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Friday, December 9. 2016
It has been an awfully long time!.
The Summer is always a bad time for blogging about the steam shop. Operating is very time consuming, leaving relatively little time for other work and after that, things rather got away from me.
So what is happening now in the steam shop?.
Everything is winterized and positioned in the shop for the off-season work program. However, the layout in the shop is unusual and this hopefully indicates a big change. #428 remains at the South end but next to her is #1630 with Shay #5 at the North end. In part this is because the (limited) planned work on #1630 this Winter is best done over the small area of deeper crawl space but mainly because it is hoped that #5 will be the first locomotive into steam in 2017!.
So, what is the status of the locomotives and plans for this Winter.
The decapod had a very successful running season after the incident in June with the broken truck Spring. Thereafter all planned running days were achieved with only very minor incidents. The most significant was probably the breakage of a lubricator line to the crosshead guide. Some rapid brazing by Brian meant that we only missed a couple of trips that day.
The valve and running gear work over the last couple of years seems to have much improved the locomotive. She is now probably stronger than at any time since she arrived from Eagle Pitcher. With other aspects of the running gear now better adjusted, the most obvious unwanted noise was from the rods on the fireman’s side. So the non-routine work for this Winter is primarily the replacement of the rod bearings of the drive axle on this side. The rods were removed promptly once she was in the shop and the bearings are now in the machine shop. Measurement has demonstrated that they are indeed worn beyond acceptable railroad standards. So replacements will be machined and fitted.
Aside from this the annual inspection is in progress. All the normal “fun” tasks are being progressed.
· gauges and safety valves are off for testing and setting;
· drawbars have been removed thoroughly cleaned, inspected for any cracks and will shortly go offsite for annealing;
· the locomotive has been resounding to the tapping and banging as we crawl all over the inside and outside of the firebox, clearing the telltale holes in the stays and then checking that they are clear to the required depth. Good progress. The outside is done and the inside is well advanced;
· cleaning and inspection of the smokebox and front tube-sheet is well advanced.
It is also planned to do some “improvement” work on a couple of the drive box wedges. One has had a distinctly questionable adjusting bolt for many years that makes adjustment awkward and another is believed to be just about at the limit of its adjustment. So the plan is to correct this over Winter.
Work on Shay #5 has progressed steadily and is now hopefully approaching the point where an intensive spell can be scheduled to get her to operating condition.
Major activity has included:
· Dennis welding the new smokebox bottom into place. Recently he was relaxing in his purpose-built hammock structure! to complete the grinding of the joint on the engineer’s side;
· Jerry has substantially completed the lagging and installation of the cladding is well under way;
· Substantial progress has been made on the next big step, which is installation of the blast pipe into the smokebox. On a Shay, that has had a rebuild of this scale, this is a 3 dimensional jigsaw started knowing that some of the pieces are missing!.
Obviously, as with any steam engine, the blast orifice must center below the petticoat of the chimney to ensure the most effective drafting. Also, it must bolt thru the floor of the smokebox and into the exhaust casting. However, unlike a rod driven loco, the exhaust casting of the Shay is not the top of the cylinder casting, firmly fixed into place, but a heavy casting that joins with some flexibility to the exhaust pipe and is bolted at several points to the smokebox. The game is that, once all the attachments are made, there is just about zero flexibility in how the exhaust casting must sit and attach to the exhaust pipe and blast pipe and, to ensure the smokebox is sealed as well as possible, all the mounting holes need to be a good fit. Since the smokebox bottom is entirely new (and the original was so rusted as to be useless as a template) the game is to juggle and test fit these heavy and awkward parts accurately into position so that the mounting hole scan be marked for drilling and cutting with a fair degree of accuracy. The acid test will come in a couple of weeks when we offer it up again and try to bolt everything into place!.
· The air pump was finally reassembled as well. Mike has thoroughly stripped and reconditioned this unit, so this should now be pretty much ready to go.
· A big exercise completed over recent weeks, by Dennis, is the fire-grates. This was not a planned exercise. #5 was an oil burner that was converted to coal on arrival at IRM. The original conversion, in the 1970’s, was less than satisfactory and part of the rebuild planned when she came out of service in 1998 was to fit a new and robust grate system. This was designed in advance and parts were obtained ready to fit, including the cast grates complete with rocking levers, that were produced by a supportive (and now defunct) local foundry. The finding that the tube-sheet required repair turned the overhaul from a 2-3 year job to nearly 20 years. The grate castings sat unused for more than 10 years and it was only when they were pulled out of storage, to build the new grate mechanism, that it was discovered the foundry had misread the drawings and cast the rocking levers facing the wrong way!!. Since they are cast iron, you cannot simply cut the levers of and weld the back facing the other way!. The solution for now has been to fabricate steel sections that can fit thru the grates and allow the levers to be attached in the correct configuration. Time will tell how well this will stand up to operation. It is hoped that it will allow at least a couple of years of service but there is no doubt that we will need to gather the money (estimate about $6,000) to have new grates cast correctly to the drawings. The good thing is that the grates that Dennis has modified are now exactly the shape that the design specified so, once we can get grates correctly cast to the pattern, it should be a routine maintenance activity to substitute them.
