Saturday, June 30, 2018

Trolley Weekend, Day 1

This is Trolley Weekend at IRM.  Depending on how the calendar works out, we keep trying various ways of displaying our impressive collection of operating electric cars, while keeping the railroad running for people more interested in steam or other things.  We're in the middle of a heat wave, so the crowd was perhaps not as large as we would have liked, but better than I expected.  So keep reading!

First of all, we received a large shipment of goodies from a collector, now living in Minnesota, who bought these things from Wheaton Shops when the CA&E was going out of business.  There's a controller, a brake valve, a horn, reverser key, brake handle, a complete first aid box, paper items, and lots more.  I can't tell you how much we appreciate donations like this.  And I'm told his wife appreciates getting all this stuff out of the house, but that's another matter.

Anyway, they got a pass to ride the trains all day, and he got to operate the CA&E cars for a while.  So if you happen to have a collection of railroad parts something like this, have we got a deal for you!

The theme for this weekend was that everything operating would be at least one hundred years old.  That means all the CA&E wood cars qualify, and today we were running the 36 and 309, seen here.

The 308 and 319 should be running tomorrow.  They were parked on the connector for the day.

With all four cars out of the barn, I should have been able to get a good picture of the Lake Shore Electric 150.  But some bozo left this stupid platform in the way.

Another big star of the show was the three-car IT train.

The 277 sports the antimacassars my wife made for us many years ago.

And here's our crew for the CA&E train:  Frank, Nick Espevik, and me.  It was hot, but a good time was had by all.

Frank brought out his portable wind-up 78 RPM record player to provide us with music from WWI:

All these trains were transporting people a hundred years ago, when this music was popular.

Since I was busy, I didn't have a chance to get a picture of the other trains running: North Shore 160, Charles City 300 pulling the North Shore 604, and so on.  But at least here's a picture of the Matchbox in the capable hands of the Buck brothers:

Stay tuned for our next installment!

Friday, June 29, 2018

The Great British Railfanning Trip - Acton Depot, Part II

Frank writes...

This is a continuation from Part I of our tour of the Acton Museum Depot run by the London Transport Museum, courtesy of Geoff Thorne and his crew of volunteers working on the Q stock at the depot.

There was a LOT of interesting equipment at the depot, much of it on rails and some of it not. The unusual piece of equipment pictured above is sleet locomotive ESL107. It is the most significant remnant, I suppose you'd say, of the 1903 stock, which were the first electric MU cars built for the Central London Railway (today's Central line). When service began on the CLR in 1900 the line used trailers pulled by locomotives, but the heavy locomotives caused such vibration in the buildings over the tubes that they quickly switched to MU cars. These looked similar to the later Standard Stock cars, with a large compartment over the front truck holding electric equipment. In the late 1930s, as these cars were being retired, some were cut in half and the two motorized halves joined to create four-motor locomotives for sleet cutting. That's what ESL107 is.
And here's the sleet cutter. The locomotive has four trucks, its two "real" trucks (which looked oddly like American-style MCB trucks, I must say) and two trucks mounted near the center of the locomotive which carry the sleet cutting equipment pictured here. Unbelievably, this thing was apparently used in service on the tube system into the 1990s.

This is a more normal locomotive, in that it was built from the start for the purpose of hauling other things around. It was built in 1938 by Gloucester and is a battery locomotive, so it can operate either off the third rail or off of battery power. A common use was work trains, or "engineering trains" in British parlance, and with work often being done with the power cut it was necessary to be able to operate without relying on line power. This thing was in service until 1992.
It looks kind of like a "normal" tube car but this is actually a pretty unique piece. It's the only surviving example of 28 tube cars built in 1940 specifically for the Waterloo & City line in London, nicknamed "the drain," which runs as a 1.5-mile, two-station shuttle between Waterloo and Bank (formerly known as City). The line was considered an adjunct of Waterloo Station and fell under the auspices of the railway companies (for a while, the Southern Railway) until it was absorbed by London Transport in the 1990s. The first cars built for the line in the 1890s were actually provided by Jackson & Sharp of Wilmington, Delaware! They were replaced in 1940 by cars like this one, designed by SR's Oliver Bulleid and built by English Electric with Dick Kerr electrical equipment. This car was retired in 1993 and has just recently been restored and repainted.
I earlier mentioned Standard Stock; well here it is. This is a fully restored Driving Motor built in 1927. From the early 1920s until the early 1930s cars built for the tube network looked like this, with squat clerestory roofs and arched end windows. The motor cars had a third of their length taken up by an electrical equipment compartment, which Steven (R) is pointing out to Greg (L). Most Standard cars used Metropolitan-Vickers electrical equipment though some used GE equipment built under license.
The interior of this car, number 3327, is beautiful. It's been fully restored, obviously, and looks like it's ready to head out on the underground network. This is taken looking towards the equipment compartment, which is located through that door in the bulkhead.
And here's the equipment compartment. To the left are some knife switches, equipment boxes, and the air compressor; to the right are the grids and, on the lower "shelf," the contactors. The green door in the end goes to the driver's cab which permits him to come back here and repair his train if it breaks down. These cars remained in service some 40 years and were retired in the early 1960s.
We're still in the tube network here but we've moved forward in time a few decades. This is a preserved example of 67 Stock, built in (you guessed it) 1967 for the opening of the then-brand-new Victoria Line. These cars were designed for ATO, Automatic Train Operation, which meant that although they did have drivers, the drivers could run the train from station to station simply by pressing two buttons to start the sequence. Sounds like something Tesla built.
Here's Zach in the driver's seat. Near the bottom right of the panel, from his perspective, is what looks like a big Staples "Easy" button but which I think is actually an indicator light; partly hidden by that are the two buttons that the operator pushes to proceed to the next station via ATO. This particular car, 3052, was operated by Queen Elizabeth II when the line opened in 1969 so Zach is sitting on somewhat hallowed ground.
 And then we go backwards in time again (though still on the tube network). Here we have what might be the pride and joy of Acton Depot, a full four-car set of restored and operational 1938 tube stock. These "38 Stock" cars were built by Metro-Cammell and the roughly 1,100 cars of this type built were used all over the tube system for nearly fifty years. They had much more compact electric equipment (cam control) fitted under the floor, which allowed for more seating since they didn't need a large compartment for control equipment. The train at Acton includes two Driving Motors, a Non-Driving Motor, and a Trailer. Sitting in front of it on a pallet is a CP-30 compressor which was apparently used by a few different classes of Underground cars.
The interior of the 38 Stock cars is beautifully restored. The intricate upholstery designs - or "moquette" as it is evidently called in Britain - are authentic reproductions of what these cars were originally fitted with. Like other early tube trains, they have hopper upper-sash windows that tilt in for ventilation. I noted that the upper sash window frames, which are brass, lack a lower rail; the stiles have a nub at the bottom which holds the glass in place but the bottom edge of the pane is exposed (though it's ground smooth). I suppose this helps with the old problem of bottom rails collecting water and rotting out.
And now we're back to the 1920s and the Standard Stock which preceded the 38 Stock in tube service. This shot shows car 3693, built in 1934 by Metro-Cammell at the end of Standard Stock production. Note that only four years later the Underground was building 38 Stock cars of a much more modern and efficient design. Acton Depot has a complete, albeit unrestored, train of these Standard Stock cars including two Driving Motors, a Control Trailer, and a Trailer. This car was used in revenue service until the mid-1960s, when it was moved into work service and given the number L131.
