Monday, April 30, 2018

Daniel in the Tiger's Den, or something

Frank writes...

So Sunday was "Daniel Tiger Day" at IRM, or "Be My Neighbor Day" or something like that. Regardless, there was a pretty big crowd. The traffic flow was very interesting: the public entered at the new entrance across from the Schroeder Store and visited the two costumed characters, Daniel and Katerina Kitty, at the front of Barn 4 and in a Rock Island car parked on the 50th Avenue west track respectively. And that was mostly it. While there were some people wandering around, and the playground was pretty well patronized, the rest of the property - and, notably, the area around the depot - wasn't all that busy.

There were seven electric cars in operation, a lot for a day in April. Shown here are the two-car CA&E steel train (409 and 460) at 50th Avenue with the Matchbox at Central Avenue. Board member Marcus Ruef is standing in front of the Matchbox helping to direct traffic.
Over in front of Barn 4 our very own neighborhood trolley, Veracruz 19, served as a backdrop for people to take photos of their kids with Daniel Tiger. The weather was gorgeous, probably nice than it's been all year, which certainly helped tremendously with attendance.
And boy was there attendance! The line to see Daniel Tiger stretched down to Barn 7 at one point. The event was run entirely by WTTW, our local PBS station, and there was some concern about people being unhappy with the long lines. But for the most part everyone seemed to be having a great time.
Besides the two CA&E steel cars, the CTA 4000s were also running and the 415 and 3142 were in service on the car line along with the Matchbox. Here's the 1374 boarding at Depot Street with Norm Krentel as motorman and Jon Fenlaciki as conductor.
While I was hanging around the area, I snapped this picture of the former site of the bookstore and gift shop cars just east of the depot. The north track is gone, except for ties, and the south track has been taken apart for removal. The platform has been scrapped and the ramps are currently sitting on Central Avenue next to Barn 6. Sic transit gloria mundi...
...though in this case the gloria has only transited over to Station Track 2, where three of the four former store cars await future use. The fourth car, the streamlined RPO/baggage car that used to serve as the gift shop, has already been relocated elsewhere on the property.

Other than that, I spent most of my time moving spare seat cushions - most of them from the CA&E - into storage. These were obtained during the Trolleyville acquisition back in 2010 as part of IRM's allotment of spare parts and since that time have been sitting in a truck trailer. But we're trying to put them into more permanent storage. Many of the cushions are dark red leatherette, which only one preserved CA&E car - the 409 - has. This work wasn't particularly exciting or photogenic though.
But here's something to pique your interest: among the other stuff from Trolleyville was this armature oven, which will shortly acquire a new home, possibly in the lean-three. That could be useful. In the right background is the old North Shore signal shanty which for many years served as our oil shed. It is on the short list for restoration by the Car Department.
And there was plenty of other activity going on. The big project was annual inspection of the CTA 2200s, which were on the pit. Good Nick, Joel, and Richard among others were working on this. And shown above is the air compressor from CA&E 451. Brian and Richard, among others, worked on installing the newly-rebuilt armature on this compressor prior to reassembling the whole thing and putting it on the car. This is part of the push to get the 451 running this year.
I didn't get much done on the 18, though with help from Joel I did make a little bit of progress on replacing a broken end window. But the real progress on the 18 was happening outside the barn door, where Mark Secco was working on the CGW wrecker. He is trying to get a clutch working, and once he does the boom can be raised and the wrecker can be moved out of the way. At the moment it's immobile and preventing us from moving the 18 under wire for further work. But progress is being made by Mark. He showed me around the body of the wrecker; above is the operator's cab, with the gearing and hoisting equipment to the left.
And finally, while I was helping Joel put some stuff away in one of the boxcars, I stumbled upon a random grab iron which probably nobody except me would recognize. But I knew it immediately: the missing grab from the 205's doors! This story goes back at least ten years, to when the middle two leaves of the car's folding doors - which were really shot - were removed and new ones were made. All of the hardware was removed from the old door leaves in late 2007 and when the new doors were ready in mid-2008 all of the hardware was reinstalled - all, that is, except for the angled grab iron from one of the doors which had inexplicably gone missing over the previous winter. Well I always figured that it might turn up someday and it finally did, so I very happily took it over to the 205 and installed it. It's seen above on the left, ready to assist people climbing the steps. The one on the right was installed on that door almost a decade ago. Better late than never.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Inspection Report

