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.

 

 

New Volunteer Open House- January 31st, 2015

Railtown Volunteer help visitors understand why This Place Matters.

Railtown 1897 State Historic Park Volunteer help visitors understand why This Place Matters.

JAMESTOWN, Calif. (January 09, 2015) –Railtown 1897 State Historic Park (SHP) is seeking volunteers to help with education and interpretation programs at the park, and will be hosting an open house at the end of the month to offer more information.

The Volunteer Open House will take place on Saturday January 31, 2015 from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at Railtown 1897 State Historic Park, located on 5th Avenue and Reservoir Road, Jamestown CA.  All volunteer applications must be submitted no later than Thursday February 12, as training programs will begin on Saturday February 14.  At the Open House, prospective volunteers will have the opportunity to meet Park staff and current volunteers, and learn about the various positions currently available.  Informal tours of the operation will be conducted, and snacks will be served. While no previous experience with trains or public service is required, recruitment is also currently underway for Car Host and Tour Guide volunteer positions.  Experience is not necessary- training will be provided.

Railtown 1897 SHP is known for its century-old steam maintenance shops and train rides, including popular rides behind the famous Sierra No. 3 (also known as the “Movie Star Locomotive”). In addition to weekend excursion steam trains (April through October), Railtown 1897 SHP offers daily tours, roving interpreters, and many special events, including The Polar Express ™.

Benefits for volunteering at Railtown 1897 SHP include membership in the California State Railroad Museum Foundation, free admission to and train rides at Railtown 1897 SHP and at the California State Railroad Museum, a variety of social activities, interesting training opportunities and guest speakers, discounts at the Depot Store, and participation in an annual volunteer recognition dinner. Interested volunteers can download a volunteer application at http://www.railtown1897.org/volunteer or call 209-984-4408 for more information.

Railtown’s Motor Car Collection

Behind the scenes at any railroad is the mighty track car. A track car or speeder (also referred to as railway motor car, putt-putt, track-maintenance car, crew car, jigger, trolley, quad, trike, or inspection car, and also known as a draisine (although may be unpowered), is a motorized maintenance vehicle used on railroads around the world by work crews, track inspectors and emergency response crews to move quickly to and from work sites. The track car is slow in comparison to a train or automobile, it is called speeder because it is faster than a hand car or human-powered vehicle. Most cars have a top speed of about 35 MPH. Track cars are small in stature however these maintenance of way vehicles perform any number of tasks.  On modern railroads, this unique type of vehicle was replaced by ‘Hi-Rail’ (or HyRail) vehicles.  Hi-Rails are modern trucks specially fitted with flanged wheels.  The rail wheels can be raised and lowered as needed and they are legal for use on both the highway and rail.

At Railtown 1897 State Historic Park, track cars are most often seen as “fire patrol”, ferrying a crew of dedicated volunteers that keep a lookout for fires started by errant sparks from our steam engines and to promptly extinguish the flames.

Not all of the speeders in use today are historic to the site. We catalog here, a visual sampling of the speeders or motor cars at Railtown 1897 State Historic Park. Some of the more restored speeders are the ones we use in daily operations while the older and more “crusty” looking ones are kept intact as collections pieces because of their documented relevance to the Sierra Railway during the earlier years of operations, before the diesel era.  In the preservation world, they are highly valued for their original, unrestored condition in their original context.  Under the Secretary of Interior’s Standards for Preservation, this is known as preservation integrity, and we work hard educate visitors to appreciate them in this state.  Anyone can apply a fresh paint job, but it is rare to find original equipment, in original context, in un-restored condition.

Meet the Track Cars

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MW 80 “Great White”

MW 80 is known among the engine crew as the “Great White”.  A Fairmont A-8 motorcar, it came to Railtown from the Sacramento Southern Railroad at the California State Railroad Museum. We use this car often during the operating season, and since it holds 8 people it is usually our offering for special events that include speeder rides.

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SRy #102

Tucked away in the track auto house or “Speeder Shed” is speeder #102. It has been here since the early years. It is a Fairmont A5-A series car, this dates to the early 1930’s. These cars were called Large Extra Gang Cars and could carry up to 11 workers. No longer operable, its engine is a Continental Motor Company Red Seal, 4 cylinder engine. With parts missing, and a frozen engine, it may sit for quite some time as is.

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Sry #104

Sry #104 is one of the older Sierra motor cars. It is a Fairmont A5 series B-4 manufactured around 1937. The car operated with a 4 cylinder Waukesha engine, and has a capacity of 9 men. This car was once abandoned at Chinese Camp, and came to Railtown 1897 State Historic Park in the early 1990’s.

SRy 106 in machine shop of the roundhouse.

SRy #106 in the machine shop of the roundhouse.

SRy #106 is a sister car to the 104, it is of the same make and manufactured in 1937. It operates today, but is reserved for very special occasions. It has a canvas top. It was acquired from the Sierra Northern Railroad in Oakdale in the early 1990’s and brought back to Railtown. Both the 104 and 106 ran on a Waukesha 4 cylinder engine. Today, both are kept under cover.

SRy #108 May 1978, Jamestown, CA

SRy #108 May 1978, Jamestown, CA

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SRy #108-current condition.

SRY #108 is a newer Sierra addition. It was painted SRR 108 back in 1978. This Fairmont  A-5 was part of the original facility acquisition by California Department of Parks and Recreation in 1982. It was probably manufactured in the mid 1950’s. Though it is historic to the site, its age puts it right on the cusp of the advent of the diesel era and Railtown’s period of significance.  Today it is fully operable and is carfully cared for by our dedicated volunteers.