This is the other unrestored DM in the Standard Stock train, 1927-vintage car 3379, later work motor L134. It can be seen that the louvers in the equipment compartment can be removed for relatively easy access to the control and electrical equipment. I didn't get close-up photos of them but the CT and T cars in this train were both sold for use on the Isle of Wight in the mid-1960s. At that time the IoW abandoned most of its (then steam-operated) branch lines and electrified the one remaining line. But clearances through a tunnel in Ryde were so tight that the only cars that would fit were these London tube cars. So that's what they bought, 40 year old Standard Stock, and ran them until 1991 when they were replaced by 38 Stock cars. But more on that later.
And then our guides showed us through a section of Acton Depot devoted to road vehicles. First in line was this horse-drawn omnibus dating to 1881 which has been completely restored. Beautiful! At one time there was an omnibus in the CTA Historic Collection, alongside artifacts such as our own cable trailer and car 4; anyone know whatever happened to that thing? Oakey's: for when store-brand knife polish just won't do.
I'm not a big bus fan, but if you're going to collect buses then you may as well collect ones from before World War II. The bus closest to the camera is a B-type double-decker bus dating all the way back to 1911. The Transport Museum has two of these things; the other will be seen a bit later. Next to it is a K-type bus built in 1920 and beyond that is an NS-type bus built in 1926. The NS was built with an open cab, like the others, but at some point they decided that windshield wiper technology had advanced sufficiently that a windscreen wasn't a safety hazard and retrofitted a cab.
There were a bunch of buses, mostly double-deck with some single-deck, and two trolley buses of which this was the elder. It's an A-1 "Diddler" dating to 1931, which makes it about the same age as IRM's own CSL 84. It bears a distinct family resemblance to the "Feltham" trams built around the same time.
Speaking of which, here's the museum's "Feltham" (pronounced "felt'm" not "felth-am") tram, car 355. It was built in Feltham by Union Construction Company in 1931, sold to Leeds in 1952, and later designated for preservation. There were 100 cars of this type and they were the pride of the London system. Only three are still around: this car, a prototype center-entrance "Feltham" at Crich, and car 341 at Seashore in Maine in very poor condition. All three of us were struck by the size of this car: it's 40' long, not huge by American standards, but it is more than 15' tall!
The museum's other London tram is this beauty, E1 type car number 1025, built by Hurst Nelson in 1910. The E1 was about as close to the "standard" tram as London got; it was kind of their version of the "Old Pullman" and they had over 1,000 of them. Car 1025 ran in service in London until 1952 when it was retired. Though shorter in length than the "Feltham" at just 34' it's even taller, with a height of some 16'1", making it about the same height as Frisco 1630!
London used a conduit system for current collection in the center of the city and standard overhead wire further out, similar to how Washington DC did it. This shot of the truck (bogie) on the E1 shows part of the plow mounting between the wheels. Note that the car has what is, in effect, a Maximum Traction truck although I'm pretty certain this isn't a Brill design.
Here Steven shows us a display with a section of conduit and a streetcar plough for demonstration purposes. A similar setup is displayed at the National Capital Trolley Museum outside of Washington.
The tour then moved into the bus maintenance workshop. Most of the buses at Acton are in running condition and this is where they're maintained. This is a 1914 Leyland bus painted up for the London & North Western.
If you recall that 1911 B-type bus pictured earlier, this is a similar type. A number of these buses were moved from London to the front lines in France around 1916 and used for transporting troops and, sometimes, casualties. The museum painstakingly restored this example to full London red-and-cream livery, complete with all the striping and everything, and then painted over it all in olive drab just so that it would be correct with little bits of red poking out here and there - just like the buses sent to France would have been. While this was originally meant to be a temporary transformation for the 100th anniversary of the Great War in 2014, it's been decided to keep the bus in this guise as a memorial.
Then we poked out heads outside briefly. This is one of four cars of A-stock built c1960 for the sub-surface lines. One A-stock Driving Motor is preserved inside the Acton Depot but this complete set, which was in work service until recently (though retired from revenue service about five years ago), had just been stripped for parts and was due to be cut up within the following week or two. The other two Q Stock cars were also stored outside under tarps.
The final exhibit we were shown was this fully restored Metropolitan Railway milk van dating to 1896. At one time freight was carried through the Underground system and this is a rare example of a car that did it.
The tour was fascinating, as was the explanation of all of the work that Geoff and the rest of the crew are putting into the Q Stock cars. We can't thank them enough for taking the time to show us everything! This final shot shows a service train passing the Museum Depot, which can be seen in the background.
And then, after a quick dinner, it was a quick procession from the sublime to the ridiculous. First we went on a high-speed train ride up the East Coast Main Line to Stevenage so that we could get a taste of 100+ mph running. That took about 20 minutes. The return trip took more than an hour because we rode on the EMU cars shown above, perhaps among the most wretched creatures in passenger service out of London at the moment.

