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Sunday, June 8. 2014
Steam Department Update 06-07-2014 Posted by Nigel Bennett in Steam Department at 11:05
The break in the weekly blogs reflects a very different dynamic in the steam shop the last couple of weeks.
After the frenetic activity to get into service for Memorial Day there has been little apparent project activity in the shop. Turnout has been less as people recover from the intense effort to complete #1630 and there is the growing realization of just how much is involved in running the locomotive most weekends.
#1630 has run well for a locomotive returning to service after a long break and major work. The new bearings on the rear drive axle ran fairly hot the first few days but now seem to be settling in to run at more normal temperatures.
I had my first day as a student fireman yesterday. Hopefully by mid-week I should be able to move again!. Firing a locomotive of this size, even on light work, is hard work on a hot and humid day. With preparation and disposal it is a solid 12 hour effort. During the day you will fire several tons of coal and, with the large firebox, a lot of it must be accurately thrown a long way to the front corners of the firebox. Compared to UK locomotives that I have fired you notice that she was not optimized for hand firing. Not surprising as she has a mechanical stoker that is in place but not operational. The major differences are that the tender simply dumps coal at footplate level rather than having a shovel plate at fire-door height and the stoker mechanism somewhat restricts the fire-hole. Nothing too significant with the limited work required on the museum trains but it certainly means that you sure know you have done a day’s work!.
Operating the locomotive requires a lot of time and effort. Hopefully some of this will reduce as she stabilizes and we have less minor repairs to do each week. After Memorial Day weekend there was a significant list of leaks at valves and unions that needed attention. The limited turnout last weekend meant that it was only as a result of intense work by Tom and team mid-week that we were able to run this weekend.
Some jobs are clearly defined. Leaks were identified at unions on the FS check valve and the air pump governor. These unions were separated and remade. This fixed the problems. It sounds simple but each is several hours of work. The real wildcard is ones that you cannot clearly identify.
A troubling issue was signs of water leaking out from under the sheet metal and lagging below the footplate at the back corner of the firebox. Hours of work were required to remove sections of sheet metal and lagging to even be able to investigate the area. This did not provide any insight on where the water came from so she was steamed this weekend with this area uncovered. (Big bonus for the fireman whose seat is right beside this. So you are sitting close to a very effective radiant heater on a hot and humid day!). Anyway the result proved to be of no real concern. A valve high up on the firebox crown leaks steam, particularly before it reaches full temperature. The steam condenses on the inside of the sheet metal, runs down a tortuous path along the back of the sheet metal that leads to the back corner, where it can run down to escape at the bottom corner. So, no concern but quite a few hours work still required to refit all the sheet metal and lagging as well as trying to reduce leakage at the valve (tricky as it seems to seal well when hot so you do not want to change that).
We really need to put in quite a lot of effort mid-week every week if the locomotive is to be ready for midday on Saturday. Five and more tons of coal need to be loaded and the tender water tank topped up. The firebox must be cleaned and a lot of clinker and ash removed from the grates.
Mid-week coal loading is a new problem this year as we cannot load coal using the crane in the service area as this is removed to allow building of the new cut-off track. With assistance from the B&G department, loading is quite efficient using the forklift and skidder. However, since this must be done on the road crossing, we can hardly do it on a Saturday with the museum open to visitors!.
The other issue that became apparent on Saturday was the effects of having shifted the coal pile from its original location to a temporary location. New coal acquired in 2013 has been mixed with old material that is largely dust and was apparently problematic even in 2004. After 3 great trips, the fourth was very difficult when we hit a seam of material in the tender that looked like coal dust but showed little inclination to burn!. Hopefully we can work thru this in the next couple of weekends and then get in new supplies.
So, going forward, we have to decide how often we operate and what we can do in the shop alongside the operation.
