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by Rick Henn

"The Blue Flag" - 1/2018

         Usually, once Polar Express is finished it becomes a quiet time for the Car Department, but not this year. We had two projects that demanded our time and had to be completed regardless of the weather and the temperatures. Additionally, as you might expect, these were not jobs where we could turn on the heaters, go for coffee and come back to work inside warm cars. Nope, this was all outside work. Pease keep in mind this was all happening in December and January.

The first project was preparing the ex-  Union Pacific - Lunch Counter Car #4001.  that has been stored in Lockport for its movement to it's new owner, the Great Sandhills Railway in Saskatchewan, Canada. I figured we could get the car ready, make a little money for the Society and save the buyer from having to come down and get it ready. Bad decision! I guess some rail cars just do not like to sit around and then be expected to move without a fight. This was a knock-down-drag-out fight and it fought us all along the way.

First we had to install the brake valves and those of you who have read my past articles know that can be a project in it-self. However, this time we had a ringer. Art Toale's son-in-law Leo, was able to borrow a small fork lift from work, which made installing the 130 pound service portion valve a relative breeze. Also, we had a nice day to do since this was back in the fall. And that was about the end of the nice times with this car.

(1/2/18) - Today George and I spent an hour in Lockport removing the piping to the "Decelostat valves" on the car. He took the piping to his house to remove some of the fittings to be reused. The weather is supposed to break soon and we have to be ready to move quickly in getting the lunch counter car ready to ship and taking the brake valves off the coaches.

(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.

The Car Department has undertaken several projects this summer to improve the looks of the cars. One is to have as many seat backs replaced as we can afford in coach  #2932.  Many of these seats are long over-due for new foam and cover material. The coach is also getting some new carpet. The aisles at the end of the car were covered with a rubber product, which has held up very well but gets slippery when wet. To fix that we will install a new carpet product designed for transit use that actually, according to the manufacturer, becomes more slip resistant when it gets wet.

(6/16/18) - #2932 also suffered from a very uneven, lumpy carpet down the center aisle. We assumed it was either a problem with the wood subfloor, the carpet deteriorating or both.Brody, Cody and I pulled up the center aisle carpet in the coach. 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.

(6/22/18) - So, last week we removed the 40 pounds of dirt from coach #2932. Today, Adam and I (mostly Adam) removed 40 pounds of rust. We tore up the floor in the aisle around the restroom at the non-vestibule end of the car (A) were not so easily solved. What we found was a mess. The wood was rotted, which we expected. What we did not anticipate was that the metal plates that the wood flooring sits on were badly rusted. This will need some heavier work but we can do it.

On a positive note, the flooring at the vestibule end (B) is in fine shape and the new flooring can be installed right over it. Then we removed the toilet from coach  #2915  so we can start painting the room.

(6/24/18) - Today, George, Brody, Cody and I made progress on a couple of fronts in Medina. George came out to measure the holes that were left from the rusted metal that was removed from beneath the flooring in #2932. The general plan will be to replace the metal sheets, which were carbon steel, with stainless so they will never rust again. Then new plywood will go over that and then the new flooring. We are going to paint the vestibules on coaches #2932 and  #2941 , which are adjacent to each other, but still have the same paint on them that was there when the cars were purchased in the eighties. It was shop worn and dirty. First we removed the stainless steel handrails to be cleaned up and be bright and shiny when reinstalled. Brody took the handrails home to strip off layers of old paint to expose the original stainless steel underneath. Some of the handrails had been heated in order to be bent (not by us), which discolored them in spots. We will see if they can be brought back. The ridiculously hot weather slowed things up but we will, hopefully, be back at it soon. The old wall covering was removed, the walls lightly sanded and then washed and are now ready for paint.

(6/26/18) - Today we (Art, Adam and I) got the bathroom in #2915 ready for painting by cleaning it and trying to brighten up the stainless, which turned out to be futile so it will be painted too. The ceiling of the vestibules on# 2932 and #2941 are washed and ready to be painted. And we cleaned out more rust and general yuck from the floor repairs in #2932. The next step there will be to install new stainless steel plates and a new wood floor before the "Flotex" carpet is installed. We also trying sealing a leak in #2932 that caused all the damage to the floor. The problem being that it was one of those "guess where the leak is" situations. Hopefully we got it right.

(6/28/18) - I picked up the paint for the vestibules today. I'm still waiting to hear from the flooring people.