These are Class 313 cars built in 1976 or so and now working their final days; replacements are already under construction and are being tested in Germany, or so Greg said.
As such they haven't bothered repainting these cars and instead the most recent private operator to use them has just given them a "patch job" over a rather disheveled older coat of paint.
The interiors were kind of sad too. These were the first EMUs built in Britain that could operate on both the 750v DC third-rail system and the 25,000v AC overhead wire system. They're three-car sets with the outer two cars basic 750v DC Driving Motors and the center car, a trailer, carrying the transformer and rectifier for AC operation. It was easy to feel the cam control notching up and the cars we were on also had a very audible and satisfying pop when the line switch opened under load. It was an eccentric but interesting ride back to Moorgate on the slow line to finish our first day.

Click here for Part III of our trip.

Painting the 308

The current maintenance project, when I'm not operating or on vacation, has been repainting the 308 exterior.  The car was painted back about 2002, and the blue is still in good condition, but the Fleet Grey parts had become somewhat discolored.  Earlier this year all this was sanded down and spot primed.   Here we're looking up at the bottom of the upper siding.

One side was repainted a month or two ago, and I'm working on the other side.  Here's what the finished paint looks like.  About 3/4 of this side has now been done.  It was just too hot to finish yesterday.  The red stripes also need to be redone.

Tim continues work on the roof of the 1754.   As usual, it looks great.  The canvas has so far absorbed 11 gallons of paint, and counting.  

Finally, an update on the model railroad/library building.  All of the steel needed for the building was ordered earlier in order to avoid price increases, and has been stockpiled on the property under tarps.  The next step will be to pour the slab along Central Ave.  They plan to complete construction of the building's exterior by the end of this construction season, and do all of the interior work over the winter, so it can be opened for use next spring.

And here is the pile of metal parts for our model railroad building kit:

The styrene parts still need to be ordered, not to mention all the Xacto knives and glue we'll need.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

The Great British Railfanning Trip - Acton Depot, Part I

Frank writes...

I just flew in from Gatwick, and boy are my arms tired! It's true, I spent the better part of a week over in sunny England along with Zach and Greg from the Car Department. We made a whirlwind tour of several railway hot spots in southeastern England, saw some tremendously impressive heritage operations and exhibits, met some great people, and enjoyed some excellent food. And most importantly, generated some more blog content to keep the Editor in Chief happy! So let's get right to it.

Our first stop after landing and checking in at the hotel, which was near the Hammersmith stop on the Underground, was the London Transport Museum Depot (that's "depp-oh" and not "deep-oh" to you) near Acton Town Station. It's not normally open to the public except for a few Open Days each year and tour groups, including school groups and drooling Americans.

