Monday, July 30, 2018

Miscellaneous Monday

Today was another nice day.  We seemed to have a good crowd of visitors, and various things were happening.   Thomas and Percy were loaded up and went their way.  But they'll be back next year.

There are always little tasks to be performed.  A couple of weeks ago I noticed that the blue warning sign was missing from the #1 end of the 36.  It was still in storage, so I finally got around to installing it.  Not a big job, but every little bit helps.

Ah, much better.  Then I worked on the controller at the #2 end for a while, and retested the control system.  Everything seems to be working OK.  But I started wondering just what these controllers would sound like when shutting off at the head of an eight-car train.  I guess we'll never know.

The wooden frame for holding the 150's Kevin sign was coming apart, so I spent some time rebuilding it in a sturdier fashion.  It also got cleaned up.

Let's take a break and look at the roof of the 1754.  Not surprisingly, it looks great.  Just a few details, such as the trolley hooks, need to be completed.

And on the way back down, we see parts of the clerestory window hardware.

And the roof structure:

As Frank mentioned in an earlier post, there was a missing shutoff sign in Barn 8, so I made two new ones and installed them.

All of the barn tracks have an insulator just outside the door.  Ideally motormen will shut off before any trolley pole crosses the insulator, in order to avoid drawing an arc.  It's difficult to judge when to do this, so on track 84 we have these nifty signs.

"Off 1" is the point at which the motorman should shut off for the first car when the front of the car reaches that sign, and so on.  On a two-car train you also shut off at "Off 2", and so on.  Car 36 is shorter than the others, so if the 36 is already inside the barn you need to shut off about five feet earlier, or half a bay.  If that doesn't make sense, it's time to turn in your badge.

 Transport Extravaganza is this Sunday, so be sure to tell your friends and neighbors.  It's the biggest old-car show in Illinois.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Sunday report

Frank writes...

Sunday was a beautiful sunny day at the railway museum. The crowd seemed decent and in general things were running okay, with the wood 'L' cars and a diesel train on the main line and the 3142 on the car line.

My big project for the afternoon was installation of a new end window in the 18. The window to the motorman's left was cracked in half when the car arrived at IRM but a replacement piece of glass was obtained, cut to shape, and I got it installed as shown above. This drop sash is the only one of the three end windows - and the only window in the motorman's cab - that can be opened, so it will be important for ventilation purposes.
I also helped with sorting some parts and then did a little walking around. Tim Peters has nearly finished installation of rooftop appurtenances on the 1754, shown above. In other news, Norm and Jeff were working on the 28, Zach was looking at the 354, and Good Nick was working on 4000 catchers, while Bill Pollman was visiting from Seashore and discussing some pahts-related issues with our 'L' car crew.

I also did some testing of a 360-degree camera that is on loan currently. You can now visit the 309 digitally through the magic of Google Street View:
You can go to full-screen view using the bracket icon in the corner. I also took interior shots of the 36, 308, and 319. I'm hoping to take some additional images of IRM as a way of adding to our online presence, so stay tuned for the fun.

And finally, I managed to finish up painting of an OB trolley catcher which will be installed on the 205. I just put a quick (and thin) coat of orange on the back of the thing to seal it up; Richard Schauer had previously put a few coats on the front of the thing to make it look nice. Thanks, Rich! When the 205 was restored a few years ago we weren't able to find any correct OB catchers for it so it was fitted with OB retrievers, which look generally similar but are significantly larger. This catcher was part of a recently-acquired cache of spare parts and will replace one of the retrievers on the car. So at least one end will be correct in the catcher/retriever department!

REMINDER: We still need at least one, ideally two trainmen for the CA&E wood train this coming Sunday for the Vintage Transport Extravaganza. We are planning on running three cars but we don't currently have enough crew to have all three cars open. Help!

Friday, July 27, 2018

The Great British Railfanning Trip: Going Great Western, Part I

This post describing our recent trip to England is Part VII and follows the previous post here. It's submitted by our official West Country correspondent Zach Ehlers.

Frank has alluded in previous posts in this series that at heart, he is a Great Western Railway fan. I also happen to find my allegiances with the GWR, so Frank was gracious enough to allow me to write for the Sunday portion of the trip.

