Monday, April 18, 2016

Spring 2016 Workweek Report

Another spring session has come to a close, and I am happy to report that a whole lot of items were crossed off the punch list this time. So many so that I will have to make up a new list!

Sunday morning, April 3rd, I left our new digs in Pine Grove and headed over Carson Pass. On the way to the WPRM I stopped into the Nevada State Railroad Museum in Carson City and spent about an hour catching up with John Walker, the former manager at Portola. John now manages the gift shop and concessions for the NSRM. After a bit of "reminiscing" I went over to check out the recently restored Virginia & Truckee McKeen motor car. A stunning job by Chris Dewitt and his crew.

After moving into the Pullman car for the week, I was joined by Roger Stabler, we were both happy to see that the engine was now sitting over the pit, and the tender frame was adjacent to the wood working bay. Thanks to Steve and David for getting the switching done for us!

Steve Lee arrived from Cheyenne with riveting tools, the propane forge, and tons of rivet snaps that we would put to good use later in the week. He also brought an air pump governor that was graciously donated by the mayor of Paducah, Kentucky salvage from an Illinois Central locomotive on display in a park. The boys at Wasatch took what was left of our original pump governor and "dummied" it up to look complete, and put that up on the park locomotive. Thanks again to John, Steve, and their crew for the effort!

Other tasks completed during the work week included Hank and Roger fabricating a new valve rod for the power reverse, and getting it in working order with the valve gear operating for the first time in many decades; also Roger finished up all of the problem flexible staybolt caps leaving just the 24 or so up on the roof sheet to buttoned up, once the new stays are installed.

The team of Channing, Roger, Hank and Charlie set the remaining six rivets in the firebox knuckle patch and turret drypipe bracket. These have been avoided up until now due to their awkward locations, but the guys figured out how to back them up using levers and brute force.

A big visual change to the tender came with the fitting up of the deck boards we acquired in the fall from the Amador Sawmill Association. Charlie and Kirk have been tending to the pile of lumber, turning them every few weeks so they would dry evenly all winter, and thanks to them the boards stayed straight. Bob Sims led the effort to cut them to length, and countersink the locations where they had to sit on rivets, bolts, etc. Charlie, Lynn, Steve, Dave and Bil worked on getting them bolted down, as well as applications linseed oil to work as a preservative. Bil took it upon himself to make up the new rear footboards using some of the leftovers, and it looks great!

New footboard on the rear of the tender frame.
Dick Coudin cleaned up several components, including the handrails at the cab, and the power reverse reach-rod. Those and the handrails down both sides of the boiler have been re-applied, which adds a bit more safety for working up there. Many people remarked on how much the 165 is beginning to look like a locomotive again.

Roger welds one of the cleanouts from the coal days onto the smokebox.
Erik, our stalwart volunteer and captain of the Western Pacific tug "Hercules" suffered a bit of a hand injury right before coming up with Channing and Severn. To his credit he pushed through and was able to do a few things, like driving the forklift and plumbing up the power reverse. We hope his injury is well on the way to healing and we thank him for going above and beyond for us! Severn and Dave Roth brought up a pipe threading machine for the shop which will prove to be beyond useful to us. Thanks again GGRM!

New power reverse valve rod fabricated by Roger and Hank.
Severn, David and yours truly spent a good amount of time standing at the lathes making studs and staybolts. This process will go well into the summer. Thanks go to Duane for wiring the 13" lathe up so it could be used. Thanks also go to David for getting the machine shop in order in time for our work session.

A veritable milestone was achieved on Thursday when Channing, Erik, Ken and Nancy began cutting the 2" tubes to length and setting them in the boiler. All in all they got almost 100 in! These will not be rolled in until later this year as we don't want the start the 15 year clock running until we are further along with the tender and a few other things.

On another front, Dave Varley delivered the completed FRA Form 4 to us, and it was signed off. Now to mail it off to Washington D.C. for review by the FRA. Dave worked like a dog on this document, which is quite thick, and the culmination of many, many hours of measuring and calculation on the part of many, including Dave. Now he can get back to moving his museum's collection over to Santa Cruz.

The valve covers were removed and inspected by Hank.

The tender deck being fitted up.

Ken placing the first 2' tube back into the boiler!
All in all another great effort from the "Steam Team".  Our next big session will be in the fall, but there are lots of projects to be done before then, such as sandblasting the tender cisterns, turning stays, machining a new dome lid, and myriad other things.  Brake valves have been rebuilt and tested.  If we are allowed to continue at this pace we should be in steam by 2018. Fingers crossed...

More updates will come as some of these tasks get underway. Have a great spring season! - JCA

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