Dr Lary Shaffer SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor

With deep sadness and great reluctance, I applied for an early retirement incentive and left the college and the Plattsburgh area in the Fall of 2002. I now live in coastal Maine where I am President and CEO of a furniture and cabinetry company: Scarborough Marsh Fine Furniture.

Before you jump to the conclusion that I have developed high level management skills since you last saw me, I should point out that I am the only employee of my company.

If you need to contact me, I will occasionally check my Plattsburgh email: lawrence.shaffer@plattsburgh.edu If you send me an email, be sure that your name is in the subject line or is recognizable from the sender designation. I do not even open emails from people with sender names such as buffbutt@hotmail.com unless there is some evidence that it is from someone I know.

I was an undergraduate at Plattsburgh from 1964 to 1968. During that time, I was very lucky to be mentored by Dr. Henry Morlock and Dr. Noel Smith. I doubt that I would have made it through my undergraduate years without the unfailing camaraderie of my roommate Jamie Herrick. Jamie was also a psychology major and we tackled the curriculum together. I met Tom Bromley and Al Howard at breakfast on my first morning in Plattsburgh and we still hang out when we get the chance.

From Plattsburgh, I went to Oxford University and earned my doctorate in Zoology working under the Nobel Laureate Niko Tinbergen. After some years making TV documentaries, I returned to Plattsburgh in 1976. I was fortunate to land back in the Psychology Department. The outstanding scholars in the Psychology Department embody the supreme standard for intelligence, collegiality, civility, and warmth. Over the years, I got to know some of the members of the department very well--often owing to chance factors such as office proximity. Others I knew less well, but I count all the department members, past and present, as friends. There are not many work situations like that.

By a somewhat conservative estimate, I taught about 15,000 students in classes during my Plattsburgh career. For 19 years I addressed upwards to 1000 new admits on their first evening on campus. For many years I also addressed new students and their families in summer orientation. I was the commencement speaker at the college three times. For years I coordinated the Freshman Experience Program with Cheryl Hogle. I was proud that Bill Laundry (at that time the Dean of Students), the fine people in his office, and the Residence Staff Association always treated me as an honorary member of their teams. While I was teaching, I co-authored two psychology textbooks, one with Matt Merrens. Matt and I have been close friends for years and we had a terrific time teaching together. I wrote the other book with Alan Morrison, who at that time, was a very talented undergraduate student. After Plattsburgh Alan did a number of things and is now a highly skilled professional computer geek. I edited four books of reprinted developmental psychology journal articles with another highly talented undergrad, Josh Duntley. Back when Josh and I worked together we co-designed a new teaching approach to go with the books. Subsequently Josh went on to earn a doctorate from the University of Texas and is now a college professor. Josh has now taken over as first author of the introductory psychology book that Matt Merrens and I wrote.

I shared hundreds of miles of academic discussions during early morning bike rides with Bryan Hartman. Former Plattsburgh Vice President and Provost Tom Moran and I were undergraduates together and his friendship and support always kept me on track. I shared many inspirational discussions with Professors Dave Mowry, Rich Robbins and Doug Skopp. These guys also joined me in wonderful sessions of laughing until I could not sit up straight. Our department secretary, Judy Dashnaw, kept me sane. Looking at all this, it is obvious that I had an academic career of enormous privilege. I will always be thankful for opportunities such as these. Borrowing a phrase from the late Dan Fogelberg, coming to Plattsburgh was, for me, the chance of a lifetime in a lifetime of chance.

I miss all the wonderful colleagues and friends I made among the faculty, students and staff. I consider myself lucky indeed to have worked so long at a place where there are so many dedicated and hardworking people. I worked pretty hard myself, but I had quite a bit of fun. I loved the college.

 

When I got my computer upgraded a while back, the software that I was using for my college website, Dreamweaver, had to be replaced by a new version. I cannot understand the fricking thing, even with the "Dummies" book for the new Dreamweaver. (Stupidly) fooling around with this website, I lost the whole thing, with all its outdated and useless information about my time at the college.

Because the rest of this is new, it probably has typos. I will clean them up as fast as I can.

Instead of replacing all my old course policies and stuff like that, I thought I would focus on my current life. I will leave my bicycle stuff available. People do still ask me for advice about long bike trips because I biked across the country in 1987. I once told my friend Professor of History Doug Skopp that history is bunk. Nevertheless, I find myself once again doing history. I don't know to what extent I am permitted to use this site talk about a new research project that interests me. Let's try it and we will both find out:

office.jpg

 

Rebuilding a Sheffield No 1 Railroad Handcar

11 November 2014

Anyone who has looked at this site earlier waiting for new stuff, there is some now. SUNY Plattsburgh computer genius and nice person Tom Burl has helped me to reconnect to the site after a very long absence owing to a computer crash on my desk. Thanks very much, Tom.

sheffcar.jpg

 

This could be a long boring story. If you are not up for that, I would go somewhere else. Of course I don't think it is boring. However, it is my wife's opinion that the story is boring. She is not alone in this view, as I can see by the faces of people I meet at parties.

When I was a kid in upstate New York, maybe 12 years-old, childhood buddies John Hine and Tom Loveday and I used to hike along the rails of our local short line railroad, the Fonda, Johnstown and Gloversville RR Co. It was a friendly little railroad, where the train personel would wave and blow the horn, rather than call the cops. One day while we were taking a rest next to the collapsing Broadablin section house, I noticed some rusty metal in the grass. It was the remains of an old railroad handcar with the wood mostly rotted away and the metal spread out like a dinosaur skeleton.

broadhouse

 

bkyard I went to the railroad offices and they sold me the pile of scrap iron for $2. I wish that I had been smart enough to take pictures of it before I moved anything, but, after all, I was a jerky 12 year-old kid. My dad kindly drove to Broadalbin in the station wagon and helped me load the metal into the car. I scrounged some pieces of track from a local leather mill and rebult the handcar with lumber yard 2 X 4s as best I could with hand tools and my 12 year-old skills. It worked. Friends and I played on it in the yard. I grew up and left home. The handcar sat outdoors for about 25 years until I had a home of my own with a cellar where I could store the parts. By then the lumber yard wood had rotted and I was almost back to where I had started in Broadalbin.

 

I had always thought of my hand car as THE handcar of the F .J. & G. which shows that I don't know much about railroads. F. J. & G. expert Paul Larner tells me that the F. J. & G. Steam Division had six working section gangs with no less than one handcar each. The Electric Division had seven sections with at least one handcar each. Western Union workers had their own hand cars. In addition to that there were some extra track gangs that had their own handcars. In short, mine was not the only one. This is not mine riding on the F. J. & G. train in 1938 because this one has steel wheels. Paul also kindly dug out the other old F. J. and G. pictures that I am using here. fjghdcar

 

fjgoldcars Here is another picture that Paul supplied. It shows New York Central locomotive quite a ways from home in the West Yard of the F. J. & G. in Gloversville. In the foreground there are three handcars that look to be retired. They have no wooden pump handles and they appear to have weeds growing up through them. Behind them there were probably several more rows of handcars if this was the F. J. & G.'s handcar graveyard. Luckily mine escaped the scrap pile that was probably the fate of these three. Motor cars had replaced some handcars by this time. Paul says that in 1928 the F. J. & G had 3 motor cars, 12 handcars and 13 pushcars. The handcars were valued at $50 new.

And here is what I consider to be astounding among the photographs that Paul Larner has unearthed. He and I both believe that this is my handcar . The road is NY Rt 29 near Vail's Mills, NY, not far from Broadalbin, NY where I found the handcar decomposed in the weeds. Paul's careful research indicates that that the dirt road was macadamized in 1912, so the picture is older than that. There is a slightly odd shape to the alignment of the handle eyes of the walking beam that is probably unique to my handcar. I detail that odd alignment a bit farther down this page so you can look for yourself and see what you think.

She has a pretty good load of tools on board and some stuff covered by a blanket. One can clearly see a blacksmith's pin vice laying across the deck. I have one of those and it is very heavy

1910

 

 

Fast forward 50 + years after I first found the handcar. I have moved a couple of times and I am now living in coastal Maine. Each time I moved, I faithfully moved the handcar parts intending one day to rebuilt it. On a bike ride I happened to meet a professional associated with the Maine Central Railroad Mountain Division Trail. It is a state rail-trail that still has the rails on it. She told me that I would be allowed to run my handcar on those rails. Coincidentally, I have become a cabinetmaker and I also do some welding to make parts for some of my furniture. My handcar needed both woodwork and welding. I have the shop and the equipment to rebuild my handcar and to do it right. All I need is some time. Time? Holy crap. I have been waiting for this opportunity for 50 years. I guess I can find some time here and there.