Following a wonderful day in the south at the Bluebell on Saturday, on Sunday we turned our eyes to the west. This took us to Paddington Station. This location has been the London base of operations for the Great Western Railway since 1854, and much of the building dates from this period. The GWR itself dates back to the 1830's when Isambard Kingdom Brunel (more about him later), constructed a railway line from London to Bristol. This eventually expanded to a network blanketing southwest England and Wales, extending to such destinations as Birmingham, Swansea, Carnforth, Weston-super-Mare, Plymouth, and Penzance. Our travels this day focused on the original Great Western Mainline to Bristol, as far as Didcot. One target of this trip was to ride an HST trainset. The Intercity 125's (or High Speed Train) were constructed in the late 1970's to replace locomotive hauled trains on the GWML. As of 2018, they are due to be replaced by a new generation of trains coinciding with electrification of the GWML, so their days flying out of Paddington are numbered. We happened to catch this HST for a trip to Reading.
At Reading, we disembarked, as the train was not going to stop at Didcot Parkway. Therefore, we caught the next train, which was very much in the future. These are Class 802's, a dual mode (diesel and electric) MU train which will eventually replace the HST's. As of our trip, the electrification only extends to Didcot, and eventually will go as far as Bristol. Therefore, the dual mode will continue to be utilized well into the future for far west destinations.
At Didcot, we arrived at our primary objective for the day: the Didcot Railway Centre, operated by the Great Western Society. The centre was originally the Didcot engine shed for the GWR, some of the present buildings dating back to 1932. The GWS leased the site in 1967 and have been here ever since. The site resides between the line to Oxford and a goods yard, and as such, is completely landlocked. The only access is A) by rail, or B) through the Didcot Parkway Station. Despite the hemmed in nature, there is plenty packed into this space, including an engine shed, carriage shed, and three demonstration running lines.
Upon entering the grounds we were greeted with this train at one of the “mainline” demonstration railway. The train consisted of No. 4144, a 5101 class “Large Prairie” built in 1946, Collett 8 Compartment Third, No. 536, built in 1940, and Hawksworth Brake Third No. 2022, built in 1950. All three were built at GWR's Swindon works (this is going to be a theme). We took a quick round trip on the demonstration line, and then made our way toward the Engine Shed.
The Great Western Society owns 28 steam locomotives, 5 diesel locomotives, over 40 carriages, and over 50 goods wagons. In all this is one of the most comprehensive collections of GWR rolling stock gathered anywhere, and a good portion of the engines are in this engine shed. Lets take a brief walk through GWR engine history.
Sitting outside the shed is No. 3738, a 5700 class Pannier Tank built in 1937 at Swindon. The pannier tank was a particularity to the GWR, the thought being the pannier tanks were easier to fabricate, gave the engine a lower center of gravity, and made maintenance easier. There were 863 of these engines built, making them the most numerous class of steam locomotive in the UK.
This engine is No. 1466, a 1400 (originally 4800) class tank engine, built in 1936 at Swindon. These engines were intended for rural branch lines and other low volume lines, often being paired with an Autocoach to form an Autotrain. An Autocoach is a specially built carriage, with a driving cab connected to the engine via linkages under the floor to control the regulator. This makes a push-pull trainset that does not need to be run around at the end of every trip. There were very successful on the GWR and many lasted until the late 1950's and early 1960's, often only disappearing when the branch lines they operated on were abandoned. 1466 is significant in that it was the first engine purchased by the society (at that time 4 school boys who wanted to save an Autotrain) in 1964.
This imposing engine is No. 3822, a 2884 class engine built in 1940 (at....Swindon). This engine is a development on the earlier 2800 class built in the 1905-1919 timeframe. These engines were intended as heavy goods engines, primarily for mineral traffic from Wales.
One thing that must be noted in this roll call of GWR engines is the fact that the GWR practically perfected the 4-6-0 tender engine. There were no less than NINE different varieties of 4-6-0's built for different purposes over 50 years. With the exception of one 4-6-2 Pacific (which was later converted to a 4-6-0), the GWR never saw the need for a larger passenger engine than that. This example here is what many (myself included) believe to be the ultimate in this development: the Castle. These 4 cylinder engines were built starting in 1923 as an enlargement of the previous Stars. The design was another smash hit for the GWR, managing to stay in production into nationalized British Railways Days in 1950. In all 171 were built, most named for British Castles (with some named for notable individuals in GWR history, others renamed for Earls in the late 1930's and yet more renamed for WWII era British Aircraft in 1940). This example is 5051, Drysllwyn Castle, built in 1936 (at, you guessed it, Swindon). This is one of the engines renamed for Earls, becoming Earl Bathurst in 1937. It was withdrawn in 1963 and sold to Woodham Brothers Scrapyard on Barry Island in Wales. Barry Island is famous/infamous in UK rail preservation history as a large deposit of engines sold by BR for scrap. Most of the engines Woodham's bought were never scrapped, instead rotting away for many years on the island. As a result, 213 of the 297 engines sent to the island eventually ended up in preservation, leaving between 1968 and 1990. 5051 was the fourth such engine to leave.
Behind 5051 is another Castle, 4079 Pendennis Castle. This engine is one of the original batch of 10 Castles from 1923. This one is sort of a world traveler. It was purchased for preservation in 1964, and in 1972 was sold to private interests in Australia. There it stayed until 1999, running intermittently and at one point meeting up with another UK expatriate, LNER No. 4472 Flying Scotsman. It is in the waning days of a thorough rebuild/restoration and is expected to run in the next few years.
Across the aisle from the pair of Castles is a smaller 2 cylinder 4-6-0, Modified Hall class No. 6998 Burton Agnes Hall of 1949. These engines were a GWR design from 1941, but this engine (like some Castles) was actually produced under British Railways auspices.
Around the corner is something completely different. Wantage Tramways N. 5, “Shannon” was built in 1857 (!) by George England, making it the oldest engine on the Railway Centre Grounds. This engine was purchased by the GWR in 1946 after the Wantage Tramway was closed and placed on display at the GWR Wantage Road Station. After a number of years bouncing around, it was steamed at Didcot in 1969. This engine is not actually owned by the GWS, instead being part of the National Collection, a collection of rail vehicles preserved through the National Railway Museum under an Act of Parliament.
Next up is yet another 4-6-0, No. 7808 Cookham Manor, built in 1938. Manors were the smallest of the GWR 4-6-0's, intended for lines where heavier engines such as Halls could not go. These engines found a particular home on the Cambrian lines, GWR's network of railways covering Wales.
