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Wednesday, August 13. 2014
Steam Department Update 08-10-2014 Posted by Nigel Bennett in Steam Department at 14:50
It promises to be a busy few weekends ahead for #1630. We are planned to run both weekends of Day Out With Thomas and then Labor Day weekend.
She ran well in recent weeks and I was able to see her in action and take a few pictures when I came for the Vintage transport Sunday. My collection of photographs of her in action is limited as I am normally in the shop when she is running.
There was some pressure to get preparation work done last week / last weekend as it was suggested (as it has been several times before!) that the track contractor would be on site this week preventing #1630 being set on the service track.
So a lot of effort went in to #1630 to ensure that everything is ready for three weekends of continuous operation. The first two weekends will be particularly challenging as we need to be out at the depot by 10:00 to clear the way for the Thomas trains. That will require a much earlier start time for the crews.
Aside from the usual coaling and watering, the boiler was drained and refilled with fresh water and the locomotive had a good clean. The paintwork was washed and the rods cleaned and oiled.
After all the work she looked a lot better. The dust is gone from the top of the boiler but she is developing a “working” look as the condensation from the safety valves and generator slowly discolors the paint on the firebox sheet metal.
Good news for the firemen is that we have just about reached the end of the old coal and a new supply has been delivered. The large part of what is now in the tender is the new batch. So the hope is that we should be using less and burning better … which would be a big benefit to the firemen on a hot Summer’s day!!.
Good thing we believed the story this time!. On Monday the contractor was on-site and hard at work.
By early afternoon the track in front of the boxcar was gone and grading for the switch was progressing fast. Difficult to recognize that this is where #1630 was standing in the previous picture.
If work goes to plan, the switch and much of the cut off track will be in place before next weekend.
In the shop continued progress has been made on the Shay. Over successive weeks, the under-side was first thoroughly cleaned by needle chipping and wire brushing. Then mid-week Christian and his brother finished the cleaning and primed all the surfaces. Finally, last weekend Jane put in hours of work in painting the whole area. As the day progressed, it became clear that the overall area was far bigger than it first appeared. There are all sorts of surfaces at different angles and it seemed that whenever she looked from a different angle, there was another area of primer still to be covered. However, after a hard day’s work, she had it pretty much complete. And very nice it now looks. A couple of jobs on the truck and hopefully we can get it back in.
The next couple of weeks may be quiet in the shop as we have intensive running and also the Thomas weekends that keep the site “rather busy”!
Friday, July 25. 2014
Steam Department Update 07-24-2014 Posted by Nigel Bennett in Steam Department at 16:14
It was a rather limited turnout last weekend but some key work was achieved.
#1630 was not scheduled to run as it was the diesel parade weekend. It is now planned that she will run next weekend (7/26-27) and the one day of Vintage Transport (Sunday August 3rd). Subsequent dates in August are being finalized based upon availability of our small pool of qualified crew. However, the tentative dates would have her out of service the weekend of August 9th and running during the Thomas weekends (16th and 23rd). These dates are not yet firm.
Some odd jobs were done but one critical task will ensure that photographs before and after July 19th will be very easy to distinguish.
After a break, Dennis returned and worked with Jerry to letter the cab. She now has the Frisco lettering back on the cab sides.
This involved the careful application of the stencils that Dennis had sourced.
After these were carefully placed and flattened, the covering sheet was removed.
Some of us thought that the black on yellow lettering was rather attractive and suggested running for a while with this!!.
However, the purists prevailed and, after careful masking of the cab side vents, the lettering was sprayed.
So we are now back to a more complete appearance with the cab correctly lettered. Note that she will always look different in this running period as it has been determined that the “IRYM” identification, that she carried previously, is not required and will not be re-applied this time.
The other job was to remove and repair a bracket under the tender, that supports part of the brake linkage. This had shown signs of looseness and movement so it was removed, corrected and re-fitted.
In what is becoming a regular Wednesday activity, a full load of coal was lifted into the tender. Thanks again to Anthony from B&G for operating the skidder to fill the tipping bucket for raising on the forklift. We used the shop forklift this week as the big B&G one was in use. I will not be doing that again in a hurry!!. It does the job just fine. However, due to its smaller size, you are much more up close and personal with the coal tipper. So each time Anthony fills the tipper you enjoy a nice cloud of coal dust and his amusement as he watches you disappear in the black cloud!. You also have to be really careful to watch out for any loose lumps of coal that may fall when lifting the bucket into the tender.