 

 

lcsweld

 

sheffpat1.jpg The first thing I did was to hit the internet to see what I could find out. Almost my first find there was Mason Clark's handcar site. Mason is a thoroughly amazing man. As a high school student he has built a number of handcars that are beautiful. He is very knowledgeable about handcars in general and he has helped me a great deal. From the material on his website, I quickly identified my handcar as a Sheffield No. 1. It was made by the Sheffield Velocipede Company, later the Sheffield Car Company, a division of Fairbanks Morse. The company was located in Three Rivers Michigan. Here is one of the patents that cover aspects of my handcar. The origin of the handcar as an object is murky. It is a story that I plan to pursue at some point. As far as I can find, there was not ONE inventor of THE handcar. From the birth of railroads, highly skilled machinists in railroad shops spent a great deal of time working on steam engines where the conversion of reciprocaing motion to rotary motion was right in their faces. One would have to be a complete idiot not to imagine a small hand-powered vehicle that would use the same principle. Far from being idiots, many of these men were mechanical geniuses and it is almost certain that they started to build handcars.
Recently the Baker Library at Harvard was kind enough to scan in a 114 page Sheffield Car Company catalog in the their collection. The scan of this catalog is now available free on the internet. There is no date on the catalog, but it includes an 1894 price list, so that is a pretty good hint. You can see this entire catalog at : http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HBS.Baker.GEN:10849854-2013 shefcat

 

If you have any interest in handcars, you really should have a look at this catalog on the Baker Library website. It has a number of interesting handcars. Take this one, for instance. I would want to be somewhere else when four people were sitting on each side on the benches and the railroad was looking for someone to be the motive power. canopy
   
   
   
   

 

There is another wonderful Sheffield catalog, this one from 1917. Rich Harner enlisted the kind people at the St Louis Mercantile Library to scan it. It is aailable as a PDF that I will post here as soon as I figure out how to do it. s1
The earliest human powered rail car that I know of was kindly brought to my attention by Jacqui Thomas who edits a velocipede newsletter in the U.K. This newsletter also has information about other hand-powered cars: www.velocipedes.co.uk There is a pile of interesting stuff in this newsletter and in the back issues. As the piece below suggests, it seems that the earliest date we know of hand powered rail cars can now be set at 1813, thanks to the discovery of this information by Mike Grocock.
1855

 

clay.jpg The earliest mention that I can find of people in the USA riding on a hand-operated railcar was in 1832, when Henry Clay, who eventually served in important roles such as Congressman, Senator and Secretary of State, had a ride on a flat pushcar belonging to a railroad running from Lake Ponchartrain to New Orleans. The railroad was five miles long and might have been the first railroad in the USA to employ T shaped rail. The car had wooden wheels made of pecan. The car was polled by six carpenters. "greatly to the amusement and gratification of Mr. Clay."

 

1848 This old girl might qualify as the earliest mechanically driven handcars in America. Just looking at it, I would guess that one would have to push the big wheels by hand--after the fashion of a wheelchair--to get it moving. Once rolling, pulling back and forth on the vertical lever might keep it going. Someone should build one of these to see how well it would work.

 

Although it is not known for sure, it is likely that the first mechanically powered handcars produced in quantity did not use reciprocating motion to achieve rotary motion. Rather they had various sorts of rotary devices where the section crew drivers turned big cranks. Some of these used gears to transmit power and some used belts or chains. Various ratcheting safety handles were eventually patented so that when rolling down hill the riders would not get their teeth knocked out as the cranks flew around on their own.

This is the earliest picture I have found so far of one of these crank handcars. It is from an 1851 issue of Scientific American that was found for me by railroad section car expert Leon Sapp.

sciamcrank.jpg

 

welsch

The handcar that is most familiar to people now involves a walking beam. That is one of the names that is given to the horizontal metal arm that gets pumped to drive the handcar. The walking beam sits upon a wooden structure called the gallows frame. This walking beam is pumped up and down and the reciprocating motion is transferred by a connecting rod to a cranked shaft attached to a big gear. This drive gear engages a small pinion gear on one of the axles. The earliest image that I know of showing one of these handcars is this patent from 1859.

Although this car has a double walking beam, the drive train basics are the same as on later handcars. This patent was mainly concerned with a foot operated treadle-assist to the power provided by the walking beam.

As I have said, the origins of the handcar are unclear, but my interpretation of this patent is that by 1859, the walking beam and drive train basics were in such common use that they were not patentable. I am continuing to do research into the early history of the handcar and if I find out anything else, I will report back. I have developed an unhealthy obsession with handcar patents.

 

citadel
Here is a well-known picture of a handcar taking part in the building of the Central Pacific Railroad. It was taken at Citadel Rock Wyoming in 1868 by Andrew J. Russel, photographer of the Transcontinental Railroad project. Handcars must have been essential to the completion of this incredible piece of engineering. Railroad-Union Pacific-Construction Photo File, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming

 

jacksharp.jpg
Here is a walking beam handcar and a crank handcar outside the offices of the Jackson and Sharp company in Wilmington Delaware. Jackson and Sharp made all sorts of railroad cars, freight and passenger. They were known for the high quality of their work. The finish details inside and outside of their cars were superb. Although no one in the picture looks too excited, it is a reasonable surmise that these handcars were also built to the highest standard. The date is unknown. Photograph courtesy of the friendly and helpful Delware Public Archives.

 

Civil War

Here is a puzzle for you. Handcars were supposed to have been very common in the American Civil War. I know that the military had both crank and walking beam handcars because I have seen an inventory of railroad parts assembled by the Union Army after the war accounting for all the railroad parts that were in stock. There are lots of handcar parts including walking beams and cranks. I have also read numerous accounts of Civil War incidents involving handcars. I suppose some of these accounts might really be about push cars, but not all of them are. Anyway, the mystery is why are there not lots of pictures of handcars in Civil War railroad photographs? I would think that they would be everywhere as track gangs worked to repair track. Further, I would think they would be laying around in the background of pictures of shop complexes and stations. The only one I have found, and this requires some imagination, is this one where there appears to be a crank handcar sitting on the ballast between the trains. This picture is from the Library of Congress.

Here is that handcar-like thing blown up as much as I can without having the image degrade so much as to make it useless. I think it IS a crank hadcar. What helps to convince me is that I can see the well between the wheels which was common on crank handcars to allow the crankers to be as low down as possible. You can see an example of this well on the Jackson & Sharp crank handcar that is just above this section.

I believe that the thing sticking up above the deck is the crank mechanism broken off or otherwise removed from its usual position and placed head down into the well of the car with its base sticking up in the air.. The rounded part that disappears into the well is the housing for the crank itself. Just in front of the removed crank part there is a dark slot in the deck where it used to be attached. Probably the shop guys had better things to do than to fool around with a broken handcar.

Civil War CU

I have collected over 270 patents relating to handcars. If you have any interest in mechanical things, you might enjoy looking at a few of them here. I have chosen one crank car and several that display the ingenuity of inventors in finding new ways to achieve rotary motion at the wheels with a walking beam driver. There were also lots of patents for devices that had levers that were perpendicular to the deck of the car and were pulled back and forth to achieve power. Perhaps I will post some of those eventually. I do not know if any of these five patented handcars were ever actually built. If not, someone spent a great deal of time thinking it through anyway.

 

driverc.jpg

In this one the central rod (G) pistons up and down when the car is driven. It would be important to keep one's fingers well away from exposed drive gears "E" while this car was in motion.

drivere

This one is trickier than it first appears. The center point of the walking beam slides up and down, rather than being in a fixed position. Although I have a hard time imagining it, I think the path of the wooden handles at the ends walking beam might be more straight up and down, rather than following the gentle arc of other walking beam handles.

driverb.jpg

This one has a ring-gear on the axle and it looks quite clever to me.

driverd.jpg

This one, like many other handcar patents I have seen, has ratchets in the drive gear so that the gear only moves in one direction and idles when the power from the walking beam is moving backwards, winding up for another power stroke. I guess the effect upon the drivers would be that one side would be easy to pull up and the other side would be easy to push down.

drivera

The workings of this one are too obvious to need description.

