Monday, November 30, 2020

Happy Holiday Roadway

Frank writes...

I was out at the museum Sunday and the property was festooned with lights. Due to the recent Covid-19 spikes, the previous Happy Holiday Railway plan that replaced the original Happy Holiday Railway plan was itself scrapped and was replaced by a drive-through tour of the property. But more on that later.

My accomplishment for the day on Shaker Heights 18 was to finish work on a new piece for the car's brake rigging. The original is seen on the left and the new piece on the right. This had been cut out of a larger piece of plate by the shop guys earlier in the fall but I spent a while grinding it down to the correct (if somewhat irregular) shape and then drilling a 1-1/64" hole. Many thanks to Richard Schauer and Tom Schneider who assisted with setting up the big drill press and getting that hole drilled, as well as Joel, who supplied the tools for both parts of the project.
So what else was happening? When I arrived, a DC Line Department crew consisting of Richard, Greg, and Good Nick were working on the Central Avenue crossing of the trolley bus line and streetcar line. Here Greg is seen in the bucket and Richard on the ground.
They were installing connectors on the trolley bus line across the streetcar line gap. As shown here, the trolley bus line has insulators on either side of the car line so that the trolley buses - and not the much more frequent streetcars - have to "jump the gap." But when this section of the trolley bus line was "double-tracked" a few years ago, the westbound route never got connections across the gap. As such, if you're westbound (the lower-right crossing in this photo), as soon as you cross the streetcar line you're now pulling juice via the eastbound route and then around the Wagner Loop. The voltage drop from that added distance can be a problem for some of our more modern trolley buses. In short order the lower-right crossing had acquired connectors like the upper-right crossing is shown to have.
And then Richard and I got "Nicked." Nick was over at the Christ farm tearing up carpet so we went over to help with this project and also move out one of the few remaining pieces of furniture, a large couch. Rail preservation at its finest.
As soon as that job was complete we headed back to the property so that Richard could fire up the various buses and trolley buses that are being used as roadblocks to help direct auto traffic. The route of the new HHR drive-through event, called the HHR Holiday Light Experience, brings visitors' cars in through the parking lot, through the Wagner Loop gate, clockwise around the loop, down Railroad Avenue, east on Central, south on Depot Street to Springfield Avenue, and around the south end of Barn 9 to an exit by the Buildings & Grounds barn. The Seattle trolley bus shown above is parked just inside the gate at the Wagner Loop both to help direct traffic the long way around the loop and to serve as a warming station for the staff working the entrance. If you're wondering why the poles are crossed, it's because the bus has to use the bathroom.
Santa now has a CDL and is set up in the driver's seat of the trolley bus. It's appropriately signed for "Pine Street Via Snow Route."
The Dayton trolley bus that just arrived in May is parked westbound at the corner of Central and Depot to block traffic from proceeding east on Central Avenue. The driver of this one is inflatable, which I could swear I've seen somewhere before.
The event experience is still being enhanced; while Richard and I were over at the Christ farm, Greg and Good Nick were stringing more lights along the pull-offs on the Wagner Trolley Bus Loop. The effect is really impressive. The last two pull-offs will be done in time for next weekend.
And the "Jolly Polk Santa," an illuminated plastic Santa of the type so common among Chicago furniture purchasers in the 1960s, was placed securely on the motorman's stool of Veracruz 19, parked at Central Avenue. Besides the 19, North Shore 749 was parked at Springfield Avenue and a pair of 4000s were parked on the west track of 50th Avenue, all lit up of course.
Even the car shop itself was festively lit up. Make sure to tell your friends and family about the drive-through light show! It's only $10 per car and there are some very impressive displays that aren't pictured here. You'll just have to drive over and check it out for yourself.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Tuesday Progress

 It was another nice day at the Museum, and we continue to make progress while following all the guidelines for a safe, happy, and healthy work environment.  Doesn't everybody?

As usual, I continued work on the roof of the 453.  I made two more boards for the southwest corner patch, and after some adjustment they look like this:

I then mixed up some epoxy, a combination of liquid and solid as recommended by our in-house expert on such things, and installed the two additional layers.  The lower one is attached with C clamps as seen here:

And the upper layer is put in place and held with two small sledge hammers as weights.  I can assure you they didn't get any spare epoxy on them.  The next step will be to nail what's left of the curved roof boards into them.

Tim continued his work on the various parts for the new 50th Avenue ticket booth.

John was working on the 306 also, mostly on getting all of the heaters ready.  I should have gotten a picture of him testing them with his VOM, but I was too busy.  I really don't know how well that was going -- I believe he met with some resistance.

