballast was ubiquitious. Late into the night, Bob would hold court in the smoke-filled car shop for story-telling sessions and discussions that would generally last until one or two in the morning. And he doted on Mr. Socks, the shop cat, who slept in Bob's office in a file drawer - filed under "C" for "cat," of course.

Bob had great stories. He'd talk about riding the IT late at night, in the middle of nowhere between substations where the voltage drop was so bad that wrapping up the controller would practically extinguish the headlight, and the motorman would keep the handle on the post until just before hitting each grade crossing where he'd shut off and suddenly the whole track would be lit up. Or about watching the NYC and PRR race outbound through Englewood, with the Pennsy's turbine locomotive sailing past, throwing chunks of molten slag out the stack at a prodigious rate (Bob said the fans called that thing the "volcano"). Or about hanging off the side of an antique firetruck during a high-speed joyride through Union back in the mid-1960s when IRM was briefly home to a small firetruck museum. Or about working in Ohio to rebuild and re-wheel an open car for Gerald Brookins - the open car now at IRM, the 19. It seemed like he remembered it all, everything that had ever happened to him or at IRM.

One of his latter-day stories that sticks in my mind was about a time in the 1990s when someone took the 415 out for a mainline trip after dark. There wasn't much interest in riding the car and it was just Bob and a few other guys riding along. Somewhere along the trip the skies opened up and it started to pour. The wind was blowing strongly from the south so they closed the windows on that side of the car. The north-facing windows stayed open. And they rode along through the dark, nobody talking, enjoying the sound of the the wheels and the motors and the pouring rain. Back in the 1950s, out in the middle of nowhere in central Illinois, rocketing through the darkness.

Memorial wake:
Thursday, February 2nd
Nelson Funeral Home
820 W Talcott Road
Park Ridge, IL 60068

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Bends Steel With His Bare Hands

Actually, I was wearing gloves, but we'll get to that in a minute.

As usual, there was a lot going on at the Museum.  When I arrived, the track guys were already mostly done with unloading a truckload or two of new ties for the next track project.  That's always good to see.

And then I got a tour of the Kansas City PCC, courtesy of Frank Sirinek and Mike Alterio.  Mike has fabricated a new spring-loaded passenger barrier as seen here.  Its purpose is to keep people from trying to escape paying the fare as they enter the car:

If you want to exit, it springs out of the way.  Mike engineered this new piece based on pictures.   These were used when the car was in Kansas City, but were later discarded.

And there are new decals applied to the interior:

Frank points out where the backup controller will go:

And this will make more sense if you're familiar with Kansas City, I suppose:

I started working on the 36's truss rods again.  Two of the four pins were loose, and these needed to have the holes for the cotter pins drilled out, since they were completely rusted.   Here we see a before and after picture:

And after some work, they are ready for installation again:

As for the other two pins, repeated applications of Kroil and torque accomplished nothing, so it was time to do something else until Gerry Dettloff appeared.

So it was back to sanding down all the various surfaces in the 319's vestibule.  I had to make some new molding strips to frame the dome light, and they look like this:

And some white primer on various surfaces, after sanding:

When Gerry showed up, things really started to happen.   We were able to heat up the remaining stuck pin on the north side and get the truss rod free.   It's a little worrisome having this blowtorch operating directly under my antique wooden car, but Gerry knows what he's doing and controls the flame carefully.  I would really have like to take some pictures of the process, but it was much more important to help him and keep an eye on things.

Once the truss rod was detached from the car, you can easily see the groink at this end:

After heating up the rod at the correct point to red hot, it can be bent straight just with normal pressure.  (Or at least "normal" for someone who is capable of amazing feats of strength!)  Of course, you need to wear gloves and not get too close to the heated part of the rod.

And when we were done, the rod looks like this, lying on the sidewalk.  The groinks have vanished.

Tragically, we then ran out of acetylene, so the other side will have to wait.  But this has gone very well, and I really appreciate Gerry's help in fixing this problem.

And of course there were lots of other projects going on, but I didn't have a chance to check them out.  That's why you have to be there in person.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Carlines for the Doodlebug

Gregg Wolfersheim sends us another update on the UP M-35.   The roof was disassembled many years ago, and the necessary wooden pieces to support it have been fabricated in the woodshop.   Gregg reports:

Recently I made the last three carlines for M-35. With Tim Peters' guidance, I cut out the pieces that will go over the engine room:

Another shot of the carlines in primer. They are not as wide as the ones over the passenger compartment. Those had to reach down farther so the ceiling panels can be attached to them.

