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WNYRHS HISTORY - Bringing the "Atlantic Shore" to Buffalo - 1982

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Historian's Corner GIF This page is devoted to some of the many historical articles about railroading in the Western New York area. This installment was written by Society member Joe Kocsis as it appeared in our July/August 1982 issue of the "Railway Flyer." Many more past articles will be added as time allows. So sit back, or feel free to print out, and enjoy the rich railway heritage of Western New York.

"On the Road Again"
Bringing the "Atlantic Shore" back to Buffalo

by: Joe Kocsis Jr.

       On Tuesday, June 1, 1982 a WNYRHS work crew consisting of David Nowakowski, Mel Bluhm, Hugh Guillaume and Joe Kocsis Jr. departed Buffalo at 6:00 am. Their destination was Clear Lake, lowa; where it would be their task to put the former "Twentieth Century Limited” car, the “Atlantic Shore” back on the rails again and prepare it for its thousand mile journey back to Buffalo!

         Dave's van was loaded with brake shoes, various spare parts and tools that would be needed to repair the car. After a twenty hour drive, our crew arrived in Clear Lake, Iowa and immediately secured lodging at the Day’s Inn to rest up for the work to come.

Awaking at 7:00am, on June 2nd,everyone headed for the local “Perkins” to eat breakfast . Afterwards, it was off to see the "ATLANTIC SHORE" for the first time. The car appeared to be in good mechanical condition even though some rust was quite evident around some windows and on the bottom of the side sheets. Al though the interior was dirty and had been painted an awful mustard yellow color by t he Rock island Railroad, all of the original lighting fixtures and mirrors were still intact. The only original furniture to survive were two pairs of slngle booth seats and one wall table. There rest of the furniture was no longer in the car. All of the window glass was intact and unbroken! The original porter’s section was removed by the Rock Island Railroad and replaced by a rest room.

Having completed our brief inspection of the car, we waited for the mover to arrive. At 9:00am. Ron Holland and Art Schulz of Ron Holland House Moving Inc. arrived to start rigging the car for transport to the rails.

The car was located in a field on a short section of rail behind a large warehouse on the Kennedy farms property. It would be necessary to place the car on four tandem axle rubber tired dollies and rolled across a field, turning 180 degrees, to head back to a road which would take us to the Iowa Terminal Railroad crossing three quarters of a mile distant. There it would be transferred to its trucks on the rails once more!

         Mel Bluhm, a Conrail car man, started on the list of the mechanical work needed before the car could roll again. Among the jobs necessary were:

  • Repair a broken equalizer bar on one truck.
  • A journal box retaining trap was broken off.
  • All journal bearings needed greasing.
  • All 16 cast iron brake shoes needed to be individually inspected to determine which
    needed immediate replacement. (we only had seven shoes with us in Iowa .)
  • The journal box side wear plates needed some welding.
  • A shock absorber was out of its mounting bracket.
  • The air brake cylinders needed testing and adjustments.
  • All doors and latches needed to be secured for the trip to Buffalo.
  • A bent coupler cutting lever needed to be straightened.

       In the meantime, Ron and Art began preparing the car for removal of its trucks. First, the four part locking center pins needed to be removed. A task which proved to be the most difficult as they were corroded and somehow had been wedged in place when the car was moved to the farm.

After a small struggle, the pins which normally lift out by hand, were persuaded to break loose with the aid of two hydraulic jacks. With the center pins removed, we then proceeded to disconnect the induction hoses (the air connections to the trucks) while Ron and Art set up the oak cribbing in position for jacking the car. By the time they were ready to jack the car, Hugh and myself, had replaced the equalizer bar and Mel and Dave had begun to grease some bearings. However most of the truck repairs would have to wait until the trucks were pulled out from under the car.

By 1:00pm. on June 2nd, the vestibule end of the car was ready for jacking . Ron started his hydraulic compressor and started lifting the car. As soon as it was high enough, the first truck was winched away from the car and replaced by two tandem axle dollies. Each dolly had a 50 ton hydraulic lift mounted on it and as soon as they were properly spotted, the car was lowered onto them. With this end completed, Ron and Art repeated the same procedure on the dummy end of the car.

While Ron and Art were busy preparing the car, Mel and Dave began working on the brake shoes on the first truck. Since cast iron shoes are not light, they say they weigh forty pounds (but twice that if you ask anybody who's had to carry them any distance), the work was no easy task. However, Mel's experience as a car knocker made it a little easier. I finished lubricating the bearings and spicer box on the first truck while Hugh removed the battery box doors and placed them inside the car for safe keeping for the trip to Buffalo. Hugh also secured the interior of the car.

By 4:00pm, the other end of the car had been completed and its truck winched out and towed across the field to the road where both trucks would be lifted by crane onto a flatbed for transport to the rails. Mel and Dave replaced brake shoes on the second truck and then left the remaining truck repairs for the next day as the car was now ready to move!

The car had to be moved slowly off the dirt mound it had sat upon for the past seven years so that it would not tip. Periodically, Ron Holland would have to pump up the dolly hydraulic lifts to level the car. With Art at the controls of the big Oshkosh diesel truck, the car was slowly winched across the field. The going was very difficult because of the unevenness of the plowed furrows.

