VOLUME 17, ISSUE 1
THE POLAR EXPRESS COMES TO GALVESTON By Don Harper Board Member and Newsletter Editor
The Polar Express has been traveling from Galveston to the North Pole and back several times each weekend, since the beginning of November and continued until the end of December, to the delight of kids of all ages. After months of negotiations, meetings, and reams of filled-out paperwork the Polar Express arrived, and will do so again in the same time period for years to come. Negotiations begun by former Executive director, Morris Gould, was carried to fruition by new executive director, Jim Rosengren. The Museum staff had 100 days to pull everything together for the event. Because much of the event involves showmanship, a theatrical team was recruited, thanks to Jimâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s contacts with the Alley Theater in Houston. Also recruited were many part-time, temporary workers to direct vehicle traffic, foot
traffic, and perform a myriad of tasks that the small Museum staff could not do, and still complete their day jobs. Matthew Dowd and Dave Schrank from Rail Events met with staff on 11 April to discuss the Polar Express event planned by the Museum. They were impressed with the facility, the equipment, and the advanced planning that had already been done. They recommended not running every day during the first season, suggesting instead, 3 rides a day on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. That way, most of the things that were not thought of, or could go wrong, were taken care of. Jim, and 3 members of the theatrical team, attended a week-long Polar Express Enhancement Camp in Durango, CO, from 13 to 16 May 2019. The focus was on brand management and enhancing and personalizing theatrical production. Al Harper, owner of the franchise, estimated 60,000 visitors would ride the Polar Express in Galveston. This would provide a significant boost in income, some of which can be used for restoration of rail cars in the Museumâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s yard. After the Board of Directors reviewed the document, Jim signed it and returned it to Rail Events. New ticket scanners, credit card readers and point-ofsale laptops were purchased, and new wiring to support these devices was installed. These machines were tested, using Harborside Express train ride ticketing, to work out the glitches and familiarize the staff with the equipment. Knowing Museum staff would be overwhelmed if they tried to sell tickets, the Museum contracted with Etix to handle ticket sales. Tickets were completely sold out in one day. Etix had 50 operators to take ticket orders and they experienced backups of several hours, the call volume was so heavy Rail Events said it was the most successful inaugural event sale in their 19-year history. Trey Taylor and the Museum staff did a marvelous job of decorating the Museum and the rail cars. The entire Museum had a very festive appearance.
Decorated tables in one of the chair cars. Several decorated Christmas trees were placed around the Museum.
Engine 316 approaching the Christmas tree by Santaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s workshop at the North Pole. Baggage carts were recrafted as Christmas-themed displays.
In the Garden of Steam
A corner of the Peopleâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Gallery.
By the depot
Decorations were placed on almost everything that doesn’t move.
Lighting in one of the high-level passenger cars. WBT&S Engine 1 by day The experience is especially impressive at night. The Garden of Steam glows with soft light. The cars are lit in Christmas colors.
Engine 1 transformed by night.
The ethereal Garden of Steam at night.
Each Polar Express experience begins in the People’s Gallery. A stage is set up depicting a child’s bedroom. Children in the audience are encouraged to sit on a rug in front of the stage, and are often joined by one or two parents. A girl comes into her room and sits down on her bed.
Soon after her father comes in and they have a discussion about Christmas and then they read the Polar Express book together.
Families gathered to see the Polar Express reading.
At the end of the reading a great burst of steam comes through the door to the Peopleâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Gallery and in walks the conductor.
Engine 316 after pulling the Polar Express back to Galveston from the North Pole. Note the snowflakes on the concourse. The conductor gets up on the stage and exhorts all the children to ride on the Polar Express and then escorts the patrons outside into their preassigned coaches.
The Polar Express ride begins on Track 3, which is extensively decorated, and requires about 45 minutes to complete. Engine 315 pulls the consist slowly to the high stand switch where the Museum tracks join the UP Wharves transfer track, stops for a time, while actors go through their routine. The train, pulled by Engine 316, pulls into the Museum on Track 5, where Santa boards at the North Pole. As the train goes back to the high stand switch, Santa visits all the children in the coaches. The train makes another run onto Track 5 to let Santa off at the North Pole, goes back to the high stand switch, and then terminates the run on Track 3, back in Galveston. I rode the train on 15 November, and can attest that it was a great experience. On my high-level ex-Amtrak coach, Conductor Brittany punched tickets as riders came up the stairs to the seating area.