Inspection continues with the 309 being next up.  The 141 is still over the pit, so I started by swapping the 308 and 309 to put the latter at the door.  As a result, it comes out into the sunshine for the first time this year.

At least half of the inspection tasks can be done while the car is in the barn, and everything went well.  The only thing that really needs to be fixed is that the #2 air gauge needs to be recalibrated; both sides read low by about 10 psi.  The way the cars are presently arranged, we will probably be operating from the #2 end, so that should be addressed.  

 A view down the track:

 Here we see the DB-15 contactors in their little arc chute boxes:

And the DB-20 reverser: 

A newly-elected member of the Board of Directors continues his usual activities:

 Jon Fenlaciki continues to work on the roof of the 65.   It's not easy; the ceiling has to be partly disassembled in order to remove or install bolts.  Here we see Gerry helping out from on top of the scaffold:

While Jon applies some torque from inside the car: 

Our new AEM-7 locomotive arrived late yesterday, and is temporarily housed in Barn 2 for repair of vandalism damage and a few other things.  The lighting isn't great, but let's take a tour of the interior.  Jamie happened to be there and showed me through our latest acquisition.

The engineer's control stand: 

And the fireman's: 

The interior is very cramped.  These are a couple of parts of the air system. 

And the rotary compressor: 

Among other things, Buzz is painting new siding for our Milwaukee Road wooden reefer.  The MRHS graciously donated the money to have the siding produced for us.

Finally, I stopped by to see how things were going with cleaning up the old storage tracks near the depot.  Carl and Dave discuss what to do next with the partly-scrapped flatcar body.

And look, there's an abandoned branch line.  You don't see many abandoned right-of-ways around here, because IRM is expanding, not contracting.  

Monday, April 23, 2018

It's Partly Sunny and Windy in Philadephia

Frank writes...

For the third and final part of my trip report from the Heritage Rail Alliance convention, here are a few photos of the railfanning trip David and I took to Philadelphia on the Friday of the trip. I would have taken more photos but they're all modern cars and I didn't want to waste film.

After catching the 6:30 (yuck) out of Lancaster, we arrived at 30th Street Station. Above is the famous statue the Pennsy erected in memory of its employees who were killed during World War II. Companies don't do much of this kind of thing anymore.
And then there was this rather impressive low-relief carving (mural?) which dated back to the current building's predecessor, built I think in the 1890s. It depicts the onward march of transportation, or something.
I thought the best part was this kid holding a representation of air travel, which looks like what would have happened if the Union Army had asked John Stephenson to design their observation balloon gondolas.
There was a lot happening upstairs; 30th Street at rush hour is an interesting place for a traction fan. There were a LOT of trains moving, all of them electric. One of the odder ones was this single-car MU train, looking somewhat interurban-like despite the surroundings.
And we saw a couple of AEM7 locomotives; I was hopping aboard a train when I took this so the photo isn't very good. SEPTA is the only railway still operating these things; Amtrak and MARC have retired all of theirs.
Ah yes, railfans taking pictures of railfans taking pictures. Here's David in downtown Media photographing an outbound car on the old Red Arrow broad gauge system. We took the old Pennsy out to Media and walked up the hill into town to catch the Red Arrow back in. This is right at the end of the Media line, which itself is kind of an interesting operation.
We got off the Media car at Drexel Hill Junction and then took an outbound car to Sharon Hill, the other extant Red Arrow broad gauge line, and thence back into 69th Street Terminal. While we waited at the junction this inbound car went by.

