Sunday, June 30, 2019

Before the Automobile

This weekend's theme has been "Before the Automobile - How People Got Around Before Cars Were Popular" and yesterday's main emphasis was on interurbans.  We had three three-car interurban trains in operation, as well as another single car, several streetcars, and the steam train.

Here's the CA&E wood car train in the yard: cars 309, 36, and 319.  Chris and Dan Buck took turns as motorman and engineer, and Frank and I were trainmen.

And then the North Shore train: cars 160, 714, and 749. 

The Illinois Terminal train, 277, 518, and 234 pass the CA&E cars.

West Towns 141 was in operation on the loop. 

Then the 1630 passes by. 

South Shore cars 34, 40, and 1100 were on display at 50th, along with the Charles City engine.

And in switching, the 451 was moved up to the west end of track 62 temporarily.

And we also have some great photos from guest photographer Chris Buck:

Friday, June 28, 2019

Extra Train

Yesterday IRM was visited by a large group of about 160 model railroad enthusiasts, so we ran extra trains and gave them some special tours.  I volunteered to help and got to run the 409 and 431 for two trips, with Henry as my conductor.  The Schnebles ran the 4290 and 4412, not shown.  And many other people helped, including the employees in the store and the diner.  Nick (seen below) gave them tours of the dispatcher's tower and other places.  And everybody seemed to be having a good time.  Of course, I pointed out that they will have to come back again next year, when the Model Railroad display should be open.

And the moral of this story is: if you have a group of almost any size, we can do the same for you, even on weekdays.

Afterwards, I finished lubrication on the 36, made sure we had red flags and a motorman's stool at each end of the three-car train, and so on.  Now we're ready for tomorrow's version of the old annual Trolley Pageant.  Weather permitting, three CA&E wood cars and the IT train will be running all day, along with North Shore cars, maybe the 68, and so on.   Don't miss it!

And in other news, work continues rapidly on the Multi-Purpose Building.  The side and back walls are up, and the workmen continued on the interior fittings.  It will really be interesting when they start on the special facades for the north wall.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Getting Ready

Today was a productive day, with nice weather.  We need to get ready for this Saturday, which has the theme "How people traveled between cities before cars were really popular".  Or to put it more simply, take the train.  A large part of this will be interurbans, and we plan to run a three-car train of CA&E wood cars.  This required a good amount of switching, and Frank was able to take some time off work to help.  We seldom get an opportunity to work together any more!  The 308 had to move from the east end of the set of cars to the west, and so on.

And since they have hardly run at all yet this year, we had to take lots of pictures.  As you may know, the 308 can be run as a control trailer if required, as seen here with the 319:

Later we had a three-car blue train, pushing the 308 back into the barn:

Finally, the 319 wound up at one end of the train:

And at one point we had all four cars together, on a curve, so....

The operating train will look like this:

And here comes the 749, running revenue service today:

There were lots of other activities in progress.  Five rebuilt trucks, count 'em, five:

Hmm, let me think.  What could anyone want with five trucks?  Stay tuned for the answer.

And the walls are going up on the Multi-Purpose Building!

After all the cars had been put back in the barn, I had time to run the 309 over to the pit to finish inspection.  Most of this was the usual stuff: checking the pole clearances and so on.  I got some help from another new member, Kevin from the Steam Dept., who was looking for something to do.  His help is much appreciated.

But one new thing I wanted to try was raising a traction motor with just a long pry bar and some wedges, so we will be able to change out axle bearings with little trouble.  The motor is placed over the end wall of the pit, and with a couple of metal plates and some wooden blocks, the pry bar allows us to easily raise the motor off the axle.  If we went ahead and removed the axle cap casting, the bearing would presumably be easy to rotate out.

Here Kevin is holding the bar.  I just need to make some more blocks of graduated sizes, and we'll be all set.  Eventually.

This weekend should be a great time to bring your family and friends out to IRM.  Don't miss it!

Monday, June 24, 2019

308 Update

Bad news: It now appears that one of the motors on the 308 flashed over and grounded the commutator, so the car is out of service for the indefinite future.  We have spare GE-66 traction motors, but none of them are in serviceable condition; at a minimum, an armature would need to be pulled out, inspected, dipped and baked, etc.  This is neither easy nor inexpensive, to put it mildly.  So that's probably far in the future.

