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by Rick Henn

"The Blue Flag" - January - February 2020

         As most of you know this is a quiet time of the year for the Car Department. The annual budget and a plan for the sea-son have been established and now we wait for the weather to improve just a bit, although it hasn’t been bad. Of course, the big task will be to complete the work on the generator that caught fire during Polar Express. The starter has been rebuilt and installed. The new alternator is in stock and is ready to be installed. The next phase requires the unit to be rolled out from under the car to give access to the top in order to replace the wiring. Once everything is back together the most difficult job might be figuring out just exactly what went wrong that caused the problem.

Additionally, our biggest prayer is that the electronics were not affected. Fortunately, they sit in a separate compartment at the other end on the housing from where the fire was so we might get lucky there. One helpful thing is that the railroad is storing a bunch of brand new freight cars built in January of this year on the siding in Medina where the cars usually winter, so they have been moved to Lockport. The beautiful picture of the cars was provided with permission from Albert McFadyen.

         So, what else is in store for the Car Department this coming work season? Hopefully, we will be able to replace the covers on the last 38 seat bottoms so all of the backs and bottom will look good. Another car will get new carpeting, which has been loved by the cleaning crew at Medina. It cleans almost as easily as a hard surface floor according to them. A lot of new window sills could be installed. We are hoping to try a new technique that will permanently attach nuts to the plate on which the sills sit. Then holes will be drilled through the sills in the proper places to line up with the nuts and the sills screwed into place. There will no more fussing around trying to find where to drill. And finally, we will replace windows. If we get enough help, by the end of the summer there will no more cloudy windows on the train.

Of course, there are lots of other things to do but the truth is we will probably need more help to get them done. There is interior painting, replacing the wood grained adhesive paper that goes between the windows, electrical work like replacing a switch or a socket and probably a few more I could find if I look. If you want to help we would love to have you join the Car Department.

On a bit of a side note, the window sills have been an off white since we have had the cars so I assume that’s how they came from Amtrak. In going through one of books about the NYC fleet it looks like they were originally black. Should we switch back? I also want to take this opportunity to thank member Lynn Hientz for building the core of the new window sills at his home. This will be a huge help. And, I also thank everyone that comes out to help.

(1/9/20) - Earlier this week George and I went to take measurements for new hoses and wiring to continue repairs on the generator that caught fire. The report from the man that looked at the alternator told us that it was not the cause of the fire but another part of the system that was. The starter has been rebuilt and we have a new alternator. We have to replace the exhaust tubing on  #2941  but we had a length in stock so it will not be costly. As of tomorrow the cars will be moved to Lockport for a couple of months while GVT stores freight cars on the siding in Medina.

(2/2/20) - Rick and I went to the coaches in Lockport Sunday afternoon. We got the starter bolted back onto the generator's engine and the new crankcase vent hose installed. I had to measure for the alternator output wire as I am buying it by the foot from my employer along with the fittings. I am using 8 gauge and we stock it. We got the numbers from the fan belt. We had the alternator belt numbers. The other generator will get belts, too when it gets serviced. We need a good day with the generator rolled out from under the car. To make a long story short, the equipment to do this is on the train and comes with the generators, making it a simple job. I need to pre wire the alternator before installing it. I purchased the wire, fittings and protective loom from NAPA.

When we can start the unit up, we will be able to check the electronic start sequencer, it may have been damaged by short circuiting attached wiring. If it is good, we are looking at around $600.00, plus sound insulation, which Al Olmstead is handling. My concern is with 7600 hours on  #2915  the generator that caught fire, and 8200 hours on the generator under #2941. Starter and alternator service is coming due on #2941. That was a $450 bill. We haven't put an awful lot into these other than normal maintenance. Remember 8000 hours equals about 400,000 highway miles. The manufacturer, Tony Stauffer of STADCO, claims 30,000 hour engine life. It actually appears plausible. Respectfully submitted, George Specht

"The Blue Flag" - March - April 2020

by Rick Henn

       (3/8/20) - George, Adam, Art and I took a break from the generator work because we didn't have the time to get it set up and put away. Instead we replaced the broken exhaust line a the good generator under  #2941 . It didn't cost a cent because we had the stuff we needed in stock and the job went well besides.

