Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Farewell to Old 97

In November 2010, “Your Hand on the Throttle” will celebrate Engine 97’s last run . . . until it’s rebuilt per federal regulations!

Periodically, steam locomotives have to be overhauled, typically every 100,000 miles. However, Engine 97 hasn’t been totally rebuilt since the 1940s and has run a remarkable 200,000 miles in Valley Railroad service since 1977. Therefore, upon completion of Engine 97’s current term of service in 2010, it will undergo a complete boiler inspection and rebuilding of all mechanical components . . . such as driving axels, crank pins, and crown brasses. 

Join us for:

Farewell to Old 97
November 5-14

The cost for this special Farewell to Old 97 event is $500.00. A portion of the proceeds from your participation will help the VRR’s effort to defray costs of acquiring parts and rebuilding Engine 97.

Don’t forget to bring your camera…a VRR Engineer will be happy to take your photo in the cab of Engine 97, of course, with Your Hand on the Throttle!  

Friday, August 20, 2010

"What's That Silver Thing?"

3025 Boiler and Firebox

As an enhancement to our annual "A Day Out With Thomas" (TM) event, this year we opened up one side of the Engine House to give our visitors a look "behind the scenes". The centerpiece of our mini-exhibit was No.3025, freshly sandblasted and painted in gleaming silver. Without wheels, cab, boiler jacket not to mention smokestack, it became a great conversation starter as people wondered what it was. Most were astonished to learn that we, by law, had to periodically dismantle our steam locomotives for inspection. It was a great teaching tool. Lights were set up to illuminate the boiler interior, cylinder and valve.

Wayne and the New Dome Liner

One of the major tasks to be addressed was that of designing , constructing and installing an additional dome liner. The liner was designed by our Mechanical Engineer, Pete Fredrickson. It was fabricated and fit up by Wayne Hebert. The installation (welding), post weld heat treatment and inspection was handled by Expert Boiler & Welding from Brooklyn, New York.

Once the liner had been finished, we slid the locomotive out of the Engine House for sandblasting and painting. Nils Michaelson, our favorite sandblaster, erected a temporary containment structure over it. The boiler was blasted inside and out. Then it was painted with special coatings. Apexior was used inside the boiler and an aluminium paint designed for high temperatures was used on the exterior. Once the boiler was done, it was slid back inside and the tender of the locomotive was moved into the containment structure to be blasted and painted inside and out. It too was later moved into the Engine House for more work.
Another major milestone on the boiler was recently completed: the flues and tube were "safe ended". When we removed the old tube and flues from No.3025, it was clear that they were in excellent condition save being coated with scale. When removing the tubes and flues, about 3 to 4 inches of material is lost due to cutting. "Back in the day", the railroads (always trying to save money) would weld a new end on. This practice was called: "safe ending". Due to increased labor costs, not too many companies "safe end" anymore. But we were fortunate that Reese Achison, an inventor from New Hampshire, donated an automatic welding lathe for this task.

Reese Setting Up Welding Lathe

With some assistance from Reese and his son Fitz, Wayne got the devise set up and began "safe ending". Preparing the ends was largely done by Tom O'Brian and Dave Wantz, who designed and build a devise for facing the flue ends. Once positioned in the machine, the actual welding took a matter of seconds. Then each tube had to be tested and both ends annealed. Mike Camera and Eric Seamens helped with this work.

Kevin and His Favorite Tube Sheet
Concurrent with the work on the tube and flues, Kevin Narin spent several weeks preparing the tube sheets. His work involved a LOT of grinding: first to remove old weld, then to make certain that sheets were smooth, then to polish all of the hole and bevel all edges. Finally he performed dye penetrant testing to check for cracks in the sheets. He was glad that he found none!


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Engine No. 40 Celebrates its 90th Birthday!

Ninety years ago this month, in August 1920, Steam Engine No. 40 was built by the AMERICAN LOCOMOTIVE COMPANY, at their Brooks Works in Dunkirk, NY.

No. 40 had a long and interesting career prior to its arrival at Essex Steam Train & Riverboat. Originally, No. 40 was one of 3 identical engines constructed for the new Portland, Astoria & Pacific Railroad, however, the company building the PA&P went bankrupt before the line was finished. For over a year, the locomotive sat on the docks at Portland until it was purchased by the Minarets & Western Railway to haul loads of logs and lumber. When that railroad could not pay its debts, the locomotive was given to the Southern Pacific Railroad and then sold to a used locomotive dealer. Eventually, No. 40 was bought by The Aberdeen & Rockfish Railroad in North Carolina.