Hall's were a 1928 derivative of 1902 vintage Saint class 4-6-0's, the main modification being 6'-0” driving wheels better suited for mixed traffic rather than 6'8” driving wheels of the Saints. Engine No. 5900, Hinderton Hall (1931), was one of two engines open for inspection of their cabs in the shed. Here we see Driver Greg demonstrating. Above Greg's head you can see “5900 DID” painted on the ceiling. “DID” is the engine's shed allocation. There were 70 sheds which engines could be allocated to on the GWR, many with one or more sub-sheds. “DID” is Didcot. In reality, 5900 was never allocated to Didcot (being allocated to such places as Old Oak Common in London, Bristol Bath Road, and Wolverhampton), but it is a small touch that adds a bit more immersion to the scene.
The other engine open for inspection was 6100 class No. 6106, built 1931. This engine may appear identical to No. 4144, and both are described as “Large Prairies”, but in true Swindon fashion, there were minor differences. The distinguishing feature here is that 6100's had slightly higher boiler pressure (thrilling, I know).
The existence of “Large Prairies” must mean that there is also a smaller variety of the 2-6-2 tank engines. No. 5572 (1929) is a member of the 4575 class, a culmination of the development of the “Small Prairies”. Like 1466, this engine is Auto-fitted for working push pull trains.
Across the aisle from the Prairie tanks is No. 5322, a 4300 class 2-6-0 built in 1917. This engine is notable for being one of 20 brand new engines that the GWR sent to France during WWI to contribute to the war effort. Upon returning from France the engine led a rather mundane existence on the GWR and BR until 1964. It was another engine sent to Barry Island that made it out intact.
In front of 5322 is this little thing. No. 1338 was built in 1898 by Kitson of Leeds for the Cardiff Railway. This engine came under the GWR umbrella in 1923 during the grouping of the UK's railways. Grouping was an 1921 Act of Parliament which basically subdivided and merged the nation's railways into four distinct regional companies. The GWR was the only company to survive this intact with its own name. The only large railway which impeded into the GWR's territory was the London and South Western Railway, which was amalgamated with other Southern England railway companies as the Southern Railway. As a result, the GWR simply ended up absorbing countless industrial and regional lines in the west. No. 1338 continued to operate in numerous dockyard's in the Swansea area until 1963.
And now we move into the realm of dieselization. British Railways issued the Modernization Plan in 1955, which outlined a plan to bring BR up to date technologically. A main point of this report was replacing steam with modern diesel and electric traction. Over the next few years, each region of BR experimented with this new form of traction. The Western Region (the former GWR), ever desiring to do their own thing, chose to experiment with Diesel-Hydraulic traction while every other region chose Diesel-Electric. In all, the Western Region had a half dozen different classes of Diesel Hydraulic locomotives, ranging from large passenger engines, to small shunting engines. This engine is one such example. No. D9516, a “Teddy Bear” in enthusiast parlance, was built at Swindon (go figure!) in 1964. This series of engines was intended to replace tank engines and other smaller engines on short haul and branch line traffic. However, this traffic dried up as fast as the steam engines disappeared. By 1968 (the same year that steam traction completely disappeared from BR), the entire class was sold into private ownership, to companies such as the National Coal Board.
Next to the Teddy Bear is a more numerous and typical British diesel shunter. No. 08 604 is a class 08 “Gronk”, built in 1959 at Derby. There were 996 of these engine produced in all, and many remain in service on today's National Network. This particular example worked at Tyseley (near Birmingham) until it was preserved.
Stepping out into the grounds, we encounter Railmotor 93 and trailer 92, built in 1908 and 1912 respectively. Numerous railway companies in the UK came up with a variation of the railmotor around the turn of the twentieth century, with an aim of more economical operation. By the 1920's the limitations of the Railmotor drove the GWR to create the Autotrain, separating the engine from the carriage. 93 was one of many railmotors converted to autotrailers, and managed to survive in this state until 1956, and as an office until 1970. It was restored back to a Railmotor between 1998 and 2011, which included the construction of a brand new power unit to replace the long gone original. Since then it has operated on a number of heritage railways, and even on Network Rail a few times with special dispensation.
And here we see the local stopping train passing on the main demonstration line. Trains operate very frequently, every 15 minutes or so.
As Frank has mentioned in a previous post, our trip to the UK coincided with multiple special events at multiple heritage railways. The second was Signalling Weekend here at the Didcot. The Centre opened a new exhibition/educational center on railway signalling this weekend, and had numerous other displays/vendors on site. Here is an overview of the booths set up in the Carriage Shed. An interesting topic was on display by both Siemens and Swansea University, demonstrating “ETCS' (European Train Control System) This system aims to redefine how signalling works by moving “blocks” of authority with the train, rather than setting stationary blocks with permanent signals. Swansea University had a model railway running on the system, which we failed to photograph, but did try very hard to 'break' by setting up all sorts of odd dispatching situations with opposing train movements. The system survived our attempts unscathed.
Next door to the displays, we took in some of the Carriage collection. On the right is Collett “Special Saloon” No. 9002, constructed in 1940. It had been used by many VIP's, ranging from royalty to General Eisenhower during the days leading up to D-Day (at least GWS believes it was, that is unconfirmed). On the right are a Dean full brake (No. 933) and 4 wheel compartment Third (No. 975), each outfitted as part of a replica WWI ambulance train. Besides the engines sent (like 5322 above), the GWR supplied a number of carriages for ambulance trains in France. Neither of these vehicles were actually part of that, but present a very nice display on the topic.
A further pair of restored carriages are shown here. On the left is No. 2511, a Family Saloon built in 1894. Vehicles such as this could be hired out by well off families for travel anywhere on the GWR system. This carriage has been recently the subject of a very thorough restoration after being a cottage for many years, much like some of the interurban cars in our own collection. On the right is a Milk van, (known as a Siphon in GWR parlance). No. 2796 is a Siphon 'G', the letter being the diagram designation of the van. GWR used a wide variety of telegraphic code names for goods vehicles, with such creative names as “Mink” (a common van), “Bloater” (a fish van), “Beaver” (a flat truck), and “Toad” (a Brakevan). Siphons were common in the rural west, collecting milk churns from local farms and taking them to creameries for the cities. Milk formed a significant portion of the GWR's traffic until most of it was lost to road lorries in the 1950's and 1960's.
Finally for this section, we step outside to the branch line and observe the train passing by. The carriage on the left is No. 1941, an 8 compartment full third clerestory coach built in 1901. On the right is 4 wheel brake third No. 416, built in 1891. But what is pulling the train? Tune in for Part 2 to find out!

