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Tuesday, April 22. 2014
Steam Department Update 04-19-2014 Posted by Nigel Bennett in Steam Department at 21:03
Another short blog this week and some nervousness!.
Despite significant progress this weekend, the key activity of spraying #1630 was not undertaken. This means that the timetable for planned first steaming on the 17th May is now tight.
The painter identified a number of areas where the preparation was not sufficient and there was furious activity on Saturday to ensure that all the additional rubbing down, screwing down of sheet metal and masking made us ready to paint next weekend. This was done and we now wait with great anticipation for next Saturday!.
Aside from the preparation for spray painting, good progress was made in other areas:
The steel work for the spark arrestor was fitted into the smokebox. It now fits and the welding to the smokebox sides can now be carried out. The sheet metal may need to come out one more time for final adjustment but we are on the final leg. There was much muttering and cursing about the weight of the new steel that has to be hauled around and carefully positioned in the enclosed space of the smokebox. It is a LOT heavier than the old steel work …….. which was 50% corroded away in many places!!.
Christian and Jason did most of the steel fitting. Christian is actually taking a break in this shot. The main work requires crawling up behind the new sheet metal to fit bolts into the assembly from high up and behind the platework.
Stu, Ed and a team successfully recommissioned the water supply. This is critical as we must move forward to hydro test as quickly as we can once the paint is applied.
Jim rubbed down the bell mount and headlight on Saturday then painted them on Sunday.
The connectors were successfully removed from the ends of the old (and seriously corroded) steam supply pipe to the air pump. This was a job with considerable concerns as the connector at one end is a very old and unusual type. Separating it, so that it can be repaired and reused on the new pipe that has been professionally formed to the correct series of bends, is essential. There was a significant exposure had this connector been damaged during removal. However, Tom and Dennis, with careful use of the “blue wrench”, separated it without damage. This will actually allow it to be considerably improved as long standing damage can now be corrected by building up and turning the connector in the lathe.
So. Good progress in several key areas. However, the road to operation will not be open until the spraying is complete. Then one helluva lot of jobs will need to be carried out quickly. My fingers are crossed!.
On a different note – Time to start making plans for this year’s Steam Department Benefit at Sanfilippo. This year's benefit event will take place on Sunday, June 29. There will be door prizes, as well as a 50/50 raffle during the benefit event. Time to tour the magnificent Sanfilippo collection, a concert on the Wurlitzer Theatre Pipe Organ, and a silent film accompanied live will once again be a part of the benefit event. New this year will be a special raffle for a CAB RIDE ON 1630! This will be the only chances to ride in the cab of the restored steam engine!
Tickets (same price as last year, $69.99 per person) are now on sale and can be obtained by going to www.irm.org or by calling the Illinois Railway Museum at (815) 923-4391.
We thank you for your past support in attending a previous benefit event at the Sanfilippo Estate, and look forward to seeing you again this year!
Tuesday, April 15. 2014
Steam Department Update 04-12-2014 Posted by Nigel Bennett in Steam Department at 10:30
A short blog today. It was, as expected, a weekend with rather limited activity in the steam shop. The need for many people to attend the rules briefing, tests and safety meeting in preparation for running this year meant that a lot of us were not available to work in the shop. Then the Museum Annual General Meeting in the evening occupied many of us later in the day. The outcome of that meeting leaves me with a substantially greater commitment and means that I must be more circumspect in my musings in future blogs. My thanks to those who voted for me and I hope that I can deliver on expectations.
Anyway, in the shop, we overcame a minor setback and prepared for the critical spray painting of #1630, which we now expect to get under way next weekend.
The setback was on the smokebox of #1630. Collin and Jason worked on fitting the sheet metal and mesh that will form the spark arrestor. This is now close to ready for welding into place after some minor adjustments. However, last week we had resolved the issue of leaks around the smokebox front ring and believed that we had thereby avoided the need to remove the smoke box front. Unfortunately Dennis found that it was not possible to complete the welding of the steel and mesh of the new spark arrestor with the smoke box front ring in place. It was therefore necessary to remove this after all.
The big concern was that this has not been achieved before without use of the boom truck and consequent need to pull the loco out of the shop. This would have been “very bad news” as she is all taped up and ready to spray. However a method was developed, based upon fabricating a bracket that could be attached to the bolts which normally attach the bell bracket. This allowed the ring to be lifted in the shop using the fork lift.
