. Any available tickets will be sold on the day of the event, at Railtown.
Work continues to prepare for the July 4th weekend, premiere. Today’s firing was essential to steam out any debris from the restoration and building of the boiler. If this step was not taken, there could be problems with debris in the cylinders, which could impact the operation of the pistons.
While it was very exciting to see steam coming out of the smokestack, the real fun begins when the rods and pistons move! Party’s over, carry on! Work to do. . .
As always, visitors are welcome to visit the park and watch the work in progress in the roundhouse. We hope to see you soon.
Last week, before the lagging was installed, Steve Verver, from Brown’s Sheet Metal in Oakdale, took measurements for the construction of the jacket. This week, he was out for the final measurements over the lagging, and is now in the process of constructing the jacket.
Since 1989, the locomotive has been wearing a jacket that was constructed for filming Back to the Future III. Because it was constructed with modern methods (pop-rivets and sheet metal screws), and thin gauge, it is being replaced.
An earlier jacket for the Sierra #3 (most likely not the original), is preserved on site, so it was used as a reference, in addition to historic photographs. It was particularly helpful for locating the placement of the rivet line, instead of scaling off of old photos. It was not used as a direct pattern, because of minor differences in the placement of the domes on the new boiler.
The boiler is insulated with rigid sheets of calcium silicate which are scored (and cut where necessary) and held into place with wire. They will be neatly covered with a sheet-metal jacket as the final layer.
Yesterday, Railtown was a veritable beehive of activity. Paid and volunteer staff were working on an incredible number of projects including replacing the fence near the freight shed, moving the Sierra #3 to the roundhouse, mechanical work on the Shay #2, replacing staybolts on the Shay #2, finishing work on the Caboose #7, cleaning and repair of several cars, and repairing a broken irrigation pipe.
In addition, all of the locomotives were pulled out of the roundhouse for the electrical system work that is being completed by district electrician, Steve Spath. No doubt about it, Tuesdays are an interesting day for visiting Railtown!
Visitors will be able to see the #3 on display in the roundhouse for the next couple of weeks. On Monday, visitors may be able to observe the drop-pit in action when the crew is scheduled to remove the front truck for some adjustments necessary for levelling of the spring-rigging. (Please, stay behind the fence, and do not feed the crew! )
On Wednesday, the 9th, the “Behind the Scenes Tour” will be offered. Call 209-984-3953 for reservations. In addition to seeing the work in progress, visitors will also see a slide show covering the progress to date, as well as historic photos of the locomotive over time.
“The Secretary of the Interior is responsible for establishing standards for all programs under Departmental authority, and for advising Federal agencies on the preservation of historic properties listed in or eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. “
The standards were designed to apply to structures, however, we have found them to be useful guidelines for preserving and restoring railcars and locomotives.
We currently have two restoration projects ongoing at Railtown; the Sierra #3, which could be classified as somewhere between a restoration and a rehabilitation, and the Caboose #7, which would be more accurately described as a rehabilitation.
There are unique challenges to any preservation project, whether it is a building, vehicle, or other artifact. Addressing those unique aspects with specific and creative solutions which preserve the integrity of the resource, is what makes this field and interesting and challenging one!
Arguably, the structures at Railtown (the historic shops of the Sierra Railroad) are the greatest historic resource at the site, and of course, the Secretary of the Interior’s standards are applied in their preservation. The site is not currently listed on the National Historic Register, however, it is clearly eligible (listing it hasn’t been pursued because our limited resources have been directed to more urgent issues, and because it is already protected as a State Historic Park). Therefore, every proposed change, minor or major, is carefully reviewed by qualified staff, following CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) requirements. This process can be tedious and time consuming, but is an important step to ensure that well-intentioned, paid and volunteer staff do not make changes over time that can impact the integrity of the site. It is also an important step to document changes, over time, for future park managers and historians.
For example, we will soon begin an electrical upgrade to the historic roundhouse. These important improvements will (hopefully) reduce the fire hazards to the building. Park staff propose to utilize existing conduit wherever possible, retain extinct hardware, and keep modern replacements out of the “historic viewshed” by placing them in hidden areas, or camoflaging them. The upgrade is unavoidable because we wish to continue using the building, but we seek to find elegant solutions to mitigate changes, and document, document, document!
In many ways, the restoration challenges for the Sierra #3 are more complex. Because we wish to operate the locomotive, we have taken a very different approach than if our intent had been to put it on display. Much consideration was given to “restoring” the original boiler. Contraints included cost, employee safety, and feasibility, as well as artifact preservation concerns. In the end, it was decided that it would cost the same, be safer for employees, and better preserve the original artifact if we built and operated a new, welded boiler. Critics would argue that it is no longer the same locomotive. Others would argue that operation of the locomotive over the years, including repairs after wrecks, replacement of worn parts, wheels, tires, tubes and valves, new paint jobs for film shoots, and all of the minor tweaking over time, has caused cumulative changes that have been just as significant. The curators will argue that the ”original” parts could be re-assembled for display at any time. All of the arguments have their merit.
Isn’t this fun?
To learn more about historic preservation standards, and the recomendations of the Secretary of the Interior, please visit the NPS site.