Sunday, November 29, 2009

Boxcab for a friend - Fini

Some quick paint, lettering, finished... Sure hope he likes it !!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Fox River Trolley Museum 11/28/09

Fox River 304 just south of the main museum campus at Castlemuir

A busy afternoon at the Fox River Trolley Museum in South Elgin, Ill.

The museum spent a busy day rearranging their collection in order to provide indoor storage for recently acquired Fox River #304, a car original to the museum's mainline/right of way.

First things first of course, which included a number of test runs down the right of way, the first real runs of the car since it got back on home rails 11/3/09. The car operated smoothly and the ride is noticeably smoother than with the heavier interurban cars. As was noted,, "What did you expect, after all, the car was designed to ride on these rails !"

Fox River 304 headed south on the mainline

After the runs, time for work. The most notable highlights of the day's plan called for clearing the western most track of the museum's small three track carbarn. That track held, until earlier today, Chicago Surface Lines RPO mail car #6, Chicago Aurora & Elgin line car #11, and Johnstown Traction streetcar #362. The museum has made the decision to deacession the 362 so that room and resources can be better spent on the Fox River car.

The first car out was the mail car. The mail car is a small single truck car which has not had motors in it for sometime. The car has been pushed by manpower out of the barn numerous times over the years, and is often manned by the South Elgin Post Office for special events with a special RPO cancellation. Once out of the barn, it was switched to another track out of the way.

Chicago Surface Lines RPO Mail Car #6
Next out was CA&E line car #11. This was a noteable event in and of itself, the line car has not been outdoors or touched by sunlight in some 25 years. Even more exciting than seeing it outside, it operated under it's own power ! The car needed to be stingered as that track of the barn is not currently powered, but it moved under it's own power via stinger to get to live overhead, and then up went the pole, and it motored without problem to the north end of the property.

CA&E Line car #11
Pole up, and under way
Things were going smoothly at that point, and apparently too smoothly. Next out was the Johnstown car, which also has not seen the light of day for roughly a quarter century. Fox River #5, the line's only diesel locomotive which the museum brought back to home rails a bit less than 10 years ago, pulled the car out, only to have the south truck jump the rails at the first switch.

The AE&FRE #5, and Johnstown #362

An hour was lost getting the car back on track, but things seemed to move smoothly after that.

The Johnstown 362 will remain outdoors until a new home can be found for it, while Fox River 304 is safe and secure within the carbarn. A lot of effort by the folks at FRTM who included Ralph Taylor, Fred Lonnes, Joe Hazinski, and Chuck Galitz, along with several others. These folks will continue to need your support to rehab the 304 (as well as CA&E 458 which should be coming soon). Contact the museum through their website

Friday, November 27, 2009

Boxcab for a friend

I'm the sort of idiot who never (and I mean, never) takes time off from work. An extended holiday weekend like this one for Thanksgiving gets almost as close to a vacation as I typically take. So, I usually look at the time off as a chance to really be able to focus for an extended period on a given modeling project, or two, or three, or nine, or twelve, well, you get the idea.

As is typical of my particular brand of stupidity, one project begets another, which begets another, and so on.

I was looking through old back issues of the Narrow Gauge Gazette for a different project and came across an old favorite article. The article, from the Nov/Dec '92 issue describes an ON30 boxcab locomotive. It's based on a prototype from a Mexican narrow gauged mining company's operations. Neat little thing, single truck, single pantograph.

Anyways, I've been thinking about something like this for a friend. I semi-promised this person a long time ago that I'd build something for him, time and other things had put us both on different paths, but the last couple months I've run across him on a frequent basis and some of our mutual current interests will continue our seeing each other. All of which simply served to remind me that I had promised him something so long ago. As luck would have it,, this is the perfect thing.
So, I had come across the article on Monday, had the idea percolating in my noggin for the last couple days, and got up bright and early on Thursday to start. All sheet styrene, an old NWSL power block (gauged for 45mm), bunch of Ozark Miniatures handrails and grab irons. Slightly modified/Americanized LGB pantograph. Oversized and also somewhat modified Bachmann couplers, not my choice but since this is for someone else, built to his needs/standards.

Still needs a few finish details, and paint of course. The "lettering" is just a test sample for sizing of some custom decals I made and will print up and apply once we're done. The person this is for , his name is Allodi, hence the Allodi Electric. Numbered #34, because in lieu of any set numbering pattern, as a die hard Chicago Bears fan, what better number to use than that of the late, great Walter Payton ?