The other hard and messy job that is done most Wednesdays is to fully clean out the grates and ash pan then inspect the firebox. Phil and JD have regularly been doing this and the results of their efforts are a good starting point for the Saturday crew.
Not a good photograph but it gives some idea of the area previously covered by clinker and cinders that the guys have to clean out each week.
Work has progressed in several areas on #938
Ben did a great job on cleaning off the pipework under the cab (and incidentally finding and removing some old bird’s nests that lay above and behind them).
I spent much of the day wire brushing and needle chipping the firebox crown. It is a pretty filthy job but rewarding when you actually get it to the stage where it can be primed.
The long and tedious job of needle chipping the tender frames continued. One side done and the other well under way.
Phil cleaned off much of the boiler barrel and also moved forward with needle chipping the tender. We had considered trying to uncover and measure the logos and identification on the tender as a basis for making stencils. However, it is far from clear how much the side logos were original or part of work done in Texas. We therefore decided that it will be more effective to work from photographs. The paint was carefully removed to see if anything unusual showed up. And it certainly did!.
Phil had carefully removed paint on the back of the tender and determined that the pattern agreed closely with photographs with the capacity at top and the locomotive number below. He had also picked out the outline of the three large numerals 938. However, as he worked into the body of the numerals we got a surprise. What we had assumed was an 8 clearly had no central bar and is very definitely not an 8 but a 0. So our tender was not originally from 938 but 930.
Tom is checking the boiler number against ALCO records to confirm that the loco is 938 but stampings on various motion parts seem to indicate that it is. So it looks as if the tender was swapped late in life. The good photograph that we have of the locomotive clearly shows a distinctive pattern of repairs and a large bulge in the side identifying what we now know to be the #930 tender. However, this is a very late photograph. So now we have an interesting research project on what happened to 930 and when. Was this just a last minute swap when 938 was tidied up for the end of steam display or did she run with this tender in later years?
So another week of steady progress.
Friday, July 18. 2014
Steam Department Update 07-17-2014 Posted by Nigel Bennett in Steam Department at 20:39
It continues to absorb a lot of time to run #1630 but we have now started to see more jobs moving in parallel with the operations.Recently #1630 has run as scheduled. Unfortunately we will now be running less frequently, generally every other weekend due to the shortage of trained crews. Brian came up from Florida for two weeks and allowed us to run all weekend days in the last two weeks but now we have guys on vacation and it is more difficult.
Last week required a lot of effort to get ready for the weekend.
Anyway, the good news is that she has run reliably despite these issues and the coal pile is now down to not much more than one week’s supply. After that we can get some new stuff and hopefully get beyond the uncertainty.
Work has progressed in a number of areas and plans for the next projects are becoming clearer.
Aside from the Winter work on #1630 our main projects will be the Shay and #428. Much of the work on the latter is welding and machining so most people will be working on the Shay.
In addition, before #1630 comes in for the Winter, the objective is to get a coat of paint on #938. This is the first of a whole lot of static display engines that sorely need such treatment.
So a lot has been happening and there will hopefully be more in the next few weeks when we are able to run #1630 rather less.
Friday, June 27. 2014
Steam Department Update 06-27-2014 Posted by Nigel Bennett in Steam Department at 17:15
An interesting couple of weeks as we get used to supporting the operation of #1630 while starting various jobs that have been in the background while we focused on the overhaul. I am struggling with when best to write a blog these days. Much more work is taking place on Sundays and mid-week. So my practice of writing a blog each Saturday would largely reflect work in progress with the key being to have everything complete for running the next Saturday!.
Father’s Day was, to say the least, frustrating!. I was not at the shop on the Saturday as my son from the UK was over with his wife and our little grand-daughter. Like a lot of other people our plans for the Sunday went awry when we got to Union expecting a trip with #1630 and found her stopped. The crew on Sunday morning found excessive leakage overnight from a union in the cab and she was not fired up until this was fixed. Unfortunately it was early afternoon before the union was suitably tightened and late afternoon before test runs were carried out. At least these were successful so she was fully operational by end of that day.
