Thursday, April 30, 2020

Platform Notes

Back in August of 1980, Bob Bruneau asked me to take measurements of a typical rural passenger platform on the CA&E, since he wanted to reproduce one at IRM.  I'm not sure exactly where he planned to install it, and it hasn't gotten done -- yet.  But I went to Hart Rd. on the Batavia branch and measured what I could.  At that time the platform was still pretty complete, and it was easy to tell where the rails had been.  The mosquitos were terrible, but I still have the notes in a pocket notebook from that time.  It took me some effort to find, but here it is.  In this plan, south is up.

In the notes, I called it "Hart EB" but I think there was only one platform per crossing on the Batavia line.  And I found no trace of the waiting shelter.

Forty years later, on Sunday we were out for a walk and stopped at the platform.  That brought back memories.  It's now covered with dirt and brush, but there are still traces of some of the planks visible.  Cinders, not so much.   And where the track was has now been paved over.

So if you want to construct an authentic Batavia branch platform to any scale, there you have it.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Speaking of IT Streamliners

Bill Stewart sends us something else on the IT streamliners...

. . . here is a rare (and almost certainly one of a kind) photograph showing, in the center of the image, a woman using her cell phone to ask the Decatur station agent
1) just how soon all this foolishness will be over, and
2) when she can expect the arrival of the next Danville Local!

The real occasion, of course, is the public exhibition of one of the new trains at Decatur in 1948.
Bill Stewart

Source:  Decatur Herald-Review archives

Monday, April 27, 2020

Tales of How They Got Away

Our friend Dick Lukin, one of the longest-term members of the Museum, sent us these wonderful recollections on CSL cars that didn't get saved:  

 I was active at IERM and IRM in the late 50's and early 60's and the status of the North Shore 202 was an issue.  The car body was just a pile of kindling... in the opinion of most of us!  A major  policy at IRM at the time was to NEVER acquire a car unless it was  complete... i.e. weatherproof,  with good motors, etc, etc.  Naturally some cars did come less than perfect.
Typical CSL Sedan (Volkmer - Mewhinney)
The thinking of the Board at that time was that IRM was a museum for INTERURBAN cars, and streetcars were not of primary interest.  (I personally was against this thinking.)  In the middle and late 1950s when the CTA was burning cars like crazy at 77th, we at  IRM really missed out on many significant Chicago cars.  For instance, CTA had remodeled a group of Sedans from two man to one man configuration for use on 63rd.  The aldermen along 63rd raised all kinds of hell and wanted NO one-man cars.  CTA said OK, so they got one man buses instead.  All of the refurbished Sedans were promptly shoved out to the burn track, and so we missed out on a Sedan.

5651 (Don Ross)
A few years later one evening, while showing slides, we noticed that on the "ready to burn" track  at 77th street shops there was the ONLY remaining car of the 5651 series.  None of us knew that the car even existed, and we wondered where the car had been living all those years, unknown to any one.

"Out to Pasture" area at 77th Street Station (Bowlan - Mewhinney)
Also at 77th street shops, on the north side of the paint shop, there was a STEPHENSON single truck body!  That body was used as a change-up room for the paint shop crew to hang their clothing.  Al Williams and I "liberated" the cast brass builders plates and the bells, indeed at midnight in about 1958.  I have one builder's plate right here on my desk, and one of the bells is at the museum!

Al Williams and I both lived on the south side of Chicago, he  in Englewood in a huge old house, and I in South Shore.  He could use his dad's Ford, so we used to go to CTA South Shops (yes, nearly midnight) and "liberate" select car parts from cars awaiting the torch.

Please note especially the two destination sign boxes at each end of 3142 and the route sign boxes. All four items were liberated in one night's mission along with many other items of interest.  The sign boxes were stored in my garage in South Shore until the early 1960s along with a panel truck load of other "goodies".  Eventually even the panel truck was donated to the museum.  It showed up in a few Rail and Wire issues! 

We missed out on any one man MU cars, and while we have the 144, we are missing a 500 high-speed from Milwaukee Ave., some of which ran  on Ashland before going up in smoke!

Yep, we missed out a some nice stuff, but I'm grateful for what we do have and the fantastic results that all of our hard work and money produced. 
  Dick Lukin  

Ones That Got Away - Illinois Terminal

Streamliner on the line to Peoria  (Scalzo - Mewhinney)

When the Illinois Terminal ended mainline passenger service in 1956 and electric suburban service in 1958, preservation of the equipment seems to have been a rather haphazard process, compared to what happened several years later with the CA&E and North Shore.  Some cars were donated to MOT, some were purchased by the Illini Railroad Club, two by Bob Bruneau, etc.

