Saturday, September 29, 2007

It's In the Bag

Last week, visitors to the Essex Steam Train were startled to see a huge “bag” in the parking lot and wondered what it was doing there and what was inside.

The “bag” was actually a temporary containment structure to enable the sandblasting and painting of New York, New Haven & Hartford box car number 35386 owned by The Friends of the Valley Railroad..

Prior to the development of the Interstate highway system and the rise of the trucking industry, the box car was used by the railroads to haul many commodities. In addition to items that were boxed or crated, these cars were used for carrying lumber, grain and other non-perishable food stuffs. Specialized box cars were used to transport automobiles. At one time the New Haven owned box cars by the thousands. Today, less than a dozen survive. No. 35386 was last used by Amtrak as a storage shed at New London, Connecticut. When it was learned that the car was to be scrapped, The Friends purchased the car and quickly trucked it to Essex. Volunteers repaired the rusted car and made reproduction parts to replace lost or damaged ones.

Brian DeWolf, a local sandblasting and painting contractor was retained to refinish it. The “bag” is homemade, stitched together with numerous zippers to allow for entering. The “bag” was placed over the boxcar and then secured to the ground with stakes and ropes. Two large electric blowers are placed at the bottom and once turned on, inflate the “bag”, and create an enclosed work space. Once the box car was sandblasted, primed and painted (in a authentic New Haven paint scheme), the “bag” was floated off and folded up for storage. Once the “bag” was removed, the work area was cleaned up and the used sand disposed of.

Next month, the box car will be lettered and the moved to East Haddam for display adjacent to the former New Haven Freight Station.

J. David Conrad

Friday, July 13, 2007

Essex Steam Train Provides Authentic Background For Major Motion Picture

A scene for a yet untitled motion picture was filmed at Essex Steam Train on July 5, 2007. Descending on Essex Station for the “shoot”, were hordes of set designers, landscape artists, lighting and sound technicians, costumed extras, caterers, assistants, gaffers and grips . . . not to mention assorted Directors, Producers and two major Hollywood Stars!

A special “Movie Train" consisted of Steam Locomotive #97, Parlor Car "Great Republic", Passenger Coach #’s 503, 501 and 602, L&NE Gondola Car (for generators) and a Caboose. The train made short moves for cameras along the station platform throughout the 12-hour day. Regular Essex Steam Train service was maintained with Steam Locomotive #40 and Diesel Locomotive #0901 at either end of a 5 car train, operating from Track 7. Two locomotives eliminated the need for a locomotive to run around the train at Deep River (saving time) and Essex (leaving the main track for filming). The day went smoothly as both the Movie Train and Regular Train experienced no delays.

Photo courtesy of Tom Nanos at Nanosphoto

When we learn the name of the movie and/or a release date, we'll post the information here. (Edit: Of course, it's Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, released 22May2008)

J. David Conrad
VP, Chief Mechanical Officer

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Valley Railroad No. 40 Steams Again

Valley Railroad Co. steam locomotive No. 40 operated under it’s own power today for the first time since December 22, 2002 following the extensive (and expensive) renewing much of its firebox and other repairs.

VRR Locomotive Foreman Wayne Hebert headed up the team of Employees and Volunteers who performed virtually all of the work within the Company’s small shop at Essex. The most complex part of the project was forming of a new firebox door sheet. This is the rear end of the firebox and has an opening in it to allow coal to be shoveled in for the fire. The door hole and the outside edge are “flanged”. The “flanging” was done by heating the edge of the 3/8” steel by means of torches totaling 2 million BTU. Once heated, the steel was formed over dies using large wooden mallets. It took a crew of six a full day to “heat and beat” the outside edge. Although the process appeared crude, the newly formed part was within ¼” in it’s major dimensions once trimmed.

After each of the three major sections were fit into place, the locations for staybolt and rivet holes were carefully transferred, the sheets were removed, drilled and then reinstalled.

The new sheets were welded in place by Bob Carlson, a retired welder from Electric Boat Co. Two large air powered riveting hammers were used to drive over 100 steel rivets which had to be heated to a bright yellow color before they were hot enough to be driven. The nearly 500 new staybolts were installed cold, they too required being driven with air hammers to make them water and steam tight. Other major work included rebuilding the locomotive’s air compressor (necessary for the brake system) and rebuilding the trailing truck, which supports a portion of the weight of the rear end of the locomotive.

No. 40 will receive further “testing & tinkering & touch ups” prior to being placed in regular service, probably in mid-July.

- J. David Conrad