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Thursday, April 28. 2016
Steam Department Update March / ... Posted by Nigel Bennett in Steam Department at 16:47
I find myself using almost exactly the same introduction as for the turntable update. A great deal has been achieved but everything seems to be taking just that bit longer than had been hoped.
Obviously the focus in the shop has been upon #1630 and getting her ready for the new season. Work has been progressing on two fronts at the same time. The first is the preparation for the hydrostatic test of the boiler after all the annual inspection activities and the second is the reassembly of the valves after a thorough overhaul.
The preparation for the hydro test has been frustrating. In the past couple of years, we have occasionally seen issues with minor leakage from one or two super heater flues where they are expanded into the firebox tube sheet. This year we obtained some new rollers to try to get a better seal. The results were excellent. Since this was done we have no sign of leakage from the flues that have previously been a nuisance. Just by way of revenge!, we have had difficulty getting a couple of wash out plugs, that are removed annually and have never previously caused problems, to seal completely dry. Anyway, after a couple of iterations, everything now seems to be dry and we will aim to do the full test at 125% pressure under FRA inspection this weekend.
Just about everything related to the valves is now machined and ready to reassemble. The honing of the re-bored valve chambers proved a longer and more tedious process than initially anticipated. Many thanks to Rod Turner for his efforts on getting this done.
The first big challenge was to establish a satisfactory method for driving the hone. The bores are large so the rotation speed needs to be slow. An old nut driver that provided a suitably slow speed of rotation had to be refurbished to achieve this. Then you need this to be held at a level that keeps it reasonably at the level of the center of the bore but allows it to be moved smoothly back and fore. The assembly of suspension by heavy springs achieved this.
The honing stones that actually smooth the bores look like this.
Now the bores just need to be thoroughly cleaned and re-assembly of the valves will start this weekend.
Another job has been the build-up and re-machining of the crosshead from the fireman’s side. The crosshead mounts between plates bolted to the guide above and below. The puzzle was that this one was a very sloppy fit laterally while the ES one was a reasonable sliding fit. It may well be that this part has been loose for many years as it does not appear to show wear to explain the loose fit. Anyway, it is clearly preferable that it should be a sliding fit, so it was built up with weld and is here being machined to size.
The new babbit in the main crosshead shoe has been machined to fit and the shoe put back on the crosshead. Unfortunately the locomotive has been moved slightly since it was removed, so now of the bolts cannot be fitted until the locomotive is moved back a few inches!.
Work has proceeded on lagging the Shay but this has inevitably taken a back seat to work on #1630.
In the shop, Collin has made major progress on the new big air compressor. This has now tested well, after a couple of valves and seals were replaced. Now we wait on completion of the wiring and belt guards to allow the system to be fully tested and made ready for State inspection.
Progress has also been made on setting up the power supply to the wheel lathe
We are still scheduling to run Memorial Day weekend. However, this will depend upon a lot being achieved in a short time and so without much in the way of the “little tribulations” that have hindered us in the last month or two. Every effort will be made to run Memorial Day weekend but my current advice would be to watch for updates and not to make firm plans yet based upon seeing #1630 running that weekend.Nigel
Thursday, April 28. 2016
It has been a couple of weeks of good progress but everything taking that little bit longer than we might have hoped.
We waited a full week before UP could deliver the flatcar to the site for loading. Once that arrived, there was a surge of activity.
Securing plates were welded to the flatcar and then, within 24 hours, the turntable deck and all remaining parts were removed from the pit and loaded last Thursday. The pictures show what was involved. The move was done by Hulcher using two of their side lifters, which was a very efficient way of doing this job as compared to crane lifting
The large central bearing was secured to the table and lifted with the main beam to avoid a separate crane lift.
The trucks, center bearing and all remaining wiring, rails etc. were loaded on a flatbed truck and were safely unloaded and stored at Union by Monday of this week.
At Burnham, with the table now on the flatcar, work progressed in securing this to ensure its safety during the move. This involved the attachment of substantial steel cables, attached to mounting points welded to the flatcar. The arrangement and implementation of the attachment must all be reviewed and approved by the specialist group in UP responsible for these large loads.
