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The Bloggery.

September 3, 2013

A weekend with our caboose

By: Randy Hees

It was Railfair at Ardenwood this weekend. The locomotive this year was Cortez Mining “AnneMarie” a 1890 Porter 0-4-0, returning for the 5th year. There was wonderful coal smoke waifing over the farm…
Our restoration demonstration was our NWP caboose, 5591… the car was restored c.1970 by Bethlehem Shipyard in SF under supervision of the Railway Locomotive Historical Society for their proposed Fisherman’s Wharf museum. That museum never happened, and the car was given to the California State Railroad Museum, who gave it to us some years ago.

We are now trying to undo the old bad work (a lot of bad work), identify what is left of the original car (surprisingly a lot) and bring the car up to modern museum standards.
A couple of years ago our efforts were centered on rebuilding the platforms and draft gear and the cupola. The (1970’s) restored draft gear was a fantasy which would not only have failed under use but could have hurt someone… After reworking the draft gear and platforms the car is now pull-able, push able, and usable… That work required removing the first 5′ of the floor… a plywood floor… As far as I can tell railroads didn’t use plywood in the 1920’s but that did not stop the shipyard from using it in many unfortunate ways…

The cupola work was required as a result of a low bridge encountered when moving the car to our site… The pilot car misread the over height moving permit, removing the cupola from the car with great prejudice… I reassembled the remains, gluing parts together and we put the thing back on top where we found it when CSRM donated it to us…. It still is lacking window sash and some moldings… but mostly it’s back up there where it belongs.

The cupola and draft gear were the first phase of what is a much bigger project… with it done, and the car tarped things slowed…

In early August we pulled the car back to our new carhouse… or at least near our new car house… there was track missing between the “end of track” and the carhouse, and 5 or so cars in the way…. But we owned the building, and could put things inside, and took the stuff, interior walls, seat boxes and one of the cupola seats and took them out of the car, and stored them in the building… We then pulled the car back to the front of the park where it lives…

So, as Railfair started, we had a car which was mostly clear of “stuff”, but pretty dirty… Saturday we opened the car to visitors while we cleaned it out… We pulled more of the plywood floor… we started to fit new subfloor… The floor system (as we believe it was originally) was two layers of 1x material (random widths) with DF T&G over…

Saturday was spent sweeping and getting the car ready for work. We sanded new paint windows and documented the interior colors (there were lots of layers) and pulled out several sheets of plywood.
By Sunday we were putting down the new subfloor… We quickly burned through the material on hand, but new bright clean boards were going down and people were starting to invision the process, and were getting excited… Monday I picked up more wood… work continued, with much of the work focused on the door threshold and the planking over the bolster, with cutouts for the king pin and reliefs for the truss rods. With the time consuming stuff done, laying planks quickly. In the last hour of railfair we reached the half way point.

We saved the best for last… As I left the park a bit after 5:00, 5591 was in the front curve, headed for the car house where it will now live.