The other thing we did was take an inventory of the work that needs to be done this summer. Well, more accurately the amount of work. There are about 35 seat bottoms that need to be recovered but that will be contracted out. All we'll have to do is remove them and then re-install them. There were a lot more windows and window sills to replace than I thought. I will work with Curbell to come up with a final number that stays within our budget. However, we will have to make getting these done a priority for the year. Please come out whenever you can and bring friends. Art and I are planning to go out during weekdays and I know some of you have free days during the week. So, if we can coordinate things we can do week day work sessions. The window sills we can finesse by doing the worst first and then seeing how far we get with the budget. We could probably get a lot more done if we could find someone that could install the laminate at home rather than contracting it out.

(3/15/20) - So today George, Adam, Bill and I braved possible exposure to the Coronavirus to work on the cars. The new belts were installed on the repaired generator under  #2915 , things were adjusted and tightened and now just the wiring needs to be finished. On the inside of  #2918 we tore open the wall next to the electric locker. Those of you who worked the "Polar Express" trips, might remember that there was a poster hanging there to cover up the hole where pieces had come out of the wall covering.

Well, part of the stuff came out in big chunks to reveal a stainless steel panel underneath. However, part of the covering that had not been wet didn't want to come off at all so now we are probably looking at replacing it all unless we come up with a new plan. The only thing I can think is maybe heat will soften the adhesive enough to remove it. A lot of what came off was wet but it was all below window level so we are guessing it is from bad window gaskets. I'm guessing those windows have never been out since WNYRHS got the cars and this particular one faces south so the gasket could be completely dried out. I will try to get up there during the week to clean up some of the mess.

(3/22/20) - Throwing all caution to the wind, Al and I went to Lockport on Sunday, so I could get his input on the wall end aisle of #2918. His company can use the damaged pieces of stainless as patterns so they can be replaced. He also suggest, and I had thought so too, that using a heat gun on the covering might soften the adhesive so it could be scraped off. So, we took the piece that was already off and on the way out, searched  #2906  for the heat guns. Does anyone who went to Olean when we were stripping off the adhesive paper recall if we left our heat guns there?

I will call Curbell tomorrow to check on the status of the first window order. If it is on schedule it should arrive in Medina on Tuesday so, Brody, if you are available we might have to meet the truck to get them. Stay safe,
(4/4/20) - I stopped by the cars on Saturday to find something of mine, which I did. I also found the two heats guns, which were neatly tucked away on the shelf in a conductor's locker. Now I can see if this junk will come off the stainless for coach #2918. Curbell emailed me to ask if I wanted another ten sets of windows. Apparently they did the order twice. I said if they wanted to ship them to me for free or at a special price I'd take them but they didn't like that idea,.they scrapped them instead. The Falls Road has started moving those new freight cars and I assume once they are gone they will return our cars to Medina. I'll try to have them kept in Lockport as long as possible. Hope everyone is well.

(4/21/20) - Taking advantage of a relatively nice day yesterday, I put the concentrator tip on the heat gun and tried it on the covering of the stainless from 2918. It works better but still requires patience. The downside is that it can cause the material to catch fire and, while the smoke does not seem especially noxious, it is one thing to be doing this in my garage with the door open and another in the confines of the end of the car. If this is what we do we will want some sort of ventilation. The best solution to the black substance underneath still seems to be paint stripper, which allows it to be scraped off rather easily. However, whatever is under that doesn't seem to budge for anything. It is fairly smooth so I am hoping a minimum of sanding and a good quality primer will allow us to paint.

"The Blue Flag" - May 2020

by Rick Henn

(5/1/20) - Normally at this time of the year we would be pushing to get the cars ready for the annual Thomas the Tank Engine© event in Medina. Obviously, this is not a normal year. As of now the event has been postponed until August but who knows what will happen then. However, there are much more important things than running events even when they are large sources of income. Keeping people safe and healthy far outweighs any financial gain that might be had. So, for now, we wait.

