Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Orange Empire updates

Many thanks to Chris Baldwin of the Orange Empire Railway Museum, who has sent a series of updates on their equipment. These are all changes from the previous status of the listed cars.
Recently-acquired LAMR 144, recently-overhauled LARy 525, and LARy PCC 3001 are all now listed as "operated occasionally." Muni 171 and LAMTA 3165, which in the past saw occasional use, are now "displayed operable." PE Birney 331, PE office car 1299, and LATL standard cars 1423, 1450, and 1559 are now officially out of service and are listed as "displayed inoperable" (formerly they'd been listed as "operated occasionally" or "displayed operable"). Similarly, PE "Blimp" 314 is now out of service but is in storage. LATL PCC 3100 and LARy 1201 are now seeing more use and the status of both cars has been changed to "operated often."
There are a few more substantive changes than switches to whether a car is judged operational or how often it operates. PE steeplecab 1624 is now undergoing restoration, starting with an interior paint job and some wiring and electrical systems repair. The locomotive has been in rough shape for years but it's complete and an excellent candidate for full restoration. LARy 665 is another car that is now under restoration; this longtime regular service car has gone into the shop for a general overhaul.
Longtime regular service car PE 717, a "Hollywood" car that for years was painted fancifully in a "Valley Seven" livery but was more recently returned to as-built colors, has been put into storage following an incident that caused some damage. The car is operational but requires repairs before going back into public operation. Marty Bernard photo.
And LA car 1435, shown above in a photo from about a year ago, has been sold to an individual and moved off-property for preservation. This car was acquired as a body and is a duplicate (triplicate?) of two other complete cars in the OERM collection so it was not intended to be kept at the museum. I'm working on tracking down where it went. UPDATE: thanks to John Smatlak and Gary Starre from OERM, who relate that car 1435 has been transferred to the Riverside County Fairgrounds in Indio, where the plan is to cosmetically restore it and place it on display.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Five Mile Beach Electric open car to be restored

From this press release comes the news that Five Mile Beach Electric 20, one of four open cars preserved from the FMBE and the only one currently in "car body" condition, has been donated by former owner Wildwood Trolley to Liberty Historic Railway. The former organization acquired the car something like 25-30 years ago and since then had stored it in a building in Wildwood, but early plans to restore the car collapsed and it had simply been in dead storage for many years. The car hasn't just been donated to LHR, however: that organization has shipped it to Gomaco in Iowa to be restored. The scope of the rebuild isn't clear from the press release - it's not obvious whether this is intended to be an operational restoration or a more limited cosmetic one - but it's very encouraging that significant resources are being put into this car. Many thanks to Bill Wall for bringing this to my attention.

LHR has now expanded its collection of streetcars from zero to two in a matter of months, having acquired the body of Trenton Street Railway 288 - a rare car which makes FMBE 20 look like a gem - in late 2018. Car 288, which is fairly significant, has been stabilized and tarped. Car 20 is also pretty historic in its own right and stands to be the only FMBE car preserved in the Garden State.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

H&F car relocated in Myersville

Thanks to Bill Wall, who has forwarded along a link (here) to some photo and information regarding Hagerstown & Frederick 150. The last I'd heard of this car, in May, it had been acquired by the City of Myersville, MD and had presumably been moved to the city's Harp Park. The link confirms that this is the case and contains some current (as of the move, which I believe was roughly a year ago) photos of the car including the one above. This same web page also includes some detailed plans for the new town library, which will include car 150 as a display piece within a room at the back of the library. It sounds like a very impressive plan and one that will ensure the car's continued preservation and accessibility to the public.

As late as the H&F lasted - the mid-1950s - and as popular as it was with traction fans, not a single car from the line was preserved intact. There are only three bodies around, all in roughly comparable condition: car 150, a decidedly non-H&F-standard streetcar built for Columbia, SC (and the only surviving car from that southern city); homebuilt box motor number 5; and car 168, the only classic H&F combine still around. All three are on display along the old H&F itself but car 150 will soon be the only one with an indoor home.