And that's the end of the Philadelphia railfanning photos. From 69th Street we rode the old P&W to Norristown and back and then rode the Market-Frankford into center city before heading back to Lancaster.
Not a train, I know, but also probably not long for this world. The SS United States, arguably the last of the great transatlantic ocean liners that isn't either scrapped or the Queen Mary, sits rusting at the dock south of center city Philadelphia. It's easily viewed from the parking lot of the Chick-fil-A in this incongruously gentrifying area of the city.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Safety First

"Safety First" is the essential principle for any type of railroad operation, and IRM takes it as seriously as any Class I railroad, if not more so.  Today was the Annual Meeting day, and therefore also the date for the rules review, annual safety meeting, rules test, and so on.  Here we see Harold Krewer, our Superintendent of Operations, during the rules review part of the program.

I suppose there's no point to going into detail about the festivities.  If you're involved in IRM operations, you should be there in person, and if you're not, it would probably be too much incomprehensible information.  However, if you are part of the operating crew and were unable to be there today, there's good news!  The rules review and safety meeting were videotaped by our technical department, and will be available on the members' website for your viewing pleasure.  If you watch the videos and send in an email following the secret instructions, you'll get credit for attending the safety meeting.

The Annual Meeting is proceeding even as I speak, and Frank is there and will be reporting on the results later.

Frank adds...

Indeed, the Annual Meeting went off more or less as planned. It took four ballots to elect two directors from a slate of nine candidates. Congratulations - and condolences - to Jason Maxwell and Tim Peters, who succeed term-limited outgoing board members Dave Diamond and Bob Olson. Jason is Assistant Curator of the Steam Department while Tim, of course, is our full-time volunteer wooden 'L' car restorer.
No offense to the candidates, nor board president Norm Krentel who managed the meeting, but one of the more interesting parts of the evening was a display set up in the corner of the room showing some views of the soon-to-be-built archive/model railroad/Pullman Library building planned for Main Street. This will be the first new-build structure on Main Street and will sit on the south side of the street immediately to the west of the existing Schroeder Mercantile Store. As seen above, it will include a "false front" implying several adjoining structures, generally similar in concept to the planned appearance of the Entrance Building which in the future will sit across the street from this structure.
Unfortunately I failed to get a picture of the floor plan. Oops! But the building will incorporate a large space for the Pullman Library, which will allow that enterprise to evacuate the old bank building at 1 North Main; a space for the model railroad display; several rooms for the archives of the Milwaukee Road Historical Association, which is providing financial support to build this structure; and also a small event space that can be used as a display gallery or meeting room. The steel for this building has already been ordered and groundbreaking is expected for sometime during 2018. Exciting times on Main Street, East Union!
Meanwhile, before the meeting I stopped by Barn 4 and viewed painting progress on the front end of our Veracruz open car, number 19. Someone (Tim?) has done a very nice job of sprucing up the front of the car, which was looking pretty tired. All it needs is a classic Chicago silver-with-black-outlining number under the headlight and it will be shipshape and Burnside fashion!
And this has nothing whatsoever to do with traction preservation but one of our volunteers brought a rather impressive O scale model in to the shop. So there, now you can say you've seen a GWR Autocoach on the blog.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Smoke Over East Strasburg

Frank writes...

The official host of the Heritage Rail Alliance convention was the Strasburg Railroad. While the museum across the street saw a lot of foot traffic, and was where the seminars were held, it appeared that the Strasburg Railroad (SRC) had done the lion's share of hosting duties for the convention. And a very impressive job they did!

