Restoration Notes: A Day in the Life of a Railway Museum.

Saturday, August 1, 1998

Charley's not-good Vibrations, a report from Greg Ramsey

This trip report actually starts on July 31st. My kidís summer camp was taking a field trip today. Of course the trip this time was to Travel Town. They make one trip there each year and, of course, they are aware that I am involved with the museum. They always make a point to make sure that I come along on these trips so I can give them a "special" tour. All I planned to do was open up the cabooses and walk them through, but they thought they were getting red-carpet treatment so all are happy.

Of course Gregory and Jenny think of Travel Town as an extension of their backyard, so the were actively involved in showing their camp mates around, including making sure they all knew how to use the manual push button on the Wig-Wag.

For the past two weeks I have had Charleyís #2 engineís vibration damper (aka harmonic balancer) out to get a replacement. Unfortunately, I canít find the correct S/N for the original block in that engine, so the diesel parts place has been having to almost try hit and miss to find the right one. When I had called them this morning, they said they had finally IDíed the right part number (after getting 3 in that were wrong.) Unfortunately, it was being shipped in and would arrive on Monday. Of course, this Sunday was "Operations." I arranged with their parts driver to deliver the old one back to the Park so I could reinstall it on Saturday so we wouldnít miss our commitments.

After seeing Gregory and the school bus off, Jenny (who opted to skip the play day of her swimming lesson) and I closed up the compound and headed over to Grandmaís house in Burbank. Even though I started on it several months ago, I had never been able to finish the new door for my caboose. I was finally down to the stage of painting it and reinstalling the locks and other jewelry. I unloaded it from the top of the Blazer and took it into the backyard. Except for a dinner trip to Fuddruckers with Grandma, I spent the rest of the day on it.

1 August 1998

I was up early today as I find it hard to sleep-in much when daytime temps are approaching triple digits and my Mom doesnít really have any effective air conditioning. I do a little more clean-up on the caboose door and then give it another coat of paint. While I am waiting for it to dry, the phone rings. It is one of the associates who often supports me in the diesel shop. He is calling to let me know that he will be out to help me with Charley. Or so he says. I finally realize that what he really wants to do is gloat about his new job. He finally lets on that he has just started with Union Pacific as a conductor trainee. I wonít publicize his name in this forum, but as I find out later, he has been calling everyone on the roster, most of you already know who Iím talking about.

I finally realize that the door isnít going to dry enough to flip it over before I have to head over to the Park, so I leave it and jump in the Blazer. I arrive at the Park a little after 10:00am and Gordon Bachlund and someone else opens the restoration yard gate for me. I back up to Charley and after a short chat with Gordon, head over to Patrickís office to look for the old part. John is in there and sure enough the old damper is on the floor.

I carry it back to Charley as Chris Rippy arrives. Gordon hijacks him to look at the skip loader. Joe has been grading on the tail track and is complaining about it dropping out of or into gear. I follow along with him to help, and then drive it back into the yard where he can study it under a tree.

By this time Bryan Reese has arrived and is working in the Motorcar. Joe is back from a parts run, so I leave Chris and Joe to the motor pool and climb into the M.177. Bryan isnít there but I check out all the pipes he has reinstalled and trace out the systems again. Bryan shows up soon thereafter carrying a grease encrusted cone shaped part. He asks me if I know where it belongs. After a moment of thought I realize that he has found the oil spray shield that fits around the crankshaft at the generator end. One more significant piece found.

I chat with Bryan for a few minutes, then return to Charley and start to gather all my tools and parts to get started. Iím too large to comfortably get under Charleyís radiator, but somehow I manage, and I start to get the damper bolted to the hub. I realize that somehow the thread on one of the bolts is damaged so I go in search of a die. I canít find one in the boxcar or in Bryanís collection, so I make a quick call to my Momís to send one over with Yvonne.

Iím stopped now, so I kill some time and shoot the bull with others until Yvonne arrives, and I head over to help her with the BBQ. Lunch today is London Broil. The lunch menu is often dictated by supermarket meat sales, and we really lucked out today. Instead of feasting with us though, Joe and Chris leave in Joeís truck to take care of "some business."