After a couple of iterations involving the addition of some additional reinforcing plates to strengthen the mounting points on the flatcar, we received confirmation today that table is now satisfactorily secured.
We now await the switching of the idler cars to be connected at each end of the flatcar to protect the overhanging ends. Once these are coupled, the couplings between these are the flatcar must be disabled (the load consists of all 3 cars so the couplings must be disabled to prevent any possibility of accidental separation enroute).
So, after 75 years, the table is just about ready to leave Burnham and make its way to it new home at Union.
Sunday, April 10. 2016
After a week of planning, great progress was made on the turntable in the last ten days. This is critical as site clearing will start this month and we must have the table out before this happens.
JD and Phil travelled to Denver in a truck loaded with tools and equipment and have been working with Dennis and track contractors based locally.
The stages of the removal are:
1. Remove and ship the rails, deck, railings, circle rail and everything else that can be taken from the top of the main bridge beam;
2. Lift the main bridge beam from the pit and lay it on the railroad flat car that will carry it to Union;
3. Take the trucks and center bearing, along with the remaining ring rails that lie under the beam and load these for transport to Union.
A surge of activity early last week saw everything on top of the bridge beam removed, stacked and then loaded onto 3 flatbed trailers. By Thursday, all 3 were unloaded at Union. Many thanks to Dave and Carl for their efforts in unloading. Each trailer was unloaded in 45 minutes, which was an indication both of their efforts and the good work of the team in Denver ensuring that everything was carefully strapped and loaded.
Unfortunately, the weather meant that we have a future job. Heavy rain Wednesday night meant that we could not use the long term laydown areas for rail, ties, etc. and had to locate everything for outside storage on gravel surfaces. So there will be lot of relocating once the weather improves. However, the electrical boxes and other sensitive items are now all in covered storage.
After this rush of activity, the guys in Denver have been preparing the oak timbers that will be used to mount the bridge onto the flatcar but have now run out of work and are returning home.
Everything is prepared with heavy lift equipment lined up to lift the bridge from the pit and onto the flatcar. However, we must now wait for the flatcar to arrive on site, along with the idler cars that will travel under the overhanging ends of the beam. All this is ordered and in-transit via Union Pacific to the Burnham yard but it is currently expected to be late this week before they arrive. Once they do, there will be another rush of activity but, until then, there is nothing more that can be done.
Congratulations to Dennis and the team on a very successful job so far. Now we all wait in anticipation of the lifting and loading operation.
Thursday, March 24. 2016
I can now write about a huge development in the last few days.
A turntable has been a key element of the museum plan for many years. This will be the center of the long term plan to house and present our steam collection in a roundhouse setting. More than that it will present a fascinating visitor attraction, photographic opportunities and the ability to turn all types of equipment to present in different orientations to those with which we are familiar.
We have had on site for a number of years the C&NW table from Harvard. However, this is not of a length that would accommodate larger pieces of the collection. So various opportunities have been explored over the years to obtain a larger table, ideally thru donation. A couple of weeks ago we became aware that Union Pacific had included the table of the Burnham (Denver) repair facility, that we had hoped to obtain by donation, in an auction of all assets of this, now closed, facility.
This table was a target in many ways.
· It is one of the largest at 130ft. and capable of turning any equipment at IRM;
· It is an historic item, being a centerpiece of the Denver & Rio Grande works at Burnham;
· Dating from 1941, it was installed to support Challengers coming to the Burnham facility;
· In 2012 it was subject to a total refurbishment, believed to have cost at least $500,000, so is in virtually as new condition
· Despite its length it is of very shallow depth. This is a critical consideration at Union due to the high water table.
In view of this the board approved funding to try to acquire it by purchase at the auction.
I am pleased to say that we were successful and actually obtained the table at what was basically a scrap price of $10,000. This is our new acquisition giving some idea of its excellent condition.
Clearly this is just a beginning. We must now move it from Denver to Union, which is no small exercise and will cost several times the purchase price. Once at Union we will have to construct the pit in which it can be installed. This is a MAJOR construction project and will depend upon fundraising on a large scale.
