Sunday, December 31, 2017

Highlights of 2017

It's time once again to pat ourselves on the back as we review the accomplishments of the past year.   As always, additions and corrections are welcome!    ♪ Should auld acquaintance....   

  • The parking lot has been expanded southward, and
  • The main Museum entrance has been moved, and
  • The Schroeder Store on Main Street now houses the gift shop and ticket sales.   These three changes are a giant step forward in making our Main Street scene a reality.
  • Our CA&E cars appeared in a big-budget movie production for a film called The Letter.  You have probably never seen real interurban cars in a movie before.  When it appears, we'll let you know.
  • Acquisitions: the ignitron rectifier locomotive and two Milwaukee Road streamlined coaches.
  • Charles City Western 300 entered revenue service.
  • As usual, operations proceeded smoothly and safely during the year, thanks to our operating department.
  • The Steam Team have kept the 1630 operational, made progress on the Shay and 428, and completed a cosmetic restoration of the Rock Island Pacific.
  • Several cars were repainted, including the IC streamlined grill-coach and the B&O wagontop boxcar.
  • And last but by no means least, Museum attendance was up significantly this year.  General admissions increased by 30% and Happy Holiday Railway admissions nearly doubled, up by 75%.  That's good news!

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Christmas Greetings

Madonna and Child
Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, 1759

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Midweek Variety Show

One of the first things I did today was to walk over to the shop to get the big wire-wheeler for a project back in Barn 8.  At the shop, I met Gerry and Pete.  They had some questions about the difference between photons and protons, which I answered as best I could.  The wave-particle duality of matter is not easy to compress into a few easily-comprehended sentences.  But I enjoy challenges -- who doesn't?

Gerry showed me the spray-painting booth recently fabricated by Buzz at little or no cost, using recycled parts found around the property.  On the middle shelf, the board with a hole in it is the window blank for exhausting the air out the window behind the booth.  This is quite impressive.

Here Pete is working on another window for the Class B.

Later in the day, it looked like this:

Pete also showed off the replacement covers for the armature bearings on the 300, recently made by R&B Metals in Woodstock.   Two of them were missing on the locomotive.   The originals were cast, but the metal shop was able to fabricate replacement parts from pressed steel.   Note how the hinge parts are at odd angles.

And here is the motor from the L4, sitting in the shop.  This is a box frame motor, which means there is a single large casting for the frame, with open ends closed up with bolted-on end castings incorporating the armature bearings.

In front of it you can see the axle bearings and gear pan parts.

This is the pinion end of the motor.  To access the armature bearing, the motor will be placed so this end is on top, then the circular end plate can be unbolted and the bearing can be removed, if that's all you want to do.  If the armature itself requires work, it is then carefully lifted straight up out of the case.  I've read all about this in books, but never had a chance to help with something like this in person.

And under the L4, you can see the shiny parts of the axle where the axle caps were.

Outside, among other things progress has been made on repainting 50th Avenue station.   This has required a huge amount of effort on the part of B&G.

Well, enough of that.  It was warm enough for painting, so in the vestibules of the 319 one of the last things to be done is this vertical conduit which was badly alligatored for some reason.  Hand sanding and scraping didn't do much good, so I got out the big wire-wheeler to strip it down to bare metal.

Ah, this is much better.   As my Russian teacher would say,  "Any sing worse doing is worse doing well."  And after this was finished at both ends, the conduits were painted with white primer.

I also tested the air on the 309, to make sure the recently-replaced hose didn't leak.

While the paint is drying in the 319, let's drive over to the 321.  There's always more stuff to be sorted through, and plenty of junk to be discarded.  This is a dirty and depressing job, but somebody's got to do it.   Each time, though, more of the car gets cleaned up and it starts to look a little better.

The #1 vestibule, for instance, has been a junk pile for years, but I managed to clean it up and find most of the floor.  And we can even open the train door again.   That could be useful.

And the main compartment is slowly getting organized.  At least I have a table and chair for sorting parts.  Now all I need is a radio.

Sorting through car parts, I found another buzzer which may possibly be fixable, and four spare 125 ohm control resistors that were made for this car back in 1998.  Somebody else may have a need for them, so they were brought back to the 150, and a trunkload of unwanted detritus was transported to the dumpster.  Good riddance!

And then I replaced a broken window in the 150.  So all in all, another rewarding day at IRM.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Holiday's end, for now

Frank writes...

You're probably thinking, "you know, I could swear I've seen this picture before."