PCC crossing N. Market St. in St. Louis  (Volkmer - Mewhinney)

Two groups of cars that were thought to have possibilities for further service were the eight 300 series streamliners and the eight double-ended PCCs in the 450-457 series. They were at first stored on the Hawthorne Coal tracks in St. Louis.  Here they suffered vandalism and were inhabited by derelicts.  They were then moved into the subway, but that made the situation no better, and the damage continued. 

After end of service, but apparently before vandalism started.  (R. Hill photo, Mewhinney)

We do not have numbers, but the railroad presumably wanted to sell either or both groups of cars as a complete set at a substantial price.  Of course the fledgling railway museums and private individuals who might have been interested in purchasing one or two cars for preservation could not possibly acquire a complete group.  About 1964 Red Arrow considered purchasing the PCCs for their Ardmore line, but they were already in very poor shape after six years in storage, and the line was converted to bus instead.  (Mewhinney)

At that time, PCC cars 450 and 451 were bought by a private individual, who then donated the 450 to the Ohio Railway Museum in Worthington, and the 451 to the Connecticut Railway Museum at Warehouse Point.   They're both still in existence.  It's fortunate that at least these two were saved, as double-ended PCCs are very rare.  Other PCCs, of course, are common in preservation

About 1966, the remaining cars were purchased by Biermann Iron and Metal, a St. Louis scrap dealer, whose material yard was located next to, and in the shadow of the approach to the McKinley Bridge.    The other six PCC cars were scrapped.  

451 on last day of service - Mewhinney

The streamliners, on the other hand, were unique and the final interurban cars built in America.  But Biermann put a high price on them and was never willing to negotiate a price that IRM or anyone else could afford, in spite of their badly deteriorated interiors.  The bodies sat in the scrapyard just below the IT main for many years, and there are several pictures of them in books.  The last one was not scrapped until sometime in the 1980's, although by that time they were empty shells and any thought of restoring them had long passed.

This happens more often than it should, perhaps: the owner of something more or less historic has his own inflated idea of its value, and is unwilling to listen to offers, even though the only alternative is to scrap the item, or let it rust away until it's worthless.  I can think of several other examples of this, and probably you can too.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

More from the Workshop

Frank and I are continuing to make progress on windows for the 18 at home.  Here's the next frame, almost ready for painting.

It's nice that in this case I was able to save all of the original molding strips.  And for now I left the original mottled paint on the inside surfaces of the channels.

The one after that looks just as good:

...or maybe not.  One of the old windows we removed from the car had a piece of plexiglass, which we don't want.  But it makes a usable temporary replacement, since I think I've run out of spares from the 318.  So this will be going back into the car as we run the other window frames through the shop.   And I can get my local hardware store to cut a new piece of plate glass, so all will be well.

While we're here, let me show you the special frame for mortising.  The brass lift tabs on these windows are mortised into the rails, and this is the only difficult part of the design.  A slight mistake would be expensive.  The frame was made from scrap wood, so it doesn't look like much, but it gets the job done.  There are two rectangular spaces, sized just right for my hand-held router with a 3/4" straight bit.

The lower rail fits snugly into the frame.  (The upper rail needs some wedges).  Then in a matter of seconds, the mortises are cut into the wood.

The commercial version will be appearing soon on late-night TV ads.  Makes a great gift.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

It's Pathological

If a detailed physical examination by a specialist shows that most of your interior surfaces have an unusual appearance, a smooth brown coating covered by a strange dark mottled pattern that looks like this:

Then this condition indicates we have a serious problem on our hands.  Experts now believe this pattern is symptomatic of unknown environmental factors that were probably contracted in the vicinity of Cleveland, Ohio, and unless scientists are able to replicate these factors, you will never again look or feel quite right.  So we need to find the answer, stat!

The interior woodwork of the Shaker Heights 18 has this pattern, and we're not sure whether this was applied by the builder, Kuhlman, or later in the Shaker Heights shops.  For instance, here's the bottom rail of a window that was badly rotted out:

The bottom 1½" of the rail was cut off and replaced with a new piece of wood, attached with screws.  (This is not an unusual method of repair.   The CA&E did the same thing.)  But this replacement piece has the same pattern as the rest of the wood, indicating it must probably have been done in the company shops.  So they somehow knew the same trick.  Anyway, we'll be working on trying to reproduce this appearance.  None of our other cars have anything like this, as far as we know.