Not bad for roughly two days work, of course it helps a heck of a lot to have everything you need lying about with no other set purpose for it all. Follow up before the end of the weekend (and hopefully better photography) once it's complete and painted.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Back to Modeling without Deadlines

With Trainfest firmly in the rear-view mirror, it's time to settle down a bit, build and model what I feel like modeling, not something that needs to be finished for the display.
(I get back in that mode late January, but that's another post)

So, first challenge up, our local NMRA Division's monthly meets typically feature a modeling contest. The November contest was interior detailing, structure or rolling stock. Now this is something I don't normally do, model interiors. Many people will often comment on my models (especially the 1/2" scale models), wondering why they have no interiors.

It all goes back to my father's modeling when I was young. Now here was a guy that had a beautiful string of the typical Walther's heavyweight coaches, all with full interiors. Yet, after he finished showing it off upon completion, no one ever got to see enough of the interior thru the car windows to appreciate it. And picking it up, removing the roof to see,, that wasn't happening. So, I would see all the effort that went into building the car and I'd see just as much effort going into an interior.. in my mind it became a simple math question, 10 hours to build the car, 10 hours for an interior,,, or 2 cars built in the same amount of time
(Random numbers, your build time may vary !)

I have to admit as I become older and more interested in specific prototype modeling that I find myself drawn to fully completing cars and structures with interiors, although the full plunge is still a bit off. So anyways, this was a good excuse to experiment.

I had a number of odd goodies that I've collected over the years, mostly props for model photography, so I started putting them in a pile to see what I had to work with. Seemed pretty obvious pretty early on that a typical MOW/Speeder shed would be good. I had an Ozark Miniatures velocipede which would take the place of a speeder, and that was it.

The structure is all sheet styrene. "Typical" design, roughly 10x20 feet. It's in 1:24 scale, which neccessitated taking the velocipede apart, altering a few details to scale it down to size, and extending the boom arm to proper 4'-8-1/2" track gauge in 1:24.

It's sitting on a temporary foam core base (with a hollowed out center) to accomodate the wires for the interior lights (HO scale streetlamps)

The interior details are a mix of Ozark Miniatures detail parts, and various odds and ends, some details from other scales, other things modified, some items scratchbuilt. Single biggest challenge was the pile of dirt next to the broom,, it's a pile of black pepper dropped into a few drops of ACC, between the ACC fumes and the pepper, I thought I was literally going to die.

All in all a fun project, definitely something different, at least for me. And for the record, nope, didn't win. We had twenty members at the meeting and I beleive 10 entries, including one Z scale rendition of the famous "Nighthawks" painting. I know I wasn't in the top 3 (heck I didn't even vote myself as one of the top three!), and I don't really know or care where I fell in the 4-10 range. It was the challenge and I enjoyed it. Besides, I was going up against at least one MMR, if you don't push yourself against the best, you'll never have a shot to be the best.

That was this week,, long holiday weekend coming up,, see what we can knock out

in the next couple days !

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Trainfest 2009 - Follow-up

Trainfest 2009 is done, and a heartfelt thank you to everyone who stopped by.
A long weekend came to it's conclusion about 8:30 Sunday night when I finally unloaded the last of the display items into my garage so at least my car was empty enough to go to work the next morning. Still work to do this week to take things out of the garage and put them all away where they need to be.
All in all, a very successful weekend, a good show, no damages enroute either way (always a concern when your models and memorabilia travel), and no little monsters grabbing things when their parents aren't watching. "Jimmy, if you grab one more train and throw it on the ground, we're going home,, 3 is enough young man !"

The Fox River display got alot of attention as it was center located, plus all the recent FRTM excitement with the AEFRE 304 coming back to home rails. Note to self for next time,, identify it as "Interurbans of the ILLINOIS Fox Valley". The same Fox Valley extends north into Wisconsin, and a bit of confusion ensued.

Equally, many people assumed this was a display affiliated with the Fox River Trolley Museum, a semi-obvious assumption given the content, and some of my personal former involvement, but again, for the record,, no, this is not part of FRTM, but specifically what I have come to identify as my own personal "Traveling Hysterical Society". Having said that, I am a member of both FRTM and IRM, and happy to help share the word any way I can.

The "Connecting Lines/Fox River Park" part of the display
The CA&E section

I especially want to acknowledge two groups of people.

