Monday, June 12, 2017

The travails of the interurban car

Frank writes...

Sunday was the second day of RPO Weekend and it was hot! The high was in the low 90s. Fortunately there was a stiff breeze for pretty much the entire weekend so it actually wasn't entirely unpleasant outside. I hadn't been on the property for very long before I got drafted to help with a switch move.

The job was to swap the order of the CA&E steel cars. It turns out that late on Saturday, the North Shore train (consisting of 100-year-old "Silverliner" combine 251 and 1928-vintage Pullman coach 749) had gone out of service with an overheated journal bearing on the 251. The bearing had been replaced Saturday evening by Car Department shop forces and all was thought well. Then Sunday morning, when the service train for the day (CA&E 431 and 409) was pulling out of the barn, a motor lead on the 431 had an insulation failure which resulted in a spectacular though not particularly harmful short. So the 251 and 749 were substituted in. But then the 251's bearing started running warm again so we did some switching, uncoupling the 431 and instead making up a train consisting of CA&E 409 and 460 to hold down service for the rest of the day. Let me tell you, it's a wonderful thing to have enough operating equipment that backup cars are available! So here's the 431 in Yard 6 along with the replacement service train, 409 and 460.
The 431 can motor on two motors for yard moves and it shouldn't be too bad of a job to replace that traction motor lead. But attention turned to the 251, which along with the 749 had been deposited on the pit lead. Here they are; the CTA 6600s were on the pit undergoing annual inspection (they'll be needed for the "History of the Electrified 'L'" pageant on July 1st) and that job was finished by the end of the day while repair work was being done on the North Shore cars a few feet to the east.
Here are Richard Schauer (L) and Joel Ahrendt jacking up the journal box on the 251. Apologies for the horrendous overexposure but the two workers were in direct sunlight while the journal box was in shadow. Anyhow, inside the journal box you can see the end of the axle, or the journal, with the brass bearing riding atop it. This bearing had developed some odd defects with the babbitt so it was replaced with a spare from stock. The journal surface was cleaned, the new bearing greased, and fresh journal oil put in the box. Then it was time for a test trip!
...and here we are about two hours in, during one of many stops to let the journal cool down. It's not clear why but the journal ran pretty cool for the first three miles or so headed east then started to heat up, and fast. The train ended up limping home at about 5mph with regular stops to air out the journal box. Fortunately this was after hours and on one of the longest days of the year - we didn't get back to the barn until about 8:30pm. Next weekend one of the tasks will be to try and sand down the journal, in an effort to smooth out any defects, and inspect and possibly scrape smooth a new bearing to go with it. Sometimes things like this happen; it's just the cost of doing business, as they say, with equipment that's a century old. Fortunately IRM has some of the most knowledgeable volunteers in the business and these things get addressed, fixed, and the cars get back on the railroad to be enjoyed by our visitors.
And speaking of our knowledgeable volunteers, here's evidence of another ongoing project: a modified resistor for Illinois Terminal 1565, the "Class B" boxcab locomotive. Its control resistors have been failing at an increasing rate so the decision was made to replace them wholesale. Unfortunately they're of an unusual size so Bob Sundelin, one of our resident machinists, designed nickel-plated aluminum end pieces that serve as adapters for commercially available resistors. Testing is now successfully concluded and the end pieces will soon be fabricated. Before long it's hoped that the 1565 will be back in service and more reliable than ever.

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