Every year, in accordance with the Federal Railroad Administration Regulations (FRA), Railtown 1897 State Historic Park conducts an annual inspection on all operating steam engines. Locomotives that are not operated often enough to accrue either 31 or 92 service days in a 368 day period will have those inspections conducted, at a minimum, of once every 368 calendar days. This annual inspection is a preventative maintenance approach to keeping this famous “Movie Star” locomotive in prime running condition. All moving components of the locomotive are investigated and gone over with a “fine tooth comb”. Active engineers on the engine give their input on running condition and what may need to be examined. Overall the No. 3 was in exceptional shape and only needed a few minor modifications during this year’s winter maintenance.
One of the dirtiest tasks maintaining a locomotive is cleaning the smoke box. The most efficient way to remove ash and soot from the smoke box is to crawl inside the smoke box and manually shovel and brush the debris out. The hard to reach areas can be whisked through the clean-out plug located on the bottom of the smoke box. On a very active locomotive a smoke box must be cleaned every 90 days. With the minimal use of the Sierra No. 3, it is only required once a year.
Here we see the engine’s cab separated from the tender. The tender was taken outside of the roundhouse to allow working space both for projects on the engine and tender. The tender’s interior was wire brushed to remove scale and debris build up, while the engine was lifted with air-jacks to inspect various maneuvering facets of this locomotive.
A drawbar is a solid coupling between the engine and it’s load. The drawbar is removed annually and examined for any cracks. After removel, a thorough cleaning must be done.
First, grease and other substances must be scraped off. A grinder with a cut brush will remove the rest of the surface debris. Once cleaned down to the bare metal, it is ready for a 3 part dye penetrate examination.
First it is sprayed with a cleaner. Once dry, it is sprayed with a colored dye. If there are any cracks the dye will submerge and be seen after the final step. Next, the colored dye is then wiped off with a rag. The final step is spraying the drawbar with a developer. At this time if there are any cracks they will stand out through the developer. Luckily there were not any cracks discovered.
Examining the geometry of the leaf spring suspension and observations of an arm moving too close to the frame, it was decided that adjustments were in order. It was determined that the journal box staples needed to be removed, built up, and milled to exactly 11”.
This journal box staple was removed, measured, and inspected.
After measurements and calculations, weld was affixed to the staple legs to lift it to slightly above 11″.
Weld applied to staple legs and waiting to be milled.
Milling or machining, is a process of using rotary cutters to remove excess material. This process will ensure precise sizes and shapes. Here we see the journal box staple being milled to exact specifications.
Milling the staple to precisely 11”.
A cutting torch is used to remove excess material from the legs of the staple.
A chipping hammer is used to remove remaining slag (waste material) from the staple. It was then planed with a grinder.
Journal box staple and leaf suspension reassembled.
30” of the brake bar was removed and replaced due to apparent defects. The section was removed by a cutting torch and a new section was welded into place.
While the No. 3 was removed from the roundhouse for inspection, park volunteers were able to clean out the pit and surrounding shop area. A clean work space will enable future maintenance to be performed safely and more efficiently.
The Sierra No. 3 was inspected, fine tuned, and is awaiting park visitors for the upcoming running season.