Thursday, May 31, 2018

Memorial Day photos from Chuck Amstein

Our official photographer, Chuck Amstein, sent in a number of photos taken Monday of operations at IRM. The usual requirements to obtain permission before reproducing any of these photos apply. Enjoy!

Chicago Surface Lines 1374, with Henry Vincent motorman and Randy Allegrezza conductor, pulls out of Barn 7 at the beginning of the day.
Illinois Terminal 277 peers out of the door on track 81 before emerging into the sunlight.
The "Tangerine Limited" passes the Electro-Motive sign from McCook on the ladder track en route to the tail track.
The IT train sits on the tail track before backing into Station Track 1. No other museum has a matched set of interurban cars, complete with open-platform obs, anything like this!
The "Tangerine Limited" all ready for its first trip of the day. This shot would have been impossible until about six weeks ago, when the old gift shop cars that formerly occupied the foreground area were removed.
IT motorman Joel Ahrendt gets ready for his trip. Standard practice on the IT was to put the motorman's cab on the left side of the car.
CA&E 319 and 36 are in Johnson Siding as the "Tangerine Limited" passes holding the main. Where else but IRM can you see wooden interurban trains passing each other?
Back at East Union, the IT train crew (L-R: Shelby, Zach, Gregg) speak with a customer. Note the modernized marker fairings on the 277 and the long jumpers between cars.
This is the observation compartment on the 234. The plan is to eventually return this compartment to its original stained-and-varnished appearance. Note that the 234 retains its original partial Empire ceiling; the IT added arched "hips" to either side of the original monitor roof but left the entirety of the original roof structure intact on this car.
Only at IRM: the Matchbox passes through Car Line Junction while the three-car IT train sits in Station Track 1, Frisco 1630 occupies Station Track 2, and the Zephyr passes by on the main line.
CA&E 319 and 36 pass the depot westbound on the main line.
CA&E 36 and 319 load passengers on Station Track 1. It's Memorial Day, so the train is flying American flags, but the cars are restored to c1950 condition so of course they're 48-star flags.
The face of the CA&E!
Frisco 1630 arrives on Station Track 2 with the coach train.
This is a nice shot of the 319's interior. It looks a lot better than it did when the car arrived at IRM.
The "Tangerine Limited" passes Spaulding Tower headed westbound on the main line. The middle car is the 518, a coach trailer that was nonetheless fitted with a trolley pole while on the IT. IRM has turned the car around and jumpered it to the 277 so that the train can use the 518's pole when running obs-end first.
A view from the railfan seat on the 319: the eastbound CA&E wood train passes the Nebraska Zephyr at Johnson Siding.
Motorman Dan Buck running the 319 westbound from Kishwaukee Grove
Chuck's last photo for the day was this terrific shot of the eastbound steam train framed in the end window of CA&E 319 as the wood cars sit in Johnson Siding.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Memorial Day 2018

Memorial Day at IRM went very well, in spite of the above-average temperature.  It was less humid than Saturday and there was a nice breeze.  The other two wood CA&E cars were running, the "Brookins Local".  I don't know of any other place where we could decide to run two other wooden interurban cars just for the sake of variety.  Dan Buck was the motorman, I was the conductor, and Chris Buck was a car host.

And I got out a couple of different cards for the bulkheads.

You ready to punch somebody?  Come to the Boxing Classic instead!  Dan explained that CYO stands for Catholic Youth Organization, and that he had known Bishop Sheil, who died many years ago.   You learn something new every day at IRM.

On Monday the mainline trains consisted of the 1630 coach train, the Zephyr, the three-car IT train, and the Brookins train.  You can hardly do better than that!  I never got a chance to visit the IT cars, because the schedule is such that we were never in the station at the same time.  We operated out of Track 1 all day and never got to 50th Avenue.  The 2200's were running out of 50th to Jefferson and back.  I must say, from my limited perspective, that this was much easier for the crews and went smoother since it involves fewer end-changing and so on.  And for that matter, we got through the whole day without a dewirement!  What more could anyone want?

The Beau Brummel of IRM:

There goes the IT train:

Everybody gets excited when the steam engine goes by: 

Including me.

In other fashion news, well, I guess you have to take what you can get.

And on the whole, things went very smoothly and everybody seemed to be having a great time. 

Monday, May 28, 2018

Sunday report

Frank writes...

