|(1/7/18) - Adam and I went to Medina to get a start on the brake valves. Our goal was to remove the conductors' valves from inside the cars and we accomplished that. We also had to dig through snow a bit over a foot deep to make a path to the cars. I know we have plans to go back tomorrow and that Bill has made special arrangements in order to help so here is the situation. While it is supposed to be warmer tomorrow it is also supposed to be very windy so it could still be unpleasant. Also, neither generator would start so we had no heat. Whether they will start in 10's warmer weather I don't know. The batteries are run down now.|
||(1/9/18) - Well, the lunch counter car is going to fight us right to the end. George and I went to his work to pick up the compressor. We had hoped to blow out the lines, replace the relay valve, the "decelostat" piping and do an unofficial test with our test device. However, the compressor was buried inside a building behind a snow drift. We did get the new piping in place but that was all.
|(1/10/18) - Okay, so today I have some good news and some better news. Cody, Brody and I went to Medina, taking advantage of the relatively mild weather, to remove the brake valves from the cars. It took us about 4 hours to do all five cars, which I felt was pretty good. More good news is that both diesel generators started. They ran for the entire time we were there so they should be fully charged. The next step is to find someone with a big pickup truck that wants to drive to Pittsburgh Air Brake to deliver the valves for rebuilding and testing. We also found out that Brody is a lean-mean-lifting-machine. He picked up the 100 plus pound service portion from the ground and carried it up the steps to put it inside the coach. I would suggest not messing with Brody. The old guy, that would be me, survived the day pretty well but, in all honestly, I let the young ones do the heavy lifting. And we finished before it started to rain.
(1/12/18) - We brought in the test device to test the brakes and Dave Fleenor, our Certified Airbrake Technician did the test. The service portion, yep the 130 pound monster, failed the test and had to be replaced. After replacing the service portion we tested again. This time the indication was the relay valve failed because the brakes would set but not release. So, we ordered a new relay valve. This was a day in early January when the temperature was 16 degrees and after messing around in the cold too long we called a day.
(1/14/18) - Well, some more good news from Lockport. George, Al and I braved the 14 degree weather to replace the "relay valve" and retest the car. Once again, it did not release the brakes. We spent some time trying this and that before finally placing a call to an expert. You know, one of those guys that has "forgotten more about railcars than we'll ever know". After being on the phone with him for about 20 minutes he had George loosen a pipe fitting on the pipe bracket where the service portion hangs. We got a hiss of air and the brakes released. After that they worked every time. Had we been less gentlemanly we would have jumped up and down and cheered. Or maybe we couldn't jump because our feet were frozen to the ground.
Here is what we think happened. This car is equipped with a retaining valve and the air from the relay valve vents through it. Apparently the valve gave the folks that sent us the car 12 years ago problems, so they disconnected the line to it which allowed the release to take place. Since we didn't know that, we never checked the line and over the years it got plugged with wasp mud so it would not allow the release. We have to do a quick re-piping, install a "wasp excluder" and then do another official test.
|(1/20/18) - It was nice to be able to work outside today with shivering. Art and I met Brody and Cody in Medina to transfer the brake valves from the passenger cars into Art's Toales' truck. My little truck would have been dragging under the weight of the five valves. A quick guesstimate puts the weight of valves for each car at about 200 pounds. So, we moved half a ton of valves from the cars and then into Arts' truck.
|The valves need to go to an "Federal Railroad Administration" certified shop. For our cars, we use Pittsburgh Air Brake, which is actually located in the town of Carnegie across the river from Pittsburgh. It's a 3.5 hour drive each way. So as soon as they are serviced, we'll go back to Pennsylvania to get them. In the meantime the cars sit with all the mounting points covered with duct tape and the Falls Road Railroad has been notified that the cars have no operating brakes. We also loaded six seat bottoms into the back seat of his truck that we will take to the upholsterer before we head to Pittsburgh. George is soaking the locks on the compressor cabinet at the HDC to remove the hoses needed for the COAT&S test.
(1/23/18) - Art and I had a productive day but a long one. First we dropped off the six seat bottoms to the upholsterer to be recovered. From there we headed to Carnegie, PA to deliver the brake valves for rebuilding. The trip down was uneventful but we hit a brief period of some nasty weather on the way back north on Route 79.