Meanwhile, progress continues on making new frames.  I have the parts for the next two replacement windows in the shop.  It's great to have something constructive to do during the lockdown.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Ones That Got Away

A few weeks ago somebody suggested listing "ones that got away."  That's actually not a bad idea.  Times being what they are, we don't have much current news to report, so we might as well talk about the past....

If we're discussing equipment that just barely missed being preserved, one of the first things that occurs to me would be the North Shore wooden passenger cars.  The North Shore had a nice selection of wooden equipment in its early years, but due to replacement by the great steel fleet, and a severe drop in business during the Depression, the wooden interurban cars were removed from passenger service by about 1935.  This was before the railway museum movement got started, but still there were three separate opportunities to preserve at least one wooden car.  These went from good to fair to wretched, but sadly they all failed.

300 at North Chicago - Mewhinney

The first opportunity was coach 300, which had been relegated to sleet scraper duty but was otherwise unchanged.   About 1938 it was offered to the CERA to use as a business car and occasional fantrip vehicle.  It was repainted and relettered, but otherwise kept in original condition.  It was used on several North Shore fantrips until the start of WWII.  Pictures of it at this time are plentiful.

300 fantrip in Waukegan - Mewhinney

But when the war started and most of its members went into the service, the CERA was no longer able to take care of the 300, and the railroad found a different use for it in the wartime rush.   It became a locker room for the female train employees for a while.  It was later vandalized and deteriorated rapidly, and was stored out of use.  At the end of the war the car was in bad shape, and the CERA evidently felt unable to restore or maintain it.  In 1945, I suppose nobody yet realized just how much volunteers could accomplish.  The body was used as a diner for a couple of years, then scrapped.

Car 137 in service - Johnson
Opportunity #2 was a group of twelve North Shore cars that had been leased to the CA&E back in 1937.  At Wheaton they were heavily modified.  The couplers were raised, the hot water systems were changed to electric heat, bus jumpers were installed, the sanders were removed, the control system was modified, and so on.   They operated on the CA&E until September 1953, when service was cut back to Forest Park and they became surplus.  Although they had been greatly changed, most of them were at least still complete and serviceable, but no one seems to have tried to preserve one at that time.  IERM acquired its first car in December 1953, and that was sufficient for the first two years or so.  So all twelve ex-North Shore cars went to scrap in 1954.  This was not as good an opportunity as the first, but still entirely feasible, if perhaps the timing had been different.

Car 137 on the scrap line - Johnson

The final opportunity was even more problematic than the others.  Car 202 was built in 1909 as a combine, but it lasted in this service only about seven years, until the first steel combines arrived.   It was then rebuilt into an MD car by removing the seats and installing additional baggage doors at the #2 end.  It remained in occasional MD service until after the war, by which time it was rather deteriorated.  Frank Sherwin acquired it and used it for storage at the foundry.

202 at North Chicago in 1959 - Mizerocki
The decrepit body was later used by IERM, as seen above.  In 1964, it was moved by truck to the new property at Union, where it sat in what is now Yard 5 for many years.  It was partly repainted, but continued to deteriorate.
202 at Union - Schmidt
Finally, on the point of collapse, it was scrapped in early 1974, the last North Shore wooden passenger car in existence, although a rather miserable existence at that.  But you can't win them all.

Well, I hope that wasn't too depressing.  We all know this is a very challenging business, and the successes far outweigh the failures.  Suggestions for further installments are welcome!

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

A Relaxing Train Trip on the Pennsy

Since we're stuck here at home, my wife was going through her old scrapbooks, and came across this:

Back when my wife was in high school, she, her sister, and two cousins took a local train on the Pennsylvania Railroad from Effingham, Ill. to Indianapolis to visit some relatives.   And she saved the ticket.  It's glued into the scrapbook, so these scans are not the best, but it's interesting to look back to a time when the railroads were still running their own passenger service.  And you could even take a cross-country trip like this between Effingham and Indianapolis.

The fare was $13.31 for four people, round trip.  You can't make it out at the top, but there are three boxes, labeled "½", "RT", and "OW"  (for Round Trip and One Way) and RT is checked.  The agent had to write out the destinations in the boxes, then use his special date stamp, and so on.  Very time-consuming.  Now if only she had taken some pictures of the train....