 

hinckley.jpg adrian
Here is one old patented handcar that apparently was built. Adrian Michigan, where this handcar company was located, has a long railroad history. It was one terminal of the Erie & Kalamazoo Railroad, the first railroad to be operated west of the Alleghenies. In 1836 a horse-drawn car made the first trip from Toledo to Adrian on this railroad made of iron straps nailed to oak rails. In 1837 the line acquired a steam locomotive. Passengers had to de-train to scavenge for firewood and water when needed. The Adrian Patent Hand-Car company was organized in the early 1870s. Patent holder James D. Hinckley was one of the principals of the company. Circa 1872 a "high speed section handcar" fitted with Hinckley's double crank gear cost $80.00. A regular single crank car was also available from Adrian for $75.00. Adrian offered to sell patterns "at a reasonable price" so that railroads could produce their own handcars with the Hinckley Patent gearing.

 

Now, back to the story of rebuilding my old handcar. One of the first things I needed for my handcar rebuilding project was wood. On a trip to Old Mystic Seaport with my high school chum Jack Keene, we saw a gigantic chain saw mill operating. I was already thinking about handcar wood at that point and seeing this mill in operation reminded me that years ago I had bought a little chain saw mill from a catalog for my own chain saw. When it arrived it looked so pathetic and puny that I never actually used it. Emboldened by the Mystic Seaport experience, I dug this little Alaska Mill out of a bunch of other hopeless junk that I had been carrying around for years. I re-filed an old saw chain at 90 degrees across the saw's bar to make a rip chain. The first cut is made by screwing a board to the log to create a flat surface for the mill to follow. mill.jpg

 

wetmaple.jpg After that, the mill slides along the flat area created by the first cut. I cut down a couple of maple trees from my own woods and sawed them up. To my astonishment, it made pretty good slabs. My friends Terry and Wiil Bergen showed up at just the right time (for me and the wrong time for them). They helped me saw some of my maple and man-haul it out of the woods. Right after I took this picture I painted the slab ends with some old exterior latex paint in order to prevent rapid drying and cracking at the ends of the slabs. I left them outdoors for several months during the spring and into the summer, covering them with a tarp when it looked like rain and uncovering them afterwards.

 

In July, my daughter Grace and I horsed them up into the loft over my shop. They were still extremely heavy because of their moisture content and it is a wonder that neither Grace nor I was killed in this process. That loft is as hot as all bloody hell in the summer because it is uninsulated and the sun beats down on its dark grey roof. While it is not a professional dry kiln it is the next best thing. It also had the virtue that it was free (unless you add in the risk that Grace and I might easily have been squashed like bugs trying to get the wood up there.) loftmaple

 

shopmaple.jpg After a summer of cooking in the loft, I brought them down. This was much easier because they were down to about 10% moisture content and much lighter. I squared them up with the planer. I racked them up on a high shelf in my shop so that they could adjust to their new dimensions. Sometimes directly after planing, wood will twist or bow because some fibers that were holding it straight have been removed. I will gradually plane these new square pieces down to the sizes required for the handcar. They are the thick white pieces sharing the rack with wood for my work. Work? Oh, I forgot, I guess I am supposed to be working too...

 

In the rebuild of the handcar that I did as a kid, the most difficult part was to make new wooden centers to replace the rotted ones in the wheels. I had some hand tools and each wheel took a long time to make. A local factory, Peters Toy Company, kindly gave me some thick planed ash to use in the wheel rebuilding. In those days one could easily get creosote, a superior wood preservative that otherwise wrought havoc on people and the environment. We did not know better in those days so I soaked the wheel wood in creosote. The result is that those wheel centers have lasted well while the handcar waited for me to get back to it. oldwheel.jpg

 

stlwheel.jpg I am sure, right about now, you are asking yourself why in that old picture, above of the handcar in my back yard in the winter, the handcar seems to have a steel wheel on the left. The answer is that when I collected up the scrap metal in Broadalbin there were only three wooden wheels. Somewhere along the way one wooden wheel must have been damaged and the railroad boys put on a steel one to replace it. I had always planned to do something about it and now I found myself with the tools and skills necessary to take that on. First I marked out the part of the steel wheel that needed to be cut away.

 

Then I torched the steel center out of the wheel. Next, I had to heat up the rim and flatten it out. Because of the design of that wheel, the rim was dished in. Luckily I own an anvil that was given to me years ago by my dear friends Bill Laundry and Cheryl Hogle. I think of them whenever I use the anvil, which is quite often. stlwhlcut.jpg

 

newwheel.jpg This is the new wooden wheel I made out of the old steel one. I am pretty pleased with it. While working on it I thought back to my youthful efforts to rebuild the others. Each spoke had to be cut out with hand tools. It took me weeks to make the wooden centers for those three wheels. A single spoke took more than an hour to craft. With my current shop, I could easily buzz out 20 spokes in an hour.

 

 

The axles for this handcar are 1 1/2" thick solid steel. When I got a close look at them I discovered that they were both bent in several places. The drive axle was quite severely bent. How did this happen? If the railroad boys had to move whole sticks of rail, they sometimes hung them from the axles with chains, greased the chains a little and carried the rail that way, hanging under the handcar. My friend Jack Keene thinks he remembers that the F. J. & G. RR used 70 pound rail. That means it was 70 lbs per yard. A full stick of rail was 39 feet, so we are getting near a half ton per stick. That might bend the ol' axles. Acting on Mason Clark's suggestion, I bent them back with a homemade press I had built for something else. axpress.jpg

 

axlath.jpg Because the axles had been used in the bent condition for quite a while, the bearing points on the axles were worn into a spindle shape. In order to true them up a bit I welded up a shopmade axle lathe. Mc Master Carr, suppliers of almost everything in the world, provided me with a V belt pully that could slide onto an axle and be tightened in place. At each end of the lathe there is a little post that has a hard steel center punch through it. The point of the center punch goes into an original lathe hole in the end of the axle. I held a file against the bearing points and I was able to square them up quite a bit. This, by the way, is how I discovered that the axles were bent: I put the drive axle in the lathe first and when I turned on the motor the axle wobbled so severely that it nearly became airborne.

 

While I was lucky to find almost all of the handcar parts, I was missing three of the covers for the axle pillow blocks, Sheffield part no. 169. The one I had is far right in the picture. I took it to Mike up the road a piece at the Auburn Stove Foundry and he used it as a pattern to make me three brand new ones. At the time, they were the most beautiful things I had ever seen, with apologies to my wife and daughters. I had been worrying about how to solve this problem for 50 years. Well, not continuously but on and off. covers

 

The next problem involved the wheel bearings that go into these pillow blocks. In the pile of handcar pieces in the weeds there was one bronze bearing. It was worn to a frazzle. Where does one go to get bronze bearings for one's 130 year old handcar? Amazon, of course. One day it occurred to me to see if Amazon had anything that would do. They have some surprising things, I knew that. Among those things were pages and pages of big bronze bearings. I found some that were the correct length and the correct outside diameter. For the inside diameter, I measured the well-worn bearing points on my axles and I was chuffed to find just the correct bearing to accommodate the wear.. They were $8 each. In 1922, Sheffield sold them for 40 cents. Inflation can be outrageous. newbear

 

halfbear.jpg All I had to do was to saw the bearings in half. Here is the completed pillow block (upside down compared to its position on the handcar.) On Amazon I also found bronze bearings for the shafts at each end of the big drive gear. They were a perfect fit as well.

 

sheffcar

Next, I decided to build a mock-up of the drive train in my shop. I did ths to locate the positions of the drive train elements. Mason Clark had sent me Sheffield's measured drawing for the No. 1 handcar and some other drawings he had. Something was wrong somewhere.

In my first rebuild in about 1958 I had used the dimensions that I took from the rotted wood frame that came with the handcar. The gallows frame for my handcar was angled at 30 degrees. I still have the wooden top piece, so I am sure of that. The top of the gallows frame had not rotted because there was so much oil on it from the rock boxes that support the walking beam. The actual angle of Sheffield gallows frames should be more like 21 degrees: much steeper. You can see the difference easily in the pictures. The angles of my gallows frame members are quite a bit more relaxed than in the Sheffield picture. My 30 degree angles made my handcar wheel base significntly longer and, also made the deck much bigger.

