Friday, September 29, 2017

A Visit to St. Louis

David writes....

I was back in Salt Lake City for all of a day and a half before I departed for Missouri. We are visiting the in-laws. 

On Thursday, we visited the Museum of Transportation to say hello to my old volunteer group. 

Here is my daughter, Lexie by St. Louis Public Service 1743, a PCC car. I helped with the car's restoration before the move. 

MOT is a great place for children!


David writes....

I accompanied Frank on his trip to California last week. On Sunday night, after a group dinner in Chinatown, Frank and I broke off from the group to ride some transit. The original plan was to ride the California Street cable cars, as I'd never ridden that line. Unfortunately they were out of service that weekend. 

We hatched a new plan, to make a "circle" by riding the F Line from the Ferry Building to Powell Street, a cable car to near Fisherman's Wharf, and then a F line car back to the Ferry Building. 

Frank and I even managed to ride the running boards of our Powell-Hyde car! 

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Roaring Camp & Big Trees

Frank writes...

Part Two of my California trip was to the Roaring Camp & Big Trees, a tourist line based in Felton, California along the right-of-way of the old South Pacific Coast Railroad narrow gauge. The operation is based at a timetable point called Big Trees, in the redwood forest, and includes two separate divisions. The standard-gauge line runs south to Santa Cruz, to the boardwalk, while the much shorter narrow-gauge line winds its way up to the top of nearby Bear Mountain.

Upon our arrival in the morning we checked out the narrow gauge engine house, where Shay 7 was simmering, being readied for service. It was built by Lima in 1911 and in later years worked for West Side Lumber Company. Behind it is a diesel and a smaller two-truck Shay, number 3, which was built in 1912 and ran in Virginia. Neither was operating during our visit.
Our first ride was on the standard-gauge line down to Santa Cruz. The train was pulled by a CF7 and consisted of an ex-B&M wooden coach and a (probably ex-B&M) wooden combine bracketing a pair of open-air cars.
We rode in the coach, which was at the back of the train and gave a nice solarium view. The car seemed to be in generally good shape although some of the windows really needed work.
Here we are going through the redwood forest. The scenery was spectacular.
Getting into Santa Cruz, we went through a tunnel (the conductor said that some of the ties in the tunnel still have extra tie plates for dual-gauge track) and then did some street running through Santa Cruz before arriving at a wye. The conductor had a wireless microphone and kept up a running commentary for virtually the entire journey. The script was well written and often irreverent, so it wasn't as irritating as it sounds. And it allowed the railroad to do something that struck me, from a marketing perspective, as very smart. At one point he started into a routine encouraging people to watch out their windows for "our local Mike's Bikes franchise, spare bike parts and repairs." In reality what riders saw was the first of several homeless encampments (complete with various bike parts strewn about) along the line - this is, after all, sunny California and homeless camps are much more common than in the north. But framing these squalid dwellings as something of a wry joke struck me as a move shrewdly calculated to raise riders' spirits and distract their focus from the undeniably depressing sights outside their windows. Perhaps a bit callous, to be sure, but smart from a purely marketing perspective.
We arrived at a wye located off the west end of the Santa Cruz boardwalk and beach, where we reversed into town. Above we're coming off the wye, under a road bridge, and onto street trackage towards the boardwalk. There was some sort of triathlon going on and race organizers had unwisely placed cones on the tracks, so you can see people (also unwisely) scrambling to retrieve the cones just before they get run over.
The train made its way up the street behind the boardwalk. There were cars and people all over and the train was doing a backup move just like we do at IRM. I don't envy the guy on the tail hose.
And here the train is at the Santa Cruz boardwalk. There was a one-hour layover, during which we toured the rather Coney Island-ish boardwalk area and grabbed a quick lunch, then the train made its way back up to Big Trees. It was about a one-hour trip each way.
The next trip was on the narrow-gauge division. Between trips passengers can tour a small "wild west town" setup at Big Trees including a cafeteria, gift shop, and some midway attractions like gold panning and costumed photos. Then the Shay pulled into the station from its previous trip, with open-air cars in tow.
The ride through the redwoods was pretty spectacular. There was again a conductor providing a running commentary and we were told that the grades on this line (which was constructed for tourist purposes, in the 1970s I believe) were at some 8% with a brief stretch of 10% grade.
The Shay was really working.
Halfway up the mountain we passed the charred remains of the Corkscrew Trestle, on which the narrow-gauge railroad at one time crossed back over itself via a large, steep trestle. It was the victim of a fire started by an arsonist in the late 1970s, a fire which also affected the trees in the area.
The line replaced the trestle with a switchback; this was the point with the steepest grade. It was a pretty impressive show from a locomotive that had already been working hard practically the entire trip. (Shay 7 is oil-fired, as apparently are all steam locomotives in operation in California.)
Here's a shot of Shay 7 at the summit of Bear Mountain. It's all downhill from here! The railroad is a dogbone, with the "wild west town" at Big Trees in the middle of the lower balloon loop.
Ours was the last trip of the day, so after getting back to the station I got a shot of the Shay taking its train back to the shop area.
And what day on the peninsula isn't complete without a streetcar ride? I didn't get a ride on Muni 1011, shown here, but did see it out the car window in E-Embarcadero service to the Cal-Train depot. This car, a double-end PCC built in 1948 by St. Louis, was a true basket case until just a few years ago when it was completely rebuilt by Brookville. It has been painted in Market Street Railway's patented "white front" livery, which looks a bit odd on a PCC car.
Muni's F-Market line heritage operation is popular as always. We rode on one of the relatively new (to Muni) ex-Newark, ex-Minneapolis cars. These cars were originally identical to Shaker Heights 63 at IRM. They've been significantly rebuilt over long service lives though.
And of course a cable car ride is a must. It's incredible they haven't banned people from riding the running boards yet.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Get Toasted