The team on Saturday removed the door and fabricated the bracket for lifting the ring.
A group including Phil, Christian, Jeff and myself carried out the lift of the ring on Sunday so there is now clear access for then spark arrestor to be fitted.
Activity next weekend is centered around spray painting the locomotive. This will restrict activity in the shop, so we expect to be working on activity outside the shop such as activating the water supply in the box car.
Sunday, April 6. 2014
Steam Department Update 04-05-2014 Posted by Nigel Bennett in Steam Department at 17:53
Back to Union after a couple of weeks in the UK. Lots of progress in the last two weeks and a hectic day on Saturday.
The site looks very different with the snow gone and a frenzy of activity leading up to opening day. It is not normally this bad but the weather delays mean that work normally done in February and March has been concentrated into just a few weeks.
Frank and the track team, with assistance from the scouts camping on site, were hard at work on the track of the steam lead. This has proved to be a nightmare. The section of track in front of the service box car was very poor and was lifted in December to set new ties. Unfortunately the area was then covered by snow and has only just re-appeared!. On Saturday the new track was laid and we now have excellent track in the area where we will service 1630. This overcomes concern that, after all the work in the last couple of years, she could have fallen thru the track in her service area. Many thanks to Frank and his team.
(Thanks to David for the above pictures)
Unfortunately this is not the end of the job. We have only recently become aware that the big T&NO 2-10-2 (#975) rode up on the switch between the steam lead and the car line when being moved for the Transformers filming. Substantial work is required to repair this switch over the next few weeks and we will work with Frank’s team on this. However, we may need water for testing before this is done and the water car was stuck in the yard behind the damaged switch. So a very careful piece of switching was done under Frank’s supervision to pull the water cars out over the partially repaired switch with the BrownHoist. All went smoothly and we now have the water cars by the shop and can get water when required.
Another interesting exercise followed!. The damage highlighted the next major question. Why did #975 cause such damage when moved?. She was moved at short notice and without steam department staff present so we did not see the event. After an hour with a lot of oil and much shunting of #975 back and forth on the “Y” with the BrownHoist we think the problem is identified and resolved. Absent lubrication, the bearing plates of the trailing truck were not moving. After applying a lot of oil and pushing slowly in and out of the curve, there was an loud bang and the truck started moving from side to side again. More oil and a few more trips back and forth into the curve and she slides smoothly from side to side. A big 2-10-2 will never be happy on the curves around our site … but if lack of lubrication before movement turns it into a 2-12-0 !!!.
(Oh well. I have just heard from Jamie that we investigated the wrong locomotive. It was #2707 not #975 that damaged the switch. At least #975 is now well lubricated!.)
Back in the shop the main effort was focused on preparing 1630 for spraying of the cab and boiler. A lot of different tasks were progressing in parallel.
Jim and Rick were filling and sanding areas of the cab side. In the past two weeks, Dennis has done a lot of weld repairs to the cab sides and these are now being finally prepared for spraying. While I was away, the decision was taken to remove and repaint the lettering, as it was proving too difficult to preserve the existing letters. So the cab sides are now completely stripped and stencils are being prepared.
Eric and many others worked on sanding down and masking the superstructure of the locomotive. The smokebox is now sheeted to protect it from over spray. All brass pipes and fittings, that are not to be sprayed, have been either removed or protected.
The injector starter valves were removed from the sides of the firebox, as these were too large and tricky to spray around.
The cab front windows are masked. Now we are ready for the painter to review readiness to actually do the spraying.
Jason, Collin and others worked on the smokebox front. Some leaks were detected in this during the November test runs. We had considered removing the front sheet and fitting a thicker gasket. However, the team identified that the leaks were clearly identifiable to a small number of specific areas, visible when Collin was shut in the darkness of the smoke box and lights were held on the outside!. These were sealed with a high temperature sealant. So this issue should now be resolved without the need to lift off the smokebox front again.
One of the large areas that has been completed while I was away is the top of the tender. This is not an area usually seen by the public, but it sure looks good despite a couple of Nigel’s dusty boot prints!.