It is my opinion that the F. J & G. railroad boys rebuilt my handcar at some point with the specific goal of making it bigger.. Sheffield made a bigger handcar, the No. 2 Special, but it had a longer walking beam. My handcar has the shorter walking beam so I think it was born as a No. 1. In this rebuild of the handcar I am going to go back to the original Sheffield No. 1 blueprint dimensions.

bkyard

 

My next task was to set up a working mock-up of the drive train. That way I could try out the steeper gallows frame and find the dimensions of the spatial relationships between the elements of the drive train. The pivot point of the walking beam has to be in the center of the top of the gallows frame, so that is a given. After that, I put the drive train pieces in one at a time, drilling them into the mock-up frame as I went.

I discovered another problem or two on the way. The drive wheels are supposed to be keyed to the axles with a square key in a slot. When I got the handcar as a kid, there were no keys and one drive wheel was rust-welded onto the axle. It seems that the F. J. & G. boys had been using it like that with only one drive wheel fixed to the axle (with rust) and the other one just spinning free. The spinning one has worn so much of the taper out of its hub, that it can slide right over the bearing point when the axle is not in place. I will have to do something about that and I have not figured out just what. Leon Sapp has suggested a fiber sleeve of the sort used on rail motor cars to keep them from tripping signals. Also the keyways in the axle look as if they were cut by someone with a hammer and a cold chisel. I had to custom make odd tapered keys for them because the keyways are so irregular.

Railroads are typically, in my experience, covered in grease and oil. I know that the old Fonda, Johnstown and Gloversville Railroad was no different because as a kid I routinely got all covered with grease climbing around on the railroad's equipment. I guess probably the only places on the entire railroad that were not covered in grease and oil were the bearings of the handcar assigned to the section house near the little village of Broadalbin. They were dry as a bone and clean as a whistle. It must have been terrifically hard work to use that thing in its last days, with one drive wheel and no axle bearings left. What is this about? In the section house 10 feet away there was almost certainly some oil. Probably buckets of oil.

Paul Larner tells me that the Broadalbin line, leased until 1930, generally received the hand-me-downs from the rest of the railroad. Any story that I might tell about the working history of my handcar is pure speculation. However it is pretty easy to imagine that the Broadalbin boys had this shagged-out old handcar and when the motor cars became available they were eager to get rid of their hard-rolling handcar. They set it in the grass beside their section house. Over time, as the weeds grew taller and as the handcar dissolved it was forgotten. That saved its life.

 

When my shop mock-up of the drive train was finished, tt was a thrilling sight to see the mock-up running so many years after it last operated. My kid Alice took a little video of it and it is on YouTube. mkdrtrain.jpg
As a handcar expert of considerable gravitas, Mason Clark thinks that my handcar may be a particularly early Sheffield. While the wooden wheels were offered for years as an option they may suggest early manufacture. Also, later cars were more typically fitted with roller bearings. Mason says that this change happened around 1890. Further, the walkling beam on my handcar is what he describes as a "Play Doh" walking beam. It looks like it was made of that substance then hardened. It looks like that because it was probalby made by some guy standing at a forge, hitting it with hammers and welding it in the fire. It looks very hand made. If you look at the eyes for the wooden handle on one end, you can see that they are not very symmmetrical, although they have been twisted arround so that they are in line with each other. walkb.jpg
planebds A bunch of time has gone by while I worked on other things and waited for the maple that I cut down to dry. By early summer, after the wood had spent more than a year in the shop loft, I checked the moisture and it was about 12 percent. This is probably as low as it will ever get here, practically sitting in a large tidal marsh. Rather than carry the enormous slabs down the stairs, I cut them with a hand-held circular saw. I looked carefully to see that my cuts would produce the best chances for a long board. Using a hand plane I flattened one side of each board and put them through the power planer.

I used a little portable planer that I have so that I could just let the chips fly. I will clean them up later with a snow shovel. If I had done this planing inside with the big planer the chips would have gone into my dust collector and I would have had to empty that two or three times. That little planer is a beast and happily flattented one side, then the other side, of each board.

  planebd1s
thickbdss I did not plane the boards to handcar wood thickness outdoors. I removed material from the top and bottom of these boards until I had lightened them up a bit and planed off some knots and checks. I let them sit for a few days because when a lot of material is removed from wood it will tend to warp or twist. I wanted to give these boards a chance to do that before I finally squared them off
When I took them inside I first ran them over the jointer in order to get two flat sides that meet at a square corner. Next I ran them down to handcar-sized boards by sawing them on the tablesaw. I choose my cuts carefully to remove any remaining flaws. I came to appreciate the wood I buy for my cabinetmaking business because it is all high grade, with very few flaws of any sort. I now see how difficult it is to get that stuff out of a real tree. longbdss
   
   
gf1s While the long boards for the main frame were having a chance to adjust to their new shapes, I started work on some shorter pieces that had been on the wood rack in the shop for a long time. My first project was to make the gallows frame. This is the trapezoidal frame that holds the walking beam (sometimes called the pump handle) up. The gallows frame sides are set into their top pieces with long tenons. There are also long tenons where they set into the main frame of the handcar.. Once assembled, the top of the gallows frame is pulled down tight to the handcar frame with some angled tension rods. The pull of these tension rods drives the tenons tightly into their mortises creating a structure that will withstand the rigors of the pumping action but at minimal weight. As I have noted above, it is not known who was the first person to actually build a gallows frame for a handcar but it is a brilliant piece of engineering.
I don't want to get too far afield from the frame building project but there is one other thing that I should put up here concerning the gallows frame. Most of them looked about the same from the beginning to the end of handcar manufacture. However the fertile mind of James Donovan had figured out that the gallows frame could be made of pressed steel. James Donovan lived in Three Rivers Michigan. Three Rivers was home to at least three handcar manufacturers: Sheffield , James Morse and Roberts Throp. I do not know if Donovan worked for any of these firms or if, surrounded by handcars, he simply had a new idea on his own. I thought it was just another patent that was never produced but Master Handcar Detective Rich Harner unearthed a Sheffield catalog from 1907 and there it was: ststgf
steelgal
   
ststwb Steel stamping must have come into its own about this time because a year earlier Perry Garrison, also of Three Rivers Michigan, designed a pressed steel walking beam. I do not know if Garison was employed in the handcar industry or if he was an independent inventor.. In the patent he says that his walking beam would be strong but would save weight over cast iron or steel forged walking beams. Much of handcar design was aimed at reducing weight, partly because these cars had to be lifted off the rails to be clear of trains. Additionally, more weight meant the need for more effort in pumping. The ideal crew would be people who were strong as hell but very light. Hmmmm.
In order to cut the mortises in my gallows frame, I needed to design a jig that would hold the boards at the desired 21 degrees while the chisel mortiser cut the mortises. I had thought about this , on and off, for a long time so it went quickly when it actually came to doing it. Usually the mortiser is botled to a bench but, for this, I had to take it off and bolt it to a sawhorse. I had made some VERY sturdy sawhorses years ago . I liked them so much that I submitted their design to Fine Homebuilding magazine and they honored me by publishing it. [FH September 2004 No.165 pg 28) gf4s
   

 

 

radials

 

I cut the notches in the frame pieces with a radial saw. Mine is a wonderful old Dewalt from back in the days when these things were made of steel and cast iron. I got it for $40 on Craig's List from a guy who was moving and did not want to have to horse this thing into a truck. It is perfect for the notch-cutting because I can see what I am doing and the wood is stationary. Neither of these would be true of doing this on a table saw, which was my other alternative.
Once the notches were cut, I was able to tap the bottom two layers of the frame together. There are clamps at some of the junctions that I used to press them together.. I cut the notches so that they would be as tight as I could get them. For some of them, the easiest way to get them together was to press them together with a clamp. Now, at least to me, it is beginning to look like a handcar. I am not going to be able to actually do the final assembly in my shop because there simply isn't enough room. I am going to build a new building on the edge of my shop yard that will be modeled after an old railroad section house. The handcar can share that space with the lawnmowers and other crap from the garage. I will probably do the final handcar assembly in the section house, which means I had better get started building it. frames
frame1s Here, at last is the frame bolted together. I also put on the vertical tension rods to pull the gallows frame down into place. Then I put the drive train parts in postion to be sure that the hole marks for them are in the correct place. Next, I will take the frame apart, drill those holes and paint any of the areas where wood will be touching wood. After that, I can put the frame back together and get it ready for all-over paint.
Of course, all this could not happen without another surprise. In order to check that the postion of the drive gear was in line with the frame, I measured from the frame over to the gear edge in several places. There was almost a one half inch difference in those measurements: the gear was wobbling. I put the gear flat on the flat top of my tablesaw to be sure that the problem was not the gear itself. Nope. I set up the gallows frame from the mock up that I made with some wooden pillowblock halves, so that I could turn and closely observe the crankshaft. I could see the wobble. I set it up with a dial caliper that I use for aligning saw parts. Yup, it was bent. I pressed it back to a better alignment with the hydraulic press that I used for straightening the axles. It is better. I wonder what the railroad boys did to bend that thing? crankshafts
   
halfroofs I needed a place to build the handcar for real. There was not room in my shop, if I was going to get any other work done. I decided to build a section house in my shop yard where the handcar could be built and could live when when was finished. With the help of friends Jack Keene and Will and Terry Bergen it went up quite quickly. I had to pause briefly in order to have cataract surgery. Here it is during that pause, with the snow and ice shield on the front roof and a tarp on the back roof. As soon as I got the roof finished, I moved the handcar parts out there.
   
