Sunday, November 8, 2015

A Fresh Deck for the Tender.

Saturday, October 31st, Halloween 2015 saw the Amador Sawmill & Mining Association mill in action cutting full dimension 2"x8" Douglas Fir boards to be used as new decking on the tender frame of the 165. This will be cut and fitted prior to replacing the water cistern and oil tank.

Charlie removing the original decking in Spring of 2013
Joining me at the Amador County Fairgrounds, the site of the vintage sawmill, were The Spikes, Roger Stabler, and Paul Zaborsky of BAERA. The plan was to have Charlie carry the cut lumber back over the Sierra in his pickup, however; the fresh cut lumber proved too weighty. Lucky for us, Bill Braun, president of the sawmill group, offered to trailer the wood to Portola gratis, and we are very appreciative for his generosity.

The headrig at the Amador Sawmill. Normally run on steam, it was on diesel this time due to circumstances.
Bill Braun, president of the organization, monitors volunteers working the "Green Chain".

A trailer load of deck lumber bound for Portola.

The lumber arrived the next Thursday. It is now stacked, drying in the shop until we are ready to get it bolted down to the tender frame. Again thanks to everyone who helped out unloading, including Charlie, Duane and Kirk. Thanks also to the Amador Sawmill group. Their work to preserve the history of logging and mining in the Sierra is of great benefit to the preservation community. Not to mention their lumber is of very high quality, nearly clear boards, almost too nice to cover up with a tender tank! - JCA

Monday, October 5, 2015

Fall Boiler Work Continues.

At the end of September a crew from Wasatch Railroad Contractors spent a long weekend tying up loose ends on the 165 boiler. Numerous stay bolts were finished off, some pad welding was completed, and two washout plugs were renewed, along with several other tasks.

Steve Lee, who led the expedition, sends this:

Most of the work done by Erik, Channing, Ryan, Brad, Charlie Spikes, Duane, Lynn Gordon, One-L Bil, Eddie, Mike, and Bart.


Boiler belly pad welding complete.

Severn's Stub removed and replaced with new. (Branch pipe mounting stud)

Washout couplers installed.

All staybolt caps on hand were chased, gasketed, applied and tightened.

Firepan welding done.

Tender frame plates bolted and primered, except for one, due to exhausting the entire Portola supply of primer.

Cab and running boards bolted on, as well as some of the steps. 

A few other little things I don't remember.

As Steve mentioned, Erik and Channing from the Golden Gate Railroad Museum / NPS worked tirelessly to finish up several partially done projects, allowing us to move on to bigger and better things. Charlie and Duane tried unsuccessfully to get our "Huck" bolting machine running to facilitate bolting down the spreader plates on top of the tender frame. As per usual, if it actually worked I suppose it would not be in a museum. Steve made other accommodations.

Renewed washout plug using half coupler.

Channing prepares to weld in the portion of the firepan removed to get access to the patched area.
Thanks again to Steve Lee for taking the reins this time, as I could not attend, and to John Rimmasch, owner of Wasatch Railroad Contractors for his generous support of the 165 project!

In a couple of weeks our favorite boilermaker, Norman Comer will be in to continue work on the tube sheets, various staybolts, and with any luck start sizing and annealing the tubes and flues. We will start rolling tubes in once the tender is usable again. I had hoped be to that point by now, but as I mentioned in a previous post,we had some difficulties, financially speaking. We are all hoping the Board finds funding for us to start up again in Spring 2016. If you all out there want to see WP steam back, now would be a great time to make a tax-deductible donation to the WP 165 Steam Fund! -Chris Allan

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

A Year-End Boost From the Board.

Good news comes late in this season, but in time to get something done. The FRRS Board has funneled $10,000.00 into the steam account which will help us save what is left of 2015. This will allow us to get our boilermaker Norm Comer on site for a couple of weeks to finish up what work is left on the tube sheets, thus allowing us to get to sizing and annealing the tubes and flues.

Norman emerges from the firebox.

We will also be able to finally purchase the rough-cut lumber for the tender deck from the Amador Sawmill and Mining Association.   Bolting down the decking will allow us to move on to the tender cistern. It will be sandblasted inside and out and painted prior to being returned to the tender frame. Currently there is no funding for this as yet.

Amador steam sawmill video:

Later this month Steve Lee will bring with him the "Huck" bolts necessary to finish attaching the new deck plates to the top of the tender frame. Charlie Spikes and Duane Vanderveen have been working to fix up our well-used bolting machine so they can accomplish this task. The welder from Wasatch Rail Contractors will be in soon to finish up the code welding on the boiler. Thanks to Steve and John for providing this highly specialized work to us free of charge!

Bob Sims has been working hard on the tool car in the meantime. He has all of the interior sheeting up, and soon Duane will be able to start on wiring. Thanks guys!

Thanks must of course go to the members of the Board who fought for this funding; including Charlie Spikes, Kirk Baer, and Wayne Monger. These guys are heroes! Hopefully this will keep some momentum going until next year. At that point we will be out of money again, so please consider a donation of any amount. Eugene Vicknair is preparing a Kickstarter campaign which should start shortly. I will post that here when he gets it going.