Aside from 1630 most of the effort was focused on the switching to bring the water cars to the shop and resolve the issue with #975. However, in the shop:
Tom was working on the adjustments to the planer. It has actually been set up to start some work (the axle box for a leading truck). However it is not currently advancing the cutter horizontally or vertically between cutting strokes as it should. So work is progressing to work out why this is and how to correct it.
I worked with Collin and Bob on the new house air compressor. We now have most of the parts in hand for this and will plan to activated it soon.
While the trip to the UK was largely for a family visit, I was able to fit in a couple of visits to UK railways.
At the Bluebell Railway in Sussex I was warmly welcomed by a couple of the teams building largely new steam engines. The 84030 team are building a replica of an extinct class of BR 2-6-2T locomotive from parts of a similar 2-6-0 while the Atlantic team are building a replica of a 1911 LBSCR 4-4-2 using a boiler that survived in industrial use. In the latter project much of the rolling chassis is now complete. The new axle boxes and wheel make an interesting comparison to our efforts with #428.
The cylinders have been fabricated and are in place on the frames.
High quality work is obvious on the Bluebell in the wood working as well as the locomotives. These are shots of a superb set of late 19th century Metropolitan Railway varnished wood coaches, the restoration of which has won awards. These have been rebuilt in recent years from an extremely run down condition.
I subsequently visited the Severn Valley Railway for the last day of their Spring gala with 7 or 8 locos in steam. A pause to wait the crossing with another train gave me the chance to look closely at one of their GWR Manor class locomotives. It really highlights how different the layout and painting of this is when compared to our #1630. Looking in this way, there is no exposed pipework. It all runs below the sheet metal, which is almost completely unbroken. A very different approach when I think of all the holes that we have to adjust and fill around the many pipes and studs on our locomotive.
There was no work at the shop on Sunday as many of us attended the memorial for our late and sorely missed friend Bill Chyna. Many thanks to Kath and Beth for the invitation to a very pleasant afternoon remembering the good times.
Next weekend is likely to be rather quiet as many people will need to attend the rules training and / or test in preparation for running this season.
Sunday, March 16. 2014
Steam Department Update 03-15-2014 Posted by Nigel Bennett in Steam Department at 11:07
What a difference a week can make. The Winter still clings on - we left Saturday evening in falling snow and the shop water supply is still frozen. However, even a couple of days at near normal temperatures during the week has had a remarkable effect on the snow and ice around the museum.
For the first time in months, strange parallel lengths of steel have started to appear from the snow banks. The sound of a diesel locomotive was heard again as Jamie worked with the track gang to plough key lengths and start the Spring inspections. A lot catch up is required on track work delayed by the weather. Aside from the normal inspections, a large part of the steam collection is still out by the depot and cannot be moved back until work is completed on the track and switch leading to the steam lead.
On 1630 work continued steadily
One important effect of the thaw was that we were able to get to the box car and retrieve the dome cover. While this will not be fitted until the last minute when the locomotive is outside the shop, we urgently need to prepare it and spray it at the same time as the boiler so that the finish is the same. Thanks to Phil who grabbed the camera and provided a rare shot of Nigel actually doing something as opposed to standing behind the camera!.
People with paint brushes were all over and around #1630 and her tender. The walkways are now largely complete. The tender truck frames have been done and the sander lines were being touched up. Irregularly shaped parts like this generally take about three shots, paint one way up, turnover and paint the other side, then stand back and spot / touch up the small areas that somehow did not get painted in either of the previous shots!.
The tender wheels still need to be cleaned and painted but that is an area which will is seriously impacted by the loss of water supply, as these need to be pressure washed.
And an update from Jim on Sunday morning!. The pilot is now completely painted!.
We are getting close to the point where the large areas of sheet metal can be sprayed.
Dennis was hard at work welding the weak spots on the corners of the cab so that these can be finally prepared.
Large areas of the sheet metal have been rubbed down ready for spraying. After some thought, areas where bare metal has been exposed are being treated with sprayed primer. While the epoxy coating is self-priming, we are finding issues with the bare metal developing a rust tarnish when left exposed for a week and more. Since the area is far too large for us to rub down in one day, covering the areas we have done seems preferable.
In other areas:
Bob continued work to make the planer fully operational. He was working primarily on a pressure switch system that gives the operator an illuminated warning when the hydraulic system is pressurized. The picture below gives a much better idea of how this huge machine operates.
