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Sunday, May 31. 2015
What a difference a month can make in the Steam shop.
The South end of the shop now presents a remarkable sight, wide open in a way that has not been seen in many years.
This is driven by a Buildings & Grounds project to install sprayed insulation on the roof. The shop is one of the few heated buildings in the museum and cutting wastage of heat is a high priority. The existing panel insulation has been prone to detach and this project is to some extent an evaluation of a new method to insulate the type of structure used widely in the museum. Anyway, the contractors start the first week of June and need clear access to the South shop. This has driven and been enabled by some substantial activity on our projects.
First and foremost was #1630. By the end of May, she was routinely located outside in the preparation area, coaled, watered, greased and ready for another weekend of operation.
The shine on the paintwork in this picture is no good things as far as I was concerned!. It indicates frequent heavy rain while I was doing the preparation. Clearing the firebox and laying a half ton base of coal for lighting up can be less than fun with 100% humidity and periods of heavy rain!. For anyone wondering what is the strange curved object attached to the walkway and standing well above the top of the boiler, this is the hoist that we use to lift the fan onto the chimney. So this is a clear indication that she is ready to fire and awaiting installation of the fan early the next morning.
Still she ran well again on Saturday despite frequent rain, rapidly falling temperatures and winds developing to near gale force as the day progressed. Sadly not too many visitors to see it!. Those who braved the weather were rewarded with some spectacular sights of steam trailing across the corn fields.
With #1630 gone from the shop, other big changes were possible. Shay #5 was linked to its tender again, albeit temporarily and this allowed her and #428 to be moved North into the main and North buildings. So, aside from a big house cleaning, what was achieved in May?.
Obviously the work early in the month focused on #1630. In recent years May has become a month of frenetic activity as we prepare for operation and so it was this year. Many people took days off work and there was activity in the shop several days each week as we worked thru the list of tasks to get 1630 into operation.
As was strongly suspected last month, it proved impossible to be ready for operation May 16th/17th. However steam testing was completed May 21st and a full weekend of operation was achieved for the 3 day Memorial Day weekend and we are running the weekend of May 30/31st as a substitute for the 16/17th. Given the weather this may not been seen by many visitors!!. Oh well, some you win!.
It is startling how much faster things can move when we can have teams working several days each week. In the first two weeks of May:
Dennis finished a great deal of welding including:
building up the mounting for the tender draft gear;
welding new plate into the bottom of the tender to provide a solid surface for shoveling;
straightened the tender footplate on the engineer’s side. This had a strange “hump” dating back decades to some unknown accident damage and now provides a level surface for the first time in memory;
attached the tear drops to the grate shakers.
Phil spent a lot of hours in the cramped space under the ash pan, assisted by a number of others working outside, to reinstall and adjust the wedges on #5 axle.
On the first weekend of May, the major task of refitting the draft gear into the packet under the tender was achieved. This took a lot of brainstorming. The challenge was how to lift this unwieldy assembly (several hundred pounds and nearly 3 feet long) into a narrow space under the tender and above the axle. It is being above the axle that really provided the challenge. The draft gear must be raised into the pocket. It cannot slide in from the rear. However the depth of the draft gear draft gear is such that it barely fits above the axle and below the pocket. So the whole tender must be jacked up by the thickness of anything put under the draft gear to support it on the fork lift.
The eventual solution was to balance the assembly with as much projection beyond the forks as possible. It was then secured with a bar below the forks and steel banding around the assembly. Here JD and Trevor work on this mounting.
It looked precarious but the acid test (large volunteer jumps up and down on the projecting end!) proved that it was solid. This way only the thin tips of the forks had to fit above the axle. With this set up the fitting went relatively smoothly and the tender was again complete with a coupler and ready to push forward onto the locomotive. Once it is back in place, it is difficult to visualize all the effort that has gone into making it look so normal!. JD then completed the operation over the next few days with a couple of heavy contacts when coupling to break the wood blocks in the draft gear and release the spring mechanism to its normal operation.
In the second week the footplate welding as completed, the tender pushed forward to the locomotive and the drawbars fitted to make her a single unit again. With this done, she was moved to allow the fitting of the coupling rod on the fireman’s side and she was again mechanically complete.