On the A&R, Engine No. 40 pulled freight and passenger trains and was involved in one major derailment where it came to rest on its side (above photo). Around 1950, No. 40 was replaced by a diesel locomotive, retired and stored in a small shed. Finally, in 1977, No. 40 was discovered by an employee of The Valley Railroad Company, purchased and loaded onto flat cars for its trip to Essex, CT...and a new career pulling trainloads of tourists aboard the Essex Steam Train & Riverboat.

Today, No. 40 is one of less than 200 operable steam locomotives in the United States, versus the roughly 180,000 steam engines in operation at the height of the steam era. Each day it runs, No. 40 burns about 2 tons of low sulfur coal for fuel and evaporates about 6000 gallons of water, pulling a 400-ton train a total of 50 miles. This is pretty much the same distance that No. 40 has run for most of its life.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Happy Anniversary to the Pride of the Rails

It’s only fitting that we recognize the Great Republic's 80th Birthday early in the 2010 season. Certainly this unique Parlor Car is deserving of a season-long happens to be 1 of only 14 Pullman cars built for the Yankee Clipper, the fastest, Boston-New York express train of its day on the New Haven Railroad.

The Yankee Clipper, named in acknowledgment of the gallant clipper ships that carried America to its peak in sail powered commerce, made its first duo run between New York and Boston on March 18th, 1930. The 4-hour and 45-minute excursion was 15 minutes quicker than any previously scheduled train on the New Haven Railroad. Each of the 14 coaches was named for a famous clipper ship; the Great Republic commemorates the largest clipper ship ever built.

The Yankee Clipper included the most advanced equipment and technology of its time. Luxurious interior furnishings included mohair-covered plush seating and Georgian walnut paneling, tables and trim. The quality of the workmanship was outstanding; the bottom of every table and chair had the car name carved into the wood. Individual lamps and call buttons were provided. Each car had 1 or more Pullman attendants, serving beverages at the passengers’ seats.

The Yankee Clipper service lasted for 20 years, but by the 1960’s, the original cars were being scrapped. That’s when a postal employee named Jim Bradley, who lived near the Amtrak line in Stonington, Connecticut, decided to save some of the Yankee Clipper’s railroad heritage. In 1962 - 1964, Jim purchased 6 cars marked for destruction. Bradley built a spur track on his property and maintained the equipment for 30 years. By keeping roofs and windows weather tight, each car became a time capsule from an earlier era.

Upon Jim’s death, the Valley Railroad purchased the Great Republic from his nephew, David Bradley. Valley Railroad employees and “Friends” volunteers spent thousands of hours making extensive exterior and interior renovations to restore the Great Republic to as close to its original condition.

In 1991, when cinema director Spike Lee was preparing to film his movie “Malcolm X", the Valley Railroad was contacted for the use of a car that would resemble the Pullman on which Malcolm Little worked as a young man. Spike Lee's crew had come to the right railroad...the Great Republic was most likely one of the actual cars Malcolm was a porter on for the New Haven Railroad. With some fast cosmetic work by the movie’s creative team, the Great Republic was taken to 125th Street Station in New York for filming.

Today, the Great Republic proudly carries thousands of visitors aboard the Essex Steam Train & Riverboat. This first-class Parlor Car features individual swivel seats for maximum comfort and viewing pleasure of the beautiful Connecticut River Valley. It also continues to be a highly sought backdrop for for movie shoots, magazine layouts and wedding photography, as depicted in this stunning photo by Melani Lust.

Hop on board the Great Republic to relax in style, sip a cool beverage, and revel in the stunning vistas...all while enjoying a piece of rail and maritime history. For a modest extra fare of $5.00 per person, the Parlor Car is the way the way to celebrate...anyone's birthday or anniversary!

All Aboard,

~ Susan

Friday, May 14, 2010

3025 Progress, December 2009

Kevin grinding old weld from rear tube sheet

While most of our efforts have been focused on "The North Pole Express" (read: keeping Nos. 40 & 97 plus all the coaches running), in our spare time we have gotten some work accomplished on "the big project".
Work on the boiler continued with Ken Blandina and Kevin Narin grinding on the front and rear tube sheets preparing them for die penetrant inspection. Meanwhile, Wayne Hebert constructed a new, additional dome liner. The need for an additional liner was one of the results of our Mechanical Engineer, Pete Fredrickson's recalculation of the boiler stresses.

Wayne running the radial arm drill press

Bill Wolf and Scott Dimartino continued dismantling the driving gear, etc. preparing parts for inspection, measuring each parts and recording their findings. The condition and size of each part must be determined for us to decide which must be replaced or repaired to insure that once we have finished our work the locomotive will operate trouble free during its' next term of service.

Scott dismantling and inspecting lubricator lines

Bill measuring cylinder bore diameters

January we'll be occupied with Annual Inspections on Nos. 40 & 97, but once those are finished and various annual maintenance items attended to, we'll be in a position to return to "The Big Project".