Monday, November 25, 2019

Upgrading coach 213

Sister coach 214 as delivered in 1912.
Coach 213 was built for the Spokane, Portland and Seattle Railway by the Barney and Smith Car company more than 100 years ago.  It carried countless thousands between Portland, Vancouver, and Spokane, then later between Portland and Seaside, OR.  Service to SP&S successor Burlington Northern continued as an outfit car for railroad track, bridge, and building workers.  The car was retired and purchased by an individual and donated to the Museum in 1973.

Michelle F. cleaning open car 213 in 1995.
The 213 has been a fixture on the Museum's interpretive railway since the mid 1970s.  Early visitors might remember it as the open car, the one you had to bundle up in during Santa Train, and the most popular car on a boiling summer day.  It was popular, yet not historically-accurate, and an open car built of wood does not improve with age.

213 windows are now fully operational.
Almost 20 years ago, the 213 received a set of new windows and it again became a fully-enclosed car.  Those Honduras mahogany windows continue to shine, but now they have fully-functional hardware so they can open and close.  (Incidentally, the window hardware components are a combination of originals from the car, duplicates purchased from collectors, and replicas produced by Harry Nicholls.  They represent an investment of more than $100 per window.)  Last year the upper sashes were renewed, and the excellent zinc came and art glass work that Larry F. performed is now on display.

The natural canvas color is white;
bronze tacks fasten the edges.
Now the 213 is receiving additional attention, and soon will appear almost identical to coach 218.  The first work completed this fall was a new canvas roof on the upper deck.  (The lower decks will be replaced over the winter.)  #10 cotton duck was stretched across the roof, fastened with bronze tacks, and then waterproofed with three coats of canvas stain.  This roof coating system behaves similar to Gore-Tex fabric in that it does not trap water vapor but keeps out the water.  (However, unlike Spike's Gore-Tex jacket, the 213's roof doesn't leak!)

Veneers are quarter-sawn, which
exhibits this striking pattern.
In the 213's interior, betterment is underway, too.  Panels to replace those missing above each window have been fabricated and have been finished with Awlgrip varnish.  These panels were funded with a grant from 4Culture and consist of a modern Baltic birch plywood with Honduras mahogany veneer.  Original panels were made from solid cores of yellow poplar, and it is not cost-effective to replicate this method of construction.

The traditional restroom is becoming
an electrical locker.
Meanwhile, the 213 has been rewired to accept the train's 480 volt electrical service.  Now, electric baseboard heating is being installed, and in the corner of the coach the original restroom is being recreated to enclose all the electrical equipment including breaker boxes, transformers, and relays.  This is a nearly identical installation to the effort Brent completed earlier this year inside coach 218, and it is destined to make Santa Train and shoulder-season travels much more comfortable.

Coach 213 is an historically valuable object in the Museum's educational collection. It is slowly but methodically being returned to its former glory as a first class passenger coach.  Meaningful progress is being made, thanks in no small part to contributions from 4Culture, the Schwab Fund, and almost 100 individuals.

Please consider an end-of-year contribution to help allow this work to continue in the new year.  Giving Tuesday is on December 3, but you can make a Giving Tuesday contribution anytime from now through the end of the year: donate now!

Friday, November 15, 2019

Wheels for an interurban car

Puget Sound Electric Railway car 523 operated between Seattle and Tacoma from 1908 until 1928.  This early mass transit allowed commuters on "Limited" trains to travel from downtown to downtown in just 1 hour and 15 minutes.  The 523 is the sole surviving car from this once proud fleet and is the newest Snoqualmie property listed on the King County and City of Snoqualmie Landmarks Register.

523 was first preserved in 1963 when it was purchased by preservationist Paul Class. It had been repurposed as a home in Federal Way sometime prior to WW II, and the property owner was ready to build a larger house. So Mr. Class purchased the car and moved it to Oregon where he had started what today is known as the Oregon Electric Railway Historical Society. There were several ill-fated restoration attempts on the 523, but only when the car was donated to the Northwest Railway Museum was a formal plan prepared.

When 523 was adaptively reused first as an outbuilding and then as a home, the wheels and motors were no longer needed; they were sold for scrap circa 1930.  So replacements of at least similar vintage were needed.  This month new trucks (wheels and motors) for the 523 arrived in Snoqualmie. This was the result of a culmination of more than a year of effort and is being made possible with support from the Schwab Fund for Charitable Giving and 4Culture's Building for Equity program.

The "new" trucks are actually from an electric car order built for the Chicago Elevated and delivered in the early 1920s. The trucks were built by Baldwin (same builder of the Museum's locomotives 4012 & 4024), but are a decade newer than the trucks that would have been found under the 523 circa 1914. The front truck is powered with two GE traction motors and the rear truck is unpowered.

The Streetcar Investment Company purchased the trucks from a scrap car some years ago and the components had been in storage at their California yard.  An industrial motor shop in the Bay Area overhauled the two GE 243 traction motors, and the Streetcar Investment folks reassembled everything.  They arrived on a Gerlock Heavy Haul tow truck, the same rig that delivered 523 to the Museum more than two years ago.

The trucks are not ready for installation.  It was important to acquire and move the trucks so that all the variables between the carbody and the trucks were correctly defined.  Until they are installed, the trucks will remain in storage inside the Museum in Snoqualmie.