Around these major activities, a lot of other people were working to:
Rebuild the reverser air cylinder;
Make and fit the new steam feed line to the air compressor;
Load and fit the brick arch;
Clean and refit the injector starter valves;
Refit all the connections between locomotive and tender;
… and numerous other little tasks.
However, by Wednesday she was ready to switch out to the steam service lead and load with coal and water. During this came the “ceremonial last task”. With the assistance of Dave Diamond operating the boom truck, the dome cover was lifted into place.
On Thursday came the acid test. The fire was lit and steam raised. All the essential tests of critical equipment such as safety valves, injectors and air compressor proved very successful. Once the steam test was completed a number of test runs, first light engine and then with train were completed and we were satisfied that she was again operational.
Having now fired a couple of days it is clear that she is significantly better than last year (after all the Winter work we would be pretty disappointed if this were not the case!!). A number of nagging steam leaks are gone. The work on the rear axle has significantly reduced knocking that was apparent last year and the rod bearing that tended to run warm is now cool despite having much less play than last year. So a very successful outcome to the Winter work program.
It is on Shay #5 that we have the biggest news. We can now clearly see our way to a second operating steam locomotive in the near future.
She is currently a single unit again and at the North end of the shop.
However the real achievements are not obvious.
Phil’s efforts over the last couple of months have overcome the problem that has sidelined this locomotive for many years. He successfully cleared the tell-tale holes on all but 20 firebox stays. So all stays in the boiler are now fully compliant with current FRA requirements and the 20 had all been removed for replacement.
Additional thickness testing was carried out on some parts of the boiler to ensure that we have all the data to complete the form #4 and this indicates that all parts of the boiler and firebox shell are suitable for normal operating pressure.
In the last week, with Brian Davies (who leads this project) up from Florida, all 20 of the stays previously removed were replaced. (This involves re-tapping the firebox sheets and machining stays to fit each location). Good progress was also made on peening the ends of a number of the new stays.
Work has also been progressing on exact measurement of the tube sheet and tubes to identify exactly what ferrules are required to fit around the tubes in both front and rear tube sheets.
The remaining work on this locomotive is clearly defined and not as big as it might appear. So when will we see her in steam?. A lot of thought is going into this question at present.
The steam department at IRM has traditionally worked almost entirely on a volunteer basis. Near miracles have been achieved this way but it is slow. In practical terms a job that would take 2 men 10 days to complete in a traditional back shop would take us 2 months, probably more once you consider that both guys may not be available every weekend and there are inefficiencies in putting a job down and picking it up again a week later.
In the last few months we have, to a limited extent, used donated money to employ people on a part time basis to concentrate several days a week on major jobs and this has allowed us to complete some tasks that had previously been stalled.
So this is the big question being considered now. The work required to get #5 into steam is now clearly defined:
Re-tube the boiler and hydro test;
Fit (weld and rivet) the new smokebox bottom sheets (inner and outer) and then fit the exhaust assembly into the new steelwork;
Lag the boiler and fit the sheet steel cladding;
Produce and fit a new front beam and walkways;
…………. Plus the various minor tasks to fit accessories and reconnect the drive mechanism.
Several aspects of this work are of the type that would take months to do entirely with volunteer effort but a matter of weeks if we “bite the bullet” and pay people to work full time on them.
On a purely volunteer basis, we should probably be able to get her into service sometime next year. If we have the funds to accelerate the key tasks, it could be a lot quicker.
So a lot rests on the level of interest. If you are in favor of accelerating the steaming of Shay#5 by paying to get key work done quickly, consider a donation to the Shay #5 fund. My own view is clear!. I will offer to match donations received during June up to a total of $2,000.
Now we go into a few months of very different activity. There is a lot of work required each week to address any minor maintenance on #1630 then fuel her and prepare for the next operating session. In parallel with this we hope to progress work on #5, the painting of #938 and various shop improvement projects. But there is always the contending attraction of taking time out to see #1630 running ……. and you can hardly deny us that pleasure!.
Sunday, May 24. 2015
The first day in service for #1630 was very successful. Six trips at hourly intervals with no significant issues. Even the trainee fireman (me) survived the day without major problem (which was probably a bigger surprise!).
The Winter work appears to have substantially improved the operation of the rod bearings on #5 axle as was the objective.
So we are now operating normally as scheduled. (Obviously the essential caveat!. This is a 100 year old machine. Last minute problems can arise. We will try to give advance notice whenever possible but, in the worst case, a problem found during start up can result in a last minute cancellation).