This weekend (21st/22nd) was scheduled for maintenance and Saturday was a busy day working thru a list of minor issues that had been identified by crews over the last few weekends.
There is a surprising amount of running maintenance required on a steam engine providing a good reason why we need a weekend out of service every few weeks to cover all these “little” jobs. One surprising routine job is cleaning grass and stalks off the FS rods. We seem to have a crazy bird that seems intent on building a nest behind the small air tank. Seems like a pretty stupid bird as it does not get beyond a loose heap of vegetation behind the tank each week. This gets removed or falls off but the fact that it steams and goes away for a while does not seem to stop it trying again the next week!.
In other areas quite a lot has been going on.
On #428 several activities have got under way.
On the Shay, work has resumed on the front truck. This is now being painted in preparation to refit the springs and allow it to be refitted to the locomotive.
Sunday, June 8. 2014
Steam Department Update 06-07-2014 Posted by Nigel Bennett in Steam Department at 11:05
The break in the weekly blogs reflects a very different dynamic in the steam shop the last couple of weeks.
After the frenetic activity to get into service for Memorial Day there has been little apparent project activity in the shop. Turnout has been less as people recover from the intense effort to complete #1630 and there is the growing realization of just how much is involved in running the locomotive most weekends.
#1630 has run well for a locomotive returning to service after a long break and major work. The new bearings on the rear drive axle ran fairly hot the first few days but now seem to be settling in to run at more normal temperatures.
I had my first day as a student fireman yesterday. Hopefully by mid-week I should be able to move again!. Firing a locomotive of this size, even on light work, is hard work on a hot and humid day. With preparation and disposal it is a solid 12 hour effort. During the day you will fire several tons of coal and, with the large firebox, a lot of it must be accurately thrown a long way to the front corners of the firebox. Compared to UK locomotives that I have fired you notice that she was not optimized for hand firing. Not surprising as she has a mechanical stoker that is in place but not operational. The major differences are that the tender simply dumps coal at footplate level rather than having a shovel plate at fire-door height and the stoker mechanism somewhat restricts the fire-hole. Nothing too significant with the limited work required on the museum trains but it certainly means that you sure know you have done a day’s work!.
Operating the locomotive requires a lot of time and effort. Hopefully some of this will reduce as she stabilizes and we have less minor repairs to do each week. After Memorial Day weekend there was a significant list of leaks at valves and unions that needed attention. The limited turnout last weekend meant that it was only as a result of intense work by Tom and team mid-week that we were able to run this weekend.
Some jobs are clearly defined. Leaks were identified at unions on the FS check valve and the air pump governor. These unions were separated and remade. This fixed the problems. It sounds simple but each is several hours of work. The real wildcard is ones that you cannot clearly identify.
A troubling issue was signs of water leaking out from under the sheet metal and lagging below the footplate at the back corner of the firebox. Hours of work were required to remove sections of sheet metal and lagging to even be able to investigate the area. This did not provide any insight on where the water came from so she was steamed this weekend with this area uncovered. (Big bonus for the fireman whose seat is right beside this. So you are sitting close to a very effective radiant heater on a hot and humid day!). Anyway the result proved to be of no real concern. A valve high up on the firebox crown leaks steam, particularly before it reaches full temperature. The steam condenses on the inside of the sheet metal, runs down a tortuous path along the back of the sheet metal that leads to the back corner, where it can run down to escape at the bottom corner. So, no concern but quite a few hours work still required to refit all the sheet metal and lagging as well as trying to reduce leakage at the valve (tricky as it seems to seal well when hot so you do not want to change that).
We really need to put in quite a lot of effort mid-week every week if the locomotive is to be ready for midday on Saturday. Five and more tons of coal need to be loaded and the tender water tank topped up. The firebox must be cleaned and a lot of clinker and ash removed from the grates.
Mid-week coal loading is a new problem this year as we cannot load coal using the crane in the service area as this is removed to allow building of the new cut-off track. With assistance from the B&G department, loading is quite efficient using the forklift and skidder. However, since this must be done on the road crossing, we can hardly do it on a Saturday with the museum open to visitors!.