First is The Metro Milwaukee Z scale group. A very nice group of folks, with some simply fascinating tiny trains. I would have to give up my beer,, no way my hands could ever be steady enough for that stuff. At some point Saturday I thought I saw one of their cars on the floor, turned out to be a piece of lint.

Tiny, Tiny, Tiny. I'm kidding of course. Nice folks and they were gracious enough a couple times to help out this one man band by baby-sitting the IoFV display while I made a quick bathroom run. Many many thanks !

Next, to all the various people that visited, and ESPECIALLY all of the various groups that were also part of the show, and people that I've know only by name/email over the internet, that were gracious and complimentary,, thank you to all, not only for your comments and appreciation, but also because your words are truly from a "jury of my peers", and your "insider" knowledge and experience made your appreciation that much more special.

I would name names, but I'm afraid to accidently forget anyone. All of you, you know where to find me, please keep in touch ! And again,, Thank you all.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Trainfest 2009 - Set-up

At the end of a long day, here's a bit of a taste of the display at Trainfest.
Managed to escape (well physically anyway, still have the cellphone/electronic leash) from the office a bit after 2 PM for the high speed journey north to the land of cheese.

We had two 6 foot tables at HighWheeler, now just 9 months later, I had asked for three tables (2-8 foot, 1-6 foot), ended up with 4, and as you can see, they're jammed packed. Maybe the wife is right and I do have too much crap.... nahh.

Let's see,, four 1/2" scale cars, and a total of nine O scale, two sceniced O scale dioramas, lot of photos and memorabilia,, I just can't wait to pack all this S**tuff back up again,, geezus

Show starts in just 12 hours and 16 minutes, so perhaps I should get some sleep.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Fox River 304

Tuesday, 11/3/2009, will long be remembered as a VERY special day at the Fox River Trolley Museum in South Elgin, Illinois. After a 74 year absence, Aurora Elgin & Fox River Electric #304 was delivered by Silk Road Transport and returned to home rails.

The 304, was one of 7 double truck, lightweight interurban cars built by St Louis Car Company in 1923 for the Aurora Elgin & Fox River Electric. The cars are unique in many ways, one of the more obvious is the arch window design, a design feature that was definitely outdated by 1923.

The AE&FRE gave up on interurban passenger service in 1935, and all seven cars were sold to the Cleveland Interurban Railroad (later Shaker Hts Rapid Transit)All seven were refurbished and several cosmetic changes occurred (whistles moved from the roof to the upper dash, trolley retrievers moved from the lower dash to a center window mount, roof vents/ventilation changed, interior lights changed, etc. )

The cars served in Cleveland until 1950 when they were retired. Two cars, the 300 and 301 came back to the midwest in 1950 being sold to Milwaukee's Speedrail operation. They only lasted a year (not long enough to lose their Shaker Hts blue/grey paint scheme) and were scrapped in 1951. Car 305 was destroyed, but in 1954the remaining 4 cars were acquired by Gerald Brookins and formed part of the foundation for what became the Trolleyville museum.

Over the years, the four remaining cars in Ohio dwindled to 3, then 2. The 306 was sold to IRM, and the 302 was scrapped for parts (some of which went to IRM as well) The 306 operated briefly at IRM, and was taken apart starting in 1982 in an effort to restore/backdate the car to it's Fox River days. That project unfortunately was never completed and the car remains today in a half complete/half dismantled condition at the back of IRM's Barn 4. That left the 303 and 304 in Ohio.

A couple years back, the Trolleyville museum had to move from it's home in Olmstead Falls, Ohio (a Cleveland suburb) Many options were looked at, and eventually they decided on what was (in my opinion) a very ambitious option, to move the entire collection to the downtown Cleveland lakefront and open a trolley museum there. This option had the backing of the city of Cleveland, and was envisioned as a lakefront attraction that would add to those that already existed, including the Science Museum, Cleveland Browns Stadium, and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame/Museum. Excursion trips were planned on the Cleveland RTA. As I noted, a very ambitious plan. As part of this move, they were reorganized as the Lake Shore Electric Railway.

Ultimately the economic downturn of the past couple years doomed the LSE. Cleveland, part of the so-called "Rust Belt", an area that relied heavily on steel production and the auto industry has seen hard times, harder than some of the rest of the US. Certainly no extra money (personal or government dollars) for "luxuries" like trolley museums. Facing a mounting debt and no chance for any relief in the immediate/near term future, LSE made the difficult decision to close their operations and auction off all assets, including their collection of 30 trolleys, streetcars and interurbans.