Mr. James Kennedy returned home after a day in the fields around 7:30pm. that night. Seeing the slow progress, he went and brought out his road grader and proceeded to level off the field. The result was a smooth path for the car to roll over. We quit work that evening at 9:30pm. with the car resting in the middle of the field. We left hoping that it wouldn't rain that night for we were afraid that if it did, the car would sink out of sight in the rich Iowa farmland. With that in mind we went back to the motel, ate and had a few cold Coors beers before "sacking out"!

Thursday, June 3rd, we fell out of bed around 6:00 a.m. Breakfast was had at Perkins and then it was off to the car which was within sight of our motel. It had not rained during the night, which the folks in Iowa told us was a minor miracle as it had rained almost every day in May. They also said we should stay and keep the good weather which we were enjoying during our work in Iowa.

The day began with Dave and Hugh securing one of the end doorways with a piece of plywood since the door was already off its hinges. Meanwhile, Mel and I repaired the second truck's shock absorber mount. Mel also finished the necessary welding on the side wear plates. The trucks were hooked up to an air compressor and were tested. The cylinders held air and the piston travel was adjusted to meet AAR standards. While testing one of' the trucks, one of the automatic slack adjusters blew apart. Mel repaired the casting with the arc welder and the trucks were finished. The crane arrived at 11:00am, loaded the trucks and took them to the lowa Terminal Railroad crossing.

While all these repairs were made, Ron and Art finished moving the car to the road from the field. After lunch, Dave and Hugh went over to the Iowa Terminal Railroad to make final arrangements. They also had to make sure that the overhead catenary was off (the Iowa Terminal Railroad is an all electric line) while the car was being transferred to the track.

Back on the farm, the car which was now sitting in the Kennedy's driveway, had to negotiate a sharp 90’ degree turn onto the road. As it slowly inched forward, the car appeared to have reached a dead end as a utility pole on the other side of the road was in its path. With a little luck and a little coaxing, the car cleared the pole by literally a fraction of an inch!

The move to the rail crossing was relatively easy. I drove the lead truck to divert traffic, Art Schulz slowly winched and towed the car with the Oshkosh, Mel Bluhm and Ron Holland manually steered the car down the road while Dave Nowakowski followed in his van.

The trip took about an hour and a half to reach the crossing. Ron then left to get the crane that would lift the car back onto its trucks. The car was moved into position on the crossing and a 30 ton crane arrived on the scene.

However, it proved to be too small for the job. Dick Monson (the crane operator) left with the 30 ton crane and returned with a 50 ton “Linkbelt” crane. Mel (who has had experience on Conrail's wreck train) began to rig the car for a lift by the couplers. The crane raised the vestibule end first and swung it 30 feet over the track while the other end pivoted on the dollies. The truck was rolled under the car and with Mel signaling by hand, the car was lowered onto the truck center plate. I quickly replaced the locking center pin and the crane was positioned to lift the dummy end onto its truck. The crane had difficulty stabilizing itself because it was not able to lift over its outriggers because of overhead wires.

However, as the car rolled about ten feet back, the crane finally stabilized, and we were able to roll the other truck underneath. The car was lowered and the center pin replaced. As a side note, just after the car was lowered, one of the hydraulic fittings blew out on an outrigger and the car was sprayed with hydraulic fluid.

The Oshkosh rolled the car clear of the crossing, Joe and Hugh replaced the air hoses and line connections and fixed a coupler carrier bolt. The air and lube dates were stenciled on the car and the job was completed at about 8:30pm. Thursday night. The "Atlantic Shore" was back on the rails at last!

The crew arranged the next morning (June 4th ) for the Milwaukee Road to accept the car for trans-shipmen to Conrail at Blue Island, Illinois. Dave, Mel, Hugh and I left Clear Lake at noon Friday for the long trip home. We arrived back in Buffalo at 6:00am Saturday morning.

The "Atlantic Shore" was delivered to the Milwaukee Road by the Iowa Terminal Railroad at 6:30pm. Monday, June 7th. The Milwaukee Road shipped the car to Bensonville (near Chicago) the next day. Conrail accepted delivery on Thursday, June 10th and routed the car to Buffalo. It arrived in Frontier Yard around noon Saturday, June 12th. One week later it finally arrived in Orchard Park on the evening Chessie System train. All in all, the car was in good condition, but three broken windows were sustained enroute to Buffalo. At last the car was "home."

Special People

In addition to our members who made the trip to Iowa, special thanks are due to these other very special individuals without whom none of this project would have been possible!

Extra thanks go to Mr. Francis J. McGraft, Jr. for his funding of the "Atlantic Shore” project. Also to Delbert Masters (retired C&NW Car Foreman) for helping to locate needed parts, to Mr. James R. Kennedy for assisting in moving the car and for allowing the use of his tools and equipment. Thanks to Ron Holland and Arthur Schulz for a job well done. Dick Monson for the use of his crane. Thanks also t o Roger Corner (General Manager, of the Iowa Terminal Railroad) for his railroad's cooperation in moving the car over their line! Special Thanks go to Karl Walters (Car Foreman, Milwaukee Road) for his efforts in arranging movement over his road! Also to R. E. Eppley and Forrest Williford of the Milwaukee Road - CarScope in helping us keep track of' the car until it reached Blue Island. Thanks to Conrail for their care and special rates! And thanks to the Chessie System and employees Peter Quinn, Kevin C. Beddell, Ray E. Woodaret. Spencer Jimerson and Walter T. Zenick for switching and spotting our cars at Wickes Lumber. And to Wickes Lumber for storing our cars at no cost! Without everyone’s help, who knows what would have been, THANK YOU!

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