Lackawanna Subscription Club Car #2454

Once the exterior work on the car was completed, the time had come to move it from Boonton to Whippany so the interior restoration could be started. In September, 2019, a few weeks past the 35th anniversary of it leading the last MU train into Dover, the Lackawanna #2454 was again under the wires as it traveled the Denville to Morristown segment of its trip to the Museum.

Having arrived at Denville, Lackawanna #2454 waits on the Boonton Line as a New York bound train passes. September 19, 2019. Photo: Steve Hepler
After 35 years Lackawanna #2454 is once again under the wires as it leaves Denville for Morristown. September 19, 2019. Photo: Steve Hepler
Having left the NJ Transit line at Morristown, DL&W #2454 travels the Morristown & Erie on the way to Whippany. September 19, 2019. Photo: Mike Dodge
Lackawanna #2454 upon its arrival at the Whippany Railway Museum. September 19, 2019. Photo: Steve Hepler

With its arrival at Whippany, work on restoring the interior got underway. Restoration began with WRyM volunteers removing the carpet and clearing the car of debris. The interior finish of the car was constructed of mahogany, much of which was in remarkably good condition considering the three decades of non-maintenance and exposure to vandalism and the elements, although the interior doors needed to be rebuilt and many of the window surrounds and other finishing pieces needed to be replaced. In a process which took four months, all of the interior’s cracked and soot covered varnish was stripped and the wood refinished. Meanwhile, the damaged panels forming the car’s air-conditioning duct were replaced and followed by the prepping and repainting of the car’s ceiling.

The interior of Lackawanna Subscription Car #2454 prior to the start of restoration work. November 8, 2011. Photo: Steve Hepler.
Volunteers remove the old carpet from Lackawanna #2454. May 24, 2014. Photo: Alan Wishengrad
The interior of DL&W Subscription Car #2454 ready for its restoration. September 21, 2016. Photo: Steve Hepler.
Stripping the interior mahogany of the old coats of finish is underway. February 28, 2020. Photo: Steve Hepler.
Interior wood ready for the application of new varnish. March 21, 2020. Photo: Steve Hepler.
Appling new varnish to the interior wood of Lackawanna #2454. May 28, 2020. Photo: Steve Hepler.
The repainting of the ceiling of car. July 23, 2020. Photo: Steve Hepler.
The Men’s (Smoking) section of the car after the completion of the wood restoration and repainting of the ceiling. July 27, 2020. Photo: Steve Hepler.

Nearly all of the metal fittings, both large, such as the baggage racks and lighting fixtures, and small, down to the match strike plates, had been removed over the years, requiring replacements to be acquired or manufactured. With the refinishing of the interior mahogany completed, all of these various pieces were reinstalled. Interior lettering was then applied. At this same time the car’s electrical service was converted to be compatible with modern HEP systems and the interior of the car was rewired, down to each of the annunciators which were used to alert the car’s porter that a member wanted service.

Baggage Racks for Lackawanna #2454. The one on the right is prior to restoration while the one on the left is ready to be repainted. May 27, 2016. Photo: Alan Wishengrad
A newly made replacement light fixture for Lackawanna Subscription Car #2454. June 7, 2016. Photo: Terence Mulligan.
A Museum volunteer installs window latches. September 10, 2020. Photo: Steve Hepler
A Museum volunteer installs one of the fan motors. November 30, 2020. Photo: Steve Hepler
Reinstalling Lackawanna #2454’s baggage racks. January 10, 2021. Photo: Steve Hepler
The subscription car’s interior number in gold-leaf lettering. March 4, 2021. Photo: Steve Hepler
Lettering on the window of the entrance doors reminded passengers that the car was for “Members Only”. March 3, 2021. Photo: Steve Hepler
The control panel in the operator’s compartment. May 17, 2021. Photo: Steve Hepler
Museum volunteers install replacement wiring for the car’s annunciators. December 29, 2020. Photo: Steve Hepler
The rewiring of the car progresses with the installation of new lighting hardware. January 27, 2021. Photo: Steve Hepler

The original heating system was was designed to operate on DC power. This set-up was replaced with one able to operate with on AC power. The radiators were installed within the original floor mounted heating ducts, thus maintaining the original look. The metal plates covering the system were repainted and reinstalled.

