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