Friday, March 16, 2018

Lighting up a coach

Adams and Westlake kerosene
lamp designed for rail passenger
cars. --NRM Collection

Coach 218 was built in 1912, an interesting era in the car hardware and lighting appliance business.  In that year, electric lighting was not yet widespread and most lamps were fueled with oil.  Coach 218 - a product of the Barney and Smith Car Company - was equipped with both electric and kerosene lamps.  When operating on the train to Spokane, electric lighting was powered by a steam dynamo on the baggage car.  On other trains including those to Astoria or Bend, Oregon, kerosene lamps provided light.

Rehabilitating and restoring a wood coach that will operate on a museum railway does present a few challenges, which often have to be met with compromise.  In the gas and oil light era, many incidents resulted in fire that was set by the lighting.  The two-burner lamps weighed more than 60 pounds each and were suspended from the ceiling. The fixtures are tall enough that once installed many patrons over six feet tall would have to duck under the lamps. And practically speaking, the light was very dim by the standards of the 21st Century.  So using kerosene fixtures presented a number of problems, even if converted to electric light.

Coach 218 has a design motif consistent with the Edwardian era of the early 20th Century.  Museum curators selected lamps that would be plausible in this era, but were limited in choices due to budget.  Fixtures produced by Rejuvenation Hardware of Portland, Oregon were selected and installed.  Light emitting diodes that replicate the appearance of clear bulbs were selected and together create a pleasing effect.  We hope you agree!

Coach 218 and its new lighting will be operating at the Northwest
Railway Museum this summer.