Thursday, May 21. 2015
Two very hard days but the results look good.
The steam test went well. #1630 is available for service Saturday.
Tuesday, May 19. 2015
Steam Department - Fingers crossed! Posted by Nigel Bennett in Steam Department at 22:22
Interim update May 19th.
A lot of work has been completed on #1630 over the last two weeks. As of today she is now complete and ready to be coaled and watered for the steam test.
If all goes to plan from here, she will be coaled and watered on Wednesday for steam testing on Thursday. We have time for minor adjustments on Friday so, unless we hit unexpected issues in the steam test, we expect to run Memorial Day weekend.
Monday, April 27. 2015
Steam Department Update April 2015 Posted by Nigel Bennett in Steam Department at 15:53
Another month of intense activity. Yesterday there was a substantial flood outside the steam shop. Far from being a problem, this was a cause for celebration, marking another major milestone toward operation.
The focus thru April has been upon completing all the tests necessary prior to steaming. Most of these involve pressuring the boiler completely full of water (hydrostatic testing). The core principle is that pressurized water expands little when the pressure is released. So, should the boiler fail under 225 psi of water pressure, there is no explosion. Were it to fail under 180 psi of steam pressure, the force would substantially destroy a city block!. So the requirement is to test the boiler at 125% of operating pressure (225 psi for our 180 psi boiler) with water before you can put it into steam.
We have been filling the boiler, heating the water (testing is done with warm water to reduce stress on the boiler) and applying pressure with our antique water pump throughout April. Yesterday we reached the key milestone where, having done the last check with water, we were able to pump the water from the boiler and tender to waste. The work is complete so we no longer need the untreated well water we have been pumping between the tender and boiler all thru April. Next time we fill the tender it will be with treated water to be used in steaming.
There were several stages to the testing.
First we carried out a couple of days testing to identify leaks, correct them, and test again to ensure that we were satisfied that the boiler was fit for inspection;
Once this was done the formal test at 225 psi was carried out observed by the FRA inspector.
With this done the boiler was completely drained, the inspection hatch removed, dried and ventilated to allow people to work inside. The interior of the boiler was then inspected (with the FRA inspector observing for the second week). The key objective here is to ensure that nothing inside the boiler (particularly braces) has been loosened by applying the 125% pressure. This was carried out successfully, with one question raised on a few flexible stays that sounded dull on hammer testing. Once this is complete it is essential that the boiler is not pressured above operating as the internal inspection must be carried out whenever the boiler has been raised above operating pressure.
During the week, thickness measurements were made of the dry pipe, which is in good condition, and the hatch was then reinstalled to seal the boiler. Yesterday the boiler was pressured to 180 psi and thoroughly checked. All stays were hammer tested. This indicated that the flexis, that sounded odd when empty, ring perfectly normal under pressure and all rigid stays also ring true. No significant leaks were detected so we are ready to move forward to steaming.
Reaching this milestone opened up all sorts of activity this weekend.
The firebox was cleared of all tools and the last of the grates re-installed.
The fire hole door has been prepared for refitting.
Dennis completed welding in the cab floor.
The hydro fittings were all removed from the boiler and the auxiliary dome cover fitted.
The lagging was re-fitted to the firebox sides.
Mesh was re-installed in the smokebox
Despite all the activity, there is now serious doubt that we will be ready for our first planned steaming (May 16/17). We have made great progress overcoming the set-backs but there are still significant tasks to complete.
The biggest task is refitting the tender draft gear. This must be done before we can move the tender forward, recouple it and move the locomotive to refit the last coupling rod. Dennis has put a lot of work into building up the mounts under the tender and others have been hard at work in the unpleasant space under the tender grinding the surfaces smooth after welding. This is close to completion and then we have the fun job of squeezing the large and very heavy draft gear assembly back into its narrow pocket above the axle.
The shot above gives some idea of the work required, That draft gear fits up between the large castings that hang down from the tender. The draft gear has been displaced to the right in this view for many years causing excess wear on that side. Dennis has added the new metal that can be seen on the right an we are in process of grinding off the excess to produce a smooth surface of the correct profile to match the left hand side before the gear can be lifted back into place.
The wedges for the trailing axle box must be shimmed and refitted. Phil test fitted one yesterday. This proved that the required shim was exactly as predicted by Jason’s measurements before the shoes were machined. The shims now need to be cut, riveted to the wedges which can then be refitted.
