Wednesday, March 18, 2009

90 Year Old Coach Receives "Modern" (well, 1950's era) Roller Bearings

Wayne Hebert operates the hoist as Charlie Pike and Bill Wolf rig the truck.

Coach 503 (built in 1914 for the Lackawanna) has been "re-wheeled" using like new roller bearing wheel sets which we recently purchased from railroad car wheel expert, Bruce Moore.
The other cars in our fleet all have friction bearings, a type of bearing commonly used from the early days of railroads up until the adoption of roller bearings in the mid-20th Century.
A friction bearing rides directly on the axle, typically lubricated via wool yarn or cotton waste packed under the axle and saturated with oil. The yarn or waste had to be carefully arranged into little bundles called "mice". These "mice" in turn had to be carefully "packed" into the journal box, making sure their "tails" (the loose ends of the yarn or waste) were carefully folded under and not dangling. If one of the "tails" were to come loose and get caught between the axle and the bearing as the axle was turning, a "waste grab" would occur, a "mouse nest" would form and an over heated bearing or "hot box" would result. In extreme cases, a "hot box" could cause the end of the axle to fail, usually resulting in a derailment. Waste became obsolete as foam rubber filled "journal pads" found favor. These pads look rather like a mop head and require less skill to install and maintain.
The roller bearing is a series of highly polished cylindrical or tapered steel rollers which run between highly polished "races" the inner of which is pressed onto the bearing end of the axle, the outer of which is in contact with the journal box. This type of bearing requires less energy to get it turning than a friction bearing. The journal box is sealed so the oil or grease used to lubricate the bearing can't run out. The roller bearing requires minimal maintenance.

Coach 503 truck, roller bearing wheel set to the right, friction bearing to the left. In the forground is a friction bearing journal box with a bearing on the tray behind it.


Friday, March 6, 2009

Annual Coach Work - 2009

About this time each year, our attention turns to those big green things with seats in them that our beloved locomotives haul up and down the line. While we spend a lot of time (and money) on the locomotives, we occationally lose sight of the fact that the fannies that sit in those seats actually pay for everything.

Our coach fleet is just as antiquated as the locomotive and just as needy when it comes to maintenance. All the cars are inspected over the winter. We measure the wear on the wheels and couplers, the height of the buffers and replace or adjust as needed. During this time, annual (or bi-annual) servicing is done on the air brake systems. The heating and PA systems are inspected and general repairs are made. Every other year we either repair & re-coat roofs or touch up paint and wax the carbodies. This year we are consumed with the latter.

Scott DeMartino heads up the work on the carbodies (assisted here by Charlie Pike).

Car Foreman Paul Horgan "beds in" new quarter round window moulding in caulk.

Mike Camera repaints the exterior window sash on former Central Railroad of New Jersey commuter coach No. 1000 (the only coach on the Valley to retain it's original number).

Master Mechanic Bill Wolf makes a part for a door latch on our "Hendey" engine lathe.

As of now we have completed work on kitchen car "Colonial Hearth" and coaches 501, 502, 602 and 1000. Most work on open car 600 "Riverview" has already been completed. Ken Blandina is refinishing it's wooded seat slats and window sills for reinstallation later this month. The next car scheduled to come into the shop is dining car "Meriden". The "new" roller bearing wheel sets for coach 503 have arrived and ought to be installed later this month. Next month we plan to work on dining car "Wallingford", parlor car "Great Republic" and coach 1002. Once these are done (whew) coach 1001 will return for more steel work and eventually repainting.