Updates on the restoration of Western Pacific 0-6-0 number 165 at the Western Pacific Railroad Museum at Portola, California.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Spring 2008 Workweek Report

Wednesday, April the Ninth, 04:30. We piled into the truck and set off into the early morning darkness on another adventure to Portola. A requisite stop at Harris Ranch on Interstate 5 in Coalinga for breakfast assuaged our hunger. Rita met with one of her Caltrans associates in the parking lot to drop off some course materials and we were off again. Next stop at the Redwood Valley Railway in Berkeley to drop off our 15” gauge caboose for meet in June. Then onto another Caltrans office to drop more course materials, then to my folks place in Concord for lunch. There we met up with Steam Team member Dana Greeley who would accompany us up the mountain. After a stop at Sam’s Club in Rocklin for food and fuel, and the last of the burdensome course materials delivered, we struck out for Portola. Hunger was again upon us when we pulled into town; consequently our first stop was the Hong Kong Chinese diner. After we ingested way too much food, we arrived onto the property around 16:30. Owing to the lack of a million streetlamps in Portola it was much darker than when we left LA.

Nathan and James drawing the grid pattern on the boiler shell.


Thursday, April the Tenth. The morning dawned quite chilly, around 18 degrees (F). Our old friend and Steam Team member Charlie Spikes was on hand to let us know that the remainder of the week would be warmer. Those words didn’t help much right at that moment, but they were true. Luckily Charlie and Steve spotted the locomotive outside the day before which was good given the sooty nature of the work at hand. Working in the sun was also beneficial. After breakfast in town with the family I suited up and prepared to blow that troublesome soot forward into the smokebox. Dana set out to access our welding gas situation. Expecting at least one set of full bottles, those expectations were dashed when we learned that all bottles were empty save two that were all but depleted. Resigned to working with what we had on hand, the remainder of the empty bottles were loaded into Charlie’s truck to be refilled in Reno the next morning. Despite our limited resources, Dana and Charlie managed to remove around 50 of the 2” diameter tubes before completely running out of gas, literally and figuratively. All I managed to do was turn myself into a big sooty mess. Our dog Missy, who was tied up too close to the engine, looked like a big furry black flue brush. A dinner of hamburgers and sooty buns, a scrub down in the shower car with the accursed orange cleaner, a shot of single malt, and off to bed.


Roger Stabler cutting tubes on the rear tube sheet.
Friday, April the Eleventh. Having settled into our new surroundings, and acclimating to the elevation, our group actually got a fair amount of sleep Thursday night. The temperature outside was a tad less biting than the morning previous. I ventured over to the mini-mart at the gas station to get coffee; I brought an extra one over for Dana who was slumming in the break room. After Charlie arrived from Reno with a truck full of fresh cylinders (hussah!) Dana was back into the firebox to continue the job. The loan of a straight cutting torch from Paul Boschan made the job a lot easier. In many cases there is not enough room to cut using a torch with a ninety-degree head. We are grateful to Paul for his continued generosity. Rita and the girls left in the truck after Breakfast to go explore Boomtown on the Cal/Neva border. I considered her choice of routing suspect, but I gave it nary a thought. That was until about lunchtime when I got a panicky call on my cell, barely audible, that they somehow got the truck stuck in the snow way above Loyalton on some backcountry almost-road. Roger Stabler arrived at that precise moment, and being the good sport that he is agreed to help with the rescue. Striking off to Loyalton in Roger’s truck, we collected my family at a picnic area approximately 5 miles from where the truck was mired. They had to walk out that far to get a cell signal, most of the way back into town. The Stabler 4WD pulled out our 2WD truck handily, and we hauled an exhausted yet grateful bunch of girls back to Portola, their curtailed adventure now complete.

Pulling out the stuck truck in the high country.


Upon our arrival back at the Museum, two new members of the Steam Team, Nathan and James, were already hard at work wire brushing the boiler shell exterior, which they did with gusto. Two cutting torches were now in use, one at each tube sheet. Three pallets of the 2” tubes were loaded, and the 5 ½” superheater flues could now be attacked. A few of these larger flues were cut down, and most of us broke for dinner. Dana worked tirelessly in the firebox right up to when his steak was ready. The rest of us slaked our thirst with Newcastle Ale provided by Roger. We felt guilty that Dana was still working, but the heady UK brew helped us get over it. Sorry Dana!

Dirty Dana after a day in the firebox.


Saturday, April the Twelfth. This was the last full workday before heading home, and I vowed to have the boiler devoid of tubes and flues before we tied up. Roger, Dana and Charlie took this to heart and by the end of the day the tubesheets were clean. I give kudos to those guys for seeing it through to the end. The flues remain to be cut up into short enough pieces to be passed through the steam dome, but they are down, that was the goal and they met it, by gaud. Nathan and James started the arduous chore of drawing grids on the boiler for thickness mapping with Roger’s Ultrasound tester. Zillions of thickness readings will be taken so that we can ultimately determine the eventual boiler pressure allowed under FRA rules. These guys are going to take this to a whole new level, thanks to their software backgrounds. Nathan is also going to draw the boiler into CAD format, which is also a big job, and no less important. Thanks guys!

Charlie taking a turn at cutting tubes.


During the day I took the opportunity to inspect the new (to us) components donated by a rich uncle. The items include a complete #11 injector, which we will use on the right side, a NOS Nathan hydrostatic lubricator, a throttle lever to replace the purloined one, and gauges, which, after a rebuilding, will be quite shiny. Thanks again to our rich uncle, you know who you are. Another surprise this day was a call from our benevolent leader, Rod McClure, who informed me that one of the tender heralds from this engine, stolen years earlier, had been returned during the WP Convention that was happening in Sacramento. This “prodigal” tender insignia will again grace the side of the locomotive, thanks to FRRS member Vic Neves who located it and arranged for it’s return.

The donated throttle lever is checked for fit - that's me happy if you can believe it.


Our wrap-up dinner was again in town at the Pizza Factory, and thanks again to Roger’s generosity (hussah!), we enjoyed pitchers of our official crew brew, Fat Tire Ale, on tap, thank you very much. The pizza was about the size of an excavator tire, and there was a lot left over for Charlie, who hopefully found the leftovers in the shower car fridge.

Rust and corrosion on one of the removed tubes.


Sunday morning, April the Thirteenth, 07:30. Rita was up packing even before I woke up. At 09:30 we said our goodbyes and headed out the gate. Back to Concord to reunite Dana with his car, spend some quality time with the folks, siblings, and cousins, etc. and continue south. LA greeted us with intolerable traffic when we got in around 20:00, but we pushed through. Home was a fine site. Missy was so happy to be home she rolled around on the carpet, which is now about as sooty as she was. Go figure. - JCA