   
   
   
My section house came along when I had bits of time to work on it. I wanted a big door that would look like the section houses of old, so, of course I had to make that. I cheated and used CDX plywood for the panels to try to keep the weight under control. I put the panels over a molding head on my table saw to run grooves in them, simulating the small boards that were typical of sectiion house doors. door
doortrack Of course, the sliding door track had to be custom made. It turns out that the track and rollers are not very complicated. I looked up "sliding doors" on the web and found that barn door-type sliding doors are coming back into style in high end homes. I borrowed elements from some of the designs I found on the web to build my own track. For the time being, the rollers are V belt pulleys, but I will replace those with something better sometime when I have nothing else to do. If you build a section house like mine, put the human door on the end then you won't have to solve issues of how to get the big door to slide past the doorknob of the human door and the big door will not block the human door when it is open. NOW, when I look at the pictures of the old F J & G R.R. section houses, I see that the ones with human doors have those doors in the end, not beside the sliding door. Duh.
Once the big door was in, I moved the handcar parts out to the section house. That was a big day. I should have made myself finish the siding on the section house first, but I have waited 50-odd years to put this hadncar together and I simply could not wait any longer. Because everything had been drilled in my shop, it went together quickly and I primed it with a spray gun and my compressor. primed
reds I have an original spoke with, I believe, original paint on it. The paint store made me some Sheffield Red that was a great match to the best part of the paint left on that spoke. On a beautiful day, I sprayed the first coat of that onto her. Another day I top-coated her.

Next I had to cut and thread the tension rods for the gallows frame. Later Sheffield cars may not have had the center rod however mine had a casting to hold it at the top. The bolts through that casting go up through the rockbox and end by holding the rock box top in place. Some very early images, such as one from 1887, show only the center tension rod with no dagonals. By 1900, catalog pictures showed center and diagonal tension rods. In 1922 the cast piece that holds the top of the vertical tension rod (Part No. 150--seen here below the red square nut in the top of the gallows frame) was still in the ordinary parts list for the handcar, not in the special list of parts only for older cars.

There are nuts down in the bottom of the rock box that do not show in this picture. They function to keep the rock box fixed to the car when the rock box top is taken off.

I have five of the original angled washers for the diagonal tension rods. I made the others by sawing angled pieces from a big piece of round steel bar and drilling them. The rods are tight where the three intersect. I did my best to ease that by offsetting the drill holes for the diagonal rods slightly to one side or the other.

tenrod
trussrods Here she is with her tension rods and her truss rods. There are two nice Sheffield parts that come with the truss rods: end caps and cast pieces that protect each frame member where the truss rod crosses it.

When I was a kid grovelling around in the weeds looking for the last of the handcar parts I was very lucky to find one part in particular. There was one out of the four original caps to cover the oil line from the top of the frame to the wheel bearings. The one I found is sitting on top of the frame, here. It will be screwed to the frame and swing away from the oil tube. It is Sheffield part No 272 and Mike, my foundryguy made me three more from the original. In real life this part became obsolete, at least as standard equipment, very quickly. I think they probably dropped this tube and its cover quite early on because the cap would get knocked off while tools were being loaded and dirt would go down the tube directly to the wheel bearings. I have the caps so I want them to be functional.

 

I put 3/8" tube between the frame members, as Sheffield did, but I am using a smaller diameter tube to actually carry the oil to the wheel bearings. It is a repurposed piece of truck brake line. You can see the the little silver-colored flare on the top of it here in the oil tube hol.e

oil
pedal The top of my brake pedal, a cast iron item, was mostly broken off. Mason Clark kindly supplied me with one of the ones that he casts for his cars. Originally the pedal shaft for my pedal was tapered and came up through a tapered hole in the top of the pedal where it was peened over like a mushroom to hold it there. I filed a tapered hole in the new pedal top and then brazed it onto the shaft. When painted it will look neater than all that peening.
   
My handcar had lost the bracket that supports the shaft of the brake pedal. When I found the handcar, this bracket had been replaced by two square brackets that were almost like staples. I wanted something that would look and work a bit more like the real thing, so I welded up a new one. I was also missing the brake rods that push the shoes against the wheel, so I am in the process of making those. I used to have what was left of an original brake shoe with the clip that attached it to the brake rod. Unfortunately, that must have been lost in one of the many times the handcar parts were moved. I have remade the brake shoes and I will make the clips for them. brake cu brakeclip  
brakemodel Here is a mock-up that I made of the side of my handcar in the area where the brake stuff will be. The wheel is in the postion that it will be on the handcar and the position of the other wheel is marked. The pedal goes half way betwren them. The rest is reconstruction. I have the original pivots for the brake shoes and I made a brake shoe pattern by looking at the pictures of the original, such as the Sheffield drawing above. The Sheffield catalog says that the brake toggle--the arm that connects the pedal to the shoe, is 6.5 inch centers, so that is the measurement I used to make mine. If it does not work right either the pivot is in the wrong place or the shoe is wrong.
I had to stop fooling around with the handcar to get back to work because unifinshed work at my business was piling up. As soon as I got that cleared off, unfortunately Project No. 1 became to finish work on the section house. It has vinyl siding. I hate vinyl siding, but I hate to paint even more, so I am putting on the vinyl. In these parts, that is best done before it gets too cold. In the cold the vinyl loses its flex and, also, can crack if it is hit squarely with a hammer. I also needed several hours to clean up outside the section house and to store leftover building materials in appropriate places. shdones
washers

I had one more wheel that needed some welding to repair rust from years of standing water in the flange. I have done that and painted it while doing finish work on the section house. Next, I put that wheel back together.

The next task was to put the wheels on the axles for good. As I relate earlier in the story, one of my drive wheels had been run by the railroad boys without the key in it, causing the wheel to turn on the axle. That wheel needed to be shimmed so that it would be tight before I reinstalled the key. Because the one drive wheel had been spinning and had worn the axle to the point that it there was no limit to its ability to slide toward the center, I welded a washer onto the axle to stop the travel of the wheel. Then I shimmed it with some sheet aluminum. This tightened it up to the extent that it was difficult to press the wheel on by tightening the wheel nut. The combination of this tightening and the insertion of the key into the key slot makes me think that this wheel will operate as it should, remaining tight on the axle. If you are following all this detail, I hope that you are not neglecting important things elsewhere in your life.

   
   
   

Here she is, At last, with her wheels on. I have worked a long time for this.