The objective will be to get in no more than 28 operating days thru the season. The reason for this is simple. A quite significant inspection is mandated under FRA rules after 30 days of service. We ran 2 days in 2013, leaving 28 before this is required. It would not make sense to put several weekends of work into this inspection late in the season when we can do it over winter. After a break of nearly 10 years we have a shortage of trained crew, which also restricts how often we can run, and means that we have a trainee rostered on every operating day.
Don't forget your tickets for the Sanfilippo Benefit 29th June. The raffle there will be the only opportunity this season to win a footplate ride!.
What is next?. At the moment we have been fully occupied in the jobs around keeping 1630 in service and preparing her each day. Hopefully, as we get more experienced in this, we can agree a plan on what we do next!.
Sunday, May 25. 2014
A momentous couple of weeks!. It has looked uncertain up to the last minute but, at 3:39 on Saturday 25th May, #1630 left Union with its first revenue train in ten years. Many thanks to Michael for the souvenir above, which is the train order for the first revenue run.
For the last two weeks we have been struggling to resolve the problem of brazing the crack in the smokebox ring and completing the mesh work in the smokebox ahead of Friday 23rd,. which was the last day when we could carry out the inspections before the Memorial Day weekend.
Last weekend all sorts of odd jobs were carried out to ensure that she was ready to go provided that the ring was completed, but all in the knowledge that, without the smokebox being completed, we would not be going anywhere.
She was moved to allow paint to be touched up in areas hidden by the rods as she stood in one position.
The air system was pressurized, minor leaks corrected and the brakes tested. This lead to some intensive work when the locomotive brake would not operate. That proved simple at the end of the day. A drain valve that had been jammed for some time was cleaned and reconditioned as part of the overhaul and no one remembered to close it!. Unfortunately house air does not allow us to test the train brake so that only showed a problem at the last minute!.
Wedges were adjusted and lubrication applied all around.
A lot of time was spent cleaning and checking every aspect to ensure everything was tight and all items of tools and debris were removed.
On Wednesday she was moved over to the steam lead, coaled and watered. By this stage the timing was so tight that this was done in anticipation but there was still no certainty that the work could be completed for steaming on Friday. In the evening Dennis made substantial progress in welding in the mesh screens for the spark arrestor.
Everything rested on Thursday night / Friday morning. I gave myself “a bit of a work out” by laying a layer of coal over the grates ready to start the fire. That certainly demonstrated that it is a very large and long box compared to anything I ever fired in the UK!.
Brian made a mix of linseed oil and graphite, which is the material for “painting” the hot surfaces such as the lower firebox and smokebox. A team spent much of the evening applying this wherever it was needed.
By late evening, Dennis had the mesh fully installed. The key work, visible here, was welding the brackets for the side panels into the smokebox. This is complete in the picture below and all that remains to be fitted is the center section which simply bolts between the two side pieces.
Then attention moved to the ring. After a long period of pre- heating, to get it to an even temperature, Dennis started the repair. The clock tells it all. It was already 11 at night!.
Four areas remained to be brazed. Two sections running out toward the edge and two holes in the curved section. These were holes drilled at either end of a crack to prevent it extending. In this view Dennis has initially sealed the one nearest to the camera and is working on the radial crack behind..
By 12:30 the brazing was complete and the ring post-heated to ensure that it was at an even temperature to minimize the risk of cracking as it cooled. The cooling had to be slow, so most of us took a couple of hours in the sleeping car while Jeff and others finished bolting the mesh screens into place.
By about 3 a.m. the ring was cool enough to work (acid test – hold your hand on it indefinitely without pain!). Jerry then spent the next hour grinding the surface smooth and level.
Around 4 a.m. we got to the next stage. The ring had to be drilled for the bolts that secure the bell and a strengthening plate, to fit behind the ring and ensure that the load was distributed evenly in the area that had cracked, drilled to match. The look on my face and the large coffee says it all!
Shortly after dawn the parts were completed and efforts moved on the fitting to the locomotive.
First the ring was carefully lifted in to place and secured.
Once this was in place the door was lifted and located on its hinges.
