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Friday, January 30. 2015
As the winter continues with it's first big snowstorm looming the shop forces are again working on the museum's favorite steamer, the 1630. Here are just a few of the many maintenance projects begun on the engine.
The removal and subsequent hydro and hammer of the air tanks is a FRA requirement. It takes a out of time just to meet the yearly regulations. Then on top of that, during the down time, repair of any problems that might have been observed thru the daily operational inspections. Inspecting any operating piece of equipment at Irm takes a lot of time but is the most important of tasks at the museum.
Nigel, Jerry, Christian, and Derick are again installing the air tank on the enginemans side of the loco.
Part of the teams attention has now been shifted towards the Union Pacific engine . The installation of rivets into the cab frame of the UP 428 has finally begun. Once all rivets are installed the next task will be the installing of the wood interior framing. Then, when finally painted the cab can be lifted and installed back onto the frame of the engine.
Here Nigel and Jason are removing part of the cab floor. Notice the large openings in the location of the firebox door. December and part of January were devoted to the removal and inspection of the stoker motor and its components.
Sunday, December 7. 2014
A lot of people have pointed out that it is an awfully long time since there was a Steam Department blog update. In my defense I plead that work in my role as Museum Treasurer has been nearly full time (sounds better that pleading idleness or incompetence!). So here we are, an update of several months of work in the department.
Doesn’t time fly!. It seems like only yesterday that we were working all night to get ready for the pre-season inspection. Now the operating season is over and the Winter work program is well under way. #1630 is back in the shop and we are busily crawling over and into her to so what must be done before next season.
It was a very successful season overall. We only missed one scheduled day due to mechanical problems. (Unfortunately Father’s Day when we had to fix a leaking valve).
It was rather challenging to begin with. She seemed to use a lot of coal to keep steam up but, once we reached fresh coal, she ran a great deal better. I guess it should not be a great surprise. Coal that has been lying around for years has lost quite a lot of the flammable material so you shovel a lot more for the same effect!.
Late in the season we had a scheduled weekend out of service and this provided the opportunity for a good clean. Aside from the usual coaling and watering, the boiler was drained and refilled with fresh water, the paintwork was washed and the rods cleaned and oiled.
After all the work she looked a lot better. The dust was 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.
I fired the last two Sundays. That is quite an experience to really be part of the working locomotive after so long crawling in, over and around her as a dead object in the shop. #1630 certainly is different from other locomotives I have fired. I was working out that it is about 50 years since I first fired a locomotive (Prince on the Festiniog Railway). The box is a lot longer and wider than anything I have fired before. So a good deal more throwing. However, on the demonstration line, she is only running for a few minutes at a fraction of her real load capability. Very different from a small locomotive working flat out for a long time. You would certainly have extreme difficulty keeping up with #1630 if she had a full freight load behind her unless the stoker was operating. In museum service the trick is to achieve a relatively thin fire without any gaps when you are operating and not to have too much at the end of each run. Having a significant amount of hot fire when you get back to Union can lead to a noisy lay-over!.
So what has been going on in the shop and what is planned?. Obviously #1630 will be first priority for Winter work and a lot must be done this Winter to have her running for Memorial Day next year.
She is due for both the 30 day inspection and annual inspections which amount to quite a lot of work. The annual inspection requires the drawbars to be removed, checked and annealed. While the tender is separated and the drawbar removed, we will do the inspection and testing of the stays under the footplate. In addition we want to thoroughly examine the rear axle bearings and rods. There was a tendency to run warm in the rod bearings and more knocking than we would like. So the plan is strip, measure and carefully examine everything in this area and try to improve the running next year.
Before we could even start the work there were two busy weekends of preparation. First the locomotive had to be run on air to thoroughly remove water from all the steam system in case of any freezing during the Winter, Then there was the cleaning!. I missed the air running but was able to participate fully in the cleaning!. 3 hours with a high pressure hose in the firebox blowing soot out of the tubes is an experience to be missed if possible. The jokes of your “friends” when you emerge black from head to toe are also to be avoided!.
With this done she was moved into the shop and the locomotive and tender were separated. This provided some interesting views of the locomotive cab and the way in which the tender is attached. The center drawbar is spring loaded and is what pulls the tender and train. The two outer bars are a safety mechanism should the drawbar fail in service.