The Polar Express power is provided by Engine 315 outbound and 316 inbound.
Ticket Taker Brittany
Engine 315 awaiting departure to the North Pole.
Brittany and Conductor Luke entertained the riders, asking questions, taking the lead singing Christmas carols, seeing which group of riders could yell the loudest, and served hot chocolate. Everyone received, in addition to
their boarding ticket, a large golden ticket. The chief conductor came through the coach and punched the golden ticket multiple times.
After Santa got on the train at the North Pole, he went through the coach and talked to each child. Some were absolutely awestruck and couldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t find their tongues when he asked them a question. Others were very animated.
After guests exited the train, they were directed past the Garden of Steam and into the gift shop. I went in the gift shop twice and both times there were people milling around, examining various items, and making purchases.
The following day, a semi-truck arrived with several boxes containing Polar Express gift items to replenish the stock in the shop. It took a very large number of people to make this event happen, starting with the Museum staff: Jim Rosengran, ED, Sam Christiansen, archivist, Jennifer Kelso, marketing director, Lanette Pacheco, gift shop manager, Ramon Coles and Kelly Carroll custodians, the actors and support staff, and the train crew and the guys who made sure the engines operated properly and the cars were wired, plumbed and ran smoothly
Part of the Polar Express story is about a bell that only those who truly BELIEVE can hear. Santa gave everyone in the coach a small bell. Everyone could hear their bell, so you know what that means.
L to R: Jeff Gilanyi car maintenance, Morris Gould, COO of the GRRM and maintenance supervisor. Melvin McNeil, 315 engineer,Texas City Terminal Railway, Sean McGuire, Texas City Terminal Railway, Jimmy Carter, board member, retired from the Texas City Terminal Ry, and Gilbert Gardiner, retired SP/UP 316 engineer.
Galveston policemen also assisted by providing security in the Museum, especially at night, and providing traffic control at grade crossings. Galveston Sheriffs’ Department personnel provide security for guests inside the Museum.
Board member Jimmy Carter manned the switch at 29th Street to direct the train from Track 3 to Track 5 and back to Track 3 again, and provided grade crossing security.
Jimmy Carter about to throw the switch at 29th Street. Police vehicle guarding the 28th Street grade crossing.
Whether you are a long-time member of the Museum, or have joined recently, I cannot overemphasize how important this event will be to the Museum. Long-deferred maintenance of rail cars can be undertaken. More staff can be added to assist with accounting, grant writing, and curation. Renovation of buildings can be undertaken. All these can be addressed with the increased funding. To encourage Museum membership, members at the $100 level or higher had first access to tickets to ride the Polar Express, and are eligible for NARM (North American Reciprocal Museums membership. If you wished to ride the Polar Express this season, but were unable to obtain tickets, perhaps now is the time to be proactive. Upgrade your membership to the $100 level, or above, and have first dibs on tickets for next year’s events. This year an estimated 5,000 tickets were sold to the Museum members. A membership renewal form is included with this newsletter. Memberships at the $250 level and above receive free parking at the Museum.
At the 33rd Street crossing THEATER BUILDING TO UNDERGO MAJOR RENOVATION The theater building is a historical structure - it was It is never a good thing to walk into a building and find once the Railway Express building for Galveston. Tearing little mounds of sawdust on the floor. But, that is exactly it down and replacing it would be a travesty that is too what happened following the train show in April. often visited on Galveston. After consultation with the We knew there were termites – Formosan termites, selected contractor, Joe Webb, it was decided that the persistent plague across the southern United States – extensive reconstruction would be undertaken – in the theater building. What we didn’t know was how bad eliminating all wood, replacement of the damaged trusses the infestation was. with metal trusses, replacing the roof deck and installing a Two contractors were brought in to investigate the new roof cover, as the first step. Then remodeling the extent of the damage, and they found that there were interior, keeping one half for model railroads, and keeping termites in just about every piece of wood in the building – the other half as variable space for displays. The variable the trusses, the walls, the roof. At first it was thought the space, which would include moveable walls, will allow building could be tented and exterminated, but the rotation of the Museum’s artifacts so visitors do not see the infestation was so extensive, it was considered impractical, same exhibits each time they visit. As it is desirable to especially considering the in-ground colony would soon host displays from other museums, a HVAC system for the reinvade.
building is essential. The board of directors has approved all these items. In preparation for the reconstruction, curator Sam Christensen packed display items and transported them to a storage unit on the mainland. Some items are on display in the former Harvey House section of the Peoples Gallery.