Pieces of Lackawanna #2454’s original heating system removed from the floor duct. November 30, 2019. Photo: Alan Wishengrad
Installation of the new electric heaters into the original floor ducts. November 30, 2020. Photo: Steve Hepler
New heater installed with two of the original grates restored and reinstalled in DL&W Subscription Car #2454. December 10, 2020. Photo: Terence Mulligan

The concrete floor of the car was resurfaced, and a 1910-era railroad-design carpet was manufactured and installed in the main sections. The entranceways, galley and restrooms received new, dark-green linoleum.

A Museum volunteer grinds the floor of the car to smooth the concrete surface. April 26, 2021. Photo: Steve Hepler
Installation of the new carpet. April 28, 2021. Photo: Steve Hepler
Installation of the carpet. April 28, 2021. Photo: Steve Hepler

When in service, another distinctive feature of the Subscription Cars were their individual wicker seats. When received by the Museum, a few of the original chairs were still in Lackawanna #2454. One was shipped to a firm located in New Delhi, India, which was able to use it as a template to make the forty exact replicas needed for the restoration.

Interior of one of the Subscription Cars. Photographed at Hoboken, NJ, April, 1968
A pair of the original wicker seats left in Lackawanna #2454. April 17, 2014. Photo Steve Hepler
The prototype reproduction wicker chair in India. December 22, 2015. Photo: Vikas Khurana
The interior of Lackawanna #2454 with the reproduction wicker chairs. May 23, 2021. Photo: Steve Hepler

While the interior work was underway, a few finishing touches to the exterior were also addressed. A correct headlight, donated to the Museum, was refurbished and installed and the car’s marker lights were repaired and rewired.

Donated Pyle National Headlight for the restoration. October 27, 2019. Photo: Steve Hepler
Installation of the restored Sealed Beam Headlight. November 10, 2020. Photo: Steve Hepler
One of the marker lights after repair and rewiring. May 17, 2021. Photo: Steve Hepler
DL&W Subscription Car #2454 with headlight and marker lights lit. May 1, 2021. Photo: Steve Hepler

On June 20th, 2021, DL&W #2454 returned to service following a celebratory dedication ceremony featuring an appearance by the Lackawanna Railroad’s iconic Miss Phoebe Snow. Now visitors to the Museum will have the opportunity to experience how some of New Jersey’s wealthiest businessmen commuted from their suburban homes to New York City. The restoration of this car helps to further the Whippany Railway Museum’s mission to preserve New Jersey’s railroad history.

Miss Phoebe Snow. June 20, 2021. Photo: Steve Hepler
Miss Phoebe Snow christens Lackawanna Subscription Car #2454. June 20, 2021. Photo: Steve Hepler
Dedication Ceremony for the return to service of Lackawanna #2454. June 20, 2021. Photo: Steve Hepler
Visitors to the Museum getting the opportunity to experience firsthand a significant piece of New Jersey’s railroad history. June 20, 2021. Photo: Steve Hepler

The Museum is grateful to the efforts of the numerous individuals and organizations without whom the restoration of this car would not have been possible. We are especially grateful to Frank Reilly of the New Jersey County Transportation Officers Association and Captain Bill McKelvey of Liberty Historic Railway for their role in providing the funding needed for the successful completion of this project. We thank Star Trak, Philip Paris Restorations, AA Metal & Glass, Frank Minorowicz and Vikas Khurana at Interex Company for their expertise. We also thank the many Whippany Railway Museum volunteers who contributed countless hours of their time to the restoration of this car. We also wish to thank the many good people at URHS. We appreciate their arranging the transfer of the Lackawanna #2454 to WRyM and offer them a big round of applause for, without their efforts, it is very likely that this car would have been lost to the scrapper many years ago.

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