In October, 2009, the Alexander Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society began restoration of its second narrow gauge boxcar, a rare specimen from the East Tennessee and Western North Carolina Railroad. The car was donated to the chapter by the New Jersey Museum of Transportation, and the project has been funded by the chapter, by a grant from the ET&WNC Historical Society, and a heritage grant from the National Railway Historical Association.
ET&WNC boxcar #434 is now under cover for the first time in many decades. Here, she will be carefully deconstructed and documented, then rebuilt with the same types of materials and methods used in her original construction.
October 10, 2009 After spending several hours documenting hardware location, lumber sizes, and construction methods, the siding was removed from one side of the car. Significant rot was found in one half of the side sill and will neccesitate the need for its replacement. The rest of of the interior timbers are in very good condition. These photographs easily illustrate how the doors in the car were built off center.
October 17, 2009. At right, with the siding removed from one side of the car, we turned our attention to a rotten section of a side sill and to rotten flooring around the boxcar doors. Much to our surprise, even the floor consisted of tongue-and-groove construction.
Below, we cut the rotten sill out in sections with a Sawz-All and fresh blades. It had been so long since we had new blades, the old ones might as well have been spoons!
At right, we preserved all of the key pieces of hte sill section, including the critical mortice and tenon end pieces which comprise the joint between the end and side sills.
At right, the side sill of #434 was repaired and spliced with a lap joint at some point in its life. It was joined and secured by two large nuts and bolts which ran vertically between the two sections. Remarkably, the nuts on the two bolts were able to be hand- twisted loose!
Below, the ET&WNC had repaired this side sill before, utlizing little more than a single board to fill a rotten section in the sill.
As we had hoped, the intermediate and center sills are in magnificent condition. The view at right shows the sills under the flooring area which was removed.
November 12, 2009. This spliced photo shows the naked 434. Notice that the boxcar door is off-center from the car and the rotten section of the side sill has been removed
(Left) As is the case with most surviving equipment, a good roof is the major reason a car survived. Number 434 was rebuilt with a new roof in the 1940's and other than surface rust, it remains in remarkable condition.
To ensure the roof's continued survival, it was cleaned, wire brushed, lightly sanded, air blown, and wiped with Naptha. It was then coated with POR-15, a state-of-the-art rust inhibitor.
Evidence has come to light which shows this car with an aluminum-colored painted roof during its latter days with the railroad.
December, 2009. The photos above show the excellent condition of the interior walls, floor, and ceiling of the car.
Repairing the First Side Sill
February 6, 2010. After being snowed out for the month of January, the Chapter is anxious to work on #434 and get the first side sill repaired. Starting with a custom piece of Hemlock from East Tennessee, the timber is carefully measured and marked for the massive tendons which will anchor the side sill into the end sill. (Photo, right)
(Photo, left). With the steady hand of a cabinet craftsman with over 50 years of experience, the first cuts are made into the timber.
(Photo, right). After several cuts are made in one direction, the timber is flipped side after side to make one cut after the other in the proper plane.
(Photo, below), the tendons are starting to take shape with the removal of the outer material.
(Photo, right). The 400-lb timber must be flipped time and time again to bring the tendons to life.
(Photo, below), A Sawz-All and wood chisel are used to clean out the remaining material between the tendons.
At right, a lap joint is cut into the sill so that it fits the existing section perfectly. This repair duplicates the original exactly.
In the photo to the left, Greg Carpenter drills holes in the sill so that we can reconnect the vertical tension rods that run from the roof, through the walls, and through the side sill.
Below, after placing the tendons in the end sill mortices, the side sill is then placed by the side of the car and "persuaded" into the tight space with a sledge hammer.
Below, after a hard morning's work, the side sill is perfectly in place and this side of the car is ready for siding. The original bolts and nuts that held the sill together were able to be re-used in this installation !!
At right, on each long side, nearly a dozen vertical tension rods run the entire height of the car. To remove an entire rod would mean the removal of the roof, which is in near-perfect condition. Rather than monkey with the roof, we spliced the rods with modern threaded rod and a coupler, all fastened with a steel burst pin. It is truly amazing how much harder the circa-1914 steel in the original rod is when compared to the modern rod.
One side sill has been repaired, the end sill properly mounted, tension rods installed, and old nail holes puttied and filled. Next up: installing the siding !!
Click HERE to see more pix of the ongoing restoration of #434
ET&WNC Boxcar 434
Alexander Chapter NRHS