Thanks again for your continued support! - JCA

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Some progress...

In recent weeks a code welder from Wasatch Railroad Contractors spent a couple of days continuing to weld in the patches on the roof sheet and side firebox sheet. This was at no cost to us, and I want to thank John and Steve from WRC for providing this generous service to us. There is still much more boiler work to be accomplished before we can think about rolling in the tubes, but this puts us that much closer. Thanks to Bob Sims for the photos! - JCA

Roof sheet patches, under the rear sand dome area.

Long narrow patch in the firebox side, staybolt holes yet to be drilled.

Replica builders plate mounted on the smokebox.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The Silver Lining...

Some good news to report. FRRS member and friend of the project Bob Sims has offered to cover the 165 restorations outstanding debts, a very generous gesture on his part. In the mean time the Board of Directors continues to look for additional funding to get the project back on it's feet.

Some projects that are not cash-dependent will continue, such as fitting out the tool car, and general cleanup, etc. will continue. Future work days will be announced once funding is arranged and we are ready to get back to work. - Chris Allan

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Work on hold.


It is with a heavy heart that I must suspend activity on the restoration of WP locomotive 165. This is for a number of reasons, chief among them the lack of funds at this time. As you know, these twice-yearly gatherings have been quite productive, but also incur a substantial cost to the organization. We could meet to socialize, and do a few minor things on the engine, but I do not wish to waste anyone's valuable time and money or the organizations for all to come up to Portola just for that. Also I really do not want to take another 10 years to finish this project up.

Past fundraising efforts have been good, but the "big money" never has come in for us. The current political situation with the Board election is taking up a great deal of time and cash at the moment. Hopefully when everything settles down, one way or the other, we can secure the funding necessary to take the locomotive to completion. 

My personal life is also in flux with family obligations, as well as getting ready to move back to Northern California next year. 

My apologies for any inconvenience this may cause. I appreciate the enormous effort put in by everyone, and I hope that soon we can get things moving again!

All the best,
Chris Allan

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Fall 2014 Workweek Report

The last work session of the 2014 season proved to be quite productive on many fronts. I am quite pleased with the turnout, and the willingness of our diminutive band to accomplish a great deal in a short amount of time.

I spent the first part of the week in the Bay Area, visiting with my parents and my oldest daughter who is now ensconced at San Jose State University, studying animation and illustration. I was glad to spend a few hours with her, and enjoy a slice of pie at Nation’s Giant Hamburgers in Pleasant Hill before she needed to return to the dorms. 

Sunday morning, September 21st, the trek continued and it was back up the hill to Portola. The rain started around Rocklin on I-80, a real curiosity since I don’t see this phenomenon in Southern (Alta) California very often anymore. Upon arriving I was able to hang out with my pal David Wallace, and his friend Kari. David owns the red Santa Fe caboose on the property and they were up working on flooring for it, among other things.

Settling into the Pullman, which I may say, was as clean as I have ever seen it (thanks David Elems!) I enjoyed the pitter-patter on the roof and the general tranquility that is lacking so many days back at home in Lakewood.

Monday saw the arrival of Steve Lee from Cheyenne, and Dave Varley from the GGRM. Dave has been laboriously pouring over stress calculations on the boiler to generate our FRA Form 4 document. I am happy to report that he is 99.9% done! All that is lacking now are a couple of test results on a bit of metal from the two barrel courses of the boiler. Dave is confident that given the robust construction of the pressure vessel, we should have no problem achieving the full 180 pounds PSI of operating pressure. We thank Mr. Varley for sticking with this truly thankless task. We didn’t see much of him all week unless he popped out to take a measurement or two.

Kirk cleans and primes components- a never ending task!
David Elems, Steve Habeck, Rod McClure, Charlie Spikes, and Kirk Baer deserve our thanks for getting things switched in, lined up, cleaned up and checked out prior to our arrival. Without them we would be spending a day or more just getting ready to work. With their help we can hit the ground running, and accomplish as much as we do, so thanks guys!

First thing Monday morning, our Boilermaker Norman continued work on the replacing the rigid radial stays in the patch area of the wrapper sheet. This requires a good deal of grinding, skill and patience. By the end of the week he had 20 out of 25 done. Channing and Erik from former Western Pacific Steam Tug Hercules in SF joined us early in the week. We are always happy to host them; they are full of enthusiasm and come ready to work. The guys worked replacing flexible stay bolt caps, assisted Dave with measurements, and began down the long road toward replacing the branch pipe bolts in the cylinder saddles. These bolts were wasted away due to being surrounded by wet asbestos for many years. Steve brought with him the reconditioned safety valves, thanks for letting us cross those off our list!

Charlie and Duane got the rear cab support bolted back up so we could mount the new cab floors that Roger fabricated, previously primered by Kirk and Dave Anderson. The effort they went through to do this task proves the axiom that it takes three times “at least” as long to replace something than it does to remove it in the first place. Thanks for sticking with it guys!