Be that as it may, I spent some time investigating a known problem with the 453.  The coupler at the #2 end is missing some parts, most obviously the hook, as I'll call it.  I looked at it some more, and I don't believe the coupler is damaged in any way, it's just missing some parts.

I believe this probably happened when the four St. Louis cars were being moved to Cleveland; they removed parts so a towbar or some sort of adapter could be used to pull the train.  This certainly happened before 1979, as I have a picture of the 453 with the coupler in this condition.

At the other end, you can see what it should look like.

We have at least one spare Tomlinson coupler, with "431" marked on it in chalk.  But it has a different sort of uncoupling mechanism.  It's hard to explain in words, but apparently the 450's have a different arrangement than the earlier cars.

I went out along the road to look at our spare coupler assortment.  I didn't find anything usable for the 453, but I couldn't help noticing this tight-lock coupler, now one of our newest interests.  The cast-in letters obviously indicate this was produced by Van Dorn, right here in Chicago.  And there are lots of others.  Who knew?

Well, back to work.  At the southeast corner, the tack molding was partly rotted away.  Obviously it has to be replaced.  So I started on that, with a hammer and chisel.

It took much longer than expected, but having begun, there's no turning back. Finally it was done:

And Tim had a block of poplar from an earlier project of his, so I cut that to shape, more or less, and took it home for processing on my router.  This should be the last major project on the roof structure.

Stay tuned for further developments!

Sunday, November 15, 2020

The Van Dorn Collection comes to IRM

Frank writes...

Sunday was chilly, overcast, and very windy. It was a perfect day for a drive up to Hartland.

Where, you ask, is Hartland? I didn't know this myself until just recently, I must admit, but Hartland is a railroad flag stop just northwest of Woodstock along the C&NW. It's almost directly due north from IRM maybe 10 miles or so. And it's the home of Larry Larson's company that paints and coats steel coils. Larry is the one who has brought us three different batches of Van Dorn Collection drawings, photos, and other artifacts (click here to see a lot of what has been donated) and he asked us to drive a museum truck up to the factory in Hartland to pick up the rest of the collection.
Here's why we needed the truck: we see here a quartet of four-drawer filing cabinets, all chock full of Van Dorn blueprints. We haven't even started going through what's here but it's a gold mine of drawings of many, many different couplers and other components built by that company. All of these items were up in the attic above the factory's office and they were not easy to get out; the attic was accessed by one of those narrow drop-down-from-the-ceiling stair/ladder contrivances and it looked like very little up in that attic had been touched in years.
We actually brought two trucks, the flatbed "McAlpin truck" plus a pickup truck with a covered bed so that we could bring home uncovered items without loose papers blowing all over Franklinville Road. Besides what was in the cabinets, shown here are a couple of large wooden crates with more blueprints, a bunch of ledger books, plus there was a pile of photographs (additions to the existing Van Dorn Collection pages are coming soon!).
Larry also gave us a brief factory tour, showing us how they paint large quantities of steel that is then used for applications like gutters, down spouts, and window blinds. And we learned a bit about the factory building itself. It started out as a Bowman Dairy facility and we think it was used in that capacity until the 1940s or 1950s. The drawing above, an original building elevation drawn on linen, was framed by Larry. The factory was bought from Bowman by a wallpaper manufacturer owned by the Maxwell family, and they sold it to Larry in 1969. His company is only the third occupant of the building. All of the Van Dorn files were in the attic when he bought the building so our best guess is that someone in the Maxwell family may have worked for Van Dorn and rescued these items when Van Dorn failed. The most recently-dated items in the Van Dorn stuff date to 1952 so that's our best guess for when the company went under.

So we drove the two trucks back to the museum and loaded the filing cabinets and all of the other Van Dorn Collection items into one of our library storage areas. Many thanks to Joel, Richard, Greg, and Good Nick, who made it possible to get all of the items safely back to IRM. And of course many thanks to Larry Larson for donating this priceless trove of information.
After all that, it was already getting dark, but I went over to Barn 7 and traced the car number off of the 18 using some Mylar that was left over from tracing the lettering off of the CB&Q scale test car a couple of weeks ago. Now that the numbers have been traced off of the car, I will be able to sand and paint the rest of the thing from the belt rail down - in the spring, of course!

Friday, November 13, 2020

More Patching

Under current conditions, the number of people allowed to work in the shop at any one time is limited.  On Thursday it was just me and Tim, with Bill Wulfert showing up later.  Tim was mostly working on the structural lumber for the new ticket office in the 50th Avenue station, his current project.