Monday, December 24, 2018

A brand new streetcar for Christmas

Merry Christmas! For 2019, how would you like a brand new 101-year-old streetcar?
It was only slightly more than a year ago than this item was posted about a streetcar that had been retrieved from inside a house and acquired by the City of Windsor in Ontario. The car in question, Sandwich Windsor & Amherstburg 351, is a very historic piece of equipment. It's the more intact (believe it or not) of only two streetcars in existence to have run on Staten Island and is one of only a few streetcars built for the U.S. War Board during WWI. It was built to a Public Service of New Jersey design by the Cincinnati Car Company, though this series may have actually been shipped as kits and assembled in New Jersey, and as such it carries some PSNJ spotting features like high-mounted side windows with arched tops, deep letterboards over the end windows, and perhaps most unusually the "monitor" roof that PSNJ used that was something of a cross between a deck roof and a Stillwell roof. The car ran on Staten Island for only eight years before it went to Ontario, where it saw a further 13 years of use until it was retired in 1939.

And that leads us to RM Auto Restoration of Chatham-Kent, Ontario. RM was contracted by the City of Windsor to rebuild car 351 as a display piece for the town and the result is turning out to be what is almost certainly the most extensive and meticulous historical restoration of a streetcar ever attempted on this continent. Mario Van Raay of RM, with whom I was put in contact by Bill Wall of Branford, has supplied a number of photos that detail the progress of this remarkable restoration up to the present time. The project is also being tracked on a City of Windsor web page which among other things includes an in-service photo of an identical car.
 When car 351 arrived at RM in late 2017 it was rough, to say the least.
 Much of one vestibule and nearly half of one side of the car had been completely removed when it was a house. This had to be no small operation; the car was built with steel girders extending halfway up the sides of the car beneath the windows.

 The car's interior wasn't any better.
This photo shows pretty well the unusual roof profile of these cars. This type of monitor roof was virtually unique to Public Service Coordinated Transport of New Jersey, so this is an extremely rare example of a non-PSCT car with the design.

By January 2018, RM was well into the tear-down process, making sure to very carefully document the original fabric of the car at every step. This is where their experience in high-end automobile restoration has to have come in quite handy.
Not much left of the car's platform, but certainly the evidence of long-gone controllers and brake piping will be invaluable when it comes time to install replacements for those items
The interior seating arrangement of the car was changed during its service life, probably when it went to Windsor from Staten Island, and those changes were visible in the holes left over from seat pedestals long since removed.
The roof structure is interesting; I'm honestly not sure exactly what was here, but I'm guessing that the steel roof ribs were covered with a Masonite-like material.

By May 2018 the car was torn down completely, reducing it to its steel frame and girder sides. 
Note the section of girder on the left that was chopped away during the car's use as a house.
Presto - new steel sides! Quite a bit of structural steel work was done to the car's framing.

By July it was time to get the rebuilt frame painted and to start the reassembly process.

If that isn't the nicest-looking streetcar frame I've ever seen I don't know what is.
 All new roof ribs ready to reinstall...
 ...sandwiching the original steel car lines, which have been cleaned up and painted.
And here's one of the bulkheads with quite a lot of new wood.

And that brings us to the present day. The photo at the top of this article shows car 351 as it looks now, with a virtually all-new superstructure and an incredible amount of custom-made new wooden framing.

Note in the above photo that there's a cut-out in the platform; I believe this is where a treadle step goes, and it's since been installed as shown in the photo at the top of this post.

I'm running out of superlatives to describe this project, but you can judge for yourself. Many thanks to Mario and to Bill for sending along these photos. I can't wait to see the finished product - it will really be a stunner.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Connecticut Company 65 restored to operation

I'm a little bit late on this, but about a month ago in November Connecticut Company 65 was restored to operation by the Connecticut Trolley Museum as reported by their shop blog. The car has been out of service for many years but is largely complete and, following refurbishment of its roof including installation of a rubber roof membrane, trolley boards and poles were fitted to make it possible for the car to move under power again. Car 65 is an historic piece: it's the first car acquired by CTM, back in 1941, making it one of the earliest streetcars in the country to be preserved in a museum. It was built by Wason in 1906 for Consolidated, the predecessor to ConnCo, for service on the Norwich to Putnam line. It ran up until 1941 and then became the "mother car" for CTM. In its overall design it's very similar to a number of other ConnCo double-truck suburban cars preserved at CTM, Branford, and Seashore, but there aren't any other cars from its exact order preserved. Its status has been updated to reflect that it is now operational.