Click here for the second part of our trip to Didcot.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Thursday Report

The weather was beautiful today and we seemed to have a pretty good crowd of visitors.  A lot of work goes into cleaning up the property and getting things back to normal after Thomas.  By the end of the day, I believe all the tents had been removed.  And so on.

My main project was repainting the canvas on the 309.  Photography near the roof of the barn is tricky because of the lighting, so you'll have to take my word for some of these things.  I started by comparing a sample card of the paint we used for the clerestory wood with CTA 4000 grey paint.  It looked to me like a pretty good match, at least for a first coat, so I decided to go ahead and start painting. 

Following are some progress pictures, and I hope the before and after will be obvious.  The canvas had gotten stained over the years with various substances.

By the end of the day I had finished one end and one side.  I'll have to wye the car to complete the job.  In any case, this is a big improvement.

Meanwhile, Thomas and Percy were lined up in Yard 5 in preparation for loading...

using the ramp rails in the foreground.

While we're here, let's see what's in the cab.  The two engines are pretty much alike, so this is Percy's cab.  The most obvious item is the big hand brake, of course, but there are also dump valves, a gauge, and a blower valve for controlling the smoke.  I guess you have to bring your own stool, just as on many electric cars.

The "boiler" contains some auxiliaries and provides extra storage.

And the "tender" compartment has a small generator.

The builder's plate is inside the cab.

And I bet your locomotive doesn't have one of these: a Face Control Box!

In other news, Tim spent the day installing running boards on the 1754.

And we now have a nice display of baggage carts in the area east of the station.

Help Wanted

We plan to run a three-car train of CA&E cars for Vintage Transport Day on Sunday, August 5th.   We still need at least one trainman, and two would be better.   Anyone can do this job, so please help if you can!