The massive “L” shaped cutter assembly can move vertically on the tower to the right of the moving bed.
At present the cutter assembly is relatively low. In this position, tools mounted on the horizontal arm of the cutter assembly would cut the top surface of the work, while the threaded shaft would advance the cutter horizontally after each movement of the bed.
The assembly can be raised substantially, allowing tools mounted on the vertical arm of the “L” to make a vertical surface on the work. Again a threaded shaft advances the cutter head after each pass.
I will now be travelling to the UK for a couple of weeks so will be watching progress with interest from a distance.
Thursday, March 13. 2014
Steam Department Update 03-08-2014 Posted by Nigel Bennett in Steam Department at 17:48
It was another day of steady progress in the Steam Shop.
The Winter continues to cause challenges that we have to work around. In the last week, we have lost the water supply to the shop. Thank Heavens we had largely completed what we needed to pressure wash. However, we will need a substantial water supply for equipment cleaning within a few weeks, as we spray paint the boiler and cab. So we monitor the thaw with great concern.
Some idea of the snow around the site –
On a separate issue, a number of people have expressed surprise that my name does not appear on the list of candidates for the upcoming museum board election. I have to admit that this was an error on my part in missing the deadline to return the acceptance of nomination form.
Painting of the lower areas continued at a rapid pace.
The walkways on the fireman’s side were needle chipped, wire brushed and primed. Hopefully one of the team will be able to topcoat during the week, as this is an area that we use quite frequently. So it would be best for it to be finished and fully hardened before the weekend. In addition, as shown below much of the pilot is now in primer.
Collin, under guidance from Dennis, cut and ground out the last of the old steel mounting points for the spark arrestor from the smokebox. Phil and Brian then started test fitting the new steel assembly. Rather as expected, the first fitting into the final position indicated the need for a bit of adjustment by Dennis. However, the process has started.
In other areas:
Phil has been making major strides on clearing and freeing up working areas in the shop. Some of the results are spectacular for those of us who have been around a few years. The big old workbench on the East side, whose drawers have been unopened for years, has now been cleared and lubricated. It now provides work space and usable drawer storage!.
Work continued on the planer. It is now no longer second hand information. The huge table was moving back and forth smoothly for prolonged periods. The focus was on fixing leaks in the hydraulic system. Several have been fixed. Work continued on a couple that are proving difficult. This commonly means that the threaded union has suffered damage and must be replaced to get a good seal at the high operating pressure. Difficult to see how this could be on a machine that was only stripped down about 50 years ago and then left lying in pieces!.
But here it is. A last check by the proud team.
The huge table starts from the North end.
…. and surprising quickly it has completed the cutting stroke. It does not look much but the table is an enormous block of steel yet it moves smoothly and silently from end to end, stopping sharply at each end.
So, after 50 years it is substantially operational again. Well done guys!.
So steady progress continues for another week. Now if only the thaw continues!.
Sunday, March 2. 2014
Steam Department Update 03-01-2014 Posted by Nigel Bennett in Steam Department at 11:50
Oh well, we are into March. You would not have guessed it at Union yesterday as we gingerly picked our way across thickly ice encrusted roads to get between the shop and the amenity block. The day was then somewhat shortened by the development of a steady snow storm as darkness fell. However, there was a reasonable turn out and steady progress continued.
On 1630 it was very much “more of the same”, which is exactly what we need at this point.
Painting continued on the frames and running gear. Christian joined the team for the first time and, by afternoon, was fitted in between the frames and top coating the cylinder casting and adjacent areas. There is a lot of variety in the steam shop. As a new volunteer, you cannot be sure if you will be handling a paint brush or a 20 pound hammer!.
Meanwhile Jerry worked between the frames ahead of the firebox. So most of the lower areas of the locomotive have now received top coat and attention moved to the tender. Jim and Jerry painted most of the tender frames during the day. (The positioning of the bucket is unfortunate. Honest, we are not painting it with driveway sealer!!).
There are a few more weeks of work on the lower areas of locomotive and tender that will not be obvious unless you are standing next to the locomotive. A number of pipes and the under sides of the walkways need to be cleaned, primed and painted. In addition there is a major review and touch up exercise. Whenever you shine lights and look from different angles you spot areas that are not fully covered. So there will be a significant exercise of inspection, with a brush in hand, to touch up these spots and finish the job.