"The Blue Flag" - 7/2018

by Rick Henn

(7/7/18) - Now that the hot and humid weather has passed it was back to work in Medina. Shawn, Cody, Brody, Holly, Adam and I got a lot done. We replaced two sets of sliding windows that were deteriorating in coach #2915. There are two left to do and that car will be good as far as windows go. The bathroom in #2915 that had been water damaged got its first coat of paint, which made a major difference. The vestibules on #2932 and #2941 got a good start on a coat of paint, which makes them cleaner and brighter.

(7/14/18) - Thanks to Art, Cody, Bill, Shawn and Holly for joining me in Medina today to finish painting (almost) the vestibules between #2932 and #2941.

The end doors still need to be painted and there is some touch up but the majority was completed before we ran out of paint. Fortunately, it was not as oppressively hot as we expected it to be so it wasn't a terrible day. However, we did finish about 12:30, before the hottest part of the day so it worked out well. We also took measurements to use to get the new stainless steel cut for the floor and we used floor leveler to fill in some holes and even out a couple or rough spots.

(7/19/18) - Today I met with Bob Snyder from the Orchard Park depot crew. There are a bunch of passenger car parts stored in a baggage car there. The OP crew would like them moved so they can use the car for display. I found some things that we could use and some that would make valuable spares. I am willing to move some of this to my garage for ease of access but there is more there than I can take. So, at some point, probably next month, we will be making a trip or two to OP to get this stuff. There are several of the metal plates that hold the windows into the car body. They appear, without measuring, to be the right ones for the coaches. There are also a couple of window frames that might be for the coaches. Again, they will have to be measured.

(7/21/18) - Today Brody and I got more done on the vestibules of #2941 and #2932. There were a few things left to paint, like the end doors, and a few places that needed touching up. Brody had taken all the handrails home and cleaned them with a paint stripper and we would have put them back on but by the time we got to that point the heat and humidity were taking their toll. Besides, it was nearing lunch time. Brody was also cleaning some of the door handles that had been painted over the years. All in all, it was a short day but a productive one. It should only take another couple of man hours to complete the job. We also looked at the bathroom in #2915 that had been repainted. While everything is out it'll be a good time to replace the floor covering.

(7/24/18) - I had to go to Medina today wearing my museum hat but I stopped at Fearby's to show them the handrails we want to clean up. They cannot do it but they referred me to another Medina business call Barnes Metal Finishing and I had planned to stop there when I left the museum. Instead, I spent 90 minutes with the FRA inspector. He went over the entire train and didn't seem to have any great concerns with the coaches. He will send me a report.

(7/29/18) - Well, today did not start out all the well. I got a flat tire on the way to Medina. Fortunately it happened in Lockport and from the time I made the call to AAA and was on my way again was about 40 minutes.

Cody, Shawn and I started putting the vestibules on 2941 and 2932 back together, which entailed a quick trip for new nuts and bolts before we could reinstall the handrails. I still have to get some to a metal refinisher to see if they can be polished. We then reinstalled the windows in the Dutch doors. As strange as it might sound one of the windows needed to be trimmed before it would go back in, which made no sense but we've gotten used to that kind of thing. All in all, a good day.

Congratulations to Scott H. and his crew for getting Buffalo Creek #43 down in Hamburg running and moving under its own power yesterday. Awesome! Rick

"The Blue Flag" - 8/2018

by Rick Henn

(8/7/18) - This morning I met with Josh from a carpet company in Bergen. He will supply a price on the work needed in  #2932  (Coach 1). We have to have all our stuff done and everything smooth and clean. We also we need to get back there and do some sanding on the filler and then wash the floor at the vestibule end.

(8/9/18) - Art and I went to Upholstery Unlimited to pick up the quote for reupholstering the seat backs in #2932. The full cost will be $17,596.00. However, the feel that when they place the order for the material there will be a discount because of the size of the order. They also said we could save $3,300.00 if we stripped the seat backs ourselves and just delivered the frames to them. Then, we dropped the last four hand rails off to Barnes Metal Finishing in Medina to get a price on polishing them to get rid of the burn marks. They will polish the entire hand rail and knock down some of the burrs.

(8/11/18) - Adam and I went to Medina with the intention of sanding the floor leveler smooth and removing as much of the surface dirt as possible from the areas to be carpeted. The carpet guy said it needed to be clean and smooth. Well. things did not go quite as planned. The leveler was so hard it was difficult to sand and, in some places, it had not adhered to the plywood and just came out. So, we'll have to take another look at that. We removed the base molding from the vestibule end aisle and vacuumed years of accumulated yuck. We also repainted the red on the handles of the hand brakes of the coaches that had the vestibules painted. Tomorrow George and I, with maybe Adam and Shawn are heading their again to work on brake rigging.

(8/12/18) - So, does it count as a good day when you get several jobs part way done? I think the answer is yes. Today Adam, Brody, George and I got at a few jobs. We replaced the end door window in  #2941  so instead of a cloudy, paint spattered window there is a nice clear one. We tried to do the one in #2932 but there was not one there so there was no gasket. Unfortunately, the gasket material we have is close but not close enough to fit. If I can find gasket material it'll be easy. Otherwise, it'll take some creativity. We removed one angle cock that the FRA inspector had cited as illegal but, of course, the piping hadn't been apart in who knows how many years so it fought at every step. However, we got it out and George took measurements to get what we need to install the new one. Then we turned our attention to the brake rigging at one end of  #2915 . You are supposed to be able to adjust it but it wasn't moving. Eventually, George traced the problem to a seized pin and bushing. We saturated it with WD-40 and will try it again next week, along with some heavy wrenches and maybe a little heat. The last job was to remove a stainless steel plate that sits under the toilets to see if we should replace the floor in the freshly painted bathroom of #2915. It'll be a little work both worth the effort I think.

(8/19/18) - I want to thank Bill, Adam, Cody and George for coming out to Medina with me. We had a good day. We replaced two sets of sliding windows and took some measurements to determine what vestibule plates need to be raised or lowered so there are no trip hazards for the passengers. I have to especially thank George because not only did he come out today to break lose the seized pin in the brake rigging of #2915 but he also installed the new piping and angle cock on #2932. He put all the piping together at home and brought it out to install it, it was a perfect fit. We also removed the flooring from the bathroom in #2915 so new flooring can be installed.

(8/26/18) - Adam, Shawn and I got a few things done in Medina before it got just too hot and humid to be comfortable working inside the cars. The big job was removing the rivets that Budd used to secure the old sub-floor in the bathroom of  #2915  so that new stainless steel and new wood can be put down. It meant grinding them off and then knocking them through. However, first it meant repairing the angle grinder from the tool room and that meant modifying a wrench to fix the grinder. But, the end result was that the rivets are gone and we are ready to install the new floor. We also repaired a sliding window where the polycabonate had slipped down, which allowed the gasket to come off at the top. Fortunately it was the sliding half of the window and everything came apart and went back together easily.

The next project will be to replace a window in the end door of coach  #2941  so you can actually see through it. The last thing we did was to take measurements and make drawing so the stainless steel for the various floor repairs can be cut accurately prior to installation.

(8/31/18) - Art, Cody, Brody, Adam and I were able to get a few more things off the to-do list. We took the final measurements for the stainless steel that will become the base for the floor repairs in the aisle at the end of #2932 and the bathroom of #2915. Al will get the stainless and have it cut where he works, it has been ordered and should be cut and ready by the end of the week. We used the last of our stock of polycarbonate to replace the glazing in one of the sliding windows in 2906 and since both Cody and Brody also do work for the museum i sent them off to take care of a couple of issues there.

The following projects remain in the works. We are still waiting to hear back from the carpet installer and the upholsterer to complete that work in #2932. We still have a couple of projects to complete to satisfy the FRA but, overall, the cars are ready to run and start earning money for the society.

"The Blue Flag" - 9/2018

by Rick Henn

(9/8/18) - Today, Art, Brody, Adam, Al and I went to Olean to work on the parlor car. It was, let's say. an interesting experience. We started by deciding to replace two bad windows. Well, one was bad and one was missing the outside glazing. They fought tooth and nail but, eventually, we got them done and reinstalled. There are probably four more that need to be done. The guys that installed the brake valves had incorrectly installed the emergency (conductor's) valve at the B end of the car, so we fixed that. They also marked the car as having ABDX brakes instead of D-22. ABDX is a freight brake system. Then they had complained that the toilet wasn't working so we went down prepared to replace the pump. Once we added water, it worked just fine. Al found a faulty switch in the generator control panel so that means another trip down to replace it. Fortunately, it does not affect the operation of the car. A small fan in the drawing room decide to fling the blade at Al so he fixed that. It was a 12 hour day and by the time we got out of the truck at my house there was a lot of moaning and groaning about stiff and sore muscles.

On the upside, the AC worked perfectly, the generator fired right up, we got done what we intended to do. The car is ready for their shippers' trip on September 20th and we had two good meals and a lot of laughs.

(9/15/18) - Saturday Adam, Shawn and I were able to do a few things on the cars. Mostly, it was Shawn and Adam cleaning out store rooms and disposing of junk. They removed all of the bits and pieces for flooring materials that were scattered about #2932 while we wait for the carpet company to return my calls, now totaling 3. At the same time Dave and a Dave from the museum were running air brake tests on the museum's cars. All passed with just a couple of minor issues.