One man's mis-fortune is often another man's gain. Such is the case here in Illinois. Both FRTM and IRM (Illinois Rwy Museum) successfully bid on several Chicago area interurbans which will be returning to their home state. IRM was successful in getting a Vera Cruz Mexico single truck open car, 5 CA&E interurbans, and in late breaking news, an ex-Twin Cities Rapid Transit PCC car (More on these acquisitions in later postings as the cars are delivered, currently only the Vera Cruz car is at IRM, having arrived 11/1/09)

The demise of the LSE operation was a chance for FRTM to finally realize a long held dream, to return a Fox River car to home rails. The Fox River Trolley Museum operates the majority of it's mainline over former AE&FRE right-of-way.

Getting one or more of the last remaining Fox River cars was not easy. The Northern Ohio Rwy Museum (amongst others) also had an interest in one or more of these cars. Ultimately, the 303 went to NORM where it will be restored as a Shaker Hts car (and in the short term operated sans-overhead with a generator car), and FRTM got the 304.

FRTM 304 loaded and passing the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame/Museum, heading west back to Chicago (Photo courtesy of Steven Heister, Northern Ohio Railway Museum)

Local ABC News station Channel 7 in Chicago was on-hand when the car was off-loaded, and the emotion in the voice of lorignal ong-time FRTM member Ralph Taylor is very evident. This is a special event, many people don't realize just how rare an event it is to have a museum operation where a "home" car returns to home rails.

The video is on YouTube...

Of special interest is the fact that the car was unloaded using AE&FRE #5, a GE center cab diesel locomotive that was bought by the Fox River Line in 1945, long after the passenger cars were gone. This unit served the line until the early 1970's, and when the Fox River Line's freight service ultimately went away like the passenger operations, it was sold to a local quarry operation. After roughly 30 years of service there, FRTM managed to get the diesel back to home rails as well, and it was only fitting that AE&FRE 5 helped to unload AE&FRE 304.

Fox River 5 and Fox River 304 pose together,

something that was never possible until this week

While the car looks to be in relatively good shape, there is still much to be done to preserve this car and keep in in good condition for future generations. A later report will detail some of the restoration efforts. In the interim, the Fox River Trolley Museum needs our support to pay for this car, transport back to South Elgin, storage, restoration, and ongoing maintenance

You can contact FRTM directly through their website

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Trainfest 2009 - Milwaukee, WI

Time once again for Trainfest in Milwaukee.

Now in it's 38th year, Trainfest, billed as the largest model railroad show in the United States, typically hosts 20,000+ visitors each November over a two-day weekend.

200,000 square feet of displays, over 50 layouts of all shapes, sizes, scales, etc, over 130 manufacturers, distributors and retailers.

This year, Interurbans of The Fox Valley makes it's debut at Trainfest. I was tentatively set to do this last year, but work schedules interfered, the good news is that I was so irritated that it hardened my resolve that such a situation would NEVER occur again, so here we are.

Anyone who's seen the display this year, don't miss it this time. One of the commitments I've made to myself is that the display will continue to change and grow with every showing, and the current version is nearly double what the last public showing was. We will be occupying roughly a 10x16 square foot space and I promise to fill it.

For anyone that hasn't seen it yet, scroll through some of the other postings to get a flavor of what I'm talking about. I've combined my personal collection of memorabilia and railroadiana with models in O scale and 1/2" scale of the CA&E, AE&FRE, and several connecting lines, all telling the story of interurban service in the Fox Valley area.

Over and above the display, anyone interested in the CA&E and Fox River Line will have plenty to talk about these days with the Trolleyville cars already making their way back to Illinois.

Lots of pictures of Fox River 304 back on home rails for the first time in 74 years is one tease I will offer !

Assuming I'm reading the map correctly (A large leap of faith), our display will be roughly dead center up the middle of the display hall from where you enter, approximately 1/3 of the way in.
We are set to be directly across from the Glacial Garden G-Scale Railroad set-up, and across the aisle from the Milwaukee Electric Traction Club, a jury of our peers !

Trainfest is Sat and Sun, November 14, 15th, 2009
At the Wisconsin Exposition Center at State Fair Park, in West Allis, Wisc.
(Just immediately west of Milwaukee)
Check their website for more informatin, times, directions, and discount admission coupons.

Trainfest is presented by the WISE division of the National Model Railroad Association and the Model Railroad Industry Division HMA.
Enjoy your hobby more and join the NMRA !

Hope to see you there.