My idea was to put the wheels and axles on their bearings under the car, then set the car down on it wheels. Next I would build up from there, installing the metal parts as I went. This way the handcar would get heavier after it was already down on its wheels so that I would not have to lift it off the jack stands after it became heavy. In the condition that was for this picrure, it was quite easy for me to lift it, one end at a time, by myself. I wonder how long that will be the case as I add things to it. In 1890, Sheffield believed that this car would weigh about 500 lbs when complete.

wheels1s
   
   
onrails This was a great moment. The wheels are tightened on with their wheel nuts, the car is down on some 4 X 4 "rails" and I have put the drive train on. I would love to have short pieces of rail for inside the section house as well as some rail stubs for outside but I do not have them yet. Frustratingly for anyone wanting a couple of pieces of rail, in my area of Southern Maine there is old lightish rail laying all over the place, abandoned and ignored. The fomer Boston & Maine and Maine Central railoads are now amalgamated with others under the puzzling name Pan Am (that's right PAN AM, like the old airline, resulting in odd-looking rolling stock carrying the old blue and white globe logo from the airline.) I don't think Pan Am ever picks up old rail. Recently the corridor from Brunswick ME to Boston was replaced with welded rail for Amtrak traffic. Riding on the train looking out the window it appears that every stick of old rail was simply tossed out of the way and is laying in the weeds. There are also longish sections of Pan Am that are completely cut loose from the railroad, some with trees six inches in diameter growing up between rhe rails. For my part, I have done nothing to try to find a couple of bits old rail. I must start to ask around.
Time for the deck. I used white ash for decking. I bought it as dry, rough sawn 1" thick--so-called "4/4" in the wood biz. It came from Atlantic Hardwoods, in Portland ME. I buy all the wood for my cabinet making business there. The ash was so straight and nice that I was able to get both sides planed and it was still 7/8" thick. I left it that way, rather than creating a lot of wood chips taking it down to the more-usual 3/4" thick. I tongue and grooved it with a set of shaper bits I owned that make the tongue qute hefty. deck
wbdowns While I had it in this state, I slid the pinion gear on the drive axle off to one side, lubed the pivot points and spun the ol' drive gear around a few times pumping the walking beam. Problem. The pumping action was VERY asymmetrical, almost touching the gallows frame on one side and stopping a long way above the deck on the other side. I don't know if it was like that in the mock up I made. Quite probably but since it was only the drive train that was mocked up, I might not have noticed. Here is the situation with the walking beam at one end of its travel. It would be a bending-over back breaker to have to drive the handcar like this.
I thought about this for quite a long time. How it got that way, who knows? As I noted way at the top of this diatribe, the F J & G boys rebuilt this handcar at some point to be much longer, changing the angles of the gallows frame. Perhaps at that point they also shortened the connecting rod. In any event, making the connecting rod longer was the obvious solution. In order to try to figure out how long the connecting rod SHOULD be, I put a piece of cable in its place. Then I could easily micro-adjust the cable so that I could get a length that resulted in a symmetrical travel for the ends of the walking beam. cables
connectingrods This exercise resulted in the information that the ideal length of connecting rod for this handcar as reconstructedwas one that would make the pivot points 35" center to center. The old connecting rod had pivot points that were 33" center to center as seen at left. That is a significant difference. Luckily the connecting rod is an easy part to make. It is a 7/8" diameter rod with a block of metal welded on at each end. Each block has holes for a U bolt that secures the bearing. It might be the easiest part to fabricate on the entire handcar. Lucky for me. It took me about half an hour to make the new one which worked great.
Another issue that arose as I was putting the decking on is that the decking hit the oil well on top of the crank bearing pillow block or bearing box, depending upon what you want to call it. You can see it here, through the spokes in the drive gear. Probably the deck was an inch or so further up in the air on the original Sheffield No 1. That would be easy to achieve but I did not see this problem coming when I was buildng the frame. All it would take is making the cross members that support the deck a little thicker. That would not affect the geometry of the frame in any other way and I would do it if I were doing this over again. crankbearlong
crankbear Here is a close up of this situation. The way this ended up, it would not be possible to remove the top of the pillow block to service the bearing. I took the deck boards above those bearings off and routed a little space in them to permit access to the bearings, should I ever need it. The original bearings were made of babbit. That was a soft metal white-colored metal ( not be to be confused with the substance called "white metal.") Babbit has a number of surprising characteristics that make it ideal for bearings and it was widely used in railroad bearings in the age of steam. The babbit bearings on the handcar were cast into the pillow blocks and I did not have a way to do that, so I replaced them with bronze bearings from Amazon.
I wanted to letter the handcar . I sincerely doubt that the railroad boys of the old F. J. & G. would have ever bothered to letter a handcar. As far as I can tell, there was no consistant logo typeface that was used by the railroad on any equipment across the years. I like the one found on the tender of this locomotive so I copied that font as best I could. oldlogo
   
   
deckfinish I first saw the lettering actually on the handcar the day I rolled it out to put deck sealer on the decking. The letterboards were not yet screwed down but I set them on there for the picture. I wanted to seal the deck before I put the signboards on for good. I contemplated deck finishes other than ordinary deck sealer but I suppose as the handcar is used, as I hope it will be, the deck will get scratched and dirty, coming to look more the way it would have looked when it was in service. That is OK with me.
The big day finally arrived in October 2014: the day for which I had been waiting about 55 years. It was time to take my handcar out on real rails and see what this baby could do. It may not be appropriate to call a handcar that first hit the rails in the 1880s "baby" but the wood is new, even though most of the metal work is over 100 years old. Here she is leaving its section house on her way into a trailer for her ride to the rails. She seems to roll very easily and it is no work at all to roll it right into the trailer. The magnificent enclosed trailer belongs to one of my crew members and he kindly let us use it for this trip. Ride1
Ride2

To stop her from rolling around in the trailer, I cut some blocks to go under her wheels. I also tied her down very tightly with ratchet straps, pinning her against the front wall of the trailer, so that she could not get a start at moving around.

At the other end of the trip, we were able to back almost parallel to the rails. Once again, it was easy to maneuver her. We rolled her down the ramp and then lifted one end to point her at the rails. This is crew memeber Mark, who not only owns the wonderful trailer but who was eager to be on the crew right from the beginning.

Ride3
Ride4

Here is Mark and his son Caleb, my trusty crew members about to set off with me. we had expected a fourth crew-person who was unable to join us at the last minute. Those of you who care about handcars, and that is all of you because otherwise you would not be reading this, will probably be deeply disturbed by the very non-handcar-looking bell hanging from the tool rack. We needed a noise-maker for level crossings and I happened to have the bell. It attaches easily, so I can take it off if I simply want to sit and admire the handcar. Even though the bell looks odd, I would take it again because it is such fun. It makes a very train-like sound and we had a good time ringing it at crossings and, more particularly, at people who waved as they saw us going past.

Mark took a little video with his phone of Caleb and me giving the handcar a little roll right at the beginning of the trip and I have posted it on UTube: http://youtu.be/Yuvf1LoL2so I presume the fact that this address has "lol" in it is not UTube's comment about handcars and the people who ride on them.

I did not know if the handcar would be fun to ride or if it would simply be very hard work or something in between. The video is on a downgrade and handcars are fun while rolling downhill. I have already been reminded of the danger of having someone ride backwards as we are doing in the video because they might fall on the track and be immediately hit by the handcar. You do not need to email me about that. Don't try this at home.

I said that the handcar went well on downhills and believe it or not, I guessed that this would be the case before we set out. With all the appropriate permissions we travelled on a 16 mile stretch of abandoned rail. I chose this secrtion because it was mostly downhill. Mostly. However there were some upgrades, such as this one. It looks steeper in the picture than it really was. It felt steeper on the handcar than it looks in the picture. Simply put, pumping a circa1880s handcar that has bronze axle bearings up any significant grade is very hard fricking work. Maybe it would have been better if we had been able to have a fourth power unit, one that was light weight and strong.

As I have said before, weight is a real issue with a handcar and the ratio of the weight of a power unit to his or her strength would really matter. At least that is my guess. Someone should do the math. Not me. I failed math in high school and had to go to summer school. I have never recovered from that traumatic experience.

For me, slightly younger than the handcar but feeling as if we were born the same year, the upgrades were terrible. I am not exaggerating when I say that it required all the effort I could possibly emit. If my life had depended upon pumping any harder or faster, it would have been bye, bye for me.

Old time section guys who worked on handcars did shorter runs, stopping more often to struggle with a new tie or something that perhaps used different muscles. Speaking of muscles, those section crew guys must have looked like The Incredible Hulk.

Ride5
Ride6 Here we are on a break after an upgrade so that I can stand and pant for a while. My lovely wife sent us off with some food and some drinks. Lucky. I did not even think about that--Duh--and I was mighty glad of it once we got going.
Another break just beyond one of the level crossings. The crossings were often preceeded by nasty little upgrades and followed by wonderful little downgrades. It seemed as if when this railroad was first surveyed the decision was made to save fill by simply ramping up to road crossings that were higher and ramping back down on the other side. Maybe that was standard practice elsewhere when the road crossings were a bit higher than the natural railbed. I don't know. Much of this line runs near or along a road and although we did not cause an accident, drivers who saw us were certainly doing what I believe the police call "distracted driving" looking at us while trying to drive. Ride7
Ride8

Here I am on a break to check the tightness of the bolts on the axle boxes. Expert handcar builder Mason Clark advised me to do this. On the first run of his first handcar he had gone a distance and axle box bolts had actually dropped out. Mine would have done that as they were coming a bit loose the first two times I checked them.