· There is still much to do, including:
o Rebuilding the front beam once the exhaust assembly is finally installed;
o Fitting the grate rocker assembly;
o Sealing /lining the inside of the water tank;
o Plus the myriad of once smaller tasks that are always involved in bringing a locomotive back into operation.
However, the expectation is that she will be ready to test in the Spring.
Various work has continued on #428. The biggest has been work on the valves. It was decided to progress the valves while the experience of the work on #1630 was fresh in the mind. While the detail of these valves is earlier than #1630 and differs in some ways the basic structure is the same. Extensive measurement has been done to identify where it is necessary to build up the spiders and ends to allow them to be machined to critical dimensions. Based upon this, the plan is to repair and machine to specification and then get the valves reassembled.
During the Summer, Phil and others continued the laborious task of removing rust and repainting. She now looks better than she has in many years and is now back into barn #9 following completion of repair work on the barn walls.
The commissioning of the renovated Santa Fe sign provided an unusual opportunity to see one of our large locomotives in the open. She was posed behind the sign along with the Warbonnet #92 for the dedication ceremony. Sadly, she aroused less than happy memories for one of our honored guests, a retired senior Santa Fe executive. As a young man, she was memorable for having barfed a large quantity of black gunk all over his good suit during a re-railing operation!. Oh well.
So we reach the end of another year. I am away to the UK for a couple of weeks. It will be a busy Winter but it promises to be an interesting New Year with the prospect of two running locomotives. Please consider supporting the Steam Department projects this year end. Money is always a limiting factor in all of our projects and will be critical in ensuring that the Shay does run as planned as well as ensuring that we can continue the improvement work on #1630.
Sunday, June 26. 2016
A successful day yesterday in the steam shop.
Phil and JD switched #1630 into the shop on Thursday (which led to #5 seeing the light of day for the first time in several years, of which more later) and yesterday was spent refitting the spring shackle.
Jason spent a lot of the day on his back under the front track, assisted by Ralph, Eric, Chris and others. By a combination of dropping the truck wheels into the 3 inch removable track sections and jacking the front of the locomotive about 3 inches, the load could be taken off the spring and the new pin inserted thru the replacement shackle.
All was completed by end of day and #1630 was switched back to the service lead to be topped up with coal and water.
So she is now ready for service next weekend. Plan is to operate all 3 days although Monday is currently tentative pending confirmation of availability of an engineer.
Sunday, June 19. 2016
Steam Department update - Spring 2016 Posted by Nigel Bennett in Steam Department at 20:57
Lot of ups and now a down in the Steam Department
Oh well. Up until yesterday I was planning to detail just a series of successes in the Steam department this Spring. Unfortunately, as of yesterday, we still have a long series of successes but now a set-back that we are working on.
On #1630, the completion of the Winter work progressed very well.
The reassembly of the valve gear went as smoothly as we could have hoped. A final hydro-test was carried out successfully and this allowed the completion of all the jobs needed to get her back into service to be completed in the week leading up to Memorial Day.
She was steam tested on the Friday before that weekend.
This went well as did test running that day. This demonstrated that the valve overhaul seemed to have been very successful. We had been nervous that, despite careful marking of all the parts, we might have caused some change in the valve timing. However, she sounded very even and pulled strongly. A few runs were carried out light engine to run in the new valves and then a run with a train confirmed that everything was good.
So she was back into service for the three days of the Memorial weekend and performed very well.
The Sunday of Memorial weekend provided a spectacular event. The last of the trains of coal cars that have been stored at the museum over Winter was delayed in departure due to problems on UP. This could not be collected by UP until that Sunday so, until that evening, trains had to run only as far as Johnson Siding. Since she had been working the service train, it was decided to use #1630 to move the coal cars from their storage location at Kishwaukee to the UP interchange at Union to meet the UP locomotives in the evening.
This provided quite a spectacle. We believe it was probably the largest freight train hauled by a steam engine in the USA for maybe 25 years. There were 137 cars for a total weight of around 2,900 tons and a length of around 1 ½ miles. She handled the load very well, lifting the train cleanly, first to Carsten’s crossing, where we had to wait for the UP locomotives to arrive, then onward to the interchange. The size of the train meant that it needed to hold short of Carsten’s until the UP diesels were ready to attach as soon as #1630 brought the cars into position as both the Carsten’s and Olson Road crossings were blocked when the head of the train was at the interchange. The length also gave some of us watching at Johnson siding a scare. In the first move, the train ran thru Seeman road and Johnson siding but ground to a halt with the last cars only just West of the siding. After initial concern that there had been a problem, it was realized that the train was so long that #1630 had stopped as planned just short of Carsten’s and the train stretched the whole length of the section back to Johnson siding!. (There is a at least one good video of this move on YouTube).
