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.
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.