Annual Maintenance on the Sierra No. 3

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.

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Smoke Box cleaned.

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.

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Tender removed from the cab to prepare for maintenance.

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.

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Park employee’s Phil Hard and Scott Botfield removing the drawbar from the engine and the tender.

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.

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Park Volunteer Garret Hanford removing grease and debris from the drawbar.

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.

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Park volunteer Dave Tadlock applying dye penetrate to the drawbar.

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.

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Journal box staple seen between center spokes of wheel. (Note: Skewed leaf springs)

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”.

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Journal box staple removed.

This journal box staple was removed, measured, and inspected.

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Park Employee Scott Botfield adding weld to build up the staple.

After measurements and calculations, weld was affixed to the staple legs to lift it to slightly above 11″.

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Affixed weld on staple.

Weld applied to staple legs and waiting to be milled.

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Machinist Tony Stroud milling the staple.

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.

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Journal box staple in process of milling.

Milling the staple to precisely 11”.

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Journal box staple after milling process.

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Park Employee Scott Botfield using a cutting torch to cut off excess slag.

A cutting torch is used to remove excess material from the legs of the staple.

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Scott Botfield using a chipping hammer to remove slag from the staple.

A chipping hammer is used to remove remaining slag (waste material) from the staple. It was then planed with a grinder.

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Journal box staple and leaf suspension reassembled.

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Scott Botfield using a cutting torch to remove a section of the brake bar.

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.

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Park Volunteer Eric Nielsen doing the “Dirty Work” of cleaning the pit.

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.

 

 

Hydrostatic Testing on the Superheater Tubes

Advancement on the No. 28 project-

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Pressurizing superheater tubes.

A hydrostatic test was conducted on all 21 superheater elements. 300 lbs. of pressurized water was applied to determine if there were any leaks. Steam engine Superheaters were engineered to increase efficiency by transforming saturated steam into dry steam.  Saturated steam moves from the throttle valve through the dry pipe into the superheater header attached to the tube sheet in the smoke box. This steam then passes through elements which are housed in the superheater flues. Combustible gasses from the firebox move through the tubes and heat the water and the steam inside of the superheater element.  At the end of it’s cycle through the elements, it proceeds into a separate compartment of the superheater header into the distribution pipes, then on to the piston valves and then on to the main steam cylinders. Dry “superheated” steam is more efficient than wet saturated  steam.

Superheaters are more expensive and require extra maintenance however the benefits are reduced water and fuel consumption.

Interior view of a superheater unit

Interior view of a superheater unit

Performance of a steam locomotive superheater.

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Warren Smith polishing seats prior to hydrostatic test.

Photo of a hydro test conducted on the super heaters.

Park Volunteers Warren Smith and David Ethier performing the hydrostatic test.

 

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Superheater tubes awaiting inspection.

Leaks that were found were marked for repair. Only 3 had leaks and were welded to repair.

 

Tube marked to be repaired

Tube marked to be repaired

After the cleaning, testing, and repairs were completed, the superheater tubes were stored awaiting installation.

Previous Sierra No. 28 Update: Removal of Firebox Pieces for Replacement

Next Step: Fabrication and Installation of Boiler Patches

 

Buster and Hobo- the Sierra Railway Dogs

One of the most well known celebrities of the late 19th century was a little dog known as Owney the Mail Dog. For nine years and 140,000 miles, Owney travelled the country by rail, always riding in the mail car and cared for by the mail clerks. His fame grew as he traveled across the country and later around the world. Owney is one of many dogs that have taken to rail travel over the years. In Italy, Lampo, rode the trains and his story was told in the book, “Lampo the Traveling Dog,” by Elvio Barlettani. Pepe Marvel, a young dog who regularly rode the   commuter train in Valparaiso, Chile, became an instant celebrity when pictures of him sleeping on a rail car were circulated on the internet.   Pepe was adept at avoiding the transit security and sneaking on board the trains. His traveling days ended when he was finally apprehended and later adopted by a Buenos Aires family.

Buster the Sierra Railway Dog- artist's rendition by Karen Kling

Buster the Sierra Railway Dog- artist’s rendition by Karen Kling

Tuolumne County and the Sierra Railway were not without their own  canine celebrities. Old Bob was a well-known local dog who regularly rode the stage coaches that traveled between Sonora and Milton.  Besides being a friend and companion to the stage-drivers, he was also an eyewitness to several hold-ups. When the coaches were replaced by the railroad, Old Bob was lonely and despondent. One day, he hopped aboard a train to Stockton for a little change of scenery. Not being a city dog, Bob quickly became disenchanted with what Stockton had to offer. Then he spied a hack driven by Frank Robinson and jumped aboard and made himself comfortable under the front seat. From that day on, he was cared for by the hackmen of the city.