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SRy #110 with park volunteers.

SRy #110 is a Fairmont M19-AA two man light inspection car. It also is a later Sierra acquisition from the Western Pacific. It was manufactured in 1955 and is operable. This model is configured with the aluminum cab and painted “federal yellow”.

SRy 114

SRy #114

SRY #114 is also a newer addition to the Railtown roster. This motor car came from the Western Pacific originally.  It has had extensive rehabilitation work done on it in the past few years, including a new engine, paint job, and most recently a new tool box. 114 is currently running as our primary “fire patrol” speeder. This type of motor car is a Fairmont A-5.

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Sheffield #33

This is by far the oldest and most mysterious motor car at Railtown. It is a  Sheffield No. 33 model. It has a 2 stroke, 3 cylinder engine with a direct drive. This means you pushed the car to start and away you go. No idle, it runs when on. Records show that there were six of these running along the Sierra lines in 1922. This one is probably a remnant from this original fleet. It is stenciled “S.R. Motor B.” in white with dark red body.

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Western Pacific S-2

Out on “speeder hill” at Railtown, you can find a number of speeder bodies and parts that are sometimes used for surplus. There are two relatively intact speeders on the grounds that were acquired by the Sierra from Western Pacific. Manufactured in about 1960, one of these cars (above) has a belt drive, and the other (below) has a transmission. We do not have record of Sierra numbering for these cars or if they ever ran on the Sierra line.

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Western Pacific S-2T

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Actress Olivia de-Haviland driving the #8 during the filming of “Dodge City” 1939.

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SRy #8 Model T

One of our crown jewels found in the historic belt driven machine shop is SRy #8. This Ford model T is mounted on a Fairbanks-Morse frame and dates from around 1922. Though technically a track auto, this two-seat rolling stock was most likely used for light track inspection, or as a paymaster’s car. Today, the car still operates for special occasions, but does not go far from the Roundhouse.

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#19 “Hetch Hetchy”, circa 1920 at the San Francisco Muni shops where it was built.

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#19 “Hetch Hetchy” with park volunteers.

The #19 “Hetch Hetchy” is an upscale track car. Its frame and motor were built in 1919 by the White Motor Company. The passenger body is by Thompson-Graf-Edler of San Francisco and interior appointments by Meister & Sons of Sacramento. The front rail trucks, wheels, brakes and self-contained turntable were added by the San Francisco Municipal Railway shop. The first “track bus” No. 19 could carry thirteen passengers, but was originally furnished as an ambulance car during Mountain Division construction and was used on the Hetch Hetchy dam project. Faster than most “speeders”, it originally could travel up to 5o MPH on level track, running in overdrive. This vehicle was refurbished to its original configuration and operating condition at Railtown 1897 State Historical Park in 1998-1999.

More on this unique track car: Hetch Hetchy Railcar #19

https://railtown1897.wordpress.com/2009/12/06/hetch-hetchy-railcar-19/

Historically, the track autos were used for track inspection, to transport VIPs to work sites, as the paymaster’s car,  or as ambulances for injured workers. The Sierra Railroad rented them out for private use in the early 1900’s.

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Newspaper article taken from the Pott’s family scrapbook, 1907.

It is interesting to note how expensive it was to rent the track auto (with chauffeur) for a day, $15.00. That would be about $300.00 in today’s currency.

Visit Railtown 1897 State Historical Park to see the motor car collection in person. During special events you will have a rare opportunity to take a ride on the house tracks in one these unique cars that were once vital to the railroad.

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

 

Sometimes it’s the Little Things

The accessibility of the shop operation is a unique feature of Railtown 1897 State Historic Park.  Most of the maintenance, repair, and train operations are on full view in the roundhouse.  When a malfunction occurs, it can be an opportunity to demonstrate these activities.  Working with historic equipment gives us lots of opportunities to demonstrate!  Today, for example, it was a malfunctioning gauge that was giving us some grief.  During hostling, the crew noticed that the gauge was reading 25 lbs, even when the air reservoirs were empty.  Some troubleshooting led to the diagnosis of a misbehaving gauge.

While most of the crew transitioned to a back-up diesel to keep the trains on schedule, David Ethier and Dave Tadlock worked to coordinate the repair.  All of this work was done on public display, with a stream of visitors touring the roundhouse and the cab of the locomotive.

Step 1: Remove the Air Brake Gauge from the cab (hot!)

Step 1: Remove the Air Brake Gauge from the cab (hot!)

Step 2: recalibrate the gauge on the dead weight tester

Step 2: recalibrate the gauge on the dead weight tester

Duplex air brake gauge- indicates two separate functions.  The red hand indicates main reservoir pressure and the black hand indicates equalizing reservoir pressure.

Duplex air brake gauge- indicates two separate functions. The red hand indicates main reservoir pressure and the black hand indicates equalizing reservoir pressure. The sticker denotes the date of calibration.

Step 3: Reinstall the gauge and give it a whirl!

Step 3: Reinstall the gauge and give it a whirl!

Final Step: Switch crews between locomotives

Final Step: Switch crews between locomotives

And the trains go on.

And the trains go on.

So, sometimes it’s the little things, but they provide an opportunity to share some of the details of running an historic railroad.  And if you were a visitor today, you were able to enjoy seeing two different locomotives in action, maintenance activities in the roundhouse, and tours of the cab of a steam locomotive while the repairs were occurring, all without missing a scheduled train.  Almost makes you hope we’ll break something when you visit, doesn’t it?

 

 

For a complete discussion of how Westinghouse air brakes work we suggest this article.

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