I'd never ridden on the Strasburg and had barely made it across the street from the museum before. As tourist railroads go, the Strasburg is beautiful. The grounds - mostly a lengthy station platform and cluster of buildings - are impeccably manicured and the appearance is unfailingly attractive. Above, the interlocking tower looks down over a remarkably neat wooden doodlebug and one of the wooden coaches stored in the small yard across from the station.
For the entire weekend, SRC had three engines in steam - and that's just the standard gauge ones. When I first wandered over from the museum on Thursday morning, SRC 90 was simmering quietly across from the platform. This is the "other" operating Decapod on the continent. It was built by Baldwin in 1924 and ran its entire life for the Great Western Railway of Colorado. It was acquired from them by the Strasburg in 1967 and has been in pretty consistent use since then.
Nearby, behind the engine house (which was mostly empty, given how many engines were in steam) was SRC 89, a Mogul built by Canadian Locomotive in 1910 for the Grand Trunk Railway. In 1961 it was sold to Nelson Blount and operated for a time at Steamtown in Vermont before being sold to SRC in 1972. It had the dubious distinction of being flooded over the cab roof in Wilkes-Barre during its trip to Pennsylvania, thanks to Hurricane Agnes, but eventually made it and has been one of the railroad's regular service engines. During the time I was around it was mostly used for special two-car trains run for the benefit of convention attendees, but unfortunately I didn't get a chance to ride behind it.
And look, here comes the third engine. Strasburg 475 - or I suppose I should say Norfolk & Western 475, as that's how it's lettered - is an M-class 4-8-0 Mastodon built in 1906 by Baldwin. I believe it's the only engine of that wheel arrangement in operation in North America. It ran until around 1960, when it was sold to a scrapyard. But it was rescued in 1963 and knocked around for a number of years - according to Wikipedia (always reliable) it even stopped briefly at IRM! SRC purchased the engine in 1991 from the Boone & Scenic Valley and had it in service in 1993. It's lettered for its original owner, as are a few of the Strasburg's coaches. Most equipment is lettered for SRC though the engines are lettered in the style of their original owners, which I think is a very nice touch.
The 475 was pulling the regular service train back from a revenue trip. The routine was to pull the train in on the siding at the platform, uncouple, pull ahead past the switch, back down the main alongside the train, and then pull forward again to couple onto the other end of the train - all ready to pull backwards on the outbound trip. Like IRM, the Strasburg doesn't turn its steam engines, but unlike IRM they run around the consist at each end of the trip. Anyway, I grabbed the above image as the 475 backed past the patiently waiting Decapod.
After that there was more fun to be had during the course of the day Thursday, including a lunch trip aboard a diner (wooden, of course, modified from a B&M coach). Along with the mainline trains - a regular hourly trip out to the end of the line at Leaman Place with 475 and the coach train, plus a couple of two-car train trips behind the 89 - there was also the "amusement park train" shown above. The engine is a live steam locomotive built by Cagney.
Well, if it isn't a couple of Bucks! Sure enough, IRM was well represented at the conference by Dan and Chris Buck, who are much more diligent about maintaining our presence at these things than I would ever be. As can be seen, SRC really is right across the street from the railroad museum. I don't think the Cagney was exceeding the speed limit.
And the Strasburg also offers handcar rides to guests, up and down the shop lead as shown. It's an interesting setup which was described to me by the SRC employee who was supervising (he happened to be a big AEM7 fan and was very happy we'd gotten one!). The handcar shown was built by SRC in its shop; it's generally similar to an original they have on display but they added a motorcycle drum brake to one axle. The SRC supervisor rides alongside the mechanism and runs the brake, which can stop the car much more effectively than the old wood block brakes. The rules are pretty strict: both hands on the pump handle, no selfies or photo taking, no locking your arms of course, and nobody short can pump. Kids are allowed to ride alongside the mechanism, across from the SRC supervisor, but must keep both hands on a grab iron placed there.
SRC has a lot of neat equipment sitting around. Besides a fascinating array of wooden passenger cars from various railroads, including the B&M, Ma & Pa, WM, and Reading, among others, there were also some pretty historic freight cars. My personal favorite was an XL class boxcar from around the turn of the century but another one that was hard to pass up on was this bobber, which I believe is basically identical to the one in IRM's collection. As with practically everything else at the Strasburg that doesn't make smoke, the freight cars are almost uniformly made of wood.
As with everyone else, SRC has a dead line. They've been very innovative in the practice of "cocooning" passenger cars to preserve them from the elements until time can be found to restore them. I'm not sure where this passenger car came from but it's being held for possible future rebuilding. Behind it is Reading 1187, an 0-4-0 "camelback" built by Baldwin in 1903. It's one of five camelbacks preserved in the country and is the only one in Pennsylvania.