An advertising card from one of the Key System "Bridge Units" at the Western Railway Museum. We need more liquor and cigarette ads like this in our CA&E cars. For authenticity.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Visit to Rio Vista

Frank writes...

My employer sponsored a trip to California over the past weekend and, since the company is in the model train industry, there was a great deal of train content. (Fellow blogger David Wilkins was also able to tag along.) This is the first of three posts I'll be writing about my travels and covers a visit to the Western Railway Museum in Rio Vista. We weren't sure whether we'd make it to WRM but as it turns out we did make it there on a beautiful Saturday afternoon. Unfortunately, as I review my photos, I realize that I didn't actually do a very good job of documenting the high points of a visit to WRM. They have a spectacular visitor's center and a new car barn which is arguably the nicest anywhere in traction preservation. But I did grab some shots of some interesting stuff. I'd like to thank Dave Beuchler, Chris Pagni, and Jim Ward, all of whom helped set up some great sights!

One of the most interesting sights to me was Portland Traction 4001, courtesy of Dave and Chris, who made sure it was running. This is the sister car to our own Indiana Railroad 205 (PT 4001 was 202 on IRR, while the 205 was Portland's car 4003). WRM recently finished a top-down rebuilding of the car headed up by Dave and it's now one of their regular runners.
The car is beautiful and runs wonderfully. It's painted in early-1940s Portland colors, which were also worn by our car at that time. We went for a ride on it to the end of WRM's electric line at Bird's Landing. They have a eight-mile great route, on the right-of-way of the old Sacramento Northern, and the museum actually owns 20+ miles of track although most hasn't had wire strung back over it.
This isn't a very good shot of our motorman, whose name I didn't catch, but oh well. Note that the car has some differences from the way the 205 has been restored (and I don't mean "the 205 looks like a polished turd" type of differences!). The 4001 has retained the wooden end windows and air horns installed by Portland, while it lacks dash headlights and is instead equipped for hang-on headlights. WRM did reinstall the MU sockets, nonfunctional in Portland, which that city removed around the early 1950s.
I took a quick walk through the open-ended barn that serves as one of the two main operating barns for the museum. There is a lot of interesting equipment in that barn, including much of the museum's regular operating fleet. Pictured above is CRANDIC (ex-C&LE) 111, a high-speed car that is a bit out of place among all of the western equipment. Naturally, IRM covets this car, but there's no doubt it's in a good home and well cared for.
Then there was Muni "Magic Carpet" car 1003, which was built by St. Louis in 1939. It's similar to a PCC but the San Francisco city charter prohibited royalty payments at the time and as Muni was city-owned, they couldn't purchase cars that used PCC patents. So this car has a body similar to a double-end PCC but has Brill 97 trucks and Cineston hand controllers. It's painted in prewar Muni colors.
Then it was over to WRM's new car barn - but more on that in a moment. Jim Ward was getting ready to take Key System steeplecab 1001, pictured above, out for a quick trip and kindly invited me along. Jim is a longtime IRM member and occasional volunteer who had worked in the past helping Pete Vesic and Bill Wulfert. Key 1001, for its part, is a homebuilt shop switcher dating to 1910.
Here's Jim in the cab. It's a nice locomotive, and with that pantograph, changing ends is as easy as moving the reverse key! Key 1001 has GE Type M control; WRM runs more Type M cars than anyone except IRM and Seashore and this locomotive has C-6 controllers, so those were familiar. The contactor box, in one of the hoods, looked similar to what's under the 319 and 321.