And you could be excused, as one trip on the Happy Holiday Railway is pretty similar to another. But this will be the last of these photos for this year, as Sunday was the last day of HHR for 2017. I helped out for a couple of trips, riding along with Paul Cronin in cab car 151 while Keith Letsche and Roger Kramer held the fort in the two coaches and Jeron and Jamie (succeeded mid-afternoon by Greg) ran. Having an engineer at each end of the train set makes direction changes nearly instantaneous.
While the car interiors may be regrettably familiar to a lot of our riders, it's hard to deny that this is a sharp-looking train set. And we didn't get any complaints about the cars, which were festively decorated and staffed by an assortment of happy elves, whose happiness was strictly regulated by Nick, official pit boss of Santa's workshop. There was even a soundtrack featuring our own fellow blogger Al Reinschmidt reading "The Night Before Christmas." But anyway, what's happening in the car shop?
As mentioned in the previous post, Sand Springs 68 was made operational Saturday which meant that Wisconsin Electric Power (formerly Milwaukee Electric) steeplecab L4 was brought into the shop. This stalwart had an axle cap bearing run hot during the regular season so the first task was to jack up the locomotive, roll the truck out, and then pull the motor. Above, the truck has been pulled through the efforts of (L-R) Joel, Zach, and Richard, while Nick Dey from the Coach Department looks on.
Top to bottom, that's Nick, Richard, and Zach pulling axle caps. Unfortunately, as it turned out, the axle caps aren't the only bearings that will need work; the body center bearing casting was found to be badly cracked so a replacement will need to be located (or made) and installed. As L4 is not a regular service piece, it's lower on the priority list than other cars currently in need of attention for running repairs, so it will likely be a little while before it's back in service. But never fear, the car shop crew is on it!

Saturday, December 16, 2017

This Could Be You

This could be you, enjoying a ride on the Happy Holidays Railway with your children or grandchildren, receiving hot chocolate, cookies, coffee mugs, or bells, and having a great time.  But only if you get there tomorrow, because that's our last day.

On the other hand, this could be you, helping out with all the many tasks that have to be done to make this festivity a success, maybe even playing Santa Claus.  Who could ask for anything more?

Here are the regular crewmen today.  It was too busy for us all to get together in one spot for long.

Thomas Slater:

Nick Espevik:

Jeron Glander, Zach Ehlers, and Paul Cronin:

Except for Paul and myself, all of these guys are young, 30 or less.  We always need new people to insure the long-term future of the Museum.

Besides the public operation, there were many other things being worked on, as usual.  The rebuilt truck has been placed under the Sand Springs 68, and today I got to take a ride.  There are a few minor issues to be addressed, but the car seems to work reliably and we hope to put it into regular operation next year.   I can't wait!

The rebuilt truck:

Joel and Richard and the others have put a lot of work into making this possible.

The Milwaukee Electric engine L4 has a bad motor armature bearing, so it had to be switched out and wyed.  We're planning to remove the motor and do as much of the repair work as we can ourselves.  This is a major project, so stay tuned.

Now if all this doesn't put you into a holiday mood, I give up.  We'll just have to try again next year.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Our Other Blog

If you haven't visited it already, let us call your attention to the "beta test" version of the PNAERC list, which is now available here.   That stands for Preserved North American Electric Railway Cars, and as before has a complete list of preserved electric equipment.  The beta version includes several new features, including a blog with updates on preserved equipment all across the country.  As before, Jeff Hakner of Branford is doing the programming, and Frank is handling the data.  

One known limitation is that many of the links to photos and so on are broken; this will be fixed as time permits.  Other than that, though, there are better and more complete formats for presenting technical data, finding particular types of equipment, and so on.   Enjoy!

And in other news, I have finished scanning in all of the Mizerocki photos.  Again, I encourage input on identifying people in the photos, and details of what's going on.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Visit to the Keystone State

Frank writes...

This past weekend my job took me to central Pennsylvania, to the Harrisburg region and a bit east of there to Lebanon, PA. And what's in Mount Hope, not terribly far from the Lebanon exit off of the Pennsylvania Turnpike?

Philadelphia Transportation Company 8530 is a Peter Witt built in 1926 and retired in 1958. Since the latter year it has been in private ownership and for the last few decades, at least, it has been stored on private land (visible from the road, where the above photo was taken) on a section of track perhaps 300' long underneath a nice wooden shelter. The car appears to be in very nice shape and rumor has it that it may even be operational, though that overhead isn't quite up to Randy Anderson standards.
Saturday evening I was off work at 4:30 and even though it was snowing lightly I headed over to Middletown to the Middletown & Hummelstown. I got there just before their last Santa Train of the evening departed at about 5pm.
The train consisted of three Lackawanna MU cars pulled by a 44-tonner. I suppose these cars are pretty well suited to this use, what with their high capacity seating and electric heat. The train was apparently sold out.
The Middletown depot is pretty nice and they have an enviable platform setup, shown above, for boarding the train. I'm not sure of the depot's history but it's a nice old brick depot right near downtown Middletown. The owner of the M&H has a varied collection of traction equipment in various stages of repair on the property but between the snow and the lack of M&H people around (they were busy with the train) I wasn't going to try wandering around the yard. Most of the electric collection that's in good shape is inside their relatively new storage barn.