So anyway, Thursday afternoon a group of us including David, Bruce Wells from Arden, Chris and Dan, and myself went along on a mixed train trip. SRC handles a decent amount of freight, maybe 5-10 car loads a week from the sounds of it, and they had a load to take to the NS interchange as well as eight loaded cars to pick up. So the Decapod brought us in a wooden combine, and the one loaded car, to the interchange where it was found that NS had neglected to drop off the eight incoming cars. Oops. It was still a fun trip but I didn't take any pictures. And the next day David and I spent in Philadephia (stay tuned). But never fear...
...because NS didn't drop off the cars Friday either! The eight incoming cars arrived overnight Friday night so Saturday morning the Decapod was again steamed up for an 8:30am trip out to the interchange to pick them up. We arrived at the yard as they were watering the 475, which would again be used on the day's service trains. The atmosphere was pretty neat.
Here's the two big engines after the 475 backed out of the way of the 90. What a thrilling sight on a beautiful morning!
And here comes the 90 with our wooden combine, approaching the road crossing where we'll be boarding. David pointed out that the Strasburg isn't entirely different than the Macomb Industry & Littleton, a short line in western Illinois that I researched when I was in college. That railroad, which was scrapped in 1930, never owned a caboose and always ran freight trains with a combine on the end. This trip was really a trip back in time, not just with the wood car and the steam engine but also with the six-horse teams plowing the fields along the route!
Our combine was dropped on the siding at Leaman Place and the Decapod proceeded up to the eight incoming cars and pulled them past us. It was really a show.
And here we are heading back to Strasburg, with the Decapod on the head end working against the grade. They told us that its limit is ten loaded freight cars so this was a decent workout. After we returned from this trip it was time for a couple of seminars, which were pretty interesting. And then there was the tour of the SRC shop
Unfortunately I didn't catch the name of our tour guide, but boy, he sure knew his stuff. And he was wearing a polka-dot Kromer too, so what's not to like! Here he explains the workings of the Niles wheel lathe that SRC has - and periodically uses, on drivers of up to 90" diameter. It was purchased just before the shop building went up and sits in its own well in the floor; the shop was constructed around it.
This is a small narrow gauge 0-4-0T which is being restored for the Railroad Museum of Long Island, if I recall correctly. Apparently it will be hauled to events on a truck trailer and fired up but won't be going very far or very fast, if it travels at all. SRC has been doing boiler work on it I think.
Here's an overview of part of the SRC shop. In the foreground is a narrow gauge 4-6-0 owned by the Colorado Railroad Museum. I believe it was originally built for the Florence & Cripple Creek. It's undergoing a long-term heavy overhaul. Beyond it, the shiny wheels you see are the driver centers for the 4-8-8-4 "Big Boy" currently being restored by the Union Pacific. All 12 of its wheel sets are at the Strasburg for bearing and other work. I guess this means I've seen about 3.08 "Big Boys" in my life?
Here we see some all-new metal steps that were built by the Strasburg for a wooden coach they're rebuilding. If you recall those cocooned cars on the dead line, they're being kept for a reason: within the last year SRC pulled one of the cocooned cars into the shop and has been completely rebuilding it, including an all-new interior, all-new sheathing, and a lot of new framing.
And here's the car. It's an ex-B&O coach but it's being restored as a parlor car. It will really be a beauty when it's done.

And that was mostly it for the Strasburg Railroad. My first visit was extremely impressive and I'd highly recommend it, especially to fans of steam engines and wood cars.