Sunday of Memorial Day Weekend, the CA&E wood cars weren't running but I was out at IRM anyway. My chariot for the day was the Matchbox, CSL 1374, shown above in Yard 4 East. This is a beautiful car and was the first Chicago streetcar to be fully restored at IRM. Its restoration was headed up by Frank Sirinek and was completed around 1990, give or take. Afterwards the 1374 was our everyday streetcar for over a decade until the 3142 went into service around 2001 or 2002. After removal from daily service it went to the other extreme, seeing almost no use for nearly 15 years. This year it has been assigned to several days in service to combat some "sit-itis" problems that were starting to crop up from lack of use.
My conductor was Thomas Slater, shown here punching tickets at Central Avenue, which is the new "base" for the streetcars now that the entrance is at the Schroeder Store rather than up by the tower. It was another hot day with temperatures in the mid-90s but my short-sleeved blue shirt was a big improvement over the full conductor's uniform I'd worn on Saturday on the CA&E cars!
While on a quick lunch break I happened over to Barn 4, where Tim Peters has been working on sanding and painting the upper half of the 1754. It's exciting to see the car's final appearance coming together, particularly the distinctive tall and narrow end windows.
And the view looking north from in front of Barn 3 is certainly different now. Where before we'd be looking at the C&NW heavyweight baggage car and the Pullman troop sleeper, now we can see trains sitting on Station Tracks 1 and 2. At this distance it's tough to tell but CTA 2243-2244 are sitting in the east berth of Station 1 while directly behind them is the Zephyr. Both of these stainless-steel, air-conditioned trains were pretty popular with the visitors. Other trains in service included CA&E 431-460, CRT 1268-1797, and the steam coach train on the main line, while CTA 4391 and VC 19 joined us on the car line.
Operations went well; we were the first car in service and the second-to-last back in the barn, running for just under eight hours without any issues. Afterwards I made my way back to Barn 4 where a crew of people was busy working on North Shore 160. The goal is to jack the car up and replace both motors in that truck. Here we see the pilot, which has been removed and laid across a couple of spare DC motors.
That was about it - but wait, there's more! Paul Sweigert, who runs an aerial (drone) photography company, was out on Sunday taking video and still pictures from the air. He put together the above video, complete with dramatic music synced to the images, showing the trains that were in service on Sunday. He says there will be a lengthier video coming later, once he completes the editing. Pretty neat!
Hey, how did that get there?

Happy Birthday, Frank!

Wait, that doesn't look right.  Must be my grandfather.  How about this instead?

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Saturday report

Frank writes...

As previously described, the Saturday of Memorial Day Weekend went well. The crowd was a bit light, possibly because of the 90 degree heat. We were able to get the cars out of the barn right around 10am, as shown above.
The two service streetcars, the 4391 and 1374, were delayed going into service because the Track Department was working on something at Depot Street. We ended up going into service via the connector track and South Junction to avoid this, though I wasn't able to get any photos of this "rare mileage" move. By going around the streetcar loop and then up the west wye to 50th Avenue, we effectively wyed ourselves twice, thus keeping the train facing the same direction.
Later in the day we got into a nice rhythm, with electric departures at :15 and :45 and steam/diesel departures at :00 and :30. Besides us, the CTA 2200s, the steam coach train, and the diesel-powered caboose trains were running on the main line. This 30 minute offset between electrics meant that we weren't both in 50th at the same time. But early on, before the steam engine and caboose trains were up and going, there were a couple of "meets" on the 50th Avenue east track. Above, the 2200s are fittingly signed to meet the CA&E at Forest Park.
A subsequent meet resulted in the woods and 2200s reversing themselves, and to get us out of the way for the 'L' cars to depart we did another rare mileage trip, this time to the west track. This track was designed to be a gauntlet track, so that both narrow (elevated width, i.e. CTA, CA&E, and North Shore) and wide (railroad width, i.e. South Shore and IC) cars could use it. But the narrow-width track was never put in, so elevated-compatible cars like ours face a wide gap between car and platform that we don't want passengers to have to jump. Anyway, while we were briefly stored on the west track the 1630 passed us going into service.
My father brought out a couple of bulkhead ads. The CA&E woods all have clips and retainer bars on the windows in the smoker/main compartment bulkheads for hanging these posters, which usually advertised events to which you could get on the CA&E. The 308 got an ad for the Villa Park Flower Show.
And if you ever wanted to learn about the Canary Islands, don't worry, the 309 has you covered. Note that these lectures were held at the "Chicago Natural History Museum - formerly Field Museum of Natural History." I guess that re-branding didn't take!
After five full trips and a "Jefferson Street Shuttle" trip, it was back to the barn. My father moved the 36 and 319, which are running Monday, to the connector track and I ran the 308 and 309 into track 84 up to the 150. Here the 308 waits for the "Brookins Special" switching with trolley buses in the background. A Chicago Marmon and the Seattle thing with the LED destination sign were in operation during the day.
Over in the car shop, Thomas, Joel, and some of the other guys were working on North Shore 160. One of the car's motors has had its string banding fail so one truck will get two newly-rebuilt motors so that the car can go back into revenue service for the first time in four years. It was pointed out to me that 160 is one of the ever-shrinking group of cars at IRM to have never been off its trucks since it was in regular service. It came out to Union on its own wheels in 1964 and hasn't needed to have its trucks pulled... until now.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Hot News

The first day of the three-day weekend went very well on the whole, although it was hot!  But we're used to that.  I don't have any pictures, for reasons not worth explaining, but Frank should be able to fill in the gaps.  Anyway, the 308 and 309 operated all day without any major issues, and everybody seemed to be having a good time.  The 1630 was running in fine style, there was a caboose train which is always very popular, and so on.