Then the bell could be mounted. This was a critical last step in sealing the smokebox so that the fire could be lit.
A little before 8 there was a celebratory gathering on the footplate and I had the honor of lighting the first fire.
From there on things moved rapidly. It is always fascinating to watch a steam locomotive come to life again as she warms up.
In this case the old girl gave every sign of being impatient to get into action. Within an hour there were signs of bubbling and within two there were the first signs of pressure.
By 10:30 she was self-supporting with the fan removed and enough pressure to operate the blower.
The critical tests went well. The safety valve settings were as expected and, for the first time in 45 years, she blew off at her design pressure of 180 psi. The air pump tested with much more reserve than last year, whether due to the higher boiler pressure or the cleaning of the governor over winter.
From there on things went down hill !. The locomotive air brake worked fine but the train brake would not apply. After much cleaning and checking of valves it would still not work so it was decided to make a light engine test run (using just the locomotive brake).
That was a bit less than successful when the air pump stopped on the mainline and she barely made it back to Union.
However, the air pump issue proved simple. The hydrostatic lubricator feed had clogged cutting off lubrication and, once the lubricator was operating correctly, so did the air pump.
The train brake issue was rather more tricky. Tom, Rod and others worked thru the evening on this. Eventually, around 10, it was traced to a couple of issues, the most significant of which was a leaking connection.
So on Saturday she was prepared for service.
Water was topped up and a little coal added. The obvious remaining item was corrected when the dome cover was lowered into place.
This is a significant last step indicating that she is not planned to go back into the shop for a while. The dome fouls part of the door opener mechanism so she cannot go into the shop with this in place.
The Saturday service runs were a little later as we were required to make two test runs (one light engine and one with empty stock) before running a service train. This was why we had hoped to run the previous weekend.
However, this was achieved and, at 3:39, #1630 pulled out with her first service train in many years. A very strange feeling to see her live and rolling across the countryside after having been all over, inside and around her in the shop for the past several years.
The culmination of a huge effort by a LOT of people in the steam shop. Well done guys and gals.
The shop looked rather empty for a few hours until #938 was moved in. I think I am safe in saying that is not an indication that she is now next in line to steam!. Hopefully we can now have a few weeks on fairly mundane tasks. The water supply is becoming rather unreliable and is in need of work if we are to support #1630 in regular running. Also the service area must be moved to a new location as the construction of the Schmidt cutoff in the next few months will mean that it cannot be outside the water supply box car as in the past. We will also need to monitor #1630 very closely. She has run only a very short distance on the rebuilt rear axle boxes so is very much “running in”. These bearings are currently running hotter than they should but that is hopefully a matter of keeping them well greased and letting them bed in.
And finally a blatant publicity item while we are here! –
Don’t forget the Annual Steam Department Benefit at Sanfilippo on June 29th this year. This is a really unique and enjoyable afternoon and a major source of funds for the continuing activity of the steam department so we hope to see you there.
Friday, May 23. 2014
The issue with the train brake was resolved with more late working last evening. #1630 is now operational and being prepared for normal service today (Saturday).
Just a brief note on #1630 status today.
A number of us worked an all night session to get #1630 into steam for inspection this morning.
Dennis completed the welding and braze repair to the smoke box door ring around midnight and it was fitted by morning. The fire was lit a little before 8 a.m.
During the morning she successfully passed tests of the safety valves and air pump, so is basically fit for service. However, during preparation a problem was found in operation of the train (automatic) air brake. She has her own (independent) air brake and ran a test run on the main line using this.
So she has moved from being day to day to hour by hour!. When I left, work was progressing on identifying the fault. Until this is identified and fixed she is likely to be in steam around the site but will not be able to pull the demonstration train. So let's hope the issue is found and fixed quickly!.
Thursday, May 22. 2014
Steam Department Interim Update ... Posted by Nigel Bennett in Steam Department at 11:03
A very brief, late and uncertain blog this week.
