The Curzon Story (10 of 13)
"Archeological Demolition" of x1413;
wheels and an underframe for the Curzon

Dismantling x1413 — an "Archeological Demolition" project

Work began almost immediately on x1413 on a railway spur supplied by the OK Concrete Co. This was directly across from the museum site, so visual security was enhanced. Under a Provincial Job Creation Program three people carefully began to do an "archeological demolition" - for want of a better word. This was no-ordinary demolition project; considerable philosophical thought went into the decisions and technique surrounding this work. The following points were considered:

  1. The Curzon was an amazingly intact artifact — both interior and exterior — from 1907. However, without the proper structural support, it would be extremely difficult and costly to move safely. It would also look awkward and incomplete without appropriate wheels.
  2. x1413 was in very bad condition structurally. It was basically held together by the steel "fish-belly" underframe, and to some extent the steel sheathing. The interior had been entirely gutted, and what little remained, had mostly rotted away.
  3. The exterior steel sheathed walls had bulges on one side — a sign of impending structural failure of the rotted walls and roof.
  4. The steel sheathing itself was badly rusted, and beginning to come off the car. This steel shell was in danger of complete collapse.
  5. Under the steel sheathing, the old wood sheathing, where it could be seen, was also in very bad condition. Water had seeped in and been trapped — hence substantial rot. When the steel sheathing was removed, it was discovered that about 80% of the wood sheathing had rotted away, along with much of the original wooden structure as well. Some sample wood sheathing was saved for future exterior work on the Curzon. A few other pieces were saved as well for future interpretation.
  6. The x1413 roof was leaking in all locations, and had been apparently been doing so for years.
  7. The interior panelling had been boarded over years before, and moisture had been trapped inside producing more deterioration. Once exposed, most of the original laminated panelling came apart. All of the interior panelling had apparently also been painted in the 1921 modifications.

On the basis of the above, it was decided to make one very good restoration project out of a very good car body without wheels, and a derelict car with wheels.

x1413 was extensively photographed (black and white, colour, and slides), measured. Detailed drawings were then made, so that Curzon's construction would be better understood; the two cars were nearly identical in construction and decor. The anti-telescoping steel walls at the ends of the steel chassis were also cut away. This "archeological demolition" portion of the project took from May until October of 1992. A complete cross-section of the car (10' wide x 19' long) was also saved and lifted off the steel underframe on the last day .

The chassis was now clear, and excess steel was carefully cut off all around the perimeter. This left eight support points on each side, and at the same points as it would have had originally as a wooden car. This full steel frame under the Curzon will be modified as funds permit to reduce the relatively massive appearance. The twin three-foot deep beams spanning the length of the car will be cut down to about 10" in depth. Truss rods will then be added at the sides and along the centre to support the car. The car should then appear more as a wooden truss-rod car, with a much lighter appearance. The remaining centre steel beam, extending the length of the car, also contains the couplers therefore providing substantial longitudinal strength for the fragile wood body of Curzon . This will be a permanent safety feature for the car, and will allow it to be moved by rail to the new site of the museum in a few years.

While x1413 was being dismantled, work also continued on the Curzon to prepare it to fit onto the new chassis. Old metal parts and bolts from under the car were removed and saved. Some of the original wood was adapted to make it fit into the steel saddles, but without compromising the surviving structural integrity. The measurement tolerance was 1/4" over the 80' length, and about 1/8" on the 10' width of the car. Therefore, mistakes could not be made on the Curzon body which might cause it to bind when being set down onto the x1413 chassis . For instance, if it did not sit down completely, it could make the car lean to one side, or slope along its length. At the very worse, it might put excessive strain on any one part of the car which could result in the breaking of interior panels and cabinets, stained glass, or windows, etc. Constant checks and measurements were done to ensure accuracy.

Placing Curzon on the x1413 chassis and wheels

After x1413 was completely stripped down, housemover, Elvin Townsend, lowered the car very carefully over two days onto the saddles of the new chassis. Some steel laminated inside the original wooden side beams of Curzon had to fit precisely with these saddles. These surfaces were greased as a precaution, but the fit was exact. As the car was lowered, the slight upward camber in the steel chassis disappeared as the full weight of the car was taken up; the Curzon was now back on wheels for the first time in 60 years. Over a period of a week, the Curzon frame adapted to the new chassis. Since the longitudinal beams along the centre of the car had never been supported while it was a cottage, a slight sag in the centre floor adjusted as the beams were carried along the new steel centre beam of the chassis. After a few days of settling, the sides of the car were resting flush in the side saddles.

Curzon trucksThe Curzon on its trucks.