(9/16/18) - George and I went back so George could make repair welds on a pedestal liner that the FRA inspector caught. We spray painted the repairs so the metal is protected.

(9/17/18) - Art and I picked up the new stainless steel underfloor to install in the section that had rotted out in #2932. Shawn met us at the cars and I thought the installation went very well, probably because Shawn jumped in and did all the hard work. In any case, both pieces are in place and will need a layer of wood before the carpet can go in but the car is safe to use. The cars start their revenue runs on Sunday the 23rd.

(9/28/18) - I found a new carpet installer (hopefully, this is actually number four). They looked at the coach on Thursday. They feel they can reuse the carpet for the center aisle, although it probably isn't the best option long term. But, cost will be a factor in our decision. They can install a commercial grade carpet similar to the stuff I had looked at before once we finish the installation of the floor at the A end and they can go over the existing flooring at the B end. I am waiting for a price.

"The Blue Flag" - 10/2018

by Rick Henn

(10/10/18) - Well, we were stood up by another carpet company. They came out, took measurements and vanished. It seems the job is too small, not enough profit or whatever so we'll have to figure out how to do it ourselves. I asked them about the discolored carpet on the ceiling of 2906 (coach 5). They said that to take it down would mean replacing the ceiling it is attached to because the glue would ruin it. Their suggestion was to have it painted with carpet paint. By now the fabric should be in for the seat backs in 2932 (coach 1) but I think we'll wait until next year to have the rest of the work done. I have to go over the budget for this year because we had some overruns in some areas and that the railroad that bought the lunch counter car has agreed to pay the bill for the parts for the work we did to get it ready to move. I have the wood floor for 2932 cut to shape so it just needs to be installed. We still have a leak in the area where we repaired the floor in 2932 but it doesn't seem to be as bad. Since there are trips the next two weekends any work will have to happen during the week.

(10/13/18) - We had some problems arise on yesterday's trains that will need addressing. We have some leaks above windows so we'll need a ladder and some sealant. The A end door of coach 2918 sheared off the screw that holds the top pin in place so we had to take down the door. I imagine it will needed to be drilled and tapped. We have a window in 2906 that must be replaced, it is almost completely fogged over, which it wasn't a couple of weeks ago. It was bad but not like this. We have an aquarium forming in a window in 2941 with some dead bugs in it for spice. I am hoping we can do the window in 2906 before next weekend, although before Wednesday's trips would be better. Cars will be in Lockport on Monday.

(10/15/18) - I went to Lockport to take advantage of the cars being there and I started work on the bad window in 2906. I was able to get everything loose so the rest should go pretty easily. I would have tried to do it myself but since the inside window is glass I didn't want to take a chance that I might lose it and break the window. We also have a leak at that window and I think it's because most of the screws that hold the inside plate against the window were loose so it wasn't being held tight against the gasket. To fix it properly we will probably have to drill and tap for larger screws.

"The Blue Flag" - 11/2018

by Rick Henn

I've come to realize that I have gotten a bit lazy in writing this column. So, moving forward, while I will still provide updates on the stuff that gets done, I want to go back to some of the larger projects the Car Department has undertaken and explain them in more detail from start to finish. Hopefully, this will make the articles flow better, make them more interesting to read and also show more accurately some of the issues we deal with on a regular basis when trying to maintain 70 year old equipment on a relatively small budget. So, starting in January I will focus on specific projects that have been completed and what went into the overall project. At the same time, I will try to keep you up to date with brief updates.

First, and most importantly, none of this would happen without the hours put in by the Car Depart-ment crew. They willing come out week after week to get frozen or overheated, to get dirty, oily, greasy, and, at times, bloody. They come back following a session that was very frustrating because nothing went as planned and they happily take road trips to Olean or Meadville, not to mention regularly to Medina, to keep the fleet running. At any given work session (we've stopped calling them "work parties") some combination of the following people are out "getting it done!" My thanks, in no particular order of importance, to Al Olmstead, George Specht, Art Toale, Bill Glodzik, Adam Puchalski, Brody George, Scott Hawbaker, Dave Fleenor, Geno Dailey, Shawn Grube and Cody Catlin.

Next, even though the cars generate income for themselves and the Society, a lot of the work would not be possible without your donations. Thanks to all of you very much.