Hobo, arrived in Jamestown about 1898 with Station Agent F.T. Boyd.  Hobo found railroading to his liking and made the train station his home base. He loved everyone, but was particularly fond of the rail workers. Hobo was a wanderer and never one to stay in a place for too long. When he grew bored with Jamestown, he hopped aboard a train and rode up the rails to make new friends and see new sights, returning to Jamestown when the mood struck. Hobo didn’t care much for warm temperatures and would make his way to Sugar Pine or Strawberry each year to spend the summer months, returning each fall to Jamestown. Hobo was a village dog and he was fed and cared for by the many members of the community who loved and admired him.

Bummer, was a very intelligent shepherd dog who lived above Sonora with rancher Joseph Barron. Besides his ranch hand duties, Bummer took it upon himself to fetch the daily paper. Rain or shine, Bummer made his way to the Black Oak Station each night and awaited the arrival of the mail train. After receiving the paper from the express messenger, he would hurry home to his master.

Bummer’s career almost ended when he chased a squirrel across the train tracks and derailed a small motor rail car. Badly injured, he crawled home and was nursed back to heath by Barron.

When you are riding the train at Railtown 1897 State Historic Park, don’t forget to bring your own canine companion, and remember the history of the Sierra Railway dogs who came before.

 

 

 

‘Crew for a Day’ Program at Railtown 1897 State Historic Park

Taking on water at the historic water tank

Taking on water at the historic water tank

Railtown 1897 State Historic Park is proud to offer a special “Crew for a Day” program perfect for those interested in a unique, hands-on experience.  The exciting new offering helps to raise much-needed funds for the Park, and makes a memorable gift.

As honorary Railtown 1897 SHP crew members, “Crew for a Day” participants learn about historic steam engines in an up-close and personal style, engage in hands-on locomotive start-up procedures — that include lighting the locomotive with a burning rag, lubricating, fueling, and taking on water at the historic water tank — and have the opportunity to watch the operation of the historic Sierra No. 3 steam locomotive from the engine cab.  The fun-filled experience ends with participants joining the fire crew and tailing the steam engine in a vintage track car.  All “Crew for a Day” participants receive a special “Crew for a Day” certificate and have their photograph taken with the members of the Railtown 1897 SHP crew.

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The day-long VIP program is available to adults ages 18 and older and can accommodate up to two guests at one time. The cost to participate in the unique “Crew for a Day” program at Railtown 1897 SHP costs $500 for one person or $750 for two individuals.

More information about the new “Crew for a Day” program offered by Railtown 1897 SHP is available at www.railtown1897.org/crew-for-a-day or by calling 209-984-8703.

End your shift with a run with the fire patrol in one of our historic 'speeder' cars.

End your shift with a run with the fire patrol in one of our historic ‘speeder’ cars.

Just an Average Thursday

The SIerra No. 3 being prepared for 4th of July weekend

The Sierra No. 3 being prepared for 4th of July weekend

The Sierra Railroad passing through on the main line, hauling empty lumber cars to the mill in Standard.

The Sierra Railroad passing through on the main line, hauling empty lumber cars to the mill in Standard.

 

Park volunteers making lunch for other volunteers.

Park volunteers making lunch for other volunteers.

Railroad Restoration Lead Worker George and Senior Maintenance Aide Phil getting some office work done

Railroad Restoration Lead Worker George and Senior Maintenance Aide Phil getting some office work done

Maintenance Aide Ray murdering weeds in the pond

Maintenance Aide Ray murdering weeds in the pond

Volunteer Laverne collecting sign in sheets to record volunteer hours

Volunteer Laverne collecting sign in sheets to record volunteer hours

Volunteer David working on valve repairs for the No. 3

Volunteer David working on valve repairs for the No. 3

Volunteer Tim leading a tour of the historic machine shop for park visitors.

Volunteer Tim leading a tour of the historic machine shop for park visitors.

Volunteer Coordinator Dave!  Working on the volunteer schedule.

Volunteer Coordinator Dave! Doing what he does best.

 

Park Maintenance Aide Scott working on boiler repairs on the No. 28.

Park Maintenance Aide Scott working on boiler repairs on the No. 28.

 

Volunteer Leroy working on repairs to the first-class car ceiling.

Volunteer Leroy working on repairs to the first-class car ceiling.

 

 

Volunteers Bill & Bob decorating for the 4th.

Volunteers Bill & Bob decorating for the 4th.

Volunteer Al cleaning out the cars for the weekend

Volunteer Al cleaning out the cars for the weekend

Volunteer Jeannie- car cleaning!  One of the most important (and under-recognized) jobs at the park.

Volunteer Jeannie- car cleaning! One of the most important (and under-recognized) jobs at the park.

Volunteer Hal and Park Maintenance Worker Rob- working on a broken water pipe.

Volunteer Hal and Park Maintenance Worker Rob- working on a broken water pipe.

Just another Thursday at Railtown.