The contractor had difficulty obtaining the steel trusses to support the roof, so the reconstruction was delayed until after the Polar Express event terminates for the year. In the interim, the former HO-scale railroad space is used to show the Polar Express movie, and the display spaces are being used for the Polar Express gift shop.
GRRM NEWS By Morris Gould, Operations Manager ANOTHER INATTENTIVE DRIVER On 13 April 2019, a Port of Galveston parking shuttle bus ignored the crossbuck, and didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t hear Engine 1983â&#x20AC;&#x2122;s grade crossing horn sound. The driver ran in front of the Harborside Express train at the 29th Street grade crossing. Damage to the van was minimal, as the engine was moving at less than 5 MPH. The front coupler hit the bus on the left rear side, right at the gas cap. The bus rocked up, its tires coming off the ground about 3 feet. Everyone thought it was going to flip over. Luckily no one was on the bus. The caboose had 15 riders, but there were no issues with them. Everyone, including shuttle drivers, need to slow down and look both ways before crossing any grade crossings!! Always expect a train. They outweigh you by several order of magnitude and they cannot stop on a dime. This could have been a major incident if passengers had been on board the bus. Damage to the engine was limited to paint scraped off the front coupler. Because of this latest event, the Museum has become proactive. Dr. John Bertini, Board Chair, contacted the Port of Galveston, and offered to host an Operation Lifesaver class for the port and other cruise ship shuttle drivers. Board member Jimmy Carter, former head of operations for the Texas City Terminal Railway, is on board to conduct the class at the Museum.
COTS INSPECTIONS AND OTHER UPGRADES TO THE RAIL YARD AND EQUIPMENT COT&S (Clean, Oil, Test, & Stencil) maintenance must be completed on the air brake equipment of passenger cars every 4 years, whether the cars are run or not, according to Federal Railroad Administration regulations. To do this the equipment must be disassembled and taken to a specialist for safety testing and maintenance. Both the C.O.T.S and the Amtrak PC-1 inspection were completed in August to be sure the equipment was ready for the Polar Express event. Ramon Coles removed all the components and loaded them in a pickup truck. The parts will be boxed at Albrecht Construction Co., and shipped to Pittsburgh Air Brake Co. for recertification.
Ramon Cole with the 540 pounds of brake equipment he removed from passenger cars. Damage to the side of the bus after the impact. By the way, the shuttle bus driver was fired for ignoring the crossbucks and driving onto the tracks without looking.
A large section of track was determined to have deteriorated cross ties, so those were replaced. The 29th Street switch was almost out of gauge and new ties were installed and a switch point was ground to allow tighter contact. Two ex-Amtrak high level coaches were leased
from John Radovich in Dallas and delivered to the Museum by BNSF. The head end power (HEP) generator in Warbonnet locomotive 315, the unit that supplies 480-volt power for the passenger cars’ air conditioning, failed recently. An inspection determined that an exhaust valve seat broke and fell down in #4 cylinder. This damaged the piston and cylinder head. Cummings of Houston repaired the damage in situ, without having to disassemble the generator.
Mars Lights are signal-safety lights built by Mars Signal Light Company for railroad locomotives and firefighting apparatuses. They oscillate vertically, horizontally, or both, to catch the attention of motorists and pedestrians.
Perry Hatch, locomotive engineer, and I, were featured on Houston’s Channel 13 (AABC). Both of us were interviewed about how we became involved with the Museum, and how much we enjoy volunteering and meeting the folks who come to ride the Harborside Express. The interview may still be seen on the Channel 13 website: https://abc13.com/entertainment/galveston-
James Campbell, who frequently assists the Museum with projects, has restored, and donated, a Mars light for use on the Missouri Pacific short bay-window caboose. It is especially useful during backup moves when caboose rides are being given.