The other issue that became apparent on Saturday was the effects of having shifted the coal pile from its original location to a temporary location. New coal acquired in 2013 has been mixed with old material that is largely dust and was apparently problematic even in 2004. After 3 great trips, the fourth was very difficult when we hit a seam of material in the tender that looked like coal dust but showed little inclination to burn!. Hopefully we can work thru this in the next couple of weekends and then get in new supplies.
So, going forward, we have to decide how often we operate and what we can do in the shop alongside the operation.
The objective will be to get in no more than 28 operating days thru the season. The reason for this is simple. A quite significant inspection is mandated under FRA rules after 30 days of service. We ran 2 days in 2013, leaving 28 before this is required. It would not make sense to put several weekends of work into this inspection late in the season when we can do it over winter. After a break of nearly 10 years we have a shortage of trained crew, which also restricts how often we can run, and means that we have a trainee rostered on every operating day.
Don't forget your tickets for the Sanfilippo Benefit 29th June. The raffle there will be the only opportunity this season to win a footplate ride!.
What is next?. At the moment we have been fully occupied in the jobs around keeping 1630 in service and preparing her each day. Hopefully, as we get more experienced in this, we can agree a plan on what we do next!.
Sunday, May 25. 2014
A momentous couple of weeks!. It has looked uncertain up to the last minute but, at 3:39 on Saturday 25th May, #1630 left Union with its first revenue train in ten years. Many thanks to Michael for the souvenir above, which is the train order for the first revenue run.
For the last two weeks we have been struggling to resolve the problem of brazing the crack in the smokebox ring and completing the mesh work in the smokebox ahead of Friday 23rd,. which was the last day when we could carry out the inspections before the Memorial Day weekend.
Last weekend all sorts of odd jobs were carried out to ensure that she was ready to go provided that the ring was completed, but all in the knowledge that, without the smokebox being completed, we would not be going anywhere.
She was moved to allow paint to be touched up in areas hidden by the rods as she stood in one position.
The air system was pressurized, minor leaks corrected and the brakes tested. This lead to some intensive work when the locomotive brake would not operate. That proved simple at the end of the day. A drain valve that had been jammed for some time was cleaned and reconditioned as part of the overhaul and no one remembered to close it!. Unfortunately house air does not allow us to test the train brake so that only showed a problem at the last minute!.
Wedges were adjusted and lubrication applied all around.
A lot of time was spent cleaning and checking every aspect to ensure everything was tight and all items of tools and debris were removed.
On Wednesday she was moved over to the steam lead, coaled and watered. By this stage the timing was so tight that this was done in anticipation but there was still no certainty that the work could be completed for steaming on Friday. In the evening Dennis made substantial progress in welding in the mesh screens for the spark arrestor.
Everything rested on Thursday night / Friday morning. I gave myself “a bit of a work out” by laying a layer of coal over the grates ready to start the fire. That certainly demonstrated that it is a very large and long box compared to anything I ever fired in the UK!.
Brian made a mix of linseed oil and graphite, which is the material for “painting” the hot surfaces such as the lower firebox and smokebox. A team spent much of the evening applying this wherever it was needed.
By late evening, Dennis had the mesh fully installed. The key work, visible here, was welding the brackets for the side panels into the smokebox. This is complete in the picture below and all that remains to be fitted is the center section which simply bolts between the two side pieces.
Then attention moved to the ring. After a long period of pre- heating, to get it to an even temperature, Dennis started the repair. The clock tells it all. It was already 11 at night!.
Four areas remained to be brazed. Two sections running out toward the edge and two holes in the curved section. These were holes drilled at either end of a crack to prevent it extending. In this view Dennis has initially sealed the one nearest to the camera and is working on the radial crack behind..
By 12:30 the brazing was complete and the ring post-heated to ensure that it was at an even temperature to minimize the risk of cracking as it cooled. The cooling had to be slow, so most of us took a couple of hours in the sleeping car while Jeff and others finished bolting the mesh screens into place.
By about 3 a.m. the ring was cool enough to work (acid test – hold your hand on it indefinitely without pain!). Jerry then spent the next hour grinding the surface smooth and level.
