Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Chapel car rehab begins

The chapel car 5 Messenger of Peace’s rehabilitation has begun in earnest. The Museum has been fundraising for this long-planned project for over three years. On January 31, 2011 a crew consisting of a project manager, lead restoration woodworker and restoration woodworker began working fulltime. Clark M., Kevin P., and Meghan G. work on the chapel car 5 days a week. Already, progress is apparent on this 1898-built National treasure.

All the original wood siding – or cladding - has been carefully removed and stored for repair and reinstallation after structural repairs are completed. (Watch the video at the end of this post to see cladding removal using a slide hammer.) Some sections of cladding are being set aside for preservation, specifically those pieces that that carry the faded but discernible lettering: "Entrance" on the kitchen stove (right) side and "Messenger of Peac" (sic) on the Baker heater (left) side. Both lettering examples date from circa 1924 and have survived because at that time the car was “modernized” with light sheet metal. These pieces of car siding are extremely delicate and have been treated with ‘Smith’s Penetrating Epoxy’ to stabilize them; they will become permanent objects in the Museum’s reference collection and will not be reinstalled on the car.

It has been over 60 years since the Messenger of Peace was deconsecrated but it continues to reveal rich heritage. Some newly uncovered evidence suggests that the car cladding was made of catalpa wood, aka catawba wood, and not the yellow poplar commonly used in the construction of passenger cars during the wood era. Samples have been sent to a forest products lab for positive identification, but so far the evidence is pretty compelling. Catalpa speciosa is native to the upper Mississippi valley, was readily available, machines well and is decay resistant. In 1906, the Messenger’s builders, Barney & Smith Car Company of Dayton, Ohio built two entire sections of a railroad passenger car out of catalpa wood, including the furniture.

The chapel car rehabilitation will continue for the next 18 months, but on Friday, March 4, 2011 at 6 PM you have an opportunity to learn more about life on the rails in chapel car service as well as an update of the rehabilitation process. Please join us Friday evening March 4, 2011 for a Working On The Railroad benefit dinner theatre for the Messenger of Peace at the Salish Lodge and Spa. Tickets are $75 and are available here.

Thank you to chapel car project manager Clark M. for writing content for this post and providing photos.

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