Illinois Railway Museum

Zephyr Brake Work -- Its the Pits
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It takes a lot of work, time, energy, elbow grease, dedication, and determination to keep our Museum in Motion. We've assembled these photo essays, to share with you some of these activities. [Please be patient while the graphics load; we hope you'll find their detail worth any delay.]

Brakes are a good thing. Brakes are a good thing on a train. And brakes are a particularly good thing on a passenger train such as the Nebraska Zephyr.

Like many passenger trains, the brake system works by squeezing a pair of shoes around each wheel, squeezing tighter to get more braking power. Compressed air, provided by the locomotive and stored in a tank under the car, provides the force that applies the brakes. The mechanical parts that apply the brakes sit within each truck; each set encircling a pair of wheels.

Every application of the brakes causes a little bit more wear, and the accumulation of six decades of wear, combined with being exposed to the elements, has taken its toll. The wear is not even. We see this every time we change brake shoes, with some parts wearing much faster than others do.

This is the year, we decided, to do major work on the brake system. The brake system is still safe, but it is time to replace or adjust worn parts, to assure that it remains safe for years to come. With the two Cummins engines and generators removed from the Power Car (CB&Q 960) of the Zephyr (about 9,000 pounds), now was a good time to begin our brake work with the lead truck.

So, on a cold day in March, we pulled the Nebraska Zephyr from Barn 9, split the train off from the locomotive, and pushed the Power Car (with the rest of the train following) onto the inspection pit in Barn 4.

Harold Driscoll, Jamie Kolanowski, Martin Kocanda, and Dave Schroder (left to right) work to remove a slack adjuster assembly from the front wheel of the left front truck of the Power Car. The bolts are held in place with large cotter pins, which must first be removed.

The train fills much of the pit lead track (Track 41) of Yard 4 east. Note the daylight in the right corner, as the train prevents the barn doors from being closed.

Martin Kocanda (between the tracks) and Dave Schroder, working to remove one of the slack adjusters from the front truck of the Zephyr power car (CB&Q 960, "Venus").

It took a considerable amount of time and effort to get each brake assembly loose. A few of them came off with long wrenches and determination. Many required the added persuasion of a torch and considerable heat.

Behind Martin you can catch a glimpse of Harold Driscoll and Jamie Kolanowski applying their persuasion talents to the similar assembly on another wheel.

John Howell, standing in the pit in Barn 4, applies a long wrench and considerable persuasion to a bolt of a slack adjuster on the brake system of the front truck of the Zephyr power car (CB&Q 960, "Venus").

It took the better part of the day for the six of us to work loose and remove the four brake adjuster assemblies from the outer wheel of each truck. (Doug Geren, not shown in these photos, was also part of the team) With concern for the amount of daylight remaining, we decided to call it a day. In some places the wear was as great as we'd expected, in others considerably less so. Our next tasks include ordering (or fabricating) the needed parts, and scheduling future days on the pit.


The 45-ton switcher USA 8537 (above, on right) pushes the Silver Pilot (CB&Q 9911A, EMC E-5A) (and the Nebraska Zephyr train) back into Track 91 of Barn 9, having wyed the train. Burlington Northern BN-2 (EMD F-9A) sits on the trolley loop (left).

BN-2 (and BN-1) have now been returned to Track 91 of Yard 9 after the Zephyr was moved into Barn 9. Dave Dote places wood chocks under Burlington Northern BN-2 on Track 91 of Yard 9. Doug Geren is at the controls of USA 8537. BN-1 and BN-2 are stored with the nose of BN-1 toward Barn 9 during the winter to make it easier to connect the battery charger.

To wye a train (pronounced as the letter "Y") is the process of turning the train around, using a track configuration much like the letter "Y". Using the small switcher USA 8537, we pulled the train from Barn 9 onto the East Wye (actually, the east leg of the wye, also the trolley loop between Central avenue and past the Depot car stop), continuing along the trolley loop until the train clears the electric switch by the Well House. Reversing direction, the train is then pushed onto Station Track One. The train is then chocked, the switch engine uncouples and runs around the train. We used the east and west legs of the wye, we might also have used the mainline or Station Track Two (had it been clear of equipment). The switcher then picks up the west end of the train, pulls it west toward the mainline, and then pushes it onto the West Wye (actually the west leg of the wye), past 50th Avenue Station and back into Barn 9.

While the train was outside we took advantage of the daylight to take some pictures of the inside of the Power Car engine room. We've also been busy, cleaning the floor and scraping the walls and ceiling. When warm weather arrives a coat of paint will surely do wonders.

(photo to the left) Wall detail between the steam generator control cabinet (left of photo) and the radiator for the #3 engine (right of photo). The #3 engine has been removed, it connected to the radiator where the trash bag is hanging.


(photo above) Interior view of the electrical panel for the #3 generator, with tools and parts on top of it. The #3 generator, which has been removed, would sit in from of the electrical cabinet, with its engine to the right. Behind it are power cabinets on the left, and the control cabinet of the steam boiler to the right. The passage leads to the door into the baggage car.

Note the amount of paint which has flaked and been scraped from the front and sides of the electrical cabinets.

(photo to the left) Wall detail between the #3 radiator (left) and the #3 radiator (right). The #3 and #2 engines have been removed for repair.


(photo above) Interior view of engine room of power car, facing forward while standing beside the boiler. The number one engine and its stack can be seen near the front door of the car, with its generator behind the electrical cabinet to its right. The door leads forward in the train into the locomotive.

The number two and three engines and generators have recently been removed. A bucket sits along the wall where the #2 engine sat. Tools and parts sit on the electrical cabinet for the #2 engine, and on top of the #1 electrical cabinet (foreground).

(photo to the left) Wall detail between the #2 radiator (left of photo) and the #1 radiator (right of photo). Portions of the #1 engine can be seen in the lower right, and the #2 engine has been removed for repair.

Photographs by our IRM Photo Team, using a Sony MVC-FD7 Mavica digital camera, text by Harold A. Driscoll.

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Last Modified: 05/17/2005 10:56:16 PM
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