Saturday, August 9, 2008

Summer 2008 Workweek Report

Monday, July 28th- Predawn 04:30 in Los Angeles is a commuters dream. Most of the time at least. Lucky for me I got to the Grapevine at full speed and made my escape toward the north and onto my first stop, Sacramento. I had breakfast with my pal from the old days, Paul Zaborsky, at a nice little bistro near his four-square Victorian downtown. We talked a little business, then about his upcoming nuptials and all the craziness involved with wedding planning, even at our age. Congratulations to Paul and Linda, I hope they have a long and happy life together.

Onto the gas stop at the Rocklin Sam’s Club, and the assault on Donner. Arrival at the Museum was around 15:30. Nathan Osborn had arrived earlier in the day, and was busy preparing for the thickness mapping of the boiler shell. Thanks to Yardmaster Steve the 165 was in position on track one. After checking in and moving into the Pullman, dinner was at the Mexican place in town, not too remarkable, but the Margarita was refreshing.

Charlie had coffee ready Tuesday morning by the time I woke up. Gotta love that! For the next two days it would be just the three of us. We accomplished quite a bit in that time, including removing the front sand dome using the devil’s own air hoist on track one. The hoist lived up to its reputation again by blowing a hose fitting and scaring Nathan quite completely. Luckily he had his hand on the shutoff valve the whole time I was operating the thing, so he was out of the way of the resulting backlash. Charlie spent the rest of the day cutting the 5 ½” flues in half so we could pass them out through the steam dome. He was really happy that we acquired the Porta-band; doing this job in such close quarters with a torch would have been miserable. All but three were removed by the end of the day. Enough was enough, so we retired to the deck and I cooked up some burgers which due to a small miscalculation on my part ended up being the size of my head. No one complained in any event.



Pallets of tubes and flues removed from the 165.


Wednesday we hit the ground running and removed the remaining flues in short order. Nathan found an empty 55 gallon drum and we started bucketing the scale and detritus from the bottom of the boiler barrel. About a drum and a half was hauled out, 5 gallons at a time. No unrepairable conditions were found in the boiler’s belly and subsequent test readings with the Ultrasound tester confirmed that there was only a minor amount of wastage. Another testament to the Western Pacific’s exceptional maintenance and the pride the shop crews took in their locomotives. Later we managed to remove the cross compound pump, and got it put away for restoration at a later date. Wednesday was Nathan’s night to cook dinner, so we wound up at the Chinese restaurant, again with too much food.

Dana Greely and Craig Ferguson arrived sometime around 02:00 Thursday morning. I was a bit restless until they arrived, but thankfully they made it safe and sound. We all crashed for a few more hours and accepted our scolding from Charlie for getting up so late. James Cowdry also arrived on Thursday and immediately began wire brushing and needlescaling the barrel belly exterior. Not the most fun job in locomotive restoration, but fun is where you find it I suppose. Nathan began re-gridding the top halves of the first and second courses, and got set up with the laptop and the tester. Previously he wrote a program to accept the tester’s input directly into the laptop, which will save a great deal of time in the long run. When complete, we will have a map of the whole boiler with sheet thicknesses at regular intervals. We will use this data when we develop the required Federal Railroad Administration Form 4, which calculates stresses on sheets, rivet seams, staybolts, etc. From this document we will be able to obtain our Maximum Allowed Working Pressure, or MAWP.


Dana grinding down the seal welds on the rear tube sheet.

James and Nathan entering thickness readings into the laptop.

Dana and Craig began a wash on Sacramento Northern Railway locomotive 712. Craig was the person responsible for writing the letter to the Union Pacific Railroad asking for its donation to the Western Railway Museum at Rio Vista. This engine was acquired by WPRM in a trade with WRM, so it’s now in Portola. Through some amount of prodding and shameless guilt-based manipulation, Dana persuaded Craig to come up and perform some clean up on this locomotive. We are all three former Rio Vista volunteers, and it does our hearts good to see this old beast looking good again, even if it’s a diesel. Thanks to Craig and Dana for the sprucing up. Thanks also to Charlie and David for positioning the 712 where it could be worked on outside the shop. Thursday evening’s dining was a sausage fest provided by Dana, and it really hit the spot.

Craig washes down the 712.

By Friday morning we were beginning to hit our pace. We moved some of the larger components into our second boxcar, so everything is now off the ground and put away. Nathan and James started getting serious about the thickness mapping, and went into production mode. Dana and I started cleaning the tube sheets. Dana took the firebox end and I settled into the smokebox. We did what we could and made some good progress. Thanks to a piece on the local Reno TV news station on the Museum, Charlie was busy with locomotive rentals most of the day. When he wasn’t going back and forth he worked on smoking a few racks of ribs for dinner in his impressive, albeit heavy smoker we moved onto the deck. Kenneth Finnegan and Charlie took turns drilling out staybolt telltale holes, and they got probably 80 percent of them done. Dinner that night was sumptuous, and qualified as the best meal I’ve had in Portola in a long time.


Kenneth clearing telltale holes in the rigid stays.

We were planning on beating our retreat on Sunday morning, so Saturday we pulled the 165 outside and gave the shop floor a sweeping, collected up the tools, and gave the engine its first boiler wash since the 1950’s. Ed Chase joined us for some fun, and loads of scale were pulled out, and a good deal remains. For a first wash it was productive. After cleaning ourselves up a bit we headed over to pizza, and James treated us to another large feast, and several pitchers of brew. After the Board of Directors meeting that evening I was able to visit a bit with my old pals Rod and Gail McClure, President Director and Director, respectively, and Eugene Vicnair, who just came from Eric’s Stevens’ memorial service. Among other things, we discussed where Eric’s ashes are going to ride in the 165. During the week we hoisted more than a few bottles to Eric’s memory.


James, Nathan, Chris, Dana and Charlie. Kenneth, Roger and Ed missing.

Sunday morning we were up early scrubbing down the shower car and vacuuming the Pullman. I made my escape around 08:00. After yet another stop for gas in Rocklin, I paused briefly to drop some stuff off in Woodland at Roger and Gloria Stabler’s. The Union Pacific kept Roger busy during our workweek, and he was sorely missed. Then onto Concord for a visit with the parents, my brother Brian and sister-in-law Kim and family in from Virginia, and a first meeting with my newest nephew, whose name is, what else, Christopher! The visit was too short, but I was getting anxious, so back to LA, the smog and humidity. But not before stopping into Harris Ranch for a pie, a small offering to the family so I might be allowed back into the house.- JCA