Mars lights were developed by Jerry Kennelly, a Chicago firefighter who realized that oscillating lamps would benefit fire departments and railroads. The first railroad operational test was on a Chicago and Northwestern locomotive in 1936, and they began to be more widespread on locomotives in the late 1930s.
THE GOOD NEWS DEPARTMENT By Don Harper, Board Member DRGW FLAT CAR RESTORATION Calvin Wehrle, the Museum’s go-to guy for rolling stock restoration, completed restoration of the Denver and Rio Grande Western flat car No. 21158. He first used a hydroblaster to clean all the rust off the metal parts. He then coated the metal with good quality rust- resistant paint. And finally, he installed the deck using 2 x 10 treated lumber.
photos of the car in service bearing a block of granite on its deck, and it was decided to recreate this look.
Underside of the DRGW flat car after painting.
End on view of the DRGW flat car after painting. DRGW 21558 is a historic car. It was one of several flat cars used to carry marble from a quarry in Vermont to the site in Washington, D.C., where the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was constructed. The Museum has
In the archival photos, most of the marble is enclosed within a wooden frame with only the ends visible. Calvin made a frame identical to the one in the photo and then made two pieces of faux granite to fill the open ends of the frame. This is a very nice recreation of an important historic event in the Nation’s history. Another car of historic importance in the Museum’s collection is the Glen Fee coach. It was on the original American Freedom Train that
toured the country in 1947. Plans are being made to recreate the look this car it had when it was part of the Freedom Train.
Louisville & Nashville baggage car 1205 Readers may recall the deplorable condition of the Louisville and Nashville baggage car #1205 that was reported in previous newsletter. The car was badly rusted and in need of repairs and new paint.
The flat car with simulated granite installed. Robert E. Lee Observation Car Cleaned A new custodian, Kelly Carroll, was hired late last year. She has more talents than just custodial work. Below are photos of the Robert E. Lee from before and after she undertook cleaning. Staff is thrilled with her.
L&N baggage car 1205 during the restoration process. We are most pleased to report that rusted metal has been cut away and new metal welded in place. The entire car was cleaned of rust and then was painted. The results are stunning.
SANTA TRAIN By Jennifer Kelso, Marketing Coordinator The Museum hosted “Santa Arrives By Train” in December 2018. This event was a trial run for Polar Express. Everything worked well, and it was the largest event the Museum has done to date, although we expect the Polar Express attendance will far surpass the Santa train. The Junior ROTC unit at Ball High School in Galveston volunteered countless hours at the Santa event. The Museum donated $750 to the ROTC Marksmanship Team as thanks for their efforts. Also involved was the Ball High School Theater Department. The Museum hired a rising actor, Demetrius Calhoun to play Santa’s helper, Elfie. Visitors could take a “Selfie with Elfie”. ANOTHER SUCCESSFUL TRAIN SHOW By Steve Barkley Train Show Coordinator The annual model railroad train show was held at the Museum on the last weekend of April. As with past shows, model railroad clubs, representing all scales from N to G, set up displays and several vendors brought their wares to sell. All the statues and benches in the People’s Gallery were cleared out to make room for the displays. This is not an easy process. The statues are fragile and must be handled carefully.
The benches are quite heavy and must be lifted and have rollers placed under them before they can be moved outside.
Bird’s eye view of model railroad displays being set up. Gently lifting a statue from its place on the bench.
Benches being moved out of the Peoples Gallery
An estimated 700 individuals visited the Museum to view the exhibits. The Harborside Express was also in operation during the entire event. And the weather cooperated. I thank all the clubs, individuals and vendors who made this event a resounding success.
Two smaller layouts.
Train show visitors inspecting vendors wares.