Dennis had welded some areas of the cab last week and identified further areas on the fireman’s side that needed grinding out and clamping so that he could weld. I cleaned these up so they are now ready for welding.
This weekend Dennis was cutting the new mesh sections for the smokebox spark arrestor.
Jason located another steam heat gauge, very similar to the existing one. He was able to exchange the face of this one with the damaged face of the existing gauge so we now have a good looking gauge to fit.
Rick removed the sander discharge pipes as these would be in the way of spraying the cladding sheets of the boiler. He then wire brushed these ready for painting.
Ed worked on the sander manifolds. He showed me an interesting feature. The inspection plugs of the sand channels are filled with lead. Apparently this wears better under the force of steam driven sand than does iron or steel. One of the plugs needs a new lead filling.
Dennis and Phil worked on one of the brake rods.
In other areas, a major milestone was reached last week on the planer. I understand that, after much investigation and adjustment it is now effectively operational. Critically, it was adjusted so that it now moves on the cutting stroke at an adjustable speed and then returns for the next cut at a surprising speed for such a large machine. In addition, features that were not previously understood are now seen to operate. For example, a small hydraulic cylinder actually lifts the cutting head at the end of the cutting stroke so that it is positively lifted above the work as the table returns.
All of this is second hand from the team as the machine was not operating this weekend. A number of leaks were identified in operation so a couple of seals will be replaced and some connections remade to bring it to readiness for routine.
So a week of steady progress. Now what we need is the Spring!.
Sunday, February 23. 2014
Steam Department Update 02-22-2014 Posted by Nigel Bennett in Steam Department at 12:19
Welcome back to the IRM Steam Department skating rink. A few days of thaw during the week were a mixed blessing. The snow mountains are a little reduced but not much of the water went away. So it has now formed thick ice. Blacktop roads around the site could be ploughed effectively and so dried out. But the unmade roads around the shop now have an inch or more of solid ice. Pauline’s passenger car shop blog has some great pictures of the conditions around the site.
There was a good turnout and most people sensibly kept to the shop once they had carefully slithered their way in. Quite a lot of cleaning and painting had been done during the week and it was generally decided that we would have a “dust free” day so a lot of people concentrated on applying primer or topcoat to the lower regions of 1630. Since we have no separate painting area or dust extraction we have to focus on cleaning and then paint all areas we have cleaned before making any dust anywhere in the shop.
With so many people involved it was difficult to keep track of the progress. Indeed this is an interim update as I left early to go to the Soiree and I will wait to see what happened after I left.
The major focus was on the frames, both inside and out. The confined space just behind the cylinders is probably the worst part.
Brian put in a lot of time in this area. The trick, that he achieved pretty effectively, is to clamber into the space from the rear, carefully paint all around yourself and leave an exit so that you can clamber out without damaging your work.
Further back, just ahead of the firebox, there is rather more space. Jerry is hard at work on the inside of the frames on the fireman’s side. This gives a good indication of how fast things are moving. The inside of the springs on the engineer’s side are now primed while the outside of the springs on the fireman’s side are already in topcoat.
Brian, Phil and I refitted the ends of the valve chambers that had been removed for measurement of valve rings for potential replacement in 2015.
Later in the day, the ends and cover sheets were all fully fitted and the painters had already come by and primed the areas around them.
Jim was back at work on Sunday and sent me this picture. The cylinder ends and all the section behind the pilot is now finished.
Jim was in early Saturday working on the engineer’s side. Later in the day, the engineer’s side wheels, frames and motion are well in the way to completion
The fireman’s side is progressing well with much in topcoat and priming well under way. The lubricator now looks really nice. That was a lot of work. A significant exercise now is quality control, i.e. looking at it from all angles and spotting any gaps. There are so many projections, crevices and angles that this is no small exercise.
Dennis worked with Jane on welding, particularly areas of the coal bunker that showed small leaks.
Jane degreased and pressure washed underneath the boiler of the Shay.
Stu, Bob and Mike worked with Rod on the planer. When I left the hydraulics would move the table in one direction but were showing remarkable reluctance to push it back the other way. Much analysis was continuing of old manuals and drawings to investigate possible reasons for this.
So a very productive day.
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