In most cases on these BLOGS I am merely a reporter, trying to pass on information. But it should come as no surprise to you, Wally, or to any of our other friends that the 'tube time' on the 1630 would run out this year. This means a federally mandated inspection and shopping of our 1630, and that rule applies to every other steam loco still left operating. The good news is that many, many items which would have been considered a defect have already been addressed. But there is no way to put a timetable to this, nor would I try, until after a certain amount of dismantling is done and the required tests and surveys completed.
The reason no one is sure when steam will return is that no one knows the problems. The main reason you remove the tubes is that you can inspect the locomotive's inside. The lagging must be removed and the sides must be tested via ultra sound. This is to check for thickness and other problems. The back & front tubesheets must be sandblasted to check for cracks. There is a boat load of inspection the steam team has to to do. If problems are found then the return of steam will only be delayed. The more problems that are found the longer it will take. Each problem must be addressed. After every problem is addressed then the locomotive can be put back together and back to operations.
The 15 year inspection is a BIG project, but not necessarily a long one. It all depends on the condition of the locomotive. But don't lose faith. The Steam Team might not find any problems and then everything can be put back together. Steam will then return in its beauty and glory.