However, as substantially the largest turntable in preservation, the expectation is that this will provide IRM with a major attraction in years to come.So watch this space. The next step is to get it to IRM.
Tuesday, March 22. 2016
Steam Department Update February / ... Posted by Nigel Bennett in Steam Department at 11:54
Another month of steady progress in the steam shop. There is rather less detail this month as I was away for three weekends visiting family in the UK.
Obviously the central focus is on getting #1630 complete in time for the start of operations in May. The regular work for the annual inspection continues in parallel with the major project of the valve overhaul.
The boiler and other work for the annual inspection is now largely done. A couple of weeks back, Phil cleaned and checked the arch tubes. After that the last of the wash out plugs were re-installed. Yesterday the testing of the pressure gauges was carried out so these can now be re-installed. The boiler will then have everything in place for the hydro-test.
We will now schedule this test with the FRA inspector. Once this is done we can conduct the internal inspection and, subject to any issues detected in testing, plan on steaming.
Obviously one essential part of the annual inspection is correcting those items that are considered out of or close to allowable tolerance. In this context, the spring loaded buffer on the front of the tender is was overhauled and the upper cross head bearing on the fireman’s side is being re-metaled.
The buffer has been cleaned, spacers made to take up the slack in the springs and painted. Yesterday it was re-installed onto the tender.
The tender is now complete and all that remains is to re-couple it to the locomotive by refitting the main drawbar. This has been removed, thoroughly cleaned and inspected for any cracks as required for the annual. Recoupling will be done as we prepare for steaming as this is best done by pulling the tender out of the shop and lifting the drawbar into place outside, where we have space to use the fork-lift.
A big job completed recently was casting the new Babbitt bearing for the crosshead. What does this mean?. Babbitt (alloys of tin or lead with copper and antimony) has been used for nearly 200 years to create a bearing surface against steel or iron. A favorable combination of relative softness, compression resistance and porosity, which facilitates the distribution of lubrication, mean that it is widely used for bearing surfaces to this day.
However, while modern usage is usually as a thin layer in a backing shell of a harder material, the more traditional usage made use of another property, low melting point. The metal melts around 400-500 degrees and casts well at 800-900 degrees. It will adhere well to iron or steel that is treated with a flux but not to a dirty surface. The principle is then simple. One iron or steel surface, normally a casting, does not need to be machined and is over-size versus the shaft or rod that moves against it. Molten Babbitt is then poured into the over-sized space in which it solidifies to form the bearing surface.
In the most basic form, the bearing is cast in situ. A smoky flame is used to soot the surface against which the bearing will slide, any gaps thru which the molten metal could escape are blocked and the molten metal is poured in. The contraction of the Babbitt as it cools provides a small clearance and the bearing should be ready to go with no machining necessary.
The bearing that we must replace is that in the top of the crosshead which bears on the slide bar. In theory this could be cast in place. However it was felt to be considerably safer and more accurate to cast the Babbitt in the crosshead shoe with some excess and then machine it to final size on the planer.
To do this the shoe, with a tray positioned in the center to make the “U” shaped channel, forms the mold.
The whole assembly is heated in the furnace so that the Babbitt remains liquid when it is poured into the mold. The shoe is tinned to help the Babbitt to adhere while the tray is soot coated to help it release after cooling.
Once the babbit had completely cooled, the tray was removed, the crosshead shoe was mounted onto the planer and Tom has started machining the babbit to its final dimensions.
Meanwhile the valve overhaul has progressed well.
Both valve chambers are now bored to size and the boring rig has been removed.
The valve rods were sent out to a specialist for surfacing to remove areas of wear that form over time as they run in the gland packing. These are now back and ready to start the reassembly of the valves.
The four cast iron blanks to make the new bull rings have now been machined to final internal and outside diameters. Needless to say, each of the spiders proved to be of slightly different diameters, so each of the blanks is now unique to one particular spider and therefore one of the four positions in the locomotive. They have also been tested in the bores and proved to be the required fit on the external diameter.
These are now off-site being machined to produce the finished bull rings.