I greased the drive gear teeth with black lithium grease back when I was lubricating the handcar for the trip. That stuff is very slippery indeed. I do not know if there is a solvent for it. If so, I have not found it. Caution is urged when you crawl under your lithium-greased-drive-gear handcar. Stay away from the gear if you care at all about your clothes. I got a whole lot of that grease on me rolling about under the handcar. I have tried everything I own to get it out without success. I even tried an array of things from my shop such as lacquer thinners with fumes that kill brain cells. The grease tattoo that I got on the back of my hand when I bumped against the gear started to fade a bit after two weeks.

Here are Mark and Caleb on one of the bridges as we neared the end of the trip. They are still able to stand up and to smile. In contrast, I was leaning against a bridge girder using a high camera shutter speed to deal with the fact that I am panting like a steam engine under load.

Gotta stain that new wheel center someday.

The water under this bridge eventually becomes the source of the drinking water at my home. Reminder to self: take pee stops somewhere else along the route.

Ride9
   
Ride10

I knew that you would notice it: the drive wheel in the picture above has lost its wheel nut. When I was crawling around checking axle box bolts, I should have given the wheel nuts a little twist. It was staggering good luck that the wheel did not fall off. This axle was made before Sheffield tapered the ends of drive axles. The axle is straight and the wheel and axle have a keyway, as I discuss a bunch of frames above here. The key is tapered and is tapped (driven) in so as to be secure. I think the key is what held the wheel on. I do not know how stupid it is possible for me to be but--wait for this--the drive axle has a hole in each end for a cotter pin to keep the nut from falling off. I don't know what I thought about that hole. I have had 55 years to ponder it. Cotter pins cost about 79 cents. Perhaps this thing about losing the nut was noticed by Sheffield and that is why they put a hole in the axle for a cotter pin. It was not enough hint for me. Next time. I walked the whole route a couple of weeks later looking for the nut. No luck. It will have to be made because its thread is 1 5/6"-7. Not common.

It was a great trip even though at times it almost killed me. Now that I have finally stopped panting, I am even beginning to contemplate taking the handcar out again for another little ride. No pain, no gain.

   
STM1
STM2

It seems as if one of the biggest needs that I might help with at the moment is in making patterns out of wood. These patterns will be the best copies that I can make of obselete missing, worn or corroded trolley parts. The patterns will go to a foundry and be used as models to cast new parts that are like the pattern. I am eager to give this a try. I always considered pattern makers to be highly skilled artisans and I don't know if I am qualified to join their ranks. I did not have to wander around the museum for very long before I came upon the museum's handcar. It is nicely sheltered in a shed but it could use a bit of work. I asked if I might be able to rebuild it and they seemed eager to have that happen. The eventual idea is that it might be used for tourist rides.

The walking beam is clearly of the design used by the Buda company. It is made of cast iron. Looking at the rest of the parts, however, they appeared to be quite similar to my Sheffield part, even down to having the same part numbers cast into them. The parts were very similar, but not identical, to mine. My first thought was that the handcar was a Frankenstein, made of parts from several handcars.

When I got home I looked more carefully at a couple of Buda catalogs and started to pay more attention to one of their handcars that I had hardly noticed before. It is an oddish thing that they called the "Harvey Handcar" presumbably named for Harvey IL, where the company was located. The Harvey has different parts than all of the many other Buda handcars and the Harvey seems to have been made in only one model: the No. 1. The Harvey may have been a short-lived thing because it is not in the 1906 or 1907 Buda catalog but it is in the 1909 Catalog. I am hoping to find some newer Buda catalogs to see when the Harvey stopped being made.

Unlike the other Buda cars, the Harvey part numbers in the Buda catalogs are identical, part for part, to the Sheffield parts. Buda even warns customers to be careful in ordering because the Harvey parts are different from the rest of the Buda handcar parts.

The bearings on the Harvey connecting rod in this picture look to me like an infringement of the Sheffield patent, the drawing for which is near the beginning of this site. The Harvey ordinarily comes with a walking beam that is of the forged Sheffield type, not the cast Buda type, but one of the Buda catalogs suggests that the Harvey can be ordered with a standard Buda walking beam if so desired.

 

 

harvey

insignia I have taken the museum handcar apart and I have discovered several things that I did not know before. A voting majority of the parts were cast with this small insignia, as well as a part number. This indicates the maker but I do not know which maker. Someone will know and I have put the word out as best I can in other places. The one in the picture is probably the clearest one I have. It was on the underside of one rock box, the piece that is the pivot for the walking beam. It was probalby covered in grease for most of its life and that is probably why it is in such good condition.
After a close look, I think the museum car is a Frankenstein with quite a variety of parts from diferent companies. I am making guesses about their sources based upon whatever information I have at the moment. I suppose when handcars went in for service the railroad shop boys were not always particularly fussy about parts being mixed, particularly where the parts were so similar that mixing them caused no problems. Here are the parts that have the small insignia above. Until that thing is identified, I am going to consider that we do not know the maker of these parts. They are the cast iron walking beam, two rock box bottoms and one rock box top and all four strain plates--the little plates that go under than handcar to protect the timbers from the truss rods. I set the strain plates in various orientations so that one can see the profiles. insignia parts
sheffs

The museum car has five parts that I consider to be Sheffield. Two of the wheels look like Sheffields to me. The tops of the crank axle boxes, are as near as I can tell identical to the ones on my handcar and I think they are Sheffield part 135. One crank axle box bottom is very nearly identical to mine, the only difference being that the part number is cast as H134. It is on the underside of the part and cannot be seen in the picture. On my handcar the part number is simply 134, without the "H". The Sheffield catalogs called these parts H134 and perhaps parts made later than mine all had the "H" cast into them. I don't know. A rival hypothesis is that Sheffield never added the "H" to their part castings and the part with the H cast into it is a Harvey copy of a Sheffield part. If this crank axle box bottom is a Harvey copy, it is an excellent replica of the Sheffield original.

 

Speaking of replicas, the other crank axle box bottom is most likely a Buda replica of the Sheffield part. It is different from the one pictured above with what I suppose to be the Sheffield parts. Among other things, the corners are not rounded off and the outside holes are not square to grab the head of a carriage bolt. The biggest indication that this is a Buda part is that it carries the Buda catalog number for this part: 17.

If you look on the right side of this part you should be able to see the 17 facing sideways adjacent to the last bolt hole. The interesting thing to me is that this part fits perfectly well a with Sheffield-type top. It fits so well that it took me a while to discover that it was different. Before this, I did not know that at least this Buda part was interchangeable with the Sheffleid part. I believe that Buda-made Harvey parts were designed to be interchangeable but this has a Buda part number, not a Harvey number. The Harvey crank box base number is the same as the Sheffield (134) , as I have noted before.

part 17
bronze bearings I discussed with the museum people whether or not we should leave the babbit bearings in the crank shaft boxes, as above. The babbit was worn in an irregular pattern because the crankshaft was bent quite severely out of line. If this were going to be a restoration to try to make the handcar exactly as it was when new, we would have to re-pour and keep the babbit. Our goal is slightly different. It is to rebuild the handcar in ways that are sensitive to its antiquity, but to make it a working device that can be used and enjoyed by visitors to the museum. Without going to high-tech modern roller bearings everywhere we want it to run as smoothly and roll as easily as possible. With these factors in mind, we decided to de-babbit the crank shaft bearing boxes and to install bronze bearings obtainable from good old Amazon.

The wheel bearings for the museum car were roller bearings, so-called Hyatt bearings I was told by Mason Clark. They were very dirty with sand and grease that had been rolled in there years ago and dried out like concrete.

They were not a matched set. The oldest one came apart easily for cleaning by removing 3 bolts. The others would have had to be pressed apart and back together and I did not want to take that on so I did the best I could with soaking and scrubbing through the axle hole. The oldest one also had the odd little foundry mark discussed above that appeared on a number of other parts.

The little oil tubes had been used by sand wasps for making nests and we eliminated them and replaced them with grease fittings. A bearing is not a good place for sand.

mus3
   
   
   
   
Time to start frame building. The cuts were made in the same manner as for my Sheffield. Once the pieces are cut, I tap them together to check the fit. Even being very careful with really good machine tools, it is still difficult for me to achieve what I consider to be a perfect fit on all the joints. I do the best I can. mus1
mus2

 

After drilling the holes in the tedioius way of drilling the top ones, marking the next layer by tapping a bolt into the holes, then drilling those, reassembly and marking the third layer, it is ready to be bolted.