We came back with a certified test device to, hopefully, complete the work on the lunch counter car. I also picked up a new wasp excluder but we'll have to fabricate the piping we need.
(1/28/18) - Adam and I spend a couple of hours in Medina and Lockport today. In Medina we tore out a section of the center aisle carpet in 2932 to see what was under it and how bad it would be to replace. What we found was that, at least in the section we did, it was not glued down. It was just held in place by the rubber strips that run the length of it. However, the backing is falling apart and leaves a pile of black dust behind. The carpet is laid on a plywood sub-floor that is held in place by some weird sort of fastener that will need a bit more investigating to see exactly what it is. It appears to be a large head "bolt/screw" except it is round and has no place to put a screw driver. The metal under that is stainless steel and I suspect is part of the center sill. The plywood itself is maybe half inch.
We pulled down some of the wood-look paper that goes between the windows. In all cases but one the panel underneath is stainless steel so the cause of the paper coming down was water getting between the stainless and the paper. We took 6 window sills back to my place so I can re-cut the notches at the ends of the sills for a better fit. On the outside we removed a nut and bolt to match so we can replace the missing ones on a slack adjuster motor on 2941. Don't ask, we have no idea where they went.
We also got a couple of in date car end hoses, went to Lockport and put them on the lunch counter car so no one could slow things up by finding out of date hoses. Overall, a good day.
"The Blue Flag" - 2/2018
|(2/4/18) - Art and I picked up the new seat back covers and the recovered seat bottoms from the upholsterer and delivered them to the cars. Art and I took another look at the devices that hold down the wood sub-floor and there might be a hex head hole in the top but things will need to be cleaned out to see for sure.
I emailed "Forbo Floors" for more information on the flooring I'd like to install and to, hopefully, get a sample. In fact, I already got a response. I asked if the floors could be put down like a traditional wall-to-wall carpet using tack strips instead of glue. The answer came back "no". The flooring must be glued. A sample will be on its way shortly.
(2/21/18) - It seemed that getting the brakes back happened almost by magic. I had contacted Jim Szymanski and asked if he could sneak in a trip to get them. He works for CSX and had a couple of false starts but one day I got a phone call saying he had a truck full of brake valves to be transferred to the train.
(2/22/18) - Thanks to Cody, Brody and Jim Szymanski for going to Medina today to transfer the rebuilt valves from Jim's truck into the coaches. Oh - boy! Now we can start installing them.
(2/24/18) - First the bad news. The lunch counter car failed another test. The car has to pass a "flowrater" test, which is a rate of air leakage test. If it is above a certain point the car does not pass. Eventually the problem was traced to the angle cocks, which were allow air to bleed through them to the atmosphere. By now the buyer has decided to send a crew down. Today George and I removed the bad pieces and I will order a new ones.
The good news is that Bill, Adam and I went to Medina where we installed 9 seat covers on the worst seat backs in 2932 (coach 1) and installed the brake valves on 2932 and 2941. (coaches 1 and 2)
In looking through 2932 it needs a lot of interior work and I would like to make it a priority for early in the season. A number of the shrouds over the steam heat lines are coming off, more seat back covers need to be replaced and there are a number of other issues. Next weekend, unless the weather turns horrible, we need to get back to Medina to finish the valves. Thanks to all!
(2/25/18) - I order a cellular shade for us to look at to see if we might want to use them in the coaches. I ordered a gray color called "Mineral" but there are other colors available. If you want to check it out the site is Just Blinds and I ordered the heavier duty shade. One FYI about choosing a color. If you are thinking of going with blue we would have to see if we can get a sample because my wife, who was an interior decorator for many years, says not all blues go with every other blue and you have to be careful. It'll be a couple of weeks before it gets here.
"The Blue Flag" - 3/2018
|(3/2/18) - The guys from Canada replaced the angle cocks on the lunch counter car and it passed the air test! YEAH!!!
(3/4/18) - Brody and I hung 8 more valves today. That leaves 11 of 30 left to do.
(3/10/18) - Cody, Art and I installed the last of the new seat back covers in coach 2932 and installed the conductor's valve in 2941. Art and I dropped off the re-cut window sills and he took home a stainless steel "threshold" to remove the old screws so it can be reinstalled. I took home three more window sills to re-cut the notches.
