Friday, February 26, 2021

Even more Van Dorn couplers

Our friend Bill Wulfert continues to roam around the museum and gather photos of Van Dorn couplers in the museum's collection. This week's haul includes both link-and-pin and MCB types.

First, Bill made an intriguing discovery about the Metropolitan-West Side Elevated cars, namely that they have different couplers at their motor ends than they do at their trailer ends. The photos show the #4A couplers at the motor ends of these cars. As previously noted, these cars have #18 couplers at their trailer ends. The #4A is the same type as our Northwestern Elevated cars have. It's not at all unlikely that some, or maybe all, of our wooden 'L' cars had couplers changed around at some point during their service lives.
The Milwaukee Electric was apparently a big user of Van Dorn MCB style couplers. Here's the coupler at one end of steeplecab L10. Unfortunately Van Dorn didn't cast coupler numbers into their MCB couplers as prominently as they did on their link-and-pin varieties.

Here's one of the couplers on Milwaukee Electric 1129, which is on display in Barn 6 masquerading as car 1111. It too has a Van Dorn MCB of indeterminate type. 

EDIT: Close inspection on Sunday revealed that the 1129 has a type 930 MCB coupler. An exploded-view illustration of this type was included among the donated Van Dorn materials but, intriguingly, the illustrated version looks somewhat different than what's on the car. Apparently they made changes to the casting at some point.

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Sudden at Tacks

In old news, on Tuesday Tim looked at the canvas on the 453 and decided we were ready to start tacking, at least along the sides.  I know everybody wants me to work faster, and sometimes I get these sudden attacks of enthusiasm, so today it was time to start driving carpet tacks.  

Here we see my little cardboard form for getting the tacks in a more or less consistent pattern.  Except when you run into the bolts holding the tack molding to the car.  That's what those black lines below the molding are for.

And with some steady work, by the end of the day I had finished about a third of the sides, on both sides.  It's going along pretty well, and I'm happy to report that the old tack moldings seem to be holding the tacks quite firmly.  That was something I had worried about.

I know -- at some point it would be nice to scrub some of that dirt off...

But you've seen one tack, you've seen 'em all.  Let's look at what the other guys were doing.

What could possibly be more stylish than arched windows?   John was installing the frames in the 306, at least as a test fit.  They look great!

Tim was varnishing wood for 50th Avenue, among other things:

And Jon spent most of the day polishing window guard frames:

with help from Andy:

  So a good time was had by all.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Tuesday Report

To begin with, today let's pay a visit to the Multi-Purpose Building, which we haven't seen for a while.  Contractors have been busy on the interior of the building, though, and it's looking much more complete.  A painter was at work, so the lights were on and it was no problem to get around.

So that's very encouraging.

Now it's time to get back to the 453.  It was relatively warm today, so some of the barn doors were open to let the cold air out.

We've run out of wooden canvas clamps, but the nice new metal ones work just as well, if not better.  I finished clamping the canvas side-to-side at the east end of the car:

Tim later looked at it and agreed that we should soon be ready to start tacking.

Photo by Jon Fenlaciki

And there was time to work on the 18, also.   Frank had asked me to put black paint on the recently-constructed can for the rear light.

And then we have more windows to do.  A couple of views at home:

The outside surface of the upper rails generally needs to be stripped.  I meant to start painting the rebuilt windows, but I forgot to bring a good brush, so it was back to the roof.

And that's it for today.  Sorry, I didn't get any pictures of what the other guys were doing.

Monday, February 22, 2021

Sunday update

Frank writes...

Sunday saw more work on the tail light for Shaker Heights 18. The good news is that the first tail light is done, except for paint, so work will now progress to the second one. There are only two of these tail lights on the car, so good progress is being made.

After last weekend there wasn't a whole lot that still remained to be done. I drilled some holes in the sides of the housing for the wires and located replacement hardware as needed for putting the whole assembly back together. The outer casting and "tin can" are shown above. You can see the small piece of steel bolted to the inner ring of the casting; Richard cut and installed that to replace a portion of the casting (hidden under that little piece) that had broken. After this photo was taken, he drilled and tapped a hole in that little piece of steel so that the inner ring, which holds the piece of red glass, can be bolted in place.
Here's Joel holding the assembled tail light.
And Richard rigged up a short extension cord attached to alligator clips and put power to the thing. Voila! The light bulb is the original out of the car, and judging by how rusted/painted solid the whole assembly was, that light bulb is definitely several decades old and probably dates back to Shaker days. Many thanks to Richard, Joel, Greg, and everyone who has helped with getting this little thing restored. After the photo I disassembled it again and put a coat of primer on the housing and on the little steel insert described previously. After it's painted, it will get installed on the car. The next couple of times I'm out I'll spray the outside of the housing black and then paint the inside of the housing silver... unless someone with a can of spray paint beats me to it during the week...