Friday, December 21, 2018

Final rebuilt El Paso PCC delivered

The last of the El Paso prewar PCC cars to be rebuilt by Brookville, car 1511, was delivered back to its home city on Wednesday the 19th according to the El Paso Times website. It's the second car to be painted in National City Lines "fruit salad" livery of yellow, green, and white and the sixth car overall to be remanufactured for service on the city's new heritage line. That means that half of the surviving El Paso PCC cars are back in service in the city, with three of the remaining cars in storage for possible eventual rebuilding. The three renegades include a fired-damaged car currently for sale in California, a car eking out an existence as a shop in El Paso, and a car sent back east to represent a long-gone series of Baltimore cars.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Ottawa 696 restoration progress

Thanks to Bill Wall of Branford and Gerry Gaugl of the OTC 696 Restoration Group, which is currently working on a full restoration of Ottawa Transportation Commission 696. The car was built by Ottawa in 1917 and is the oldest double-truck car from the city in preservation. It's currently owned by the local transit agency, OC Transpo, and a group of volunteers have been making steady progress on a major rebuild of the deteriorated car that has been going on for some 15 years now. They've sent along some recent progress photos. Caption info is generally from Gerry with a few asides from yours truly. Enjoy!

This was the car on December 8th. Project worker Rhéaume painted the carbody “poppy red” and window band its first coat of “sunflower yellow”. [The car in the background is OTC 905, the newest Ottawa streetcar preserved, built in 1933 and acquired as a body in 2004 - FH]
Project volunteers Zen (not pictured), Komie, and Ted have been working on windows for the past year and are ready to install them once the glass arrives.
The upper windows being fitted to the car. It was more work than meets the eye redoing these windows, the outboard side had to be primed, then painted brown, the insides, stained and varnished along with adding to the bottoms a quarter inch felt strip, held in position with a steel strap. [Note that these cars had upper sash nearly as tall as the lower sash, a bit unusual -FH]
The bottom window ready to be fitted, like the upper windows, the lowers had to be painted (outside) and stained(inside). Next the brass hardware (cleaned & polished by Zen & Komie) had to be installed. They sure look great!
Project worker Bernd was busy fitting the clerestory windows and vents on the car.
Vents and windows are fitted. The molding is temporary, just being used as a guide, new molding will be made from a sample that salvaged from the old 696 interior.
Bernd has also been helping Rhéaume with the doors and the housing for the motors. Earlier in the project Gerry checked out the motors and replaced the diaphragms, happy to report that they were in good working order.
The removed side panel shows where the window side of the seat frame is to be mounted. After seat brackets are installed, project worker Paul will cut the panel to fit around the bracket.
The seat brackets have been installed, the panels cut and fitted.  The conduit and junction box are to carry the wiring for the car's heaters(non-functioning) and will be painted green to match the panels.  The pile of seat parts have been primed and will be assembled and painted after the windows, sills, bell cord are installed and the floor's finish completed.
One cross seat has been installed; every other row has a heater under it, with the wire connected to the "T" and conduit.
The bench seat frames seemed to fair better than the row seats frames; on those Gerry had to replace 80% of the steel.  Under the two front bench seats are the sand boxes which have to be fit before installation of the bench seat frame.  The seat cushions will have to be made "easily removable" in order to access the hoppers.
The sand boxes are in very sad shape and need much work.
Rhéaume has been working very hard on the front doors and step mechanisms.  Again everything is snug but not tightened because once the door motors are connected to the air, adjustments will have to be made.  
Doors closed...
...and doors open! Yahoo, they work!

Thanks again to Gerry for all of the great photos and information!