Sunday, October 31, 2010

Fall 2010 Work Week Report

Once again I was happy to leave the greater Los Angeles area and head to chillier climes in the north, where Fall actually takes place. I made yet another journey to Portola for the final steam work session of 2010.

After zigzagging across the state, first to Pine Grove to see about a new gate for our property, then down to Fair Oaks to visit friend and BAERA director Paul Zaborsky, I arrived early evening Wednesday Oct. 20th back at the Portola campus of WPRM.

The ever-dependable Charlie Spikes had the heater going in the Pullman, thanks for that Charlie! I had but to vacuum up the usual detritus on the floor of the sections, and wipe down a few months of dust, grab a sandwich at Subway and collapse in a heap on my bunk.

After breakfast Friday morning with Charlie at the Station CafĂ©, we got set up and started in on trying to accomplish something. Hank Stiles showed up and continued with his rebuild of the brake cylinders. He cut new gaskets for the pressure side heads and was able to make the right side function again with grease and new rubber cups provided by a friend of ours. The left side gave us fits, in fact the piston didn’t fit back in, and so the cylinder casting was removed whole and is currently being bored out by Paul Boschan here in the LA area. Seemingly small, the rebuild of the right side cylinder represents the first restored part on the 165, first of many I should hope. We patted ourselves on the back and moved on. Welcome to our newest volunteer, Bruce Hilliard from Sacramento. Bruce was very enthusiastic and made himself useful all three days. Thanks also to Ed Chase for dutifully needlescaling the smokebox exterior for many hours on Thursday.

Thursday night a friendly “contingent” from the Golden Gate Railroad Museum arrived to help out for the rest of the week. These guys have Southern Pacific locomotive 2472 stabled operable at the Niles Canyon Railway in Sunol, California, and are a real bunch of professionals. Dave Roth, GGRMs Ops Manager was joined by Severn Edmonds, Jim Prettyleaf, and Dave Varley, GGRM's CMO.





Jim, Dave, Dave and Bruce. Taken just after the front tube sheet was fit.



Severn heating up binder nuts in preparation for loosening them.



Hank working on the right side brake cylinder.

By Friday we were at full speed. Bruce and Jim began the process of fitting the new front tubesheet, a laborious process requiring attention be paid. Jim took the lead and had it in by Saturday afternoon. Weld prep and the actual welding still needs to be accomplished but we are well on our way. Dave Roth and Dave Varley took turns continuing the thickness mapping on the firebox wrapper sheet. Having gone through the FRA form 4 process with the 2472, the GGRM crew’s assistance will prove invaluable on the 165 calculations.

Roger Stabler pulled in with a present for the project: a pair of Sharon locomotive couplers donated by him and Dave Magaw, president of the Sierra Northern. The couplers were originally from a locomotive they owned together which they subsequently sold. We can now replace the cracked coupler on the tender, and have a spare in stock should we need it. Thanks again to Roger and Dave!

Roger and Severn began loosening up pedestal binder nuts in preparation for jacking up the locomotive in the Spring and removing the drivers. We decided this was the best course of action for cleaning and inspecting the frame and driver centers for cracks, and it will also be easier to sandblast components when disassembled and on shop trucks.


Dave Roth tackles some thickness mapping using the ultrasonic tester.


Severn and Roger fighting with binder nuts.



Jim Prettyleaf preps the front tube sheet for the new section.



Front tube sheet fitted up. Grinding bevels and welding remains to be done. It's great to finally see it in place!

Saturday was blustery and rainy, we felt lucky to be able to work indoors. Dave Roth took it upon himself to continue the chipping on the frame spreader at the rear of the engine. Charlie and Duane started this last season, and Dave got nearly all the remaining bits and pieces out using Roger’s air hammer. Hank and I both took turns grinding on the rear tube sheet and removing more tube ends, a task which left our forearms sore for days given the weight of Dana’s 9” grinder.

I enjoyed meeting the GGRM guys, and sharing some stories and exaggerations in the evening during cocktail hour. I hope they can come back for more in the Spring. Again my thanks to them and everyone who braved the weather to help out this time!

Luckily I had loaded some boiler plate and the left side brake cylinder in my truck for the trip south. The extra weight in my bed was likely the reason I wasn’t blown off Donner Pass on the way home.

Another season has come to an end, and I would like to thank all of you who have supported the project either through showing up and lending some elbow grease, or have donated monetarily and/or in-kind. Thanks also to those who could only lend their moral support, which is appreciated too. We are progressing at a good clip now, so I would like to keep the momentum up. Please consider a year-end donation in any amount. You may send your check to:

WP 165 Steam Fund, Western Pacific Railroad Museum, PO BOX 608, Portola, CA 96122.

I will try and have our fundraising calendar available online in the next couple weeks. Look for my announcement. Until then have a great Fall season! - JCA

Sunday, October 10, 2010

A Boxcar for the Steam Department Arrives


Eventual appearance of boxcar 62962, as an O-scale model from the Mullet River Model Works website.