For the immediate future, on Saturday we should still have the other three wood cars (36, 309, and 319) in operation, weather permitting.  We will continue on the 309 bearing project with increased urgency, and take care of other mechanical issues as they arise.  Meanwhile, the 453 project still deserves your attention.   Thanks!

And also, our thanks to Nick Espevik for inspecting the motors for us and reporting on the results.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

A Sign of Progress

The Buildings and Grounds guys continue to make progress rebuilding the interior of Barn 3.  On Saturday Dave had his nephew Dylan helping out, along with Al Choutka.  They mounted a large sign  that was saved from the NYC freight house in Danville many years ago.  

The barn is not yet open to the public, but will be soon, with improvements to the walkways and displays.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Not Quite Fair

Let's start with the bad news.   The CA&E wood cars, 308 and 319, were scheduled to run today.  We pulled them out of the barn, but I realized that the 308 wasn't motoring.  So we pulled the train back into the barn, and after some testing, found that the car had blown its motor fuse.  This could be bad, very bad, but we don't know yet.  The shop guys will be looking into this, and when we have some better information, we'll let you know.  It could range anywhere from next to nothing, to a traction motor destroying itself, which can cost many thousands of hard-earned dollars to fix.  The 141 blew a motor fuse last week, but on investigation it seems to have been a brush holder flashing over to the case.  They fixed this with cleaning and Glyptal, and the car was running all day today without trouble.   So we just have to be patient.  And I'm about the last person you want to choose as a model of patience.

Anyway, Bob Opal and I got to operate the wood L cars instead.  Everything went well, and we had a fairly good crowd of visitors during the day.   As the conductor, I got to talk to lots of interesting people, and it takes one's mind off technical problems.  Still, here we have a two-car train running on two traction motors, and they never blow up.  It just doesn't seem fair.

There were several other passenger trains running.  The steel CA&E cars were running (409 and 431) without problem. 

Among others, Dick Lukin and Walt Stafa were on board for at least one trip, so we had some old friends and long-time experts to talk to, and also maybe a couple of prospective volunteers for the future.  We can always use help!

Next Saturday we were planning to run a four-car train of CA&E wood cars.  Depending on what the shop guys find, this may be reduced to three, but it will still be well worth your while to be here if at all possible.  There's going to be a lot of interesting equipment in operation.   You won't want to miss it.  And meanwhile, we here at IRM will continue to roll with the punches,

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Bring Car 453 to IRM!

When the first St. Louis cars were delivered, 451 and 453 were coupled together
 to make the inaugural trip, as seen here.   Johnson Collection

Not only was 453 on the inaugural trip for the St. Louis cars,
it was also on the last.  Oct. 26, 1958.   Robert Heinlein photo

We have been given the exciting opportunity to purchase CA&E car 453 from the Electric City Trolley Museum in Scranton.  This car is essentially identical to our 451 and 460, and would give us the ability to run a five-car train of steel cars.  It was initially acquired by Gerry Brookins, but never restored or used in passenger service.  But it has been stored under cover since leaving Wheaton, and is in very good condition considering how little work has been done on it.

In 2010 it was acquired by Electric City, but they never got around to restoring it, and they need the space for more locally-based equipment, so they have generously offered it to us.

The car is complete, and the interior is actually somewhat better than either of our present cars, I think.

And all of the mechanical equipment is in place.  There are a couple of known problems which we're sure we can fix.  And it has really good wheels!

The IRM Board of Directors has approved the acquisition of this car, with an important catch: "at no cost to the Museum."  That means we have to raise the necessary money for purchase of the car, movement to Union, and track space from YOU, our friends and supporters.   Frank and I will certainly contribute, but we can't do it alone.   The total cost is estimated to be about $25,000.  If you have any questions about this project, just add a comment to this post and we'll try to answer it quickly.

You can send your tax-deductible contribution to IRM, and be sure it's clearly labeled for "Car 453".

Update:  Electric City kindly gave us permission to use pictures from their website.  That includes this nice drawing:

You will note that it was drawn for PST in 1961.  Presumably they were thinking about acquiring these cars, which would have been modified the way the Electroliners later were: remove the steps, extend the floors out, remove the poles, etc.  That would have made the cars a lot harder to restore!