Thursday, 15 November 2012

Roundhouse Objects Conservation - Nov. 13, 2012

November 13, 2012

I took a break from cleaning ceramics and glass this week to start entering catalogue data onto the Kings County Museum's collections database.  Getting as much information on the museum's objects as we can loaded into the database is very important for anyone wishing to do historical research.  Fortunately, all of the objects donated to the museum from the railway roundhouse demolition came with a catalogue sheet describing the object along with measurements, condition, possible dating, and a few other pieces.  Over time I will add to this information by doing additional historical research, taking high resolution photographs (called record photography by conservators and other professionals), talking to railway objects collectors, visiting other museums with railway collections, and so on.  My objective is to date everything and provide additional resources for those interested in learning more.

We were happy to be able to visit a local collector, Don Foster, arranged by the museum's curator, Bria Stokesbury.  Don has been collecting railway objects for very many years.  He has an amazing collection that follows the development of railways in Nova Scotia.  He has a caboose in his yard that was in use from 1912 until 1976 and which he has done a lot of restoration work.  Because it is mostly wood it requires regular maintenance.  He is a passionate collector with a strong interest in promoting railway history.  Even more importantly to us, he was able to answer all of our questions concerning our railway roundhouse objects and put them into context through his own collection.   We brought with us a box of metal objects that we knew very little about, that we thought were not in good shape and which we could offer to him.  There are two photographs of the objects we brought him that I wrote about in a previous post on October 16.  Here is the link: Roundhouse Objects Conservation - Oct. 16, 2012  (It will open in a new window).

There were several important things he was able to tell us about these objects.  The small bolts with square heads as shown in the photograph below were very important to him to be able to use in repair of his caboose. These bolts are now more difficult to find as they have been replaced in modern times with hex head bolts.

Square- headed wood bolt from old rail car. 
The tool shown in the photograph below was a mystery to us and Don was able to identify it.  It is used to open the bearing box on the axle of a rail car (a small door on the side near the top of the wheels) and then to adjust, remove and/or replace the packing material (with the flat, curved end) within this opening.  Prior to friction bearings it would have been used to make sure that the packing material was in place and oiled properly to ensure it will not overheat.  Overheating could cause serious damage and injury.  It is an object that I will clean up by removing as much of the rust on it as I can and then stabilize it with a thin layer of museum grade wax.

Bearing box maintenance tool in Kings County Museum
Don had a similar tool in his collection and below is a photograph with me holding the museum's and Don holding his.  Don's is somewhat longer, has been cleaned up and the handle is of a slightly different design but it has the same features such as a small tab in the middle of the handle that is used to pry the small door open and a wider, flat, curved end that is used to adjust the packing material.  Thanks to Don we can now make this a show piece in the museum's collection. The likely age of this object is circa 1912 but, I will be confirming this date with future research.  There is a possibility that it could have been hand made.

Comparing bearing box maintenance tools.

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