Both injector starter valves need to be serviced and refitted. There was leakage last year and this needs to be corrected before they are refitted for this season.
The reverser cylinder must be reassembled. The cylinder was prepared yesterday for the piston to be refitted. All the parts are prepared so it is now a case of fitting. Unfortunately this and the injector valves have been delayed as Mike, who had been working on these, has had to go to Arizona for family reasons.
The “tear drops” securing the grate shakers must be fitted and welded in to place.
Additional plate work must be welded into the tender above the stoker helix to replace plate that was damaged and allowing coal to fall into the stoker channel last year.
Around these key tasks are the more obvious ones of reconnecting the tender to the locomotive and refitting the coupling rod. The issue is that we have many people who can do these tasks but only a few who can do the key tasks.
1630 has absorbed most of the effort in the shop during April but work has continued on the Shay and 428 when possible.
On the Shay, work is focused on preparing the boiler for re-tubing.
On 428 Eric has made good progress on machining the frame spacer and work has continued on riveting the cab.
So we will be working as much as we can during the week as we go into May with the objective of steaming as soon as we can.
And now a big plug for a very important event for the Department!. Tickets are now available for the Steam Department Benefit that will be held again this year at the San Filippo Estate on Sunday June 28th. The estate with its unrivalled collection of music machines and the great Wurlitzer organ, on which Dave will provide another great concert, is spectacular and can only be visited thru events such as this. This is a great afternoon out and a major opportunity to support the work in the Steam Shop.
So watch this space. I hope that, by the end of the month, I will be able to report 1630 in steam. However we have a very busy month ahead to achieve this.
Sunday, April 5. 2015
March was a month of great activity in the steam shop. Recovering from the set back at the end of February we have made great progress in preparation for the operating season.
Obviously the focus in the shop is on #1630. However turnout has been good during the month and this has allowed substantial work on other projects as well.
Looking first at #1630.
By end of day yesterday she was ready for the formal hydrostatic test of the boiler which is planned for next weekend.
The stay that was found to be broken at the end of February was removed. The old stay was ground off flush inside the firebox, heated and a large wrench applied to the domed head in the socket. It came out smoothly making the rethreading for the new stay relatively easy.
A new one was machined.
We are getting relatively practiced at this process. The worst part of this particular stay was forming the domed end once it had been screwed into place. The ball end must be bucked to prevent the stay moving as the end is hammered into shape. This one was a bear to position the bucking tool and more of the cab floor had to be removed to position the bucker.
Inside the firebox Jason used the air hammer to form the end of the stay.
The finished result is a neatly domed head. … and there was never any leakage under testing.
The weather improved at a critical time in mid-March so that we could safely run the water heater. So for the last couple of weeks we have been filling the boiler, heating the water and pressure testing. It is the nature of the beast that that high pressure water will reveal leaks that do not necessarily happen under steam due to the different temperature and expansion factors. Also, given that all the plugs and a number of stay caps have been removed as part of the annual inspection, there are likely to be points that have not sealed completely. So we have carried out a number of cycles of filling, pressuring, identifying leak points and then draining, fixing identified issues and repeating.
A couple of valves (one test cock and the rail washer) have nuisance leaks that Tom will aim to fix during the week but otherwise she looked good by end of day.
Subject to success of the test next weekend, we will then need to remove the hatch, carry out the internal inspection, and then we can start preparation for the steam test.
As suspected last month, it did proved necessary to remove the axle box shoes from number 5 axle for machining. Phil has become our expert at removing and refitting shoes and wedges. This is a horrible job, involving working in the confined space under the firebox with Portapower cylinders to drive the shoes out and then back in to position.
It is frustrating as they are not actually attached but just slot into place. However, since they are a fairly close fit on the frames and between the substantial weights of the frame and axle box, a good deal of encouragement is required to move them against the adhesion created by the grease. And this encouragement is not easy to apply in the very confined spaces under the locomotive. The absence of an inspection pit is REALLY noticed in a job like this. Hopefully this is a development that we can make in the next couple of years.
Anyway, by end of month both shoes were machined and back in place.. The plan is now to pull the axle forward, refit the rods and then test fit the wedges. It is not certain yet if we will need to put shims onto the wedges but the material has been obtained to do this is necessary.