A great deal of effort has been invested and some very long hours put in over the last ten days. I am currently on a short break having got home at 10 p.m. yesterday and preparing to return early this afternoon. Many others in the team have been there as well.
All this effort means that there is hope but not certainty at this time. To run this weekend we need to be able to steam and pass a brake and safety valve test under the oversight of our FRA inspector tomorrow.
Everything aside from the smokebox ring casting is complete. After efforts yesterday she is even fully coaled and watered ready to light up. All the testing and preparation short of lighting up has been done.
The hope is to complete the brazing and remount the ring this evening and then light her up to warm up overnight for the testing tomorrow.
If we do not get the ring back on or if anything fails in testing we will not be able to run. However, the fact that we are investing the hours we will do today and tomorrow clearly indicates that we believe there is a reasonable prospect of success and our commitment to run this weekend if it is possible to do so.
Yesterday she stood on the service lead being prepared for the weekend.
She has coal loaded enough for the whole weekend
But this is what we have to complete.
Wednesday, May 14. 2014
Steam Department Update 05-12-2014 Posted by Nigel Bennett in Steam Department at 07:18
A brief update this week as I was away in Cleveland at the weekend. The update is based upon input from Phil and Jim.
Unfortunately the key conclusion from the week is that we will not be able to run next weekend, which was the first that we had scheduled for operation this year. We are pretty much “day to day”. #1630 is complete and ready to steam aside from refitting the smoke box front and the bell / lamp fittings mounted on it.
The key activities have been repairing the cracks recently detected in the smoke box front casting. This is approaching completion but has been a much slower job than anticipated as the casting proves to be iron rather than steel. It must therefore be brazed rather than welded (a much slower process). Aside from other issues, brazing requires working from both sides so the huge casting had to be turned over part way thru the process.
While Dennis was working on this:
So, work continues during the week and we will be in service as soon as the smokebox door can be refitted.
Sunday, May 4. 2014
Steam Department Update 05-03-2014 Posted by Nigel Bennett in Steam Department at 20:22
As expected, the completion of the spraying last weekend opened up a frenzy of activity. Work got under way Tuesday and Wednesday once the paint was thoroughly dry. Almost all activity was on 1630 and she now looks a very different locomotive from last weekend. Even so, much of the critical progress is not visible.
On Tuesday and Wednesday work focused on preparing the boiler for hydro testing. This involved fitting the various water connections, valves and gauges to allow the boiler to be completely filled with water and then pressurized.
In addition the large copper pipe, that connects from the top of the firebox to the water column in the cab, had to be refitted. Once all this was done, the boiler was filled and water circulated thru the pool heater to bring the boiler up to around 100F for the pressure testing.
While this was being done Jerry and his son made huge progress in fitting the banding that secures the edges of the sheet metal on the barrel and firebox.
On Wednesday a pressure test was carried out. People have asked why this was necessary as #1630 was hydro and steam tested last year. What is happening now is not a full hydro test of the boiler shell (which requires testing at operating plus 25%) but rather checking for any leaks that may have developed as connections have been separated and remade over the Winter. For this we test only at operating pressure. The test served its purpose!. On Wednesday we found leakage around the connections of the pipe to the water column at both the first test and an attempt to re-seal it.
However, while this was going on, Phil and I made progress in refitting the injector starter valves.
Clearly on Saturday the first priority was to fix the connections of the offending pipe. Eric, Brian and others spent a lot of time thoroughly cleaning the seats and pipe ends of the connections, annealing new copper washers and then carefully re-fitting the pipe. It is a bear to fit as it is long, bent to fit around other equipment and fitted between two rigid seats. So, if it not exactly aligned, the seals at one or both ends do not seat correctly and leak.
Anyway, all the effort paid off and, during the afternoon, she was successfully pressure tested at 180 psi. This allows us to go ahead with the final steps to remove the hydro connections and install the remaining parts needed for operation (safety valves, brick arch etc.).