Our host was Geoff Thorne, who heads up a group of volunteers who are restoring a Q38 class Driving Motor dating to 1938. Geoff had e-mailed us a year or two ago asking about GE style contactors (the reason will be obvious shortly) so I asked if we might be able to stop by and see their progress. Geoff and the other project workers were extremely generous with their time, showing us all of the work they've been doing and taking us on a tour of the entire depot. We can't thank them enough - it was absolutely fascinating! Above is an interior view of the Q38 car they're working on, number 4417, built by Gloucester in 1938. It looks like some of the projects at IRM! Above that is an exterior view from the LU website. I didn't get a very good photo of the car's exterior.
The volunteer group has a lot of work to do. Not only do they need to restore the Q38 car, which eventually will be part of a four-car train of Q stock including two Driving Motors and two trailers, but they also need to install modifications to allow it to operate on the modern Underground network. This includes adding a spot inside the car to store an adapter coupler. Underneath that plastic bin, in the seat frame (note the cushion outline on the wall), is a case to hold the adapter while the battery that was originally located under this seat has been moved to the seat across the aisle. These cars use Stearns & Ward couplers, same as our 4000s, so the adapter goes between that type and the modern LU coupler design. They are also overhauling door motors, a couple of which can be seen in the above photo. That sounds familiar.
At the end of the car are the control panels for the guard, which have been restored by the volunteer group using components salvaged from other cars.
As we descended to track level, I spotted this on the workbench. That looks pretty familiar! These cars used a variant of GE Type M control which was manufactured in Britain under license. Although built in 1938, these cars used electrical equipment from earlier sub-surface cars, so their motors and controls are mid-teens vintage. This controller looks pretty similar to a C6, with some changes of course.
This looks familiar too. The Q38 uses contactors similar to the DB260 type ones used under the 319. The volunteer crew pulled one contactor off the car and rebuilt it; here we're looking at the back of the contactor at the interlock assembly. These cars had automatic acceleration so there are a lot of interlocks, more than on our CA&E wood cars. This was a question they had for us: what are the specifications for the distance between contacts when the interlocks open? Unfortunately I have no idea; with generally low current flowing through these interlock contacts it always seemed to be an "either it works or it doesn't" kind of situation.
But the guys working at Acton are a bit more precise. They have built a very impressive test rig, part of which is shown here, that allows them to control all of the functions of the contactor box using a laptop. They can execute a program which runs the sequence up slowly, rather than at high speed as would normally be the case with an automatic acceleration system not under load. A lot of engineering work went into this test system and it's really something to see.
But it doesn't just control the contactors - it also measures the current load to see exactly how they're working and plots it out on a graph. Here you can see the result; note the transition from series to parallel in the center. Wow, neat! Part of the reason they developed this was to more closely analyze each step in the acceleration process to more effectively identify trouble spots, but another part was that there's no 600-volt (actually, 630-volt) line power in the depot. Everything has to get towed outside into the yard before full voltage can be applied to it, and at that point you're effectively on the main Underground system, so your train had better work right!
It was fascinating seeing the work being done on the Q38 car, but that wasn't the half of it. We were then taken on a tour of all of the other equipment stored in the very impressive Acton Depot facility. Of the four-car Q stock set, two cars are stored inside and two are outside tarped. The other car stored inside is this trailer, a Q35 class car built in 1935 by Gloucester as an N stock car. It has been fully restored.
Although in rough shape, this is a very historic car. And believe it or not, it's a Met car! It was built in 1904 for the Metropolitan Railway (of London, naturally) as one of the first MU cars for that newly-electrified line. It's a Driving Trailer, in British parlance, or what we would call a control trailer. It has not only been stripped of much of its equipment but also suffered a serious fire, so large parts of it are badly charred. But we know that even something fire-damaged like this is restorable and it's laudable that the car has been saved. Ex cineribus resurgam!
This is one of three existing examples of an R stock Driving Motor. It is car 22679 and was built by Metropolitan Cammell in 1952. After WWII the Underground started building cars out of aluminum (er, aluminium) and this was the first series which was left unpainted. It was retired in 1983.
Then before we proceeded to the rest of the equipment at the depot, there was a large display area at the front. For a facility not normally open to the public, they have some stunning exhibits! One was this, the disembodied end of a 1906 Gate Stock tube car. This car was built for the Great Northern Piccadilly & Brompton, today's Piccadilly Line, and was retired in 1929. At that time the end was cut off, presumably as an historical curiosity, to preserve the (already archaic) open platform.
Here's something neat - a very early electric motor from the Underground. As Zach reminded me, it's from a City & South London locomotive of about 1890. A complete locomotive of this type is preserved in London and we saw that one later on our trip. Anyway, this is a pretty primitive system befitting its age: the axle forms the motor armature shaft, like on our New York Central S-motor, and the commutator (visible just to the right of the near wheel) and brush holder aren't even covered.
Here's a section of a spiral wooden escalator. I bet this had to be seen to be believed, but it was a notable failure and lasted less than a week in service. Apparently this fragment was found in the bottom of the shaft where the replacement escalator was installed.
Near the displays sits the storage area, which is awfully impressive and something we could use at IRM. Someday!
A section of tube, like used in the tube sections of the Underground, was on display. These tunnels are only about 12' in diameter which explains why the London tube cars are so short in height.
There was this display of beautifully restored substation equipment...
...and this display of beautifully restored point lever machines (I'll need to look up what the proper term is). To the left is Steven, who led our tour around the depot.
There was a whole area devoted to old ticket machines and ticket booths, both essentially extinct now that Oyster cards are the payment method.
This was an awfully impressive exhibit. Pretty much an entire car's worth of control equipment off of a 1967 Victoria Line tube car has been set up, and wired up, as an exhibit. The cab in the center is basically complete; the electrical equipment you walk past, and under, to get to the cab is functional and is controlled by the driver, just like on a complete car.
The various portions of the system are even labeled. And since these cars were built with ATO, an automatic train operation system, there were three different generations of the ATO equipment box on display. Very impressive!
And there was a cab from a 1962 stock tube car available for photos. So of course I availed myself.

That's it for Part I... click here for Part II of our tour through Acton Depot!