The G-scale layout set up under the overhang outside the People’s Gallery
Long-time local vendor and Museum supporter Larry Nalewak once again brought railroadiana items for sale at the show. Lego layout
Bird’s eye view of George Bohn, event organizer for the 2019 Model Train Show in the People’s Gallery
WOMEN VETERANS VISIT THE MUSEUM By Jennifer Kelso Marketing Director During the Model Train Show weekend, the Museum hosted a group of World War II women veterans. LaShondra Jones, with the Women Veterans Services of Catholic Charities, brought a group of ladies to Galveston for a day of fun, fellowship, and relaxation. The Railroad Museum was one of the stops for this group. The women enjoyed seeing all the model train displays and had a fun day exploring the Museum, before continuing to the Strand District. The Museum staff and Board of Directors is most grateful to these women, and all members of the Armed Services, for their service to our country. Women vets pose in front of F-Unit 315, during the train show. POLAR EXPRESS GARNERS NEW MEMBERS FOR THE MUSEUM Donna
Paul & Rae
Andy & Cathy
Cheryl & Kevin
Spence & Stephanie
Marie & Thomas
Marie & Thomas
David And Dawn
David & Tasha
Tom & Nancy
Tom & Nancy
Charlie & Jodie
George & Robbie
Earl & Vicki
Weston & Mary
Ron And Susan
Andrew & Elizabeth
Jamie & Eugene
Beth & Ethan
David & Sharon
Alan & Myra
Miles & Gaynell
David & Roxanne
John & Marie
Amanda & Brian
Jason & Annette
Leonard & Melissa
END MARKERS Walter A. “Butch” Kelso 1941-2019
The funeral service took place at Trinity Episcopal Church on 13 February at 10:00 a.m. located at 2216 Ball Street in Galveston with the Reverend Susan Kennard and Reverend Edward Thompson officiating. Burial was in Galveston Memorial Park in Hitchcock, TX. The family requested memorials be sent to The Kelso Memorial Library Fund at Trinity Episcopal Church, The Education and Excellence Fund at Trinity Episcopal School, or the charity of one’s choice.
Joyce Dundee 1926-2019
Former Board member Walter A. “Butch” Kelso, III passed peacefully on 6 Feb 2019 at Kindred Hospital in Webster, at the age of 77. He was born in Galveston on 26 June 1941. He received the nickname “Butch” from his father and members of the 19th Bomb Group during his father’s only time with Butch prior to deployment to the Philippines, and eventual capture and death during WWII as a POW. He is survived by his wife, Judith, his son Mark, his daughter-in-law Jennifer, who is the Museum’s Marketing Director and his grandson Drew. Mr. Kelso graduated from Ball High School in 1959 and Texas Christian University in 1964 with a Bachelor of Education. After completing his education, he came home to Galveston and worked for the University of Texas Medical Branch as Assistant Director of Purchasing. While pursuing his career he served his community as a deputy in the Galveston County Sheriff’s Department from 1961 through 1985 attaining the rank of Sargent. He also graciously gave his time in service to his community of faith by serving on the Vestry of Trinity Episcopal Church and The Education and Excellence Committee at Trinity Episcopal School. Butch was a life-long railroad collector. His specific interests were in model trains, and railroad lanterns. The family will be donating a large portion of Mr. Kelso’s railroad memorabilia back to the Galveston Railroad Museum.
Joyce passed on Wednesday, February 20, 2019 at UTMB. She was 94 years of age and would have celebrated her 95th birthday June 19th. She was the mother of former ED John Dundee, and was one of the Museum’s strongest supporters during his tenure. She attended special events, rode trains, and always talked up the Museum. Joyce is survived by her sister Teresa Bruce Uhlig (Bill) of Huntsville, Texas as well as a host of nieces and nephews from her side of the family as well as from the family of her former husband, George H. Dundee, deceased, of Galveston, Texas. Joyce leaves behind children, grandchildren and great grandchildren: Daughter Patricia Dundee Hughes (Peter) of Ocean City, MD., Son John K. Dundee (Becky) of Galveston, TX., Grandson George “Ben” Dundee (Bryanne) of Austin, TX., Jennifer Dundee Reeder (J. Patrick) of Georgetown, TX. Great Grandchildren Solomon “Solo” Emmitt Dundee and Nora Esther “Birdie” Dundee of Austin, TX. To say Joyce was a strong, determined and fiercely independent woman would be an understatement.
Galveston Island Railroad Museum & Terminal 2602 Santa Fe Place Galveston, TX 77550 409-765-5700 info@galvestonRRmuseum.org galvestonRRmuseum.org
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