A lot of other work progressed in parallel with the pressure testing:
The biggest and nastiest job was refitting the two big air tanks under the walkways. These tanks weigh about 300 lbs and are each suspended by three “U” shaped steel rings the open ends of which pass thru the walkways to be secured by nuts.
The fitting is a “masterpiece” of the pipefitter’s art. The tanks must be squeezed into a confined space above the valve gear. The tanks are wider than the walkways so the supports are not simple “U”’s that could be passed around the tank .
Then change in a few days since the picture further up in this note is substantial.
The shape of each support is unique to its location and mixing then up can lead to the need to pull back the tank and start over again!. By evening they were both in place although the frustration during the day had reached considerable heights!.
The job of spotting and making good areas missed in painting continued. A lot more of this will hopefully happen next weekend when we expect to move the locomotive at least a little and reveal areas of the wheels that have so far been hidden.
The fireman’s gauge glass, that has been thoroughly cleaned and rebuilt, was refitted and showed no leakage under pressure.
The injector starter valves and their large connecting pipes were largely re-installed.
Front sander discharge pipes were re-installed.
Work progressed steadily on the smoke box. This is probably the area that most threatens our target to run on May 17th. Dennis, assisted by Christian and Jason completed the adjustment of the new steel sheet sections around the blast pipe. By end of day the sheet sections were being finally installed on to the mountings that had been welded into the smoke box and work was progressing on the mesh sections and the welded mounts that will attach these to the smoke box and complete the spark arrestor assembly.
The unexpected task that may cause a delay is in the smoke box front casting itself. Close inspection of this has indicated hairline cracks between the studs that secure the bell mounting. These will need to be weld filled, ground down and then the holes for the studs re-drilled and tapped before we can remount the front of the smoke box. It will be a busy two weeks.
So, we are close. A couple of key tasks will determine if we can steam in two weeks as planned.
I am away next weekend so will follow the action with great interest!.
Sunday, April 27. 2014
Steam Department Update 04-26-2014 Posted by Nigel Bennett in Steam Department at 18:45
It was a very successful weekend in the steam shop. Although strictly not many of us were “in the steam shop” for very long on Saturday!.
Dennis and his son Keith, assisted by Jerry, Rick and others as required, occupied the shop to do the long awaited spray painting of #1630. The rest of us kept well away while this was going on.
The results are impressive. It took a little while to set up and test the new sprayer and the epoxy medium.
However, once this was done, progress was remarkable rapid.
By mid-afternoon everything was done. All the loose parts, tanks, dome cover and the banding strips were done. We are spraying only the back of the tender.
She really looks good. A great job by Dennis and Keith.
Unfortunately it is very clear that a plain shiny black locomotive does not photograph nearly as well in an enclosed shop as does one with all sorts of different colored patches!.
On Sunday, Jim and a small team removed all the masking so she is now looking much more like a finished locomotive.
Now we wait to confirm how long it will take for the epoxy medium to get thoroughly hard so that we can fit the plugs and valves into the top of the boiler to do the hydro test.
The rest of the team concentrated on getting a supply of water and proving the pool heater ready for the hydro test. The water car was switched to the front of barn #9 and filled using a very long run of pipe. (It cannot be located to the steam lead as the switch is being repaired and that area of track is out of service). However, this worked well and by afternoon the water car was full and back in front of the shop ready for use.
A temporary arrangement was set up to run water from the car thru the heater and back to the car to test the heater. Clearly Jerry did a great job last year!. The heater has traditionally been a bear to start up after the Winter. This time we simply started the water flow, switched it on and 30 seconds later it fired up and ran smoothly.
So we are all ready to put water into the boiler and heat it up for the testing as soon as we are confident that the paint is hard enough to allow us to access the boiler and make the connections.
We can now begin a whole lot of activities needed to refit all the small items removed to allow painting and make her ready for operation. It will be a busy couple of weeks!.
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