Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Slip Sliding Away...

Time certainly has a way of slipping by. It has been over two months since my last posting, not because there hasn't been much happening, rather too much (read: we have been busy).
Our new steam cleaner and its operator, Scott DiMartino have been hard at it cleaning years of road dirt off the frame of No. 3025 and its running gear. Wayne Hebert (assisted at times by Ken Blandina) has begun the 1472 day inspection of the boiler. Thus far, the superheater units have been removed and all of the superheater flues have been cut.
The driving, lead and trailing truck wheels are still in Pennsylvania being re-profiled. We expect them to be ready for shipping to Essex next month.
The lack of wheels has not prevented us from bringing the locomotive into the shop. When we unloaded the locomotive, we placed it on two large steel "H" beams which have "flanges" welded onto their bottom sides.

This afternoon, we oiled the rails ahead of No. 3025, coupled onto it with diesel locomotive No. 0901, and slid No. 3025 (on the "H" beams) into the shop. The whole move took a couple of minutes.

Now that No. 3025 is safely inside the shop, the rebuilding phase of the project can begin.


Friday, June 19, 2009


NYO&W No. 405

From 2000 until 2006, New London artist Robert Hauschild provided the paintings which graced the covers of the periodical Locomotive Quarterly. Over 24 of these will be exhibited in our latest show: Locomotive Quarterly Covers, Watercolors by Robert Hauschild.

The show will run from June 25 until October 12, 2009 at our Oliver O. Jensen Gallery inside the River Valley Junction display building adjacent to the Essex depot. Gallery hours will coincide with our normal operating schedule.
There will be an opening reception open to the public from 6:00 until 8:00 the evening of June 25th. Steve Barry, editor of Railfan Magazine will be on hand to make a few remarks on Locomotive Quarterly and to introduce the artist, who will share some recollections about his relationship with the magazine.
Each of the original, watercolor paintings will be available for sale as well as back issues of Locomotive Quarterly.
J. David

Friday, April 3, 2009

A New Bottom For Becky Thatcher

Derecktor Shipyard workers fitting up new hull bottom.
EST&R photo by Wayne Hebert
Those of us who work our locomotives and cars as they come in and out of the Engine House seldom think of the other major piece of equipment the Company operates: m/v "Becky Thatcher" our 69 foot long, 237 person capacity riverboat which usually lives at our dock at Deep River.
Built in 1961 at Ft. Lauderdale, FL, by Captain Albert Starts; the boat was originally named "Southern Belle". It came north in the 1970s' and has handled the service out of Deep River ever since. When our former sister company, Deep River Navigation, ceased operation after the 2003 season, we acquired the "Becky" along with a highly competent crew (a good thing as we knew nothing about boats).
Since "Becky" operates in fresh water, the Coast Guard regulations call for it to be hauled out of the water for inspection every 5 years. This time around, we chose Dereckor Shipyard at Bridgeport, CT to do the work. A rather modern yard, they use a huge carry lift machine to pick vessels out of the water and move them around their yard rather than the traditional "drydock" or "marine railway".
A typical Coast Guard inspection includes "UT" (ultra sonic) testing to determine the thickness of the hull. After testing we found that it was going to cost nearly the same amount to patch sections of the hull as to replace the entire bottom of the boat. So, we chose the later, even though the work would take longer and possibly wouldn't be done until after our opening day.
What to do! Well, a couple of things. Our opening weekend is usually "Neighbor Appreciation Days" (free tickets for residents of towns along our line). This year we'll operate three trips per day (May 2nd and 3rd) with steam power from Essex all the way to Haddam (some of this trackage seldom sees steam) making all station stops along the way. The balance of the month (or until "Becky" is finished) our riverboat service will use m/v"Martha Washington" which we have leased from Boston Harbor Cruises.
Meanwhile, Paul Horgan and Wayne Hebert have been assisting EST&R Port Engineer Charlie Pike with removing wiring and piping to facilitate the installation of the new 5/16" steel bottom. They also have removed sections of the drive shaft for Bill Wolf to repair here at the Engine House.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

90 Year Old Coach Receives "Modern" (well, 1950's era) Roller Bearings

Wayne Hebert operates the hoist as Charlie Pike and Bill Wolf rig the truck.