After that, it was off for a quick dinner and then a journey about an hour and a half west - past the snow, which stopped at the Susquehanna River - to Orbisonia.
I met Joel Salomon, who I think I had last seen about 13 or 14 years ago, at about 8:00pm as the Rockhill Trolley Museum's Christmas event was starting to wind down. Above, Johnstown Traction 355, which was completely restored by RTM about ten years ago, pulls into the platform. RTM was doing a brisk business, with several hundred riders per night, using three streetcars running constantly for several hours starting at nightfall.
Here's another view of the 355 at the platform. The car was built by St. Louis in 1925; very similar cars ran in Evanston. The RTM property was decorated with plenty of lights, as shown, and there were a multitude of lit-up displays - various plastic and inflatable Christmas- and winter-themed illuminated pieces - that were spread out along the right-of-way for quite a distance. The amount of work that went into all of this must have been tremendous. During each trip the car lights were turned off, holiday music was played from a boombox, and the riders enjoyed the holiday light show out the windows. Joel and I went for a ride on the 355 and it was pretty neat to see how another museum does its holiday event.
But I have to admit that the main attraction, for me, was seeing the 315. Joel and Keith Bray, who as luck would have it happened to be there, showed me all of the work going into the car. The 315 is the "missing link" in IRM's collection: of the classes of CA&E cars in preservation we have at least one of each distinct series (if you consider the shorties to all be one type) except for the 311-315 series Kuhlmans. The only Kuhlman in preservation is shown here, in the RTM workshop, in the middle of a major multi-year restoration project to return it to its original condition. Note that the arched windows have been cut back in and the car has a fairly fresh coat of Pullman green linseed oil paint on it.
At the moment, attention has turned to the car's interior. Here Keith points out some of the gold leaf ceiling detailing that was recently uncovered. The detailing is remarkably complex and includes both dark green and gold leaf designs. The Kuhlmans were the last CA&E (okay, AE&C) wood cars that had mainly Victorian design elements; the Jewetts, the next series ordered in 1913, featured a more Prairie School aesthetic on their interiors.
Keith, Joel, and the RTM restoration crew are putting a great deal of work into figuring out exactly how the 315 looked when it was new and returning it to that appearance. Here they discovered an intricate design on the end bulkhead over the door to the platform. The plan is to replicate all of this correctly in gold leaf; the reason Keith was at the museum when I visited was to meet with a gold leaf expert, who using an array of samples for comparison determined that the car's ceiling had used 22-karat leaf. Who knew?
I say yes, you say no...
Apparently as built the Kuhlmans had the body interior car numbers at car card level rather than over the doors to the platforms, as was later Wheaton practice. Pretty interesting. The veneer on the back of the electrical cabinet was replaced at some point during the car's service life but new veneer will be applied using correct mahogany. There's actually a bunch of veneer replacement that will be necessary in the smoker on this car due to damage of various sorts; the paint was only stripped off a few months ago so this work is int he preliminary stages. The RTM guys are also working on replicating various interior fittings like clerestory window hinges and latches, coat hooks (yes, these cars had coat hooks on the window piers originally), and ventilator rods. IRM will be working with RTM on some of this work in areas where we may be able to help each other.
By this time the Christmas event had ended (the last trip was at about 9pm) so some of the volunteers gathered around left on Johnstown Traction 311 for the "lights out" trip to turn off all of the light displays spread out along the right-of-way. JT 311 is a double-truck Birney originally built by Wason in 1922 for Bangor, Maine. It is the most recently-completed restoration at RTM, with a complete frame-up rebuild having been completed only a year or two ago. Joel was changing ends when I snapped this photo while Keith is in the left foreground.
Here's the Johnstown car at the end of the trip, about ready to pull into the car barn. Neat fender.
And here's the car barn. Straight ahead is York Railways 163, which is a pretty unique car. It was built by Brill in 1924 as a curve-sider. Brill briefly constructed curve-side cars to compete with Cincinnati, but I think they may have been sued (or else they just weren't very successful). Other than a handful of cars built for York the only Brill curve-siders I can think of were some single-truckers built for Zanesville, Ohio. Regardless, car 163 was acquired by RTM as a body and completely restored in the 1980s and 1990s. To the left is car 205 from the Philadelphia & Western, the only "Bullet car" still in operating condition, and to the left of that is a line of East Broad Top cars. This particular barn, along with the RTM shop, sits inside the Rockhill wye of the EBT and half of this building is given over to narrow gauge equipment storage. RTM also has its own barn just a few hundred feet away alongside the right-of-way and most of their collection is stored there. Unfortunately I didn't get to tour that barn this time. I guess I'll just have to go back. Many thanks to Joel and the other RTM volunteers for showing me around!

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Holiday Greetings from California

One of our hard-working California correspondents, Tony Gura, sends us warm wishes from sunny California.   While in Chicago this past week, he took these pictures of the CTA Holiday Train.   This is, of course, not a substitute for our own Happy Holiday Railway, but if you're stuck in the city on a weekday, it's the only such thing available.

And then he adds:  My dad's Christmas trains are slightly smaller, having been declared the "world's smallest under the Christmas tree O Gauge layout".  Have a Merry Christmas!