(3/11/18) - Brody and I finished installing the brake valves except for the 3 service portions. There is one conductor's valve left but it needs to be soldered. The plan is to be in Medina Saturday to finish the valves and, hopefully, start the single car tests. The lunch counter car was still sitting on the siding in Lockport.
(3/17/18) - We had a good day in Medina today. Along with myself, were Dave F., Adam P., George S., Al T., Brody G. and Brody's friends Jill and Shawn. We got two cars to pass their single car tests but not without some difficulty. One issue was our fault. There is an "application valve," that dumps the air when an emergency application is made. Unlike the other valves that seat with a gasket or quad-ring against a flat surface this one seats with two quad-rings against each other. We failed to install the second ring so there was no seal. Unfortunately these valves sit in an awkward place, so even though they are small, removing them is not an easy task. Then one of them got dirt in it so it wouldn't seat fully. We dumped the air and a 90 pound blast cleaned it out nicely. That allowed us to discover a leak in a pipe that eventually went nowhere. At one time it was probably part of the signal line. So, we deadheaded that pipe and the car passed. Al had to solder an air line that went to the inside emergency (conductor's) valve in one of the cars.
Since we had a good sized group and since some of us volunteer for both WNYRHS and Medina Railroad Museum, we were also able to get some work done on the cars in Medina, which consisted of reinstalling window frames and a couple of laces. We also reinstalled the tables that had been removed during Polar Express Trips to make room for the Christmas trees. So, while things could have gone better, it was a productive day.
(3/19/18) - The cellular shade we want to try in the coaches arrived today. We'll see how it looks and works on Saturday.
(3/24/18) - Yesterday we had a good group and got a lot done on the cars. Art, Bill, Adam, Dave, Brody, Cody, Al, George, Shawn and myself were all there. I guess that means that most of the Car Department was there. The most important thing was that all the cars passed their air test, although not without a fight. We had to replace one service portion because as soon as the pressure reached 90 ponds it started venting through a port in the bottom. We also had an emergency portion that was leaking because one of the holes for the studs that support the valve had stripped and had to be tapped so the stud would pull in and seal the valve against the gasket. Several angle cocks are also leaking but that will not affect operation. They will be replaced.
Other jobs included replacing a couple of window sills and trying to repair a seat but that will require removal and welding. But, all in all by the end of a long day, all the cars were ready for next weekend's Easter trains.
(3/28/18) - Today Cody and I did the stenciling on the cars so they are now ready for the season.
"The Blue Flag" - 4/2018
by Rick Henn
|(4/4/18) - Today Art and I went to Pittsburgh Air Brake to return the test device and to pick up the four new angle cocks. All in all a nice day even though the wind was rough and we hit snow. CSX has inspected the lunch counter car but that's all we know for now.
(4/19/18) - Last week I dropped off a seat back from coach #2932 (#1) to the upholsterer. Today I was out that way so I stopped in to chat. They will completely reupholster the one I dropped off and use that to give us a price on doing the entire car. They felt that might save some money instead of having to estimate. We will purchase all of the material first and then do as many seats as the budget will allow this year.
(4/22/18) - Got a little work done today. Cody and I replaced the broken window in coach #2915 (#4) and George came out to see what he needed to fabricate parts to repair the broken seat in #2932 (#1).
(4/28/18) - So, I had a good day in Medina. Sort of. I was the first one there and decided to get started by replacing one of the small sealed windows that had discolored. Someone in the past had covered all the screws with Never Seize and it worked perfectly. All of the screws came out without a fuss. The window frame popped right out of the car body and I was able to put it on a bench that Art had built in 2906 to take apart. It came apart easily. At that point Brody called to say he was on his way and I told him how well the job was going. Yep, bad move! I put a piece of glass in place of the cloudy polycarbonate, put it back together and went to install it. As soon as I set it in the car body opening I heard a loud CRACK! Yep, for no apparent reason the glass cracked from one edge all the way to the other. There was a brief interlude while I uttered some interesting words and then I took it out and did it all over except using polycarbonate since there were no more glass pieces. Brody showed up in time to finish putting in the 32 screws that hold the frame together while I went off and did some other things. We then installed it and put the window sills and etc back in place. After that it was time to do the most important project of the day, which was to go eat.