The coach department was looking for things to paint a few weeks ago. So, Roger Kramer and the gang painted the previously primed carlines in the carshop area. Here is one all done. There is a left and a right for the end pieces, which overlap the center section and are just screwed together:

Another pic of just the #2 carline. They are in three pieces which are lap jointed to make just one:

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Let's Get This Straight

The truss rods on the 36 have some noticeable bends, otherwise known as groinks, for unknown reasons.   It looks like somebody might have tried to jack the car up on the truss rods.   In any case, today seemed like a good day to start attacking this problem, with the help of Gerry Dettloff.

It's hard to get a good picture of these groinks in the barn; they're a lot more obvious in person.  Each end of the rod is attached to the car with a 1 1/4" steel pin, which is usually rusted in place.   We were able to get one pin on each side free, but the others are still frozen.  You will notice that near each end casting there is a small bracket to hold the truss rod once the pin is removed; I take this to indicate that it was not unusual to remove the rods for various reasons, such as minor accidents.   We seldom do that here; I'm sure we've never removed or even adjusted the rods on the 309, for instance.

And here is one of the rods, disconnected at one end, waiting for Kroil to work its magic on the other end.   We'll keep working on this project on Saturday.  I might also point out that the truss rods are heavy.  But that's good, I need the exercise.

And then it was back to sanding and painting in the vestibule of the 319.   

The next big project will probably be the 451.   I looked in the car today to find most of the parts we'll need to complete the roof installation.   And later, while paint was drying in the 319, I put a first coat of black on the new saddles for the 451.

It's been a while since I've had a chance to run the 451.   Since 1979, I think: 

  This is a four-car train of CA&E steel cars.  From front to back: 409, 460, 451, 453.   Norm, Jeff, and I all got a chance to run the train around the layout, courtesy of Tim O'Donnell.  Our goal is to re-create this train at IRM, with one minor substitution, and more accurate paint.  Wouldn't that be nice? 

So that's it for today.   Several other things were going on, but I didn't get a chance to photograph them.  

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Santa Fe Consol

In the town of Wickenburg, Arizona a nice Santa Fe 2-8-0 is on display which we had seen before.  This time, however, the cab was open to the public and has evidently been recently restored.   It  seems that all the hardware is in place, and they don't appear to have had any problems with theft or vandalism, so that's good.  A clipboard left in the cab tells you everything you might want to know.

In Arizona you generally have a loooong distance to drive from one item of railroad interest to the next, so that's about it for this trip.  But since I have a daughter who lives there, we plan to keep going back every year.  Railfanning suggestions are welcome.

Monday, January 23, 2017

The unveiling

Frank writes...

The lights dim... a hush comes over the audience... the curtain lifts to reveal - 

But more on that in a moment. When I arrived out at the museum Sunday I didn't really have a project or agenda in mind; it was one of those "I'll see what I can help out with" sort of days. And the answer, the project that I could help out with, was removing a faulty grid box from Wisconsin Electric Power steeplecab L7. Joel Ahrendt was heading up this project assisted by Zach Ehlers and Greg Kepka.

So here's the interior of the steeplecab. Normally those wire panels are mounted to the vertical frame pieces to create a "cage" around the electrical equipment in the center of the cab. This is to prevent the crew from falling into something that might make them a conductor of a different sort. The very large air compressor is on the floor with the grid boxes and some other equipment mounted above (the L7 has a K-controller, unusual for a steeplecab, so there aren't sets of contactors like in most locomotives).
Here Joel (L) and Greg use a resistance tester custom built for us by Jim Pechous to try and figure out exactly what the issues with the first grid box are. We ended up dropping the box and taking it to the shop, where with help from Richard Schauer and some cleaning up of contact surfaces it was discovered that the box is in good shape after all. So that's good news. Richard and the rest of us then lifted it back into place, replaced the electrical connections, and re-hung the cage panels.

The shop was pretty busy Sunday. Norm and Jeff were doing more steel work on the Michigan interurban car; Bob Sundelin cleaned up the lathe, whose jaws had become jammed, and measured bed alignment; and Richard and Jeron were working on cleaning up retrievers. But where was I...