Many happy hours have been spent in cleaning the spiders and valve bodies. It is essential to remove the hard carbon built up on these but, each has a small lip that secures the spring ring. So it is a long and careful process to carefully remove the carbon without causing wear to the lip.
In preparation for re-assembly the studs that hold the cylinder ends have been inspected and around 50%, that were excessively corroded, have been replaced. This provided interesting confirmation of the history of #1630. On the engineer’s side 15 of the total 20 required replacement but on the fireman’s side only 4 needed replacement. This is explained but the fact that, in the late 1930’s, she was involved in a head on collision with a Mikado, suffered heavy front end damage, and the FS cylinder casting was replaced. So the casting and studs on the ES are mostly 20 years older than those on the FS.
A minor set-back has been the conclusion that the bores need to be honed before the valves can be refitted. As with many things in the steam shop, this needs unusual equipment. Honing a 12inch cylinder requires a pretty slow turning motor. While we have such a motor, it has not been used in many years and proved to need overhaul before it could be used. That is nearly complete so the honing can hopefully be done soon.
Once this is done and the bull rings are completed, we should be able to start re-assembly of the valves.
Meanwhile work has progressed slowly but steadily on the Shay.
Work has continued steadily on the cab for #428. The riveting team have been making good a few final missing rivets. Dennis has been filling holes and shaping the roof to remove a few non-standard curves that it had developed and John has been painting and fitting the window guides.
In the shop.
So a lot of progress but still quite a lot to do for the start of the season. Watch this space.
Tuesday, February 9. 2016
Steam Department Update January 2016 Posted by Nigel Bennett in Steam Department at 19:56
A very busy month in the steam shop that can best be described as “so far so good”.
In the last blog I outlined the plan for work on #1630 this Winter. Thru January we have worked steadily on this plan. The discovery in December that the valve chambers were worn to the extent that both need to be re-bored turned the program for this Winter from one that looked relatively simple in comparison the last year into one that will be a challenge to complete for May.
However, we have now completed re-boring the first valve chamber (engineer’s side), which is a huge step. In this entry, I will describe what has been involved in getting this far. What we have found so far does suggest that, once this work is completed she will be substantially more capable than at any time since she arrived from Eagle Pitcher.
The detailed measurements of the two valve cylinders revealed a great deal of wear. The valve moves over a relatively limited proportion of the overall cylinder length (over and either side of the port openings. This means that the wear is very uneven over the length of the bore. In our case the worst area of wear (on the fireman’s side) was approaching 1/8th inch larger in diameter than the unworn areas of the same bore. This is well beyond tolerances that would have been acceptable during overhaul in steam days.
Each valve is a quite complicated assembly. This shows one complete valve just detached from its rod.
The seal between the valve and the cylinder at each end is made by two pairs of spring loaded rings. Each ring is made up of 4 equal segments. Between each pair of rings is a solid iron bull ring. It is the bull ring that forms the bearing between the valve and the liners of the valve chamber. When new the clearance between the raised section of the bull ring and the liner should be 1/32 inch. Not visible when the valve is assembled is the fact that the bull ring has extensions on either side of the visible bearing surface and about ½ inch below it. These form the base of the channels in which the spring rings fit.
At each end of the valve is a cast “spider” which has a central hole thru which fits the valve rod. The spider has a machined cylindrical body the end of which fits into the fabricated valve body. The spring and bull rings are fitted around the cylindrical body of the spider. When the components are fitted to the valve rod and the not tightened the bull rings set the spacing between the spider and the valve body and so set the critical width of the slots in which ride the spring rings. This is a very significant dimension as the spring rings must be free to move to maintain the seal but, as they are prevented from coming out of the valve only by small lips, excessive play can lead to a ring segment coming free and damaging the cylinder. The machining of new bull rings will be a careful and accurate exercise!.
The whole valve is assembled on the valve rod. The back of the valve assembly sits against a ring firmly attached to the rod. When the rods are separated from the valve, the retaining ring can be clearly seen
When assembled as below the ring is hard against the spider at the back of the valve.