Coach 503 (built in 1914 for the Lackawanna) has been "re-wheeled" using like new roller bearing wheel sets which we recently purchased from railroad car wheel expert, Bruce Moore.
The other cars in our fleet all have friction bearings, a type of bearing commonly used from the early days of railroads up until the adoption of roller bearings in the mid-20th Century.
A friction bearing rides directly on the axle, typically lubricated via wool yarn or cotton waste packed under the axle and saturated with oil. The yarn or waste had to be carefully arranged into little bundles called "mice". These "mice" in turn had to be carefully "packed" into the journal box, making sure their "tails" (the loose ends of the yarn or waste) were carefully folded under and not dangling. If one of the "tails" were to come loose and get caught between the axle and the bearing as the axle was turning, a "waste grab" would occur, a "mouse nest" would form and an over heated bearing or "hot box" would result. In extreme cases, a "hot box" could cause the end of the axle to fail, usually resulting in a derailment. Waste became obsolete as foam rubber filled "journal pads" found favor. These pads look rather like a mop head and require less skill to install and maintain.
The roller bearing is a series of highly polished cylindrical or tapered steel rollers which run between highly polished "races" the inner of which is pressed onto the bearing end of the axle, the outer of which is in contact with the journal box. This type of bearing requires less energy to get it turning than a friction bearing. The journal box is sealed so the oil or grease used to lubricate the bearing can't run out. The roller bearing requires minimal maintenance.

Coach 503 truck, roller bearing wheel set to the right, friction bearing to the left. In the forground is a friction bearing journal box with a bearing on the tray behind it.


Friday, March 6, 2009

Annual Coach Work - 2009

About this time each year, our attention turns to those big green things with seats in them that our beloved locomotives haul up and down the line. While we spend a lot of time (and money) on the locomotives, we occationally lose sight of the fact that the fannies that sit in those seats actually pay for everything.

Our coach fleet is just as antiquated as the locomotive and just as needy when it comes to maintenance. All the cars are inspected over the winter. We measure the wear on the wheels and couplers, the height of the buffers and replace or adjust as needed. During this time, annual (or bi-annual) servicing is done on the air brake systems. The heating and PA systems are inspected and general repairs are made. Every other year we either repair & re-coat roofs or touch up paint and wax the carbodies. This year we are consumed with the latter.

Scott DeMartino heads up the work on the carbodies (assisted here by Charlie Pike).

Car Foreman Paul Horgan "beds in" new quarter round window moulding in caulk.

Mike Camera repaints the exterior window sash on former Central Railroad of New Jersey commuter coach No. 1000 (the only coach on the Valley to retain it's original number).

Master Mechanic Bill Wolf makes a part for a door latch on our "Hendey" engine lathe.

As of now we have completed work on kitchen car "Colonial Hearth" and coaches 501, 502, 602 and 1000. Most work on open car 600 "Riverview" has already been completed. Ken Blandina is refinishing it's wooded seat slats and window sills for reinstallation later this month. The next car scheduled to come into the shop is dining car "Meriden". The "new" roller bearing wheel sets for coach 503 have arrived and ought to be installed later this month. Next month we plan to work on dining car "Wallingford", parlor car "Great Republic" and coach 1002. Once these are done (whew) coach 1001 will return for more steel work and eventually repainting.


Monday, January 26, 2009

Inside Work

Inside No. 40's Boiler
We saw the last of Santa (finally) on December 29th after the final North Pole Express of the season. After putting away the Christmas lights, etc. for another year, we have moved inside the (relative) comfort of the Engine House and have turned our attention to preparing for the 2009 season.
The first order of business is usually the annual inspection of the steam locomotives by the FRA (Federal Railroad Administration) and our inspectors. We try to have the boilers tight and dry well before the big day. Cab valves and the like are ground in and all fittings are made tight so there are no drips or damp spots. The boilers must be warmed so that they are between 70 and 120 degrees during the hydrostatic pressure test. To do this test the boiler must be completely filled with warm water. Then (while the inspector is watching) the boiler is pressurized to 25% above it's MAWP (Maximum Allowed Working Pressure) by means of a small pump. Once the test pressure is reached the inspectors make a minute examination of the boiler and firebox looking for any leaks or other signs of distress. Typically the final testing takes about an hour. Of course, we will have tested the boiler ourselves days before the FRA arrives. It would be embrassing to have something leaking. Once the hydro has been done, we drain the water and remove the domecap from the steam dome so we can get down inside to make the required internal inspection. Happily, both Nos. 40 and 97 passed their tests and will be operating during the 2009 season. Soon, repairs and betterments on the locomotives will be finished so they can be winterized for outside storage until we begin operations again in April.
Next: the coach fleet comes in (one or two at a time). More on that later. Stay warm!