After two servings of lunch, I return to Charley. I finish bolting the damper in place, but it is going to take a 2nd set of hands to bolt the pulley in place. Jim Vicars, Gordon and Brian Moore are watering batteries on the Baldwin, so I steal Brian to help me. While I continue to lay on my back and position the socket wrench on the flywheel bolts, Brian mans the jacking device and turns the engine around the bolt. That done we reposition the fan belt and reinstall the radiator fan. Once all is secured, and we verify there are no loose tools in the way, we pull the tags off the starting circuit and start the fuel pump. Thanks to our attention last week, it starts right up and pumps the pressure up to ~45 psi. With Tim Dulin watching the action from the engineers seat, I push the start button and the #2 engine roars to life. Both Brian and I check the engine for any new vibrations or other problems. Finding none, I cycle the throttle up and down. The vibration that has vexed us for some time now is noticeably less. I feared it would be much worse.

As soon as air is up, I pull the blue flags off the sides of the cab and Brian and I take it one track over and couple to the cabooses. Brian use this as a training exercise, so I leave him to his students while they check brake wheels, hoses, etc. Once all is in order and the system is charged, we do a full brake test, and once all is ready pull out and head to the platform.

Phil Jern in his narrative "How to Boot a Steam Locomotive" (about his overnight experiences in firing up a steam locomotive for his museumís operations) has a paragraph near the end that goes:

"I am dead tired, unwilling to even expend the effort to climb down out of the cab. Steve and his crew begin to move the engine out into the sunlight, as I wonder why I put myself through this every third Sunday. I am standing in the gangway as we roll out of the building with the bell ringing, and I see a little girl with her hands over her ears, mouth in a little O, halfway hiding behind her father, and I am reminded."

There were many "little girls" along the track today and Iím always amazed at how many are in awe whenever we move the locomotives around. Especially when the moves are unscheduled and unexpected. It seems like the Park just sort of gravitates trackside when we start blowing the whistle and ringing the bell.

Once parked at the platform, we gather all the help that is handy, and proceed to unload our new "digital" moving sign and install it atop the posts near the grade crossing. Once that is done, I get clearance from the dispatcher and Brian and I roll the train down the tail track and tie it down on a skate. I lube the speedometer drive wheel which has been squeaking and then secure the locomotive for the night.

I want to finish my caboose door tonight, so I pull out and head to Burbank about 4:30 p.m.

2 August 1998

I had promised Gregory that if he would go with me to install the door on my caboose, I would take him to IHOP for breakfast. The deal is that he would have to get up and get dressed early enough so that we could leave between 7 and 7:30 a.m. without waking up the rest of the house. Sure enough, at 7:01 he is whispering in my ear that it is time to get up, and by 7:30 a.m. we are loaded and on the road.

We arrive in Santa Clarita by about 8:30 a.m. and the first thing I notice is that the entire caboose has been painted flat black. They talked about using it on a commercial, and were going to paint it, but I wasnít expecting this.

Gregory and I set about removing the temporary wooden door and then carry the new door and set it in place. Thatís when we start to realize that that the door is just fine, but the door frame is a little off. The two jams arenít parallel and are closer at the bottom. The new door is also thicker, which means that I have to completely remove and reinstall the piano hinge. By 10:30 a.m., my half-hour job is pushing 2 hours, and the batteries on my drill motor are dying. We donít have any power to charge them and I am using self drilling & tapping screws so I have to have power. I finally have enough screws in place and the lock is working well enough that I can leave it and head down to the Park for Ops.

I arrive at the Park a little after the 2nd shift has started expecting to see everyone committed to a position. Instead I see at least 3 rules-qualified persons standing around the platform, obviously idle. Works out that they have more than enough crew members despite the light sign-ups.

In fact Iím idle until the 3rd shift and I am forced to stand around telling stories about cabooses and other important subjects.

Jim Hoffmann, todayís dispatcher, assigns me to 3rd shift engineer, and I am amazed to discover that our vibration is even less noticeable today than yesterday. Amazing! We still need to replace it though. The rubber in it is obviously bad.

I move to brakeman for the 4th shift and we finally put it away by 6:00 p.m.


E-mail questions and comments to SCSRA Dispatcher
Copyright 1998. The Southern California Scenic Railway Association Inc.