Around 4 a.m. we got to the next stage. The ring had to be drilled for the bolts that secure the bell and a strengthening plate, to fit behind the ring and ensure that the load was distributed evenly in the area that had cracked, drilled to match. The look on my face and the large coffee says it all!
Shortly after dawn the parts were completed and efforts moved on the fitting to the locomotive.
First the ring was carefully lifted in to place and secured.
Once this was in place the door was lifted and located on its hinges.
Then the bell could be mounted. This was a critical last step in sealing the smokebox so that the fire could be lit.
A little before 8 there was a celebratory gathering on the footplate and I had the honor of lighting the first fire.
From there on things moved rapidly. It is always fascinating to watch a steam locomotive come to life again as she warms up.
In this case the old girl gave every sign of being impatient to get into action. Within an hour there were signs of bubbling and within two there were the first signs of pressure.
By 10:30 she was self-supporting with the fan removed and enough pressure to operate the blower.
The critical tests went well. The safety valve settings were as expected and, for the first time in 45 years, she blew off at her design pressure of 180 psi. The air pump tested with much more reserve than last year, whether due to the higher boiler pressure or the cleaning of the governor over winter.
From there on things went down hill !. The locomotive air brake worked fine but the train brake would not apply. After much cleaning and checking of valves it would still not work so it was decided to make a light engine test run (using just the locomotive brake).
That was a bit less than successful when the air pump stopped on the mainline and she barely made it back to Union.
However, the air pump issue proved simple. The hydrostatic lubricator feed had clogged cutting off lubrication and, once the lubricator was operating correctly, so did the air pump.
The train brake issue was rather more tricky. Tom, Rod and others worked thru the evening on this. Eventually, around 10, it was traced to a couple of issues, the most significant of which was a leaking connection.
So on Saturday she was prepared for service.
Water was topped up and a little coal added. The obvious remaining item was corrected when the dome cover was lowered into place.
This is a significant last step indicating that she is not planned to go back into the shop for a while. The dome fouls part of the door opener mechanism so she cannot go into the shop with this in place.
The Saturday service runs were a little later as we were required to make two test runs (one light engine and one with empty stock) before running a service train. This was why we had hoped to run the previous weekend.
However, this was achieved and, at 3:39, #1630 pulled out with her first service train in many years. A very strange feeling to see her live and rolling across the countryside after having been all over, inside and around her in the shop for the past several years.
The culmination of a huge effort by a LOT of people in the steam shop. Well done guys and gals.
The shop looked rather empty for a few hours until #938 was moved in. I think I am safe in saying that is not an indication that she is now next in line to steam!. Hopefully we can now have a few weeks on fairly mundane tasks. The water supply is becoming rather unreliable and is in need of work if we are to support #1630 in regular running. Also the service area must be moved to a new location as the construction of the Schmidt cutoff in the next few months will mean that it cannot be outside the water supply box car as in the past. We will also need to monitor #1630 very closely. She has run only a very short distance on the rebuilt rear axle boxes so is very much “running in”. These bearings are currently running hotter than they should but that is hopefully a matter of keeping them well greased and letting them bed in.
And finally a blatant publicity item while we are here! –
Don’t forget the Annual Steam Department Benefit at Sanfilippo on June 29th this year. This is a really unique and enjoyable afternoon and a major source of funds for the continuing activity of the steam department so we hope to see you there.
Friday, May 23. 2014
The issue with the train brake was resolved with more late working last evening. #1630 is now operational and being prepared for normal service today (Saturday).
Just a brief note on #1630 status today.
A number of us worked an all night session to get #1630 into steam for inspection this morning.
Dennis completed the welding and braze repair to the smoke box door ring around midnight and it was fitted by morning. The fire was lit a little before 8 a.m.
During the morning she successfully passed tests of the safety valves and air pump, so is basically fit for service. However, during preparation a problem was found in operation of the train (automatic) air brake. She has her own (independent) air brake and ran a test run on the main line using this.
So she has moved from being day to day to hour by hour!. When I left, work was progressing on identifying the fault. Until this is identified and fixed she is likely to be in steam around the site but will not be able to pull the demonstration train. So let's hope the issue is found and fixed quickly!.
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