Above the drawbar can be seen the end of the auger of the stoker. This is turned by a steam motor in the tender (of which more anon) to drive coal along the large steel pipe from the tender to the locomotive. Looking again at the locomotive with part of the footplate removed you can see the way that the cast pipe carries the coal up toward the fire door.
In this view the fire-hole door has already been removed. This large casting would connect the end of the delivery chute to the fire-hole. Behind the closed door of the firebox, coal would be driven up the chute to the delivery plate where steam jets would throw it forward into the firebox.
After considerably more work, the delivery system and the central footplate had been removed to reveal the back of the firebox.
After several weekends of work to do this stripping the actual inspection that necessitates it took only a few hours. A group of flexible stays hidden behind the stoker delivery chute do not have telltale holes and, as such, must be inspected every 7 years. They all proved to be sound so that part of the inspection is done. Unfortunately we found quite a bit of rust in the supports of the footplate on the fireman’s side so Dennis will need to do some rebuilding before we put things back together.
Another job being progressed is the rebuilding of the stoker. This is not essential but we would like the stoker to be operational at least for demonstration purposes. It is not clear how useful it would be in museum service where we need only a thin but even fire. If it can be made to work we will find out!.
First stage is to remove the stoker motor. This is located behind a panel in the tender on the fireman’s side. Here it is being carefully eased out of the tender. This gives little idea of the effort that went into this exercise. It was an extremely tight fit and some modification of the hole was required to get it out with the fork lift. We suspect that it may previously have been fitted and removed on a greased plate so that it could be turned first one way then the other as the hole was not big enough for it to come thru directly.
Last weekend we carried out the last major stripping exercise. The locomotive was temporarily reattached to its tender so that it could be moved a few feet back and then forward. The objective is to remove the connecting rods between axles 4 and 5 to allow measurement and checking of the rod bearings and alignment of the two axles. The move is necessary because the pins in #4 axle are removed by driving them back thru the wheel between two spokes …. And you cannot remove the pins on both sides with the wheels in any single position!. Here Jason and Phil are removing the rod from the Fireman’s side. By7 end of day both rods were removed.
A lot of other work is in progress on 1630.
Most of the strays have now been opened up (removing the fireclay that seals them in service) and checked. (We must ensure each year that the telltale holes are open).
Both large air tanks have been removed and subjected to hammer and hydro testing. They are now ready for refitting.
Inspection of the air compressor is under way. The steam feed line has been removed and will be replaced. This line shows significant corrosion so the decision has been made to replace it.
At the end of the summer the tender and cab of #938 were repainted (Thank you Roger!). She now looks a lot better. In addition, Phil, JD and Brian removed the tubes from the boiler. This was largely an investigation exercise. We really had little idea of the condition of the boiler of this locomotive. The conclusion was that the interior of the boiler seems to be in reasonable condition so there would be no obvious barrier to rebuilding it. That does not indicate any likelihood that this will happen any time soon. The fact that the boiler appears reasonable indicates that it she is not a “no hoper”. Given the work that would be required, all we need is a dedicated Rock Island enthusiast with $500,000 or so burning a hole in his pocket and she could run again.
The second big focus has been the Shay and this will be our major project thru the Winter. The major jobs on the Shay are
Replacement of a number of firebox stays;
Rebuilding the front beam; and
Rebuilding the smokebox.
Once these are done, we can get on to the “more routine” jobs of re-tubing and re-assembling.
There is still some uncertainty over whether we will need to replace some stays behind the motor. This would require removing the motor and the bracket on which it sits, making the job rather bigger. While working to determine if the motor removal will be necessary we are progressing other work that is independent of this decision and ensuring that we are as ready as possible to do the motor removal if required.
Over the Summer:
The front truck has been prepared for remounting and placed back under the locomotive. This may not be permanent. Depending upon the need to lift the boiler we might need to pull it out again to fit the new bottom of the smokebox;
Everything under the locomotive was cleaned and painted before refitting the truck;
JD and Cody have been steadily removing stays that are identified as bad and in need of replacement (generally due to blockage of the tell-tale holes);
The parts for the front beam have been located and we are starting work on preparing these. The coupler and its mounting pocket have been moved down to the fabrication area for Jane to needle chip and wire brush. Once they have been examined for any cracks they can be painted and prepared for use;
David and I worked on the grease nipples in the drive shaft and couplings. First conclusion – a Shay has a LOT of these. All will need to be cleaned, checked and replaced if not working correctly;
Work was also starting on lapping all of the key steam valves. This led to the discovery that there were cracks in the face of the main turret valve. Clearly it was over tightened at some point. A new one will need to be made;
Work has also progressed steadily on #428
Dennis has been building up the axle boxes ready for machining. Unfortunately a problem developed with the planer and we are waiting for parts that will hopefully make this operational and ready to machine these axle boxes;
Work was also progressed on repairs to the frame that will allow the rear spacer to be refitted.
