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.