Mike Mucklin, fresh in from his tenure as an Alaska Railroad conductor, spent time polishing valve and piston rods with Hank. The end result was certain mechanical parts are starting to shine up, and the locomotive is looking more like an operational machine as opposed to a park engine. Steve also got more than a few threads cleaned up on the flexible sleeves, not too many left to go!

Mike Mucklin shines up the left side piston rod.
Unfortunately Bob Sims was not able to be with us this time due to personal reasons, but we thank him for getting the DRGW tool car to the point where we could use it, and return tools to a specific spot every night. This reduces the morning confusion to a great extent. Bob is back in Portola continuing work on the car as I write this. We also thank him again for his generosity in the acquisition of the Metropolitan injectors for the engine.

Tuesday, an authentic milestone was achieved with a successful initial inspection of the boiler interior by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA). This allows us to move forward with reassembly including the tubes and flues, and puts the WP 165 back on the federal roles as a soon to be in-service locomotive once again. This was a big weight off our shoulders, and I am thankful to Steve Lee and Dave Varley for being on hand for the occasion.

Jeff, Nancy and Ken drill out the cab top plates.
Kirk comes up for air in the firebox taking thickness readings.

Dave Varley taking measurements of the various components for the Form 4.

Erin Swain takes joy in his labor!
Life member Erin Swain made the long journey north from Flagstaff, AZ on Wednesday, as soon as his employer, the BNSF released him from the bonds of servitude. Erin has been making up cab woodwork and other details, including the side windows, and restoration by him and his dad of cab electrical switches originally donated by Norm Holmes. Working long hours, he got the lower portion of the cab steel replaced, as well as a new right side drip rail on the roof. This piece of angle was prepared by Charlie, and riveted on by Norman, Erin and Kirk prior to the cab going up in the air. A nifty addition was a new cab hatch actuation lever fabricated by Erin, based on the lever on the extant WP 26 at Traveltown in Los Angeles’ Griffith Park. #freeWP26 Cab Hatch Video The cab boys have a great deal to be proud of. Later, on Saturday, the cab was reunited with the engine, and it looks great back where it belongs. Not to mention the piece of shop floor it languished on for several years is now available again!

The drip rail is riveted on by Erin and Norman.

Mike Mucklin oversees the positioning moves.
On the matter of the cab lift: Originally Rod McClure had planned on using the WP derrick to lift it back into place; however, this plan was tossed asunder when one of the engaging screws on the slew drive froze the house into a less than desirable angular position. Lots of effort from Roger Stabler, Channing and Erik, and David Elems failed to free up this part, so the decision was made to use the two forklifts, which in the end proved to work just fine. Just goes to prove that derricks need love too!
Chris gets the forklift operators- Dave Elems and Rod McClure, in sync.
Back in place again!
Norman gets the air compressor bolted up while Rod looks on.
While access was available, Steve suggested putting the air compressor back up on the side of the boiler. After a mad scramble to find the bolts in the parts car and clean them up, it went on with little complaint. With parts finally going back on, the old girl is starting to look like her old self once again!

Ken and Nancy, along with Jeff and Dave Roth from GGRM continued to drill the remaining holes on the tender deck plates. These they completed in short order, followed by reaming to allow the rivets to slip through nicely. Roger made up a makeshift rivet oven, and was able to drive one rivet but the heat was just not there. We will try again when Steve brings the Wasatch oven with him next time from Cheyenne. The team of Ken, Nancy and Jeff later took on the unenviable task of cleaning the detritus out of the tender cistern. Three wheelbarrows of rust later they all looked like Umpa-Loompas, but they took it in stride, and we are now ready to sandblast in the spring. They truly embody the WP “Willing People” spirit. Hank although under the weather most of the weekend, did manage to get a couple hundred flexible stay bolt caps reconditioned and ready for use. New Teflon gaskets are now being made up at the Strasburg Railroad. These will be reapplied in the spring.

After pushing the engine back in the barn on Saturday evening, and a good amount of cleanup, it was off to Kirk and Debbie Baer’s compound for a session of decompression on their deck. Camaraderie was the order of the evening, as we always enjoy a change of scenery and the fellowship afforded after the bacchanalia is over. Several Tri-tips were cooked up on Debbie’s fabulous grill, and desserts did abound. Thanks again to our gracious hosts for putting up with us!

In closing, 2014 provided some challenges to be sure, but in the end the progress we made as a team was excellent. I look forward to the day we put pressure back into the 165 boiler again, but the steps we make must be careful and well planned for the sake of safety and practicality. We are fast approaching the 10 year mark in this restoration, and no one is more anxious to get it done than me, but if we remain methodical, and persistent, we will get steam up soon enough. In the meantime, we will enjoy our journey, safely, and reach attainable goals one by one, eventually culminating in our final goal to get the WP 165 back into the action, and I can’t think of a better bunch of folks to get it done with! Have a happy and safe Holiday Season! -JCA

Click here for a gallery of work session photos from Mike Mucklin.