And then it was on to a tour of the new barn. It's large, roughly 100'x350', and six tracks wide with ample display aisles. On the two west tracks the museum has set up demonstration trains with some of their mainline railroad equipment. Here we see an attractive Western Pacific ten-wheeler, number 94, built by Baldwin in 1909. This locomotive used to run at WRM back in the 1970s when they were more like IRM and had both steam and traction operation. In the last 20-25 years they've concentrated on the traction collection. Behind the engine are some nice heavyweight passenger cars including Pullman car "Circumnavigator Club."
And then there's the freight train consisting of very nice wooden freight cars, some restored, and a Saltair center-cab switcher on the point. This diesel replaced electrics on the Salt Lake Garfield & Western and at one time would have towed ex-electric cars after the wires came down.
Portholes are something you don't see on many electric cars outside of California. This car is Southern Pacific (later Interurban Electric) 602, built in 1911 by ACF for service from the SP Oakland ferry terminal to other cities in the area including Berkeley and San Leandro. When this operation quit in 1941, not long after operation over the new Bay Bridge began, this car and several others were sold to the Army for use as locomotive-hauled trailers during the war. WRM has a handful of carbodies from the SP/IER operation.
There are very few open-platform interurban observation cars in preservation. One, Illinois Terminal 234, is at IRM. No fewer than three are at WRM including Sacramento Northern "Bidwell," which is an unrestored body; Salt Lake & Utah 751, a Niles-built arch-roof steel car in occasional use; and this car, Oregon Electric 1001 "Champoeg," a classic of the interurban era. OE 1001 was built by Niles in 1910 and was sold to the Pacific Great Eastern in British Columbia after the OE quit. The car came to WRM in 1974.
San Francisco & Napa Valley 63 is an interesting one. It was built by St. Louis in 1933, possibly the last interurban car built until the CA&E 450s, as a replacement for a car burned up in a fire. It used the original car's trucks and electric equipment but the body strongly resembles the doodlebug bodies that St. Louis was building at the time (see Union Pacific M-35 at IRM).
WRM has three of the four surviving Key System "Bridge Units." These were articulated two-car trains built by Bethlehem Steel in the late 1930s for service over the new Bay Bridge directly into San Francisco. They used electric equipment from retired interurban cars so these modern steel cars with cab signals, big picture windows, and semi-bucket seats have GE Type M control and C-6 controllers like what's on the 309. Here David prepares to head for the Transbay Terminal... the cabs on these things are pretty tiny!
Some of the most historic cars at WRM are the two Richmond Shipyard Railway cars, built in 1887 for the Manhattan Railway elevated lines as steam engine-hauled coaches. They were electrified in 1901 by General Electric using the first version of Type M control equipment that was developed: DB-15 contactors, C-6 controllers, and GE 66 motors. The next year, the new Aurora Elgin & Chicago interurban line decided on this equipment - at the time the state of the art for heavy electric equipment operation - for its interurban cars. Anyway, the Manhattan "el" lines retired these cars around 1940 and in 1942 they were sold for operation to the shipyards in Richmond, CA during the war. Note the steps and traps that were grafted onto the cars for this service.
Richmond 561 and 563, preserved at WRM, are the last two of these cars left. Both cars have motors but only 561 has a pantograph; in service the cars would have run bused together. Car 561 has had its interior stripped and largely restored to its New York-era condition.
The car's controls are visible in the motorman's cab including the C-6 controller and M-1 brake valve.
And to finish off our WRM visit, we have here a very impressive interurban train. Sacramento Northern 1005 was a major restoration project completed five or so years ago. It's a wooden combine built by local builder Holman in 1912 for SN predecessor Oakland Antioch & Eastern. It outlasted SN electric passenger operations, being sold to Key System in 1941 and running over the Bay Bridge into San Francisco for a few more years until WRM acquired the car for preservation.

