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Saturday, January 19, 2013

Taking a torch, hammers, and scrapers to Johnstown Traction Company #311

A significant amount of progress was made towards the restoration of Johnstown Traction Company #311 on Friday, January 11 and Saturday, January 12 at the Rockhill Trolley Museum.  The amount of work accomplished definitely helped the museum get closer of its goal to substantially complete the restoration work by July 6, 2013, which is 50 years to the day of Rockhill Trolley Museum's official Grand Opening Celebration.

The focus of work was underneath the car.  Most arduous, challenging, and time consuming was the removal of the two substantially deteriorated transverse underfloor structural member.  The web of each member was nearly destroyed in two locations each by wheel wash, namely, the splattering of water, mud, dirt, road salt, etc. at the wheels rolled along the streets of Johnstown.  During the car's service days in Johnstown, a "repair" of sorts was attempted by filling the holes with body filler and then covering the repaired area with a wooden beam at each repaired located.  Sound ridiculous?  Yes, we thought so too when we uncovered this!  But, every car has a story to tell and usually doesn't reveal its secrets until its is torn down for restoration. 

The deterioration can be seen on the right side of the beam.  Removal of the wooden beam sistering it revealed a gaping hole.

Rick Hoffmeister and Joel Salomon started the work on Friday by cutting off most of the rivets holding the first (inbound) of the two beams to the car.  This is long and tedious work; even if the torch is used to cut the heads off of the rivets there is still substantial hammer and chisel work required due to the tight confines encountered.  This work on Friday gave the Saturday crew an excellent head start on further progress.

On Saturday, Matt Nawn, Andrew Nawn, Phil Sauerlender (a new volunteer to shop projects; welcome Phil!), Budd Blair, and Jim Cohen joined Joel and soon the team developed a good flow of work.  Matt and Joel did the cutting and hammering to remove the beams, Phil and Budd did the work with the machine tools to cut the new channel stock to size and drill holes for new fasteners, and Jim cleaned and presevered the underfloor areas with POR-15 on the steel structure and wood primer on the underside of the floor.  Andrew got the crew its tools when needed and did the "supervision".

The "supervisor" pauses for a moment for a photo. 

Matt uses the torch to cut off rivet heads to enable the beam to be broken free and removed.

Joel burns off the remains of a rivet so the old beam can be used as a pattern.
Joel heats the rivet so Phil can pound it out with a hammer.
Budd and Phil lay out the fastener holes in the new beam while Andrew supervises.  Note the hole in the old beam!
Jim primes underfloor areas that have been cleaned and prepared.  Maintenance Department is thrilled to be able to actually see under the the car during future maintenance after the car is in service.
By the end of Saturday, both deteriorated beams were removed and one replacement fabricated and ready for reinstallation, and large portions of the underbody were cleaned and preserved.  This is the sort of progress and teamwork needed to get our first car back in service.  My thanks and compliments to all who made this possible.
Dirty Jobs could film its next feature at Rockhill Trolley Museum with the JTC #311 work crew.  I sure hope this guy cleaned up before he went home.
Along with the work at the museum site, our friends at UTCRAS in Morton, PA advised us this week that they are in the process of making new window sills and associated components that will be needed when the car sides are replaced.  They used sample material provided by us to make drawings of the parts and then move to fabrication from these drawings.  This work is being done at no cost to the museum.  Thank you, UTCRAS!
Future work sessions will be announced as soon as they are scheduled.  New volunteers are always welcome; please do not hesitate to contact me for further information.
Historical Footnote - Why Did Rockhill Trolley Museum Acquire #311?

The common railfan myth is that #311 was preserved because it was the last of its class on the property in Johnstown and the last Birney-type car in service anywhere.   Actually, it was acquired by more or less by default.   By the time the five individuals who became the founders of Railways To Yesterday decided to approach JTC to purchase a car, all of the 350 series cars available had already been spoken for or set aside for a special purpose.  #311 was the only car available, and since it had wheels that were less than a decade old, it cost $50 more than the other cars at $300.   However, as the late Tod Prowell told me, our founders knew that if nothing else, #311 ran, however seedy it looked.
Then a debate arose as to the scope of work once the car arrived in Rockhill Furnace.   A local metalworker was hired to replace some of the worst of the rotten side sheeting and the structural members under what is today the outbound end.   The car was repainted.   However, the crew realized that the project could go on forever if they allowed it to, thus the car was improved, but never really restored, and made ready for service.  In August 1962,  it became the first trolley car to operate at any museum in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, with Member #2, the late Tolbert (Tod) V. Prowell, at the controls. As the saying goes, the rest is history! 

Friday, January 4, 2013

Upcoming Work Session on Johnstown Traction Company #311: January 11-12, 2013

Happy New Year!

With the holidays coming to a close, the efforts of the Rockhill Trolley Museum to complete the restoration of its first car, Johnstown Traction Company #311, are moving forward again.

There will be multiple work sessions in the winter and spring of 2013 to complete the project and return this historic and popular car to public operation.  The first of these work sessions in Friday, January 11 and Saturday, January 12, weather permitting.

Joel Salomon will be at the museum starting at noon on January 11 for any volunteer who wishes to get an early start on the weekend.  I will be joining him on early Saturday morning, January 12.

In the event of extremely cold or inclement weather, a cancellation notice will be posted to this site and an email sent to the RTY Maintenance Distribution list by 7AM Friday, January 11.

Prioritized goals for this session are as follows:
  • Continue underbody preservation work (see photo below)
  • Continue overhaul of door engines
  • Move rebuilt 77E trucks from Carbarn 2 to Buehler Shop for pre-installation work and move 27F trucks for Valley Railways #12 into protected storage in Carbarn 2
If sufficient help is available, it would also be desirable to move STC sweeper #107 to the front of Carbarn #2 and P&W plow #10 to the front of Carbarn #1 in the event of heavy snows later this winter.  However, this is the lowest priority for the session.  We want to get #311 completed!

December 2012 Work on JTC #311
Additional progress was made on JTC #311 this past December 8, thanks to the dedication of Rick Hoffmeister with a little assistance by me (although the vast majority of work completed was due to Rick).  Progress made was as follows:
  • Marking of underfloor members to be replaced in their entirety
  • Preservation work in the area above the air compressor
The photo pasted below shows the area completed by Rick.

We hope to see you on January 11-12.  New Volunteers always welcome!  Feel free to contact me at mwntrolley@aol.com or Joel Salomon at jdstrolley@ptd.net for any questions.
Best wishes,
Matt Nawn