We have done a good deal more work than initially planned in this area but this actually covers work that was tentatively scheduled for next Winter so overall it is a gain and should result in a significantly smoother running locomotive.
Having proved that the stay caps on the backhead are all free of leaks, it was possible to stay reassembling the footplate and great progress was made on that. The major elements of the stoker delivery system were refitted and most of the footplate is now re-installed. (No pictures of the stoker installation as I had to operate the fork-lift)!.
Another major area of work has been the tender draft gear. As discussed previously, a lot of damage was found in the spring mechanism of the draft gear. One big benefit was that it had been manufactured by Miner Enterprises in Geneva, who still manufacture such equipment and were extremely helpful in identifying options. After a lot of measuring and comparison it was agreed that a later pattern could be fitted into the space and Miner very generously offered a reconditioned unit of the later type in exchange for the 1918 original that will go into their museum.
The new draft gear looks quite different but has the same essential dimensions. One small anomaly is that it has a projection caused by the casting process in a place that would foul when installed in #1630. Miner’s advised that it was of no significance and could be removed …. So it was!.
Dennis has done a lot of build-up work on the yolk and coupler. What remains is the weld build -up of the support brackets under the tender. Once Dennis can complete this, we will have the “fun” of refitting the whole assembly under the tender.
The drawbars that link the locomotive and tender have been annealed and then inspected. A lot of hard work is required to thoroughly clean the drawbars to allow the inspection for cracks.
Once the footplate is completed, they are available to reconnect the locomotive to its tender. However, this will likely not be done until the draft gear is completed as it is difficult to move the tender accurately until the coupler is back in place.
The reverser cylinder was finally disassembled. This proved extremely difficult as it is clearly many years since this was last done and bolts securing the cylinder end to the cylinder were in very tricky locations and seriously frozen to their threads.
Snag is that you can repack / add additional packing to the piston gland for a long time but eventually you need to clean the whole gland out and repack. This year was eventually!. It is now being reassembled and will hopefully be another “catch up” job that will not need to be done again for a generation.
Work has accelerated substantially on the Shay.
We have used donated funds to employee Phil for several days each week primarily to complete work on the firebox. The result of his efforts, along with JD and Cody, is that all stays now either have tell-tale holes cleared to the required depth or have been removed.
The major success from this work is that all the stays that could not be accessed without motor removal have been cleared. We can now progress on the basis that the project will not require removal of the motor. Plans are now being made to fit new stays to replace those that had to be removed and then to re-tube the boiler this year. The sequence may look a little strange as we will likely fit the tubes before rebuilding the smokebox. While you would normally fit the tubes from within the smokebox, the small diameter of the Shay’s smokebox makes this an uncomfortable job. So the thinking is to take advantage of the absence of the smokebox floor and refit the tubes before it is refitted.
A lot of other work has been progressing on the Shay.
Air tanks have been hydro tested;
Interior of the water tank has been cleaned and prepared for painting;
Work has started on preparing the timber for the front beam and running boards. Unfortunately the plan of obtaining the timber for the beam some years back and allowing it to season has not worked out as intended. One of the timbers twisted a good deal more than anticipated in the process so we now have some tricky calculations to determine if it can be trimmed square and still be big enough for the purpose.
Ed has worked steadily thru the refitting of pipework. This has now moved on from the cab to other areas.
The “riveting team”, led by Stu, has worked a number of days on the cab and has made substantial progress.
After a lot of effort, Mike and the team have the planer substantially operational ready for work on the axle boxes. This has been a huge effort as it is probably about 50 years since this complex machine last operated. The documentation is not very detailed and a long period out of use, coupled with uncertainty over any defects it may have had when last used, make for a few challenges!. It is now clear just how complex the processes achieved thru the hydraulics are. The huge table moves back and forth, travelling slowly on the cutting stroke but substantially faster on the return. At each end of the stroke, the movement slows (to avoid a hard stop and reverse). At the end of the cutting stroke, the cutting heads are tilted upward to clear the work as the table returns. At the end of the return stroke, the traversing shaft rotates to advance the cutting head for the next cut by an amount that can be varied by the operator. Seeing all these actions being carried out smoothly is fascinating and a number of us spent time watching in awe!.
So wish us luck in April. We have made good progress but still have plenty to do in order to be ready to run in May.
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