Gearing up for the Season

Man in bib overalls holding a pressure gauge

Stan Calibrating Gauges for the Sierra #28

2 men lying down inside an empty boiler

Boiler Spelunking

Opening day, April 4th, is just a few weeks away.  The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) inspector is scheduled to visit next week.  He will be conducting a hydrostatic test of the boiler.  
Under normal operation, the locomotive’s boiler is brought up to 180 lbs of steam pressure (per square inch).   For the purposes of the annual testing, the locomotive is brought up to 225 lbs of pressure,  using 90 degree water and air (not steam).  This allows the inspector to safely locate any possible leaks (in the case of a leak, water would release, not explosive steam).   Then the boiler is drained and cooled, and the next day the inspector returns for a visual inspection. 
Routine preventative repairs are also conducted during this time, in preparation for the operating season.  In addition to the boiler, this includes the brakes, generator, running gear, insulating bricks and other parts of the locomotive that might be a challenge to repair while in routine operation. 
Many tourist railways alternate between the use of steam and diesel locomotives, depending upon ridership.  Operating and maintaining steam locomotives is time consuming.  We take pride in running steam locomotives every operating day (barring unforseen circumstances).  It’s an important part of the heritage operations in the historic roundhouse and shops, and part of what makes Railtown such a unique resource.