Monday, September 25, 2017

News from Lake Veronica

Not exactly IRM-related, but Della Street in the town of Lake Veronica has recently been repaved, and now features an abandoned interurban line with rails still in the pavement.  And that looks like Veronica herself in front of the depot.

This was inspired by the real-life remnants of Scioto Valley Traction in Groveport, Ohio.

And of course IRM has what appear to be abandoned tracks in the pavement  of Central Ave., but they will eventually be connected and put into service.

Monday, September 18, 2017

More Showcase

And now for a little more about Showcase Weekend.  It was a blast.

Now if you read Frank's post carefully enough, you should be able to answer the following question:
What do these two pieces of equipment have in common?

As part of Showcase Weekend we showcase our spiffy operating crews: here we have Henry Vincent, Andy Sunderland, and me.  I should take more of these pictures.  The Zephyr crews, in particular, are always impeccably dressed, but they're usually spread out along the train and not all in one place.

And here, making its operational debut at IRM, is the Charles City Western 300 on a caboose hop.  Pete Galayda has a lot to be proud of.  It's sad that John Nelligan did not live to see this.

The North Western bay window caboose does not operate often, if at all.  Victor finished the restoration back in 2002 and had never gotten a chance to ride it before.  He said he was surprised at how squeaky the car was running down the main line.  We told him you need to get out more and ride the CA&E wood cars.  We've got all the creaking and squeaking anybody could want!

As mentioned, the Electroliner team had both end units open for visitors on Saturday.  

Here Ed Oslowski is talking to several visitors about the project and the history of the Liners.

And a little store is set up with various North Shore items of interest on sale.

The other end of the train is in Barn 7.  Here John Arroyo proudly shows off his authentic Electroliner waiter's jacket.  

Meanwhile, at 50th Avenue two elevated trains of widely different types are loading.

On Members' Day we often meet old-timers we haven't seen for a while.  Here Bob Heinlein is talking to Steve Jirsa.  I also got to talk to Charlie King.  And Al Reinschmidt was out, although I missed seeing him.

Here Bill Wulfert demonstrates the Bill McGregor Pencil Test on the 1754.  If you can stick a pencil into the wood, it's probably no good.   That indicates Tim still has more work to do.

The three-car wood L train in service on Station 1.

Frank was the afternoon conductor.

I was busy during the evening operations and didn't try to take any pictures.  Your submissions would be most welcome.

Finally, let's go for a ride on the CA&E steel cars.

Zach Ehlers is the conductor.  Fred Zimmerman is the motorman, with Mike Blackwell in training.

Changing the subject, we have an update to our Deaccession List.  Ted Miles, IRM member, sends us a report about Godchaux Sugar #1, a narrow-gauge engine that was temporarily on the property.  He says: 

This locomotive was once owned by IRM and later until 2006 was part of an auto collection owned by Los Angeles publisher Otis Chandler. 

She has now turned up in the hands of the Gazsi family of Los Angeles; she is on loan to the Grizzly Flats Railroad at Orange Empire Railway Museum. She is taking the place of the Chloe (plantation locomotive) in the Engine House, while she is off getting overhauled at the Hillcrest Shops at Reedley, California.. 

The article is on the front page of the OERM Gazette for July 2017.