In other news, Greg and Nick were working all afternoon on trying to get the heaters in the 409 working so that the car can be used in cold weather. Gregg swung through; he mentioned that he was working on extracting horsehair insulation from the walls of the M-35 over in Barn 2. Hopefully an illustrated update will be forthcoming at some point. And finally, Tim was doing more woodworking (using the morticing machine at one point) and mentioned that he had tightened the canvas ratchet straps on the 453 on Saturday. I tightened them a little bit more myself, including re-installing one that I inadvertently over-tightened and yanked off the canvas.

Sunday, February 21, 2021

History of Canvas

The question has come up as to exactly how canvas roofs were made in the old days.  The impression I've always gotten from old texts is that canvas was so common that its installation was considered simple and obvious, something anybody would know how to do.  So I looked through my limited library a little more.

The best reference on car construction I've got is by Kirkman, about 600 pages of information.  It deals with steam-road freight and passenger cars, but I believe the basic construction techniques would be the same for electric cars.  However, he says nothing about actually attaching the canvas.  When it's in place, paint it with heavy white lead.  Thanks.

And as another sample, here's part of a page from Norris' book on Electric Railways, dated 1911/1913.  He mentions that the roof structure should be painted, and then: "Over this is stretched heavy cotton duck which is heavily painted."  

So that doesn't tell us exactly how the canvas was stretched, or whether it had to be washed first, and so on.  I just don't know.   Meanwhile, I suppose we'll keep doing what we're doing -- it seems to work well in our situation.  But if anybody can find more details on installing canvas roofs from a century ago, I'd be glad to hear about it.

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Cut Me Some Slack

Snow, cold, and hazardous driving have slowed down progress somewhat, but today I got back to work as promised.  After consulting with Tim, we decided that the west end of the canvas on the 453 needed to be revised to pull at a more horizontal angle.  Luckily the straps on our ratchets are long enough to make this a relatively simple proposition, as seen here.

As we saw earlier, originally I had been pulling the canvas straight down over the end of the car.  Tim graciously allowed me to use the 1754 as an anchor.  And I hope nobody will need to move that traction motor for the next week or two.

This allowed me to pull out at least 4 1/2" at the west end:

And after re-rigging the straps at the east end, I got a couple of inches there also.  That may not sound like much in a length of 60', but the canvas was already pretty tight and I hope in the next week or so that we can pull out some more.  Then I can start tacking.

I also had to loosen some of the clamps pulling the canvas side to side, reposition them, and so on.  There's a lot of up-and-down, back and forth climbing required to get the canvas tensioned properly.  After all this rigging, I almost think I'm ready to set sail with Captain Bligh.  "You men don't know wood from canvas, but I'm going to teach you!!"

The repainted doors for the 160 that Pete and Henry have been working on really look nice.

As we've pointed out before, the North Shore used decals for its interior lettering, whereas the CA&E seems to have stuck with hand-painted lettering.  Take your pick -- with stencils you can have lots of words as seen here.  The CA&E cars just say "DO NOT PASS FROM CAR TO CAR".

And Tim continues to make progress on the ticket booth.

It takes a real sense of humor to label the exit door "PULL" when there's nothing to pull on.

(Sorry - you can't read it due to the lighting, but the sign on the right stile says "PULL")

And the magic fare register actually works -- he demonstrated it for me.

Steve Sanderson was working on parts for the Electroliner in the shop, though I didn't catch him on camera.

Then I went over to the Shaker Heights 18 to remove some windows to take home and rebuild.  With the lights working and most of the tools sorted out, it looks pretty good.

These windows will be back in place before you know it.

And if that isn't enough, let me remind you to remember the 308.   Thanks!

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Midweek Report

 Jon Fenlaciki sends us an update on today's activity.  This is real-time reporting:

Henry Vincent and Pete Galayda (not shown) continue on NSL 160 doors. 

Tim working on the fare register on the ticket booth.

I continue buffing and polishing the new window guards for the 65’s baggage room.  Car barn is so cold, it could be used for COVID vaccines storage!

When even our professional weatherman thinks it's cold, you know it must be true.