Restoration of PRR Cabin Car No. 478396 to its Huntingdon & Broad Top Mountain Railroad Appearance
In July 2010 the Museum completed restoration of the historic Pennsylvania Railroad ND cabin car No. 478396. Built in the Altoona Shops in 1913, No. 478396 was used on the Pennsylvania Railroad Middle Division -- Harrisburg to Altoona -- and was one of the last four-wheeled “bobber” style cabin cars in use.
No. 478396 was sold by the Pennsylvania Railroad to the Huntingdon & Broad Top Mountain Railroad in 1940. The car later passed through several hands, with Larry H. Williams of Saxton, PA donating it to the Museum in 1998.
The cabin car (sometimes called caboose) was returned to Huntingdon & Broad Top Mountain livery. Under the direction of the Museum's respected Restoration department, staff, volunteers, an intern from Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology and contractors performed the work.
Restoration included the following tasks:
Removing the wooden protective covering.
Removing all exterior siding and replacing with historically correct siding.
Removing and replacing non-original interior siding.
Stripping paint from the undercarriage and brake rigging, and repainting.
Rebuilding the air brake system.
Meticulous assembly of historically correct wooden components requires skilled craftsmanship.
Cleaning and oiling the wheel journal boxes.
Needle scaling the frame and steps and replacing the missing wood stair treads.
Removing and replacing old roofing material.
Rebuilding all existing windows.
Scraping and sanding the interior surfaces.
Completing an historic paint analysis.
Installing bunk beds, oil lamps, a sink, tool box seat cushions, hardware and other
Fabricating and installing pieces of missing hardware using historic blueprints.
Repainting the interior of the car to match original colors.
Repainting the exterior of the car to the historically correct color.
Relettering the car sides.
Work on the restoration of No. 478396 was begun in the fall of 2006. Approximately 9,700 man hours were expended in completing the project, and the cost of materials totaled $32,000. The car is now on display on in the Museum’s Rolling Stock Hall.
The Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania was the first major railroad museum to develop and place into action detailed, long-range collecting and conservation plans.
With over a hundred pieces of historic rolling stock on the premises, careful prioritization is a must, explains director Charles Fox.
The Railroad Museum’s restoration projects are generally becoming larger in scope and ever more complex, challenging and expensive as time passes.
In spite of advanced decay, areas of hidden and significant original paint samples were found.
Paint chips are time capsules; studying a chip from an historic railroad car is like taking a core sample from the earth. Analysis of paint layers can tell a great deal about the sequence of alterations, as well as potentially providing ranges of dates for some of these changes.
The professional paint analysis was performed by carefully removing layers of paint to reveal a sequence of finishes down to the substrate.
Members of the Friends of the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania may read Allan Martin's informative article "Painting Process Completes Restoration of Cabin Car" in the June 2010 Milepost.
Administered by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission
Assisted by the Friends of the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania