Saturday, March 28, 2015

A new roof every 100 years

New floor for the 276 installed in 1998
Coach 276 is unremarkable yet at the same time it is remarkable.  Built in 1915 by the Barney and Smith Car Company, it has carried hundreds of thousands of people, primarily between Spokane and Vancouver/Portland, but also to Seaside and Bend, Oregon. Among the first all-steel coaches,Spokane, Portland and Seattle Railway coach 276 remained in passenger train service until the beginning of Amtrak in 1971. Soon after, it was acquired by the Northwest Railway Museum and has been carrying passengers between Snoqualmie Falls and North Bend ever since.

Years of use has required past collections efforts including new upholstery and flooring.  Yet it was difficult to address roof rehabilitation before completion of the Conservation and Restoration Center. Now the Museum is able to apply roof panels "like it was a new car." is a sheet metal company located in Snoqualmie and they have extensive tooling for the cutting, forming and shaping of sheet metal.  The 14 gauge panels from the 276 were an easy match for their modern equipment, though the shaping process was somewhat tedious. 

SkilFab workers form the
roof panel.  Watch the
attached video clip to
see how it works!
The original roof panels were (probably) made on a large press using a die, which was an uneconomical option for a single coach roof.  At SkilFab, a sheet metal brake fitted with a round die was used to "bump" the heavy sheets into the correct profile.  The profile was cut into a  piece of sheet metal that was used to check the profile throughout the manufacturing process.  Workers stopped after every few "bumps" to check and made corrections as needed.  Upon delivery to the Museum, the back sides of the panels were coated with zinc primer and the panels were test fitted. Once there was a good fit, each panel was fastened into position with cold rivets.

The first new roof panel is completed!
The first panel is test-fitted to allow
The new panels are very similar to the originals but there are some important differences.  First of all, the original roof used two separate pieces to clad between the bottom of the lower clerestory and the outer edge of the upper clerestory.  The new roof panels are a single piece and are modified from the original profile so that there is no flat area on the top of the lower roof for water to pool. They will also be attached to the car using a different system. The original roof panels used a standing seam.  The new panels will be plug welded and the seams will overlap.  This will be easier to install and there will no longer be a standing seam to leak.

Gary James is leading the project. 
Volunteer Arnie L. is playing a big
role too, as are other Museum
The Museum's Gary James has been leading the effort inside the Conservation and Restoration Center.  Gary is a shipwright and his skill set is perfect for the project. He has been performing much of the day-to-day work, and is providing direction for volunteers who have offered to participate. 

Before permanent installation began, the steel carlines were treated with rust converter, primed with zinc, and the ceiling cavity was insulated.  A new "Z" channel was installed on the top edge of the car side and is used to capture the bottom lip on the roof panel.  The installation is expected to take two weeks and will help prepare coach 276 for its second Century of service!

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