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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!.
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.
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Nigel Bennett about Steam Department Update June 2015
Wed, 07-29-2015 07:42
Subject to the general caveat that a 100 year old steam engine can always develop a last minute fault, it is planned that #1630 will operate 8/1 and [...]
CincyCubfan23 about Steam Department Update June 2015
Wed, 07-29-2015 06:28
Nigel - First, THANK YOU for all the work you do (and everyone else at IRM, for that matter)! I believe I know the answer, but I'll ask anyhow. [...]
Nathan about Steam Department Update June 2015
Mon, 07-27-2015 16:26
Nigel, All matters of practicality do indeed have to be taken into consideration. That said, as another suggestion, you may want to talk to your [...]
Nigel Bennett about Steam Department Update June 2015
Mon, 07-27-2015 07:38
Nathan, All ideas to be considered and depends on how this year turns out. The big reason we run Thomas over the route we do is the space [...]
Nathan about Steam Department Update June 2015
Sun, 07-26-2015 19:24
Hi Nigel, Just noticed the comments and plans for Thomas on this thread and am intrigued. It seems like a great idea to have #1630 push the Percy [...]
Andrew Ossler about Steam Department Update June 2015
Sun, 07-26-2015 09:59
Thank You. I'm sure il wind up rinjibg into you guys at the museum I'm always there.
Nigel Bennett about Steam Department Update June 2015
Sun, 07-26-2015 09:41
Andrew, No. The Thomas train will follow its normal route. There will be two event trains, the Thomas train and the Percy train (standard DOWT [...]
Andrew Ossler about Steam Department Update June 2015
Sat, 07-25-2015 13:28
So will the Thomas train be on the main this year?
Nigel Bennett about Steam Department Update June 2015
Sat, 07-25-2015 08:45
Peter, The Thomas days will be significantly different this year. There will be a Percy train as well as a Thomas train and, subject to the [...]
Peter D. about Steam Department Update June 2015
Fri, 07-24-2015 23:51
Greetings: Quick question regarding steam operations...In addition to Thomas, when would you expect a steam locomotive to be on the tacks. Thanks.
Evan Ferrari about Diesel Days line up, Sunday, July 19th, 2015
Fri, 07-24-2015 14:02
Is there contact information someone could share about asking a question about SP 1518?
JWG about Diesel Days line up, Saturday, July 18th, 2015
Fri, 07-24-2015 08:13
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