Restoration Reports 2006
May 2006: With sealing and rust protecting pretty much finished it's time to start on Phase II; the actual restoration.
With St. Nicholas Mountain still not on her way to a repair shop, I've decided to concentrate on replacing windows. Many were damaged by vandals and replacing them will not only make the car look a lot better, it will also provide better protection from the elements.
I decided to use polycarbonate glazing instead of safety glass as it will provide much better protection against possible future vandalism than glass. After careful consideration I settled on using Makrolon TG made by Bayer and marketed in the US by Sheffield Plastics. It has the same specifications as the better known Margard (Lexan FRA25C) made by GE, it has an Amtrak approval and was at the time of ordering much more readily available and, as such, at a much better price.
After long consideration I decided to go with the original green tint for the outer panes. I ordered the Makrolon through Total Plastics in Kalamazoo, MI the only company that handles the transportation grade Makrolon and which is able to provide the glazing with the required FRA Type II glazing stamps. Only after receiving my order I discovered that the current green being used is much darker than the original green glass (a tint like - what I've been told - the C&NW used to use and which is being used on today's commuter equipment). I'm not overly excited about the color but the thought of the windows being vandal proof makes good a lot. In the far future, when I plan to have the car parked at a more secure location, I'll probably switch to (correctly tinted) safety glass as I do like glass a lot better but for now the Makrolon fits my needs perfectly.
With the help of two friends, Jon Snyder and Lee Edgar, each coming out for a day, we managed to replace a total of six windows in one and a half workweek; four tall windows, the brakeman's seat window and the observation end-door window. With the great instructions and hints Eric Hopp and others had given me, all went well with only some screws causing real problems in trying to get them out. Please check out the Restoration Gallery via the following link to see a blow by blow account of one how I replaced these windows.
June 2006: When I started replacing windows in May I had hopes of replacing all windows on one side of St. Nicholas Mountain (except for the curved end). Figuring things out took more time than expected so I left for home a bit unsatisfied back in May. But, opportunity knocked and I managed to work on windows for three more straight days on a row in June.
This time I came prepared, with some experience and a plan. I would try for three more windows and do this assembly line style. And it worked. By working on three windows at once, each at different stages of completion, I managed to replace three more tall windows! Now all the (straight) tall windows on the one side have been replaced and the car is starting to look great. I really love the dark tint from the outside.
I also met a fellow car owner, Bob McCown, who had just moved his cars to the same facility where St. Nicholas Mountain is parked. Bob, gracefully lend me some professional brass stencils with which I renumbered St. Nick to RPCX 1291, the number she'll be wearing from now on. The RPCX marks are owned by the Railroad Passenger Car Numbering Bureau (RPCNB) of the Railroad Passenger Car Alliance (RPCA). The RPCA provides this service for a nominal fee to members. It provides an affordable way to have your car registered in the railroads' used UMLER/EMIS equipment databases, and is needed to move a car on a first class railroad (and many others). Now St. Nicholas Mountain shows proof of her new ownership.
October 2006: With the heat of the summer gone it was time to get back to work on St. Nicholas Mountain. I had planned on replacing more windows, but although I did replace two, other things - needed or just plain fun to do - were accomplished also.
Bob McCown had graciously arranged for a friend to stop by with his dump truck to pick up the accumulated debris inside the car. The discarded pile of wood of the old false ceiling, the old air-conditioning duct and the replaced window glass together with many garbage bags had started to fill the interior of St. Nicholas Mountain to the point that it became a real eyesore and an obstacle to work around. With the help of Bob McCown, Jon Snyder and dump truck owner Perry Crouse and son (thanks all!) we moved out all the junk in record time so we could really enjoy the car being really empty for the very first time; what a space! We then decided to grab the opportunity and take out the remaining restaurant wall covering at the bar room-to-bathroom area and also send it to the dump site. Behind it we found the original wall covering including the stainless steel of the bar room wall. Neat!
Next point on the agenda was obtaining access to the brake cabinet and the observation-end door, so part of the booth had to go. It took some time to cut through the welds on the end-door (welded shut by the restaurant) but eventually the door popped open and fresh air (finally!) started circulating through the car, and...we were off on a quick dash to the local hardware store to find a suitable slide bolt to secure the door again.
At the same time we gained access to the brake cabinet. The cabinet turned out to be still intact except for the missing brake pressure gauge and access doors. Next of course was to find out if all the equipment was still hooked up to the brake system. Quickly we found this not to be the case which means the upcoming COT&S (brake overhaul) will be straight forward.
It being October and with the new windows being rather dark the lack of light towards the end of the day became a nuisance. Soon enough we started wondering whether the lights in the lounge and observation rooms would still work. The restaurant had converted these to light bulbs and installed all separate wiring for them. It took quite some figuring, testing and reasoning to see how the lights were actually set up but in the end we were able to hook them all up again and before long we had lights running off the portable generator making it a lot easier to work in the late afternoons and early evenings. Even the marker lights came back to life again, although in un-prototypical green. For the future all the restaurant lighting will have to be replaced as it's done with solid core wire unsuitable for railroad applications.
Throughout all this I managed to replace the glazing in one vestibule door and in the bathroom window. The original bathroom window had a sandblasted finish on the inner pane in the air gap between the two panes. A small 'mail slot' at the top was left clear so one could still look out but making it hard to see in. The manufacturer of the Makrolon polycarbonate glazing does not recommend sandblasting its product so another way had to be devised. Window film soon came into the picture but it took awhile before I found a product that could flex with the expanding and contracting of the glazing material due to temperature changes. Most films don't, but a product called D-C-fix claims it can, so I tried it. Just to make sure, I did not apply the film inside the air gap but on the interior side. It looks just like the real thing and the 'mail-slot' came out nice also. Let's see how it holds up.
December 2006: The long awaited COT&S (Clean, Oil, Test & Stencil) on St. Nicholas Mountain's brakes has been done and the car has been prepared for the move to the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad which will hopefully be forthcoming soon. Dan Pluta of the WMSR and his men came out and removed brake valves, brake cylinders and other components, overhauled them and tested the car's brakes. The car passed the test without a hitch and is now ready to go.
Dan and his men also replaced the one missing shock absorber connecting link, welded up some cracks in the truck pedestal liners, placed a patch over the hole in the end-sheet and welded the large patch a bit more secure to the carbody.
In a joint effort Dan and the previous owner located and installed the missing center locking pins. St. Nicholas Mountain is now ready to go! Now it's only waiting for permission from the railroad...
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