While we cannot get out to work on the cars we are doing things to prepare for the day, which will certainly come, when we get the "all clear" and are allowed to "get back at it". The first delivery of windows is here and ready to be installed. I have talked with the carpet folks and as soon as we know what things will be like as far as time and finances go, they are ready to carpet another car. Same for the new upholstery. In the meantime, I go out alone now and then to "putter," fix an armrest here or a chair back there and try to organize what we have.

The most important thing for now is that everyone stays safe.

The "Blue Flag" is a safety appliance on the railroad. Whether it be made of wood, cloth or steel, if one of these is displayed on the track, nothing can touch the cars being protected and no one except the person that placed it or a member of the same trade can remove it. It’s only purpose is to protect people working on cars from being hurt if a locomotive that could be hundreds of feet away from where they are working, couples onto the train.

"The Blue Flag" - June 2020

by Rick Henn

(6/7/20) - It's been a long time since there was anything to update but today here it is. Brody and I took a pleasant and scenic (interpret that as I got a little lost) ride to Angola to pick up the polycarbonate for the sliding windows in thew coaches, that Caryl Y. has been storing for us. We then delivered the windows and some things from my garage to the train in Lockport. I am not available for the next two weekends but after that I suspect we will be able to get out to start working on the cars as long as we use some common sense. I hope the weather cooperates and doesn't turn to 90 and humid every day. Until then please stay safe and well. Rick

"The Blue Flag" - 7/2020

by Rick Henn

        (7/14/20) - Well, it felt great to get out today to do some work on the cars. Art, Cody, Brody, Billy (new guy) and I replaced three sets of sliding windows in coach  #2941 . There are a few to do in  #2906  and then some here and there throughout the rest of the cars. I suspect nothing more will happen until we get past the next bout of 90 degree and humid weather. However, we do have other things to keep in mind that need work. We have the generator in  #2915  to complete and we have the wall in  #2918  to finish. I don't know if any trips will run this year but these things need to get done anyway, if we can afford them. There are a lot of other things we can do that won't cost us money so as the weather allows we'll get out to do what we can. Rick.

"The Blue Flag" - 8/2020

by Rick Henn

It’s nice to be able to write something from the Car Department that tells of actual progress. I wish it were more excit-ing but we started replacing the polycarbonate in some of the sliding windows. As most of you know this is an ongoing issue because the ultraviolet rays degrade the polycarbonate we use so the windows cannot be broken. A few years ago we started using an acrylic coated polycarbonate that blocks the ultraviolet rays. While more expensive it should cut down the replacement time from every five years to every fifteen to twenty years. In the long run that will be quite a savings. This is one of those jobs that remind us of the size of these cars. There are seven sliding windows per coach for a total of thirty-five for the train. It’s no wonder we always seem to be replacing them. On the old five year cycle about the time we would finish it would be time to start again. Hopefully we can get a break when this batch is finished.

We have also been working on a wall in coach #2918 that was damaged by water incursion leading to the covering separat-ing from the stainless steel wall itself. It started with a crack in the covering but ended up with chucks falling out. It sounds like it should be a straight forward and easy fix but not so. Some of the stainless was corroded. No, stainless does not rust but it can corrode and some will have to be replaced. Then we will have to figure out how to get the rest of the wall covering and associated fillers and glues off or just cover the entire thing with something new. More to come on this project.

Hopefully there will be more to report next time, specifically that the generator repairs to #2915 are complete and that there will be excursions for the cars to run. Until then, stay safe, Rick.

(8/4/20) - Brody, Billy, Cody and I tried to get the last section of stainless off the wall in the end aisle of  #2918 but it sits behind a piece of molding that will need some heavier artillery than we brought to remove it. So, we cleaned up the mess and discussed whether we could use something to level the bad spots and then recover or paint. My only concern is will any sort of leveling compound be flexible enough when dry to stand up to the motions of a rail car.

(8/16/20) - Cody, Brody and I put in a short day to replace two more sets of sliding windows. There was one more to do but there was some threatening weather on the way so we decidede to call it a day. As it turned out we probably could have gotten it done but, maybe next time.

This page was last updated: September 1st, 2020

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