Monday, April 20, 2020

Warm Enough to Paint

Now that it's warmed up a bit, we can put a coat of white primer on two new windows for the 18.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Windows While You Wait

Let's get back to the 18.  Last time we looked at the first new window, which I made a year or so ago.

It's been a while since I made one of these, so for the next one we have to start from the beginning.  Since the window frame is entirely painted, the choice of wood is up to us, and we chose poplar.  But the first step is to disassemble the old window, which was collapsing of its own weight:

But of course we need to save all the parts, basically everything except the wooden frame.  As seen below, from top to bottom: a tub with the brass castings and screws, the wood parts to use as templates, then the window moldings (which were all pretty good, actually), then the brass channels which will need a lot of cleaning.  And of course the glass, which is off to the side.

So I acquired some nice S4S poplar and made new window frame parts.  Here it is assembled, held together by the band clamp.  The old glass checks that the size is correct and that the frame is square.

The major remaining task is to rout out mortises for the window pulls, then drill holes and assemble the frame.  Here it is with the glass laid in place and all screws installed.  Tomorrow I'll start caulking the glass in place.

Update: and with the glass installed, it looks like this:

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Next Feature: A Model Train Website

While having extra time on my hands, I've been able to finish up something that has been in the works for a while -- a website about model trains, specifically Gilbert O Gauge.  That's a niche subject, to be sure, but as a result it's something I've been able to cover pretty thoroughly.  And my excuse is that IRM is now moving into the history of model trains.

Although it won't really be a blog like this one, I used Blogger again because I'm familiar with the software, and it's free.  So take a look, if you like, in your copious free time.  Comments and corrections are welcome.  

Windows for the 18

While confined to the house, over the next few weeks about the only productive IRM project available will be making some new windows for the Shaker Heights 18 (or 1218).  I recently was able to find the box that has the spare window lifts, so one window that I made a while back now has complete hardware, and only needs some more painting.  Now I just need to get some more hardwood.

As I think I mentioned a while back, the inside of the car, including the windows, is painted with an unusual faux-grained paint scheme, which we believe is probably unique to Kuhlman.  Frank will be working on trying to replicate it.

The little box that the window lift tabs were in also had four date nails, all labeled 29.  I have no idea what use can be made of date nails in car restoration.

Monday, April 13, 2020

Safety First!

"Safety First!" has always been the cardinal rule in railroading, and it's more important than ever, even though right now we don't have any trains to run.  But here at Hicks Car Works we're ready to follow the guidelines to stay safe -- are you???

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Easter Greetings

Noli Me Tangere  (Touch Me Not)
Charles André Van Loo, 1735
Dicit ei Iesus: Noli me tangere, nondum enim ascendi ad Patrem meum.
Jesus saith unto her: Touch me not, for I am not yet ascended to my Father.

Saturday, April 11, 2020

The Next Generation

Here we are in Arizona, starting to train the next generation of motormen.

Now keep your eyes on the track, and slow down for curves....

Monday, April 6, 2020

The Ehlers Collection - Pt. 4

Finally, we have a few small snapshots, all taken at East Troy.  These may also be by Orin Schmidt.

This is probably the most interesting picture of the lot.  This must be the L10, now at IRM.  The L10 was only at East Troy from 1972 to 1974, when it was traded back to WEPCO.  So that narrows down when this picture was taken.  TWERHS had two Stillwell cars from the Erie, seen here, but we're not sure what happened to them.  They're certainly long gone.  Frank points out that they later had the letterboards painted yellow so they'd look more like TM cars.   Ha!

Sunday, April 5, 2020

The Ehlers Collection - Pt. 3

Here we have an assortment of slides collected over the years, photographers unknown.  Comments are my own.  Many of these happen to be cars now at IRM.

This appears to be a fantrip, with the 417 and a 450.  Probably 5th Ave. Maywood.

433 and 458 on the Forest Park loop, post 1953.  Another fantrip?

300 and 318 on a CERA fantrip, at Elgin.

That's our car!  The earlier blue paint scheme, in the hole at Elgin.
In the middle is a WB&A sinker.

320 on the Southern Iowa at Centerville, I think.   c.1962.
Note how the railfans are blocking traffic.  I sure wish I could have been there.

The 172 at Noblesville, c. 1972  Open to the public, step right up!

Right behind it, the 308, being repainted.
This is the #2 end, which was later disassembled.

This is also our car: the 763 at Milwaukee.
This slide has a date: 6/62.

Tomorrow we'll finish up with a few miscellaneous snapshots.