For me, the best way to get straight holes through the frame is to drill them in this way, one at a time with a drill press.

Once the basic frame was bolted, I hung the drive axle up into its bearings and assembled the drive train for a trial set up. The connecting rod that came with this car was a piece of wood so, among other things, I had to make it a new connecing rod. I needed to have the drive train set up to determine the proper length for the rod.

 

The strain plates from the museum handcar did not match in an odd way. Each of them had the little insignia cast into it and that insignia was above the "3" on three of them and above the "H" on the other one. Certainly different molds. Cast in different time periods? Don't know. I put a center set of truss rods on this car. I then needed to add a third pair of strain plates and used ones from my own handcar as casting patterns. Handcars did not always have a middle set of truss rods but there was room for one here and I was doing my best to build the car to last. mus5
mus5 The wheels on one axle of the museum car did not match the wheels on the other axle. The Kalamazoo Company drive wheels, one of which is pictured were, as far as I am concerned, the nicest of all the handcar wheels ever made. My judgment is based upon robustness of the wheel, although it violated one of the primary mantras of the handcar builder: this wheel was rather heavy. These wheels were pressed in such a way that the flange and adjacent area were thicker than the rest of the wheel and that permitted the flange to be open, not curled back around in a "U" shape. That part of the design insured that water did not stand in the wheel flange when the car was left outside in the rain or brought inside from the rain. George Miller, President of the Kalamazoo Company had patented a die for pressing a handcar wheel in 1887 (US Pat No. 373084) but this wheel looks to me as if it were pressed with a die patented by Henry F. Mann in 1889 (US Pat. No. 480891). I do not know if Mann had any connection to the Kalamazoo Company. He lived in Allegheny, PA and had quite a number of other patents for handcar wheels leading me to think that he might have been an independent inventor.
This is the other side of the wheel. Someone cared a bit about the design here too. The detail on the hub of the wheel is impressive. Early Sheffield Steel wheels, such as those in the catalog at Harvard that we believe to be from 1894, were quite similar in appearance on this side of the wheel. However the Sheffield wheel would have had a "U" shaped flange rather than the open flange like this one. They both had 12 teardrop holes. By at least 1906, Sheffield had abandoned the very crinkled hub and moved to a much flatter, and probably cheaper, version. In 1905, the hub on the Buda handcar was a bit crinkled and the 12 teardrops were slighty stretched on one direction, perhaps to suggest speed. There is room for someone to assemble a field guide to the identification of handcar wheels and I seem to be in danger of starting it here. Handcar detective and expert Rich Harner and I are talking about writing a book about handcars. We have a lot of information and the task is to decide how to organize it. We recognize that this book would only be on the New York Times Best Seller List for a short period of time so we might only need a few copies. That is possible owing to modern printing technology. mus6
mus7

This is an ad for the Kalamazoo wheel that is pictured above. I do not know when this wheel first appeared. This ad is from 1922. I strongly suspect that this wheel might have appeared fairly soon following the 1889 Mann patent of the die to press it--if I am correct that the Mann die was used to make this wheel. If it appeared as early as that, this wheel had great staying power in a company that had already tried a whole bunch of wheels without success. There is a really lovely 1888 Kalamazoo catalog in the Baker Library at Harvard which touts the company's then-newest wheel, patented by George Miller in 1887 made of plywood and tar paper. (US Pat. No. 363,839) While light in weight, that wheel must have been an almost immediate faliure and the response to its problems may have been this superb steel wheel.

To see that Kalamazoo catalog, go to the Baker Library link: http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HBS.Baker.GEN:12942332-2014

The non-drive wheels on the museum car looked to me like later standard Sheffield steel wheels. The museum kindly offered to sandblast and paint them for me. When the rust was blasted from them, there, low and behold was a pretty clear indication that they were Kalamazoo. They have 8 teardrop holes and a flat hub on the outside and look very much like later Sheffields. They have even reverted to the Sheffield-type "U" shaped flange. I have not studied them side by side but I think it might be a bit difficult to tell this wheel from a Sheffy uness one could see the name stamping, which may be why it is there. The "Y" in the circle on this wheel it might indicate that it is a freewheel that spins on its own bearing within its hub, independently of the axle. This was the free wheel and the other nondrive wheel was fixed to the axle and had no "Y" mark.

The non-drive wheels on the museum car are later versions of the Kalamazoos, even though they came along later they add to my growing certainty that the entire car was originally a Kalamzoo onto which a few other parts found their way.

 

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mus8 This is really a side excursion but if you have read any of this, you are used to it. Perhaps someday it will be possible for me to organize all the handcar information I have in some sensible way. Not yet, apparently, but some of it might be organized in the book that Rich Harner and I might write. This is a truss rod clip that is on a handcar in Windsor NY. It has a little keystone with a "K" in it. Is this another Kalamazoo mark vaidating my notion that Kalamazoo liked to put ID marks on things? Much of the rest of this handcar appeared to be Kalamazoo. This truss rod clip may be an import anyway as it is part number 139. Among the very standardized numbers that were shared for handcar parts across companies, 139 was a pushcar truss rod clip, whereas 138 was the usual handcar truss rod clip number. I do not know why the same part would not have sufficed for both types of cars. A simiiar situation exists for other parts, such as axle boxes.
This handcar is thought to be a Kalamazoo and it probably is. The wheels have the Kalamazoo stamping along the rim. More interesting to me, the walking beam has the same semicircular "Y" where it branches to the wooden handles as the museum car. Even though I can talk on about them for pages, I really do not know much about handcars. I have not seen a lot of them. However, I look at them when I can and I study pictures of them. So far, I have only seen this semicircular "Y" three times: this picture, the museum car and on a picture of a handcar that the Colorado Railroad Museum had but has misplaced. I do not think that the walking beam is particularly rare or anything like that but I simply have not seen many of them. Because it is on this putative Kalamazoo car, it adds fuel to my suspicions that the museum car is largely Kalamazoo too, including the parts with the odd little insignia. Kal1
Fmuseum1 The birth and early history of the handcar seems to be lost in a lack of records from the 1840s and 1850s. It has been interesting as well to try to find the other end of the life of the handcar, the end of their production and sales. In searching for handcar catalogs, I went to the Fairbanks Museum in St. Johnsbury, VT. This museum was established by Franklin Fairbanks in 1889. Along with being a leading industrialist, he was also an avid naturalist. He collected all sorts of natural objects and the museum was built to house and augument his collections. It is a wonderful place but its centre of attention is the natural world, not the industrial achievements of Franklin Fairbanks or Fairbanks Morse, whose headquarters was in St. Johnsbury. In the light of that I found on the web that the museum had three boxes of Fairbanks Morse catalogs. The contents of these boxes were not separately cataloged. They had seemingly been among the Fairbanks papers when these were deposited at the museum. I drove up to the museum and they very kindly allowed me to look through the boxes. They were small library boxes. All of the catalogs except one were to do with other things, mostly scales. One general catalog, however, had railcar stuff.
   
   
   
   
   
Problem for the historian: this catalog, as with many Fairbanks Morse catalogs, has no date. I suppose the company did not want the catalog to appear dated quickly, since it was a serious, hard cover item with glossy pages. However, in this case posterity and I were very fortunate that a museum associate named Frank "Andy" Braman had taken the trouble to lend this catalog to Kenneth Hammer, then President of the Fairbanks Weighing Division in St. Johnsbury to see if they could work out a date. As you can see from Mr. Hammer's letter, the catalog was studied and they concluded that it was printed in December, 1949. This would, then, have been the FM 1950 catalog. It is a wonderful thing for us that these people took the trouble to try to date the catalog. It is also a testament to the care of the archivists at the museum that this letter was carefully kept and stored with the catalog. Fmuseum2
Fmuseum3 There was one handcar in the catalog and here it is. I think it might be reasonable to conclude that by 1950 Fairbanks Morse only made one handcar. I think the amazing thing is that they still made one handcar. These things must have been dinosaurs by then. I can only imagine the looks on the faces of a 1950 section crew when the railroad presented them with a brand new handcar. Equally astonishing, they were still selling two velocipedes. I have talked above about handcar wheels and although I will not put pictures up at this time, there were also a couple of different handcar or pushcar wheels in this catalog. There were three pushcars in the catalog, also called "trailers" because, by 1950, surely the main use of these would be to tow behind motor cars.
   
   

 

 

 

 

TO BE CONTINUED...

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