One nice thing is that after working on the windows for many years and using the newer abrasion resistant poly there are very few really bad windows anymore. Unfortunately, with so many good windows the bad ones really stand out.
"The Blue Flag" - 5/2018
by Rick Henn
|(5/4/18) - Every so often I get one of those times when I lose track of what's been done in the Car Department so I'll do my best to get caught up. The big job was, of course, the brake valves and the necessary air tests. Not only is it unpleasant to have to do that in cold weather but when there is a trip scheduled in March it adds to the pressure to get it completed and have all the cars pass the air tests. There are no short cuts. It has to be done and done correctly. Obviously, the brakes need to work.
Since then the cars ran two Easter trips that were well attended and now they are being readied for Thomas© the Tank Engine trips coming up later this month. Windows have been replaced and floors have been inspected with an eye toward replacing some carpet and flooring. As of this writing one seat back from coach #2932 is at the upholsterer where they will completely redo it with new foam and new material. They will use this job to give us a price on reupholstering all of the seat backs in that coach. In the same coach one of the seat frames broke. It had been repaired by someone other than us and the repair job failed. Keep in mind that this old repair job could be more than thirty years old so it did hold up quite well but was sloppily done. George Specht removed the broken parts and took them to his shop at home to fabricate new pieces to make the repair.
The Society's parlor car, the "Francis J. McGrath" has been moved from Olean to Meadville where it is awaiting its "COT&S,". which is the brake valve rebuild and test procedure. Fortunately, we don't have to go down to do it, which came as a great relief to some members of the Car Department.
(5/13/18) - Adam and I got a few things done today. We installed a threshold that had been removed earlier to take up a bit of carpet. We put everything back so there was not a tripping hazard. We also secured a window sill and were going to replace a couple of others until Adam rightly pointed out that they were rotted and would make a mess of the freshly cleaned cars and Thomas will be here in a week. So we topped off the spicer boxes, a good 1.5 hours of work.
"The Blue Flag" - 6/2018
by Rick Henn
|(6/9/18) - Brody, Shawn, Cody, George and I had a productive day. George was able to install the correct door lock on the bathroom door in coach #2906 so it actually locks for people. That will allow us to use the spare door to close off the small section of the tool room where the tool chest is located and we will be able to lock things away. We sealed the roof vents on the coaches to stop leaks, at least hopefully stop leaks. It's a bit of a guessing game so we glop sealant in everything that looks like it might possibly leak and wait until it rains to see how we did. We also got part way to freeing the stuck brake rigging on coach #2915 but I will have to read up on the proper way to adjust it and, if that fails, contact an expert.
At the last trustees' meeting I announced that from 2014 until the present our earnings on the cars is over double what we have spent maintaining them. So, if you ever had any doubts as to the value of what we do, there it is clear and simple. However, and maybe more importantly, what we do allows these nearly 71 year old cars to continue operating safety and for the enjoyment of thousands of passengers each year. Definitely a job worth doing and a job done well. I'm the one that, literally, was applauded at the meeting but obvious each of you that have been a part of the Car Department deserve part of that applause. Thank you...., Rick
(6/13/18) - Art and I went to Meadville, PA to help with the removal of the brake valves for the parlor car's COT&S. It went very well. It's amazing how smoothly things seem to go when the car is indoors, out of the rain, on a solid floor and someone else is doing the work. Ha! From here on it's up to the railroad and the people they hired until it's time for Dave to do the air test.
(6/16/18) - Brody, Cody and I pulled up the center aisle carpet in coach #2932 . The carpet was very uneven underfoot and so we had assumed the wood sub-floor was bad. For once it was nice to be wrong. The wood was in perfect condition as is, and surprisingly, the carpet as well! All of the lumps and irregularities were caused by dirt. Yes, dirt! We scraped and vacuumed up over 40 pounds of dirt. That is not an exaggeration, a typo, or an attempt to make a point. That was how much dirt was under the carpet. And some of it was probably historically significant AMTRAK dirt which we chose not to save. The good news is that the carpet can go back in as is, which will save us money. From a more serious historical perspective, it looks like the original 70 year old New York Central tile floor is still there. It's not in good condition but it seems to be there. We rolled up the carpet and put in inside until we finish the floor.
This page was last updated: June 16th, 2018
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