A great deal of machine work has been carried out to produce new parts that will allow the springs to be refitted.
Ed has been working steadily at refitting the pipework of the cab. This is an “interesting” exercise. It is a 3-D jigsaw of pipes of various diameters, shapes and end connections. I will post a photograph next time but he has achieved remarkable progress in turning what was a random jumble of pipework into a fitted backhead. It is all the more of a challenge as some of the pipes link to the air pump – which is not there to check if that is what a particular pipe should link to, and one or two seem to have been added to the pile from other locomotives!.
So, overall a lot has been done and there is much to be done in the next few months. If you are prepared to get your hands dirty, there is no shortage of work if we are to have 1630 back in service for the season and move forward with the Shay!.
I am now heading to the UK for Christmas so will be away for a few weeks and look forward to more progress when I get back and a busy Winter ahead in the Steam shop.
Monday, November 3. 2014
Here are a couple of new pictures of the ongoing restoration efforts on the Rock Island 938 4-6-2 Pacific. If it was not for the colder weather setting in and the need to maintain and repair the Frisco 1630 the pacific would still be in the shop. If the reader would like to see more restoration efforts on this steamer please send in your donation to the Rock Island 938 Fund Thanks Roger
Thursday, October 9. 2014
The tender of the Rock Island steam Locomotive, 938, was primed and painted September 26th by Phil and myself. Using Sherwin Williams primer and top coat Phil and I primed and painted the entire tender and part of the steam loco's cab all in one day.
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.
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Nigel Bennett about 1630 Normal running
Sun, 05-24-2015 16:21
Steve, Thank you. It is the appreciation and introducing new generations to working steam that makes the work worthwhile. Impressive set of [...]
Steve Krause about 1630 Normal running
Sun, 05-24-2015 15:50
And I really appreciate the work! Got a lot of fine images with the sunshine yesterday, and got to briefly introduce my daughter to the cab courtesy [...]
Nigel Bennett about 1630 in service
Sun, 05-24-2015 10:53
Tim, Good idea. I will talk to our store manager about this. Nigel
Tim about 1630 in service
Sat, 05-23-2015 22:32
Awesome train, my son loved his first ride today. I just wish you guys sold some nice photos or artwork of this great train. I would love to buy [...]
C Kronenwetter about 1630 in service
Sat, 05-23-2015 18:13
Very nicely done, Nigel. Thanks to the steam team for all of their hard work!
Glyn about A Major Announcement
Fri, 05-22-2015 19:03
You mentioned the fund is called MT. HARVARD. How can I donate to this fund? What payment methods are accepted? PayPal would be convenient but I can [...]
Ted Miles, IRM Member about Early February woodshop activies
Fri, 05-22-2015 17:30
Fellow Members, This summer is an anniversary of the 1964 move during May to july of the move from North chicago to Union. Perhaps [...]
Mark Poynter about 1630 in service
Fri, 05-22-2015 09:53
Well done and many congratulations to the entire steam crew! I'll be coming to IL from MT this summer and will see 1630 on July 4th.
David S about A Major Announcement
Fri, 05-22-2015 08:21
Do the generator and air conditioner work? If the generator works, the car could be used as the tail car for night ops. Thanks for your generous [...]
Zach Kaye about 1630 in service
Thu, 05-21-2015 22:51
Awesome!!! Coming down for the event this Monday. Can hardly wait to see her in action!!!
Roger Kramer about A Major Announcement
Wed, 05-20-2015 21:47
Hello Warren The Mt. Harvard has the Pullman Mechanical system. Basically two Spicer drives one off each axle One runs the generator and the other [...]
Charles Dahle about A Major Announcement
Wed, 05-20-2015 17:17
Many thanks to Mark and Jon for all their efforts toward the RPO weekend. I was able to attend and thoroughly enjoyed myself.
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