(11/4/18) - Today George, Al, Cody and I went to Medina. George and Al completed the annual oil and filter changes on the generators. Cody and I installed the original center aisle carpet in #2932 (coach 1). I expected a fight but it went back into place easily. The problem we had was that the museum had cleaned out the store rooms to prepare for Polar and had removed the rubber T-strips that hold it in place. We know where they are and will get them as well as two lengths of carpet that had been used in the aisles at the ends of the car. Unfortunately at the A end of the car we still have a leak. The floor was wet and there was a puddle on the new stainless.

(11/10/18) - First a big thank you to George for going with me to Medina Friday last night to rehang the end door of coach #2918, which fell off during a trip a couple of weekends ago. Today Shawn, Brody and I reinstalled the center aisle carpet in #2932. It went remarkably well, laid flat and looks good.

I cannot thank the Car Department crew enough for the time and effort they have put in over this season and it isn't over. We'll work during the break before the Polar Express trips and once they are over we have to remove brake valves for rebuilding. Many, many thanks to George Specht, Alan Olmstead, Art Toale, Bill Glodzik, Cody Catlin, Brody George, Adam Puchalski, Geno Dailey and Dave Fleenor!

"The Blue Flag" - 12/2018

by Rick Henn

Since November 24th and 25th, five of our passengers cars have been in revenue service carrying hundreds of young and old on the Medina Railroad Museum's "Polar Express" train rides. Repeated on December 1st & 2nd, 8th & 9th and the 15th & 16th, every train was a sell out with some snow on the ground to add to the excitement.

As we have come to expect, the cars performed flawlessly during the four weekends of the Polar Express. Society member Geno Dailey was out in the frigid cold again with his camera on the Saturday December 8th trip and captured these beautiful pictures, thank you Geno!

"It's not like the good old days." or "The times they are a changin." or "It's a different world today."

How many of you are old enough to remember the "good old days" of train excursions. You know, those rides that the public would put up with almost anything just to ride a train. The heat or air conditioning could fail, it might be dark in the cars by the time you got back, if it was on time you were disappointed and if the cars were not perfect it was no big deal. Well, "the times they are a changin" and in fact have changed considerably. Most people, except perhaps the avid rail fan out for some rare mileage, will no longer tolerate those conditions. They want heat, AC, light, comfort and at least nearly on time performance. In fact, "it is a different world today" and to keeping up with that world places an extra stress on the members of the Car Department and, no doubt, other committees as well. Now most every window must be "clear as glass" and every seat must be comfortable. Now, on top of still maintaining the cars to FRA safety standards they must be maintained to the new excursion rider's standards. That means an investment of more time and money.

Let's look forward to what needs to be done to keep the cars up to today's standards. To reupholster all of the seat backs in one car will cost about $12,000 and $5000 has already paid to get the material ordered. It obviously isn't something we can do ourselves so it must be contracted out. One car needs new carpeting in the ends and center aisles. This will cost over $3000 and must be contracted out. New windows, something we can do ourselves, will cost about $6000. Those three items will pretty much consume the annual budget of the Car Department.

I had intended to start the year by going through one of the major projects from last year from start to finish. However, I realized that they aren't finished. Instead, let's look ahead to our plans for 2019.

Coach 2932 will be the beneficiary of two major cosmetic upgrades, both of which have started but need to be finished. One is the complete teardown and reupholstery of all 56 seat backs. The seat backs are so bad that the old foam is literally turning to dust and running out. The age of the materials is such that the car has a distinctive and sometimes unpleasant odor. This will change with the new backs. In case you do not remember, the seat bottoms have already been replaced so the car will basically have new seats. This car will also get new flooring (carpeting) for the aisles around the lounges at the ends of the car and a new carpet for the center aisle. One thing we will be looking at as we move forward is the cost of replacing the entire carpet in the car. The old rubber flooring at the ends gets slippery when it gets cold and wet. The new carpet is a transit grade product similar to the entryway carpets in some buildings so it is designed for high traffic and wet locations.

The second project that needs to be finished is the floor in the bathroom of coach 2915. This was one of those jobs that started out as a simple cosmetic upgrade until we got into it and found the degree of rot that was present in the wood flooring and the fact that the metal under that had rusted away. The new floor will have a stainless steel bottom with wood and then linoleum on top.

The third big job will be more window replacement. We have upgraded windows over the years but the older windows keep getting cloudy as they deteriorate due to the ultraviolet rays of the sun. The new product we are using, thought more costly, has a coating to protect it and should last twenty years instead of four or five.

And of course, there will always be the possibility of unexpected but necessary projects.

Wishing all of you the Best of the Holiday Season and sharing your joy with Family and Friends!

This page was last updated: January 20th, 2019

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