So a very successful demonstration that the valve job had been highly successful and she is now probably more powerful than she has been since he first arrival at IRM in the 1970’s.
She then ran well thru the weekend of June 11/12 with only minor issues to be corrected and all looked very good. Unfortunately, on Saturday 18th we had a problem.
On the first trip, a pin broke in the rigging of the spring loading the front truck. This meant that the locomotive had to be withdrawn from service. It was not possible to repair the problem in time to run Sunday. Work during the week and next weekend will determine if she can be back in service for the July 4th weekend. The broken pin was removed (with a great deal of difficult) and we have a spare for the spring retaining shackle (which broke when the pin holding it broke). The difficulty lies in the fact that the pin is partially behind the wheel of the truck and also that we have to unload the spring (which carries a load of several tons) in order to fit the new pin and shackle. Finding a suitable position at which we can simultaneously jack the loco or partially drop the truck while taking the load off the spring will be an interesting game!. How effectively we can do that will determine if the repair can be finished in time for July 4th weekend.
Over the same 3-4 week period, Brian Davies and his team achieved vast progress on Shay #5.
The riveting of the smokebox was completed. The new lower sections still need to be welded to existing upper smokebox but this requires welding along the sides, not from underneath. This meant that great progress could be made;
The leading truck was run back under the locomotive a reattached. This time it is expected that it is back permanently;
The lifting beam that has been in place for several years was removed;
The tender was reattached to the locomotive;
Drive train was reconnected between the three trucks. (Sounds simple but, needless to say, the large square bars and sockets that form the connection had somehow moved slightly out of line. I was not around for this exercise but understand I would have learned some new words if I had been!!). Anyway, with a deal of effort, the drive train was reconnected and she is now a complete a moveable 3 truck locomotive again.
After the riveting and setting of the studs to secure the new grate system, it was necessary to hydro the boiler to ensure that no flues of stays had been loosened. A few stays were re-caulked but all the flues proved good.
This allowed the super heater elements to be re-fitted. This is a major step as it means the steam circuit is now complete again. (I.E. there is now a pressure tight path from the boiler thru the throttle to the cylinder and out to exhaust, albeit the exhaust is currently thru an open pipe until the blast pipe assembly is refitted to the bottom of the smokebox.
This enabled a test that was very satisfying for the team who had put in so much work. The boiler was filled with compressed air and #5 moved a short distance backwards and then forwards again under her own power for the first time in the 21st century!!.
With #1630 out of the shop, #938 was brought back in and good progress has been made on cleaning and repainting.
So a very successful Spring before the recent minor set back.
HOPE TO SEE YOU NEXT WEEKEND AT THE BENEFIT AT SAN FILIPO. There are still some tickets available.
Friday, May 27. 2016
Steam will likely run Memorial weekend Posted by Nigel Bennett in Steam Department at 07:26
Huge progress over the last two weeks. Valves on #1630 have been fully reassembled and other inspection work completed.
Thursday 5/26 she was coaled and watered ready to light up today. Subject to a successful steam test (nothing that cannot be fixed / adjusted overnight) she will run as scheduled Saturday / Sunday ? Monday.
Sunday, May 1. 2016
Good progress this weekend.
On Saturday, we did a final check of #1630 at 125% of operating pressure (225psi) to satisfy ourselves that all significant leaks had been resolved. In addition, the valve chambers were thoroughly washed to remove residues from the honing and lubricated in preparation for fitting the valves.
On Sunday we carried out the hydro test under FRA review. This was successful and we can now proceed thru the next stages toward steaming. The boiler must now be opened and internally inspected to ensure that nothing has been loosened or displaced by the pressure test. Critical internal parts such as the dry pipe must be ultrasonically tested. After this is done, the boiler can be resealed, hydro tested at operating pressure and the stays hammer tested. Once this is complete, we can fire the boiler for steam test.
Our current plan would be to steam test Memorial Day week. We have reasonable hope of having her in steam for Memorial Day weekend but, at this point, it is not clear if we will be ready for service or on live display / under test.
Also on Sunday, in conjunction with the FRA inspectors, we were able to inspect the interior of the boiler of Shay #5 using their high resolution video camera. This proved very interesting and effective. It very clearly showed some areas where we had not been effective in removing all of the sand blasting material used to clean the interior of the boiler!. It also located and allowed removal of a strange lump of material from the bottom of one firebox water leg. This was apparently a piece of slag from removal of a stay some years ago. Overall this demonstrated that we had good visibility and saw no indication of significant wastage or damage in the boiler.
So, a successful weekend, enabling a lot of work in the next few weeks. We have to hope that it progresses without significant setbacks toward steaming at the end of the month.
So wish us luck and
DON’T FORGET TO JOIN US AT THE STEAM DEPARTMENT BENFIT AT SAN FILIPO ON JUNE 26th.
TICKETS NOW AVAILABLE
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
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