The various parts of the valve are fitted moving from back to front and then the other end of the assembly is clamped into place by a nut threaded onto the front of the valve rod so holding the parts together as a single assembly. Here you can see the large castellated nut and cotter that clamps the assembly from the front.
Once the clamping nut is removed the front spider can be carefully driven away from the valve body. The amount of force needed varies depending upon the extent to which carbon has built up around the parts. Comparing this view to the previous one, the spider has moved far enough away from the valve body to open up the slot which traps the rear pair of spring rings sufficiently to allow the spring and rings to be removed. At this point the front pair of rings are still trapped in their slot between the bull ring and the spider.
Considerably later, the bull ring has been pulled off the spider releasing the front pair of rings and the old bull ring is now shown on top of the cast iron that is being prepared for machining to make the replacement.
With all rings removed the spider sits on its own and is in process of thorough cleaning to remove all carbon and allow the new bull ring and spring rings to be assembled onto it.
Similar cleaning is required on the valve body, here seen with both spiders removed.
Both valves have now been stripped to their components and cleaning of the valve bodies and spiders is well under way. We have new spring rings of various sizes that were obtained with the locomotive in the 1970’s. These were made in 1/16th inch increments between the nominal bore size (12 inch) and the maximum allowable re-bored size (12 3/8 inch). We do not have a complete range so the actual size to which we bore the cylinders will be determined by both what is required to remove the wear and reach a smooth, true bore and the rings we have available. The likely size is 12 3/16 as this is both slightly above the worst measured areas of wear and a size for which we have adequate new rings.
So far the ES valve liners have been bored. First the substantial mounts, that hold the bearing ion which the boring bar rotates, must be firmly bolted to to each end of the casting.
Once the mounts are in place, the boring bar itself must be carefully slide into the mounts. This is a fun exercise!. The bar must be very rigid as the objective is to hold the cutters so that they maintain accuracy of cut to within thousands of an inch along it whole length. This requires a bar of about 3 inch diameter. It took 6 guys to move it along the shop. So gently positioning and sliding it into position is no small task!. Just to make it more fun, the cutter head must be placed over the bar as it is fitted thru the rear bearing and before the bar can be pushed along the length of the cylinder.
Success. Here the end of the bar projects thru the bearing at the other end of the cylinder.
The boring itself is very difficult to capture. The gears that allow the cutter to be manually advanced and retracted, then locked to the screw mechanism to make the cut, have been attached to the shaft at the front.
An air motor then turns the shaft, with the cutter head attached, while the gears slowly turn a geared shaft running the length of the boring bar to which the cutter head is geared. In this way the cutter head is advanced a fraction of an inch at each rotation. Each cut takes about 30 minutes but it takes at least that long to accurately adjust the cutter head to required depth for the next cut
Once the actual re-bored size is determined, we can start to machine the new bull rings. These are required to be 1/32 under the bore size on their flat surface.
The bull rings and cylinder liners are made of cast iron, the wear properties of which were found most suitable for this application. This makes the first stage of producing replacements unusual. I suspect that, in steam days, blanks, from which the bull rings would be machined, were specially cast for the purpose and requiring limited machining to complete. Nowadays that is not economic on a small scale. Suitable rings are not available so we must start from a disk. The first step is therefore to produce the ring, of a suitable size for final machining, by cutting probably 75% of the total weight of the disk out of the center to produce a ring. This is a long and tedious process on the lathe, taking several hours for each ring. Brian has worked at this for several days and has now produced the 4 rings needed. All this was accomplished amid a deal of comments from the rest of the team around him going into the mass production of iron filings!.
In other areas
Works continued on producing the bracing that will allow us to rivet the smokebox of the Shay.
Good progress has been made on completing the cab of #428 to the extent that it is now being fitted with windows.
The large compressor for the new air system is now wired and was recently run in test mode. This was the first time that this compressor has run under load since it was salvaged from the Milwaukee Road shops many years ago. Testing allowed a number of adjustments to be made but also indicated the need to replace one valve and install an unloading mechanism. This will take a couple of week but then we should be ready for inspection and commissioning.
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