Ah, yes. A hush comes over the audience and the curtain lifts to reveal... uh... ?
This, ladies and gentlemen, is Terre Haute Indianapolis & Eastern 58, one of two THI&E car bodies built by Laconia in 1904 and acquired by IRM in 1996. This car has been tarped since either 1996 or 1997 but Zach, Greg, Richard and I removed the car's tarp and made it visible for viewing for the first time in two decades late Sunday.
This was the last of ten 62' wooden interurban combines numbered 40-58 (even only) built by Laconia Car Company of New Hampshire for the Indianapolis & North Western, later part of the THI&E. Laconia primarily built streetcars for lines in the northeast; they built very few large interurban cars and THI&E 50 and 58 at IRM are the only two Laconia interurban cars to survive. Car 58 lasted until the end of its service life (around 1933) largely unmodified.
The car never lost its upper-sash windows and was never painted anything other than Pullman green while in service; a small section of original paint and gold striping was never painted over and is still visible. This car served as a cabin at Lake Shafer, Indiana for about 65 years before coming to IRM.
And as if that wasn't enough, we also untarped the other THI&E car, the 50 - also named "Clinton." This car was originally identical to car 58 but was rebuilt by the THI&E in the 1920s. At that time it acquired a name, steel sheathing from the belt rail up, and a flashy paint job of chrome yellow with black letterboard and windows and a tile red roof. It looked kind of like this after the rebuild. Pretty sharp! Unfortunately this car's structure suffered grievously while it, like car 58, served as a cottage at Lake Shafer. Portions of the side sills are entirely rotted away and the wall structure in places is very badly deteriorated.
Both 50 and 58 have pluses and minuses. One neat thing about car 50 is that it retains obvious vestiges of its in-service appearance, including original canvas (with red paint) visible in the upper photo, and this slice of original paint and lettering where the wall of a lean-to was installed when the car was made into a cabin. Its interior is also practically untouched from its service days. However its structure is in very bad shape. Car 58 appears to be structurally much better, but it has had a house door cut into its side and its interior was painted (and carpeted!). So take your pick if that million dollars is burning a hole in your pocket and you want to see a THI&E car back on the rails.
And for the finale, the tarp was also removed from CSL 4001. If you want to know more about this car you need only click here. Car 4001 was tarped in 2009 when the Brookins collection was acquired and seems to have suffered relatively little, given its all-aluminum construction.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Sharlot Hall Museum

The Sharlot Hall Museum in Prescott, Arizona is an extensive historical museum that includes several historic buildings including the oldest surviving log cabin and the original Governor's Mansion (so-called because it was the first building in Arizona with two rooms.)   The museum itself is well worth a visit, with a lot of interesting items on display.   There were several docents in the various buildings, most of whom I believe are volunteers, and they were all very helpful and well informed.

Anyway, at the entrance to the museum grounds is this tiny Porter 0-4-0T, which was recently cosmetically restored.  It belonged to the Congress Gold Company, a local mining firm.

As you can see from the pictures, it was even used in passenger service, carrying workers to the mine on a single-truck open car.   This seems about one step above transporting people on speeders.

It sits under the canopy of this Disneyesque station building.

In the visitor's center is an operating HO diorama of Prescott in the early years.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Don't Let Cabin Fever Get You Down

As usual, our Museum was very busy today.  The April-like weather encouraged everybody to get out and be active, so a lot got done.

To begin with, Tim found this blueprint in the archives and set it out for public entertainment.  It's a proposed design for a new shop building by Dan Gornstein from 1979.  Nothing like this ever got constructed, but it's interesting to look at.

I brought out the replacement window I had made for the 1218, and Buzz cut the glass to the correct size.  It happened so fast I didn't get a chance to take a picture.  But here it is, sitting in the frame, and I will put it all together at home.

Larry Stone was out today, and we spent most of the day making new saddles for the roof of CA&E 451.  First, we determined the proper curvature for the lower edge of the saddle, as seen here on the pine sample:

Then we ripped the white oak I had bought, and Larry marked the outlines, and we started cutting out a total of 17 saddles on the big bandsaw.  With two of us to take turns, it went pretty quickly.   

Then all the parts were sanded down, and finally taken outside for painting with white primer.  It's nice that we can do this in January.

And Larry helped with a few other miscellaneous tasks also.

Tim wanted me to point out that he's been making a complete set of clerestory windows for the 1754.

And here he is sanding them down:

And here are metal parts for the doors:

One of our members brought out an interesting artifact as a donation to the Museum.  It's a carrying case for a North Shore conductor.  It has compartments for holding his hat, a special lever used for opening stuck car windows (the green wooden piece in the third picture), and other items.

I would like to point out that the Museum is always glad to accept donations of historic items like this, and they are much appreciated.

Rich Witt was working on blueprints for Michigan Electric car parts....

Buzz Morisette was painting the new doors for the depot he has made...

Dave Diamond and a helper were fixing up barn doors... 

And (L to R) Chris Buck, Dan Buck, and Bill Wulfert were busy cleaning Kevin signs in Barn 8.  In this particular case, it's nice to see somebody else caring about the 150...  anyway, there were lots of other activities going on that I didn't get a chance to photograph.  As always, we could use more help.