Sierra No. 28 Repair Project- Removing the Boiler Tubes

A major component of this repair project is the 1,472 day inspection, as mandated by the Federal Railroad Administration. The inspection requirement is that every fifteen years or 1472 “service days,” the boiler shell must be fully inspected, and an ultrasonic thickness (UT) survey of the boiler and firebox must be performed and documented.  From these test results, support the Form 4 engineering calculations for working pressure of the boiler.  The No. 28 would have been close to this milestone when the scheduled repair project was finished, so it was built into the project to avoid disassembling the locomotive twice in a row.

The boiler tubes must be removed to access the boiler for inspection. These tubes carry hot gasses from the locomotive’s firebox to more efficiently heat the surrounding water in the boiler, and make steam. They were last replaced during the last 1,472 inspection in 2003. When they are installed, a tool is used to expand the tubes into the tube sheet so they will not move or come loose.  To remove them, the tubes are cut away from the tubesheets at both ends (in the firebox, and the smokebox).  Then they are pounded loose and pulled out through the smokebox.

Senior Maintenance Aid Phil Hard uses a crafted lever to remove tubes through the front end.

Senior Maintenance Aide Phil Hard uses a shop-built lever to remove tubes through the front end of the locomotive.

A view of the front boilerplate. Tubes are being pulled forward through this plate. The smaller holes each contain a boiler tube, the larger holes are for superheater flues, which are not being removed.

A view of the front tube sheet. Tubes are being pulled forward through this sheet. The smaller holes each contain a boiler tube. The larger holes are for superheater flues,  which are not being removed.

____________ works inside the firebox to detach the boiler tubes from the rear boilerplate and help "push" them forward to be pulled out the through the front.

Machinist Tony Stroud works inside the firebox to cut the boiler tubes from the firebox tube sheet and help “push” them forward while another staff member pulls each tube through the front.

In this video, project volunteer Warren Smith shows the process in a bit more detail. Due to their position behind the branch pipe, some of the tubes could not be pulled out straight.   This problem was solved by pushing the tubes into the boiler, where they rolled to the bottom, were retrieved with a tool, and pulled out of a more accessible hole.  An alternative removal method is to pull out and cut off in segments, but the method used here was more efficient. The voice you hear at the other end of the boiler is that of Norm Comer.

The No. 28 has 148 of the 2″ tubes.  Removal took approximately 13 days with paid and volunteer labor.  The tubes are in generally good condition, and some cases could be re-installed.  However, for this project, we decided that it would be more time-effective to replace them with new material.  With the removal of the tubes, the final demolition is complete, and we are moving into the next phase of the project!

Previous No. 28 Update: Removing the Jacket

Next No. 28 Update: Ultrasonic Testing and Boiler Inspection

Railtown 1897 State Historic Park Announces First Female Engineer

Stephanie Tadlock, Engineer

Stephanie Tadlock, Engineer

Volunteer Stephanie Tadlock recently joined an exclusive club, she was promoted to the position of Steam Locomotive Engineer at Railtown 1897 State Historic Park, the park’s first female to hold this position.

Engineer is the most advanced position on the train crew. Commonly confused with conductor (who directs the movement of the train), the engineer is charge of operating the locomotive. To qualify for the position, Stephanie put in years training in every position on the train crew, including brakeman, conductor, hostler and fireman, before qualifying as an engineer earlier this summer.  Railtown 1897 State Historic Park’s railroad operations are regulated by the Federal Railroad Administration.  The park currently employs 20 volunteer train crew members who adhere to the training, testing and operating requirements administered by the FRA, and operate steam and diesel excursion trains from April-December.

A resident of Merced, Stephanie grew up on a small farm outside of Madera, CA. In her day job, she works as a program analyst in Fresno, with a 2-hour round trip commute. One wouldn’t imagine that would lend much free time, but somehow between cross country motorcycle trips, helping her dad with antique shows, and spoiling her granddaughter, Stephanie has shown the drive, energy, and aptitude to become Railtown 1897’s first female engineer.

Stephanie began volunteering at Railtown 1897 State Historic Park  after her husband, Dave, transitioned from volunteer tour guide to volunteer train crew member in 2007. After realizing that Dave was at Railtown 1897 State Historic Park every weekend, Stephanie and her son began volunteering on the fire patrol crew during Dave’s second year in order to be able to see Dave once in a while! After spending a year learning and becoming immersed in the camaraderie of Railtown’s volunteer crew, in 2008 Stephanie volunteered for train crew and, as she says “that’s about the time I got bit by the steam bug.”

Though excited about her new position as engineer, Stephanie still enjoys hostling and firing. “There’s just something indescribable about bringing a cold mechanical hunk of metal to life with your own two hands,” she says.

Thanks, Stephanie, for your dedication to Railtown 1897 State Historic Park, and here’s to many more years to come!