I was working on the roof of the 453 again, with some parts that I had made at home with my router.  The replacement parts had to be made in two layers in order to fit into the already-existing roof.

The first one fit well, and just needed some holes drilled so it could be bolted into place.

Of course, it requires special tools and talent to drill these hexagonal holes.

Up in the attic, it looks like this.  One nice feature is all the rusty old nails sticking out of the wood, like a medieval torture device.  One of the new bolts is seen at lower right.

Then there was some more routing to be done, using the Museum's vast supply of tools.

Both sections of the first layer are bolted into place, and the second layer was carefully fit behind the curved roof boards.

The upper layer will be epoxied into place, but first it will be necessary to make another part or two, so that will happen later.

Taking a break, we can admire the newly-varnished door that Pete has prepared for the 160.

And Bill was repainting controllers in the 1754, among other things.

We're getting closer to have the rotted-out corner patched.

Finally, some epoxy to fill the gaps and cover up the bolts on the lower layer:

And on the way out, we see Dave Diamond installing the railing in front of the MPB.

Here he is cutting the pipes to correct length.  This will be an important safety feature.  The step in the sidewalk is necessary because the street slopes down to the east, while the building itself is level, of course.

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Tuesday Report

Due to heightened concerns about the virus, the Museum is back to previous levels of mitigation, and Car Dept. workers have specific schedules about when we can be on the job.  I'm currently scheduled for Tuesday and Thursday, so here's my report for today.  Gerry and I were the only two workers there; Tim showed up briefly, but he was mostly concerned with buying a new car.  I'm not sure why; just because the gas tank was trying to fall off is no reason to panic.

Be that as it may, I removed the rest of the rotted-out framing at the #2 end of the 453, as seen here, and then proceeded to start making new pieces to replace it.  I didn't bother to take any pictures, as they're far from complete.  The shop's big bandsaw and sanding machine are just what are needed to shape the replacement wood, with its complicated compound curves.  The next step will be to shape various sides of the wood using my router, which I prefer to use at home.  That'll take place tomorrow. 

Gerry was working on cutting and welding on the 306.  He's doing a great job, and the car will probably be at least as good structurally as it was when it left the builders, if not better.

You shall observe that Gerry and I are careful to remain at least six feet apart, vertically.

This may look like an explosion, but it's just trick photography.

Among other things, I swept off the roof, so it's ready for painting.

I also spent some time finishing up putting epoxy on all of the remaining tack molding, sanding it down, etc.  You've seen this before.

The old roof boards from the 453 are still leaning against the scaffolding, as they may be useful for various projects around the shop.  But I knew that I needed to measure them before they disappear, so that we can reproduce the correct arrangement of all the roof hardware exactly.  And this was a good opportunity to do so. 

And for all you traction modelers out there, here's everything you need to make an exact model of a CA&E curved-sider's roof boards, down to the nearest half of a scale inch.  If my calculations are correct, in HO that's about 0.146mm.  Good luck!  Fortunately for me, there will be no scale conversion when I install the new roof.

Thursday, November 5, 2020

Take a Break

 Here's some of today's news that won't cause you distress or anxiety or heartburn -- I hope.  We just keep plugging along on the same track we've been on for a long time.

Here's the 4000 truck that Tim will be working on, and which will be put under the 1754 when done.

I sanded down the Trolleyville patches at both ends on the 453.

And then resumed chopping away the rotten tack molding pieces at the southwest corner.  The wood is rotted enough to make it unusable, but not enough to make it easy to remove.

Photo by Jon Fenlaciki

But after a long time of carefully chopping it away with my chisel set, it looks like this.

But it's time to take a break.  The 28 is starting to look much better.

In the shop, we see the newly made window sills:

And windows, for the front end.

So back to the 453.  With some more work, the entire corner is ready for new wood, more or less.  Jon Fenlaciki helped me remove the machine screws that held the wood in place.  I had to hold a wrench while standing on a ladder inside the car, while he turned the screwdriver outside.  Teamwork -- there's no substitute for teamwork.

Jon is installing the ventilators on the 65.

I did measuring and cutting, fitting, more cutting, etc.  I cut out some pieces of scrap pine as a test for fitting the replacement parts of the end tack molding in place.  These are just sitting there, not correctly aligned, since I can't hold them and take a picture at the same time.  But the next step will be to acquire some nice poplar and start making the actual replacements.

Here we see Jon help Tim run some heavy timbers through the jointer.

And among other things, I spent some time painting the patch areas at both ends.  Now we just need to start rolling primer onto the vast center section of the roof.  It's something anybody could do....

So that was another productive, enjoyable day out at the Museum.