Any significant change in routine involves a learning curve.  This was the first major operating day with the new entrance through the Schroeder Store, and that has a bigger effect on the train operations than you might expect.  We were operating out of 50th Avenue all day, and that requires noticeably more effort on the part of the electric car crews.  We'll get used to it soon enough, and there are various tweaks and real-time experiments that can be made.

The Zephyr will be running on Sunday and Monday, and on Monday the IT train will be in operation, so that's something you won't want to miss!  If you're anywhere near the center of this continent, be sure to visit IRM!

Thursday, May 24, 2018

A Milestone for the 309

It seems like only yesterday.  Bob Rayunec and I had been working over the winter to check out the 309's control system with the expert help of Norm Krentel.   A wire running from one electrical cabinet to the other had to be replaced, but otherwise everything seemed OK.  The contactors, all 26 of them, seemed to operate in sequence correctly.  The traction motors meggered somewhat lower than we would have liked, about half a meg, but still usable.  And the air system was made operational and seemed to function correctly.  

And so, on the Saturday before Memorial Day, the car was finally pulled out of Barn 4 by the 229.  It looked like this:

You may notice the plywood door, the pieces of canvas tied over the ventilators, missing parts of the clerestory, missing siding, the unfinished roof work, the incomplete paint job... well, you can't have everything all at once.  And restoration of the burned-out interior had barely started.  

So the 309 was placed on the east wye for a test track.  This was a couple of years before the streetcar line was put into service, so the legs of the wye could be used for temporary storage or testing during the day.  The pole went up, Norm and then Bob got to run the controller, and I got to run alongside and watch for arcs and sparks.  And for the first time at IRM, it ran under its own power.

That was forty years ago.  

The 309 has since been completely restored, of course, and is still operating for revenue service.  It will be running this Saturday, so come on out and take a ride if you can!  

And if you can't, we would ask you to consider making a donation for the replacement bearings that are needed to keep this beautiful car in service.   See the details here.   Thanks!!!!

PS. The next day, on Sunday I managed to twist my ankle while jumping off the 321 and had to go to Woodstock Memorial.  They gave me an Ace bandage and a crutch, and for a few days I was hobbling about.  But that was my first and last lost-time accident at IRM.  So be careful -- Safety First!

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Update on Arrangements for Bill Thiel

The visitation will be from 3pm to 8pm on Friday, May 25, at the Meadows Funeral Home, 3615 Kirchoff Rd., Rolling Meadows.   (847) 253-0224

The funeral will be at 10am on Saturday, May 26, at St. Gregory's Episcopal Church, 815 Wilmot Road, Deerfield.

Here is a link to the obituary page.

And another picture of Bill doing what he loved.   He will certainly be missed.

Wednesday Report

This will be brief.  Most of the Wednesday regulars were at their usual jobs.

First, a couple of views inside the historic TM container car.  Gerry and John were moving parts in and out for storage.  The doors were open on one end... 

and you can see various parts stored there.

Inside the car, you can look down towards the container, the only one in existence, I believe.  The wooden doors on the container itself have rotted away, but you can see the strap hinges.  In the foreground, the floor is partly rusted away, but one of the rollers is visible on which the containers would be winched into and out of the car.

And I did some more switching, to put the 308 and 309 at the door.  Memorial Day weekend is coming up, of course, and on Saturday the 308 and 309 will be operating, and the 36 and 319 on Monday.  And it's time for some formal portraits in advance of this.

After switching was done, the 309 was at the door.   I also rechecked the compressors and removed excess parts from the interiors, and so on. 

Meanwhile, progress continues around the property.   The old bookstore tracks are gone, and most of the area is leveled out.  Most but not all of the concrete squares have been removed.  I can remember when these concrete squares were considered a great step forward in improving the property.

Pete Galayda has installed the rebuilt door on the Class B.  The drop sash will be inserted soon.

Work continues on the interior of the Electroliner.  John Arroyo is finishing work on every square inch of the motorman's compartment.  This might make him look like an accident victim, but I can assure you he's OK.

And as I say, many of the other regulars were hard at work, as usual.  This weekend will have lots of equipment operating, so don't miss it!