After two years of fundraising, planning, and even a couple false starts, our 1909-built D&RGW house car 62962 arrived in Portola Tuesday, October 5th, 2010. The move from the Western Railway Museum at Rio Vista, California to WPRM Portola took all day, and the carbody was placed back on its trucks Wednesday morning. Thanks to the professionals: Steve, Chris and Rick at Mongomery Contractors the move was made safely and efficiently.

The Sunday prior I was joined by Eugene Vicnair, Chris Kaprielian, Nathan Osborn, James Cowdery, Craig Ferguson, and Friend (sorry I’m not great with names!). Paul Zaborsky with WRM operated the forklift for us. The underbody was stripped of brake gear to get it as low as possible on the flatbed. Items being donated to us by WRM, including the WP's train scheduling stringboard, and parts not necessary for their period restoration of SN caboose 1632 were secured inside the car by Eugene and Chris. Rod McClure's Oakland yard office sign was also included and will be hung in the WPRM Gift Shop after a couple of decades adorning the wall of the shop at Rio Vista.


The crew arrives at Rio Vista Junction to prep the car.


Eugene and Chris securing the contents.

So much was accomplished on Sunday thanks to the great turnout, I was able to take Monday off, and travel with my dad up to Woodland to visit steam team member Roger Stabler. After a quick tour of his railcar, P/V Two Rivers we had a nice BBQ lunch at Ludys downtown. Returning back to the Sierra Northern shop we met up with Dave Magaw, President of the SNRR. He and Roger surprised us with the donation of two Sharon couplers for the 165. These couplers were originally from an 0-4-0 they owned together. Our current tender coupler is badly cracked; we can now replace it and still have a spare. Thanks again to Dave and Roger for their continued support.


James Cowdery before bravely climbing up on the roof to nail down battens.


Tuesday morning Mongomery Contractors arrived promptly at 07:30. They worked fast to jack the carbody off the trucks, and we were loaded and on the road by 11:00. By 16:00 the car was inside the gate at Portola.


Carefully backing the trailer under the carbody on jacks.



D&RGW 62962 back on its wheels in Portola, safe and sound.

The roof on the 62962 is not in the best shape, so the car will spend it’s first winter at Portola in the diesel shop. Come spring we will attend to the roof and put the brake rigging back up. Then we can stabilize the exterior and start moving tools and supplies in.

Thanks to the guys at WRM: David Johnson, Al Stangenberger and Paul Zaborsky for their assistance and patience. Thanks also to FRRS Treasurer James Mason for handling the financials, and to Rod McClure, Steve Habeck, Cody Wilson, Charlie Spikes, and David Epling for the assistance unloading and getting the car put away when it got home to Portola. And last but not least to Nathan Osborn and James Cowdery for their generous donations that made this move possible.

I will update everyone from time to time as we make strides in getting this car back in the “useful” category. - JCA

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Summer 2010 Work Weekend Report

Our first day of work for the summer session, Thursday July 29th saw the return of prodigal son Erin Swain, FRRS life member currently residing in Flagstaff, AZ, and myself ready to tackle the nastier tasks we have been putting off. Erin jumped in by getting himself into the firebox and continuing the grind on the rear tube sheet. The seal welds on the tubes at the rear were applied so as to minimize leakage when cold air was inadvertently sucked in due to the fire going out, or inattentive firemen etc. To replace the tubes these welds must be ground flush with the sheet and the small bit of tube end remaining must be driven out. Not the most glamorous job but one that needs to get done despite all the tiny grind burns we are both nursing.




Charlie Chris and Hank work on removing a bolt at the tender buffer.


Hank Stiles removed the rear cab brace sheet with a bit of help from all concerned and placed it out with the cab to hopefully be sandblasted later in the summer. In the process the buffer that bears against the tender front beam can now be tightened up since it was integral with the cab brace. The brake cylinders were also dissassembled. They are both in fine condition and will hopefully be reassembled with new seals in the fall.


Working at removing the cab support plate.


Charlie checks in on Mike and Joseph Brehm during cab wood removal.


After Erin’s turn was done in the firebox he and Charlie (Welcome back Charlie!) spent the lion’s share of the next two days needle-scaling on the valve gear arms and various other castings.

I would like to welcome new members Mike and Joseph Brehm from Phoenix, AZ. (Fun fact: Arizona was well represented this time, even the 165 started its career in Jerome, Arizona). Mike and Joe made their very first trip to Portola this time, and were immediately tasked with removing the cab woodwork in preparation for sandblasting the cab sheet metal. The T&G boards in the headliner and the ancillary wood was carefully removed, numbered and documented prior to storing it in our boxcar for future reference. New material will replace this woodwork, but the old will serve as a pattern for replacement. Thanks to both these guys for their perseverance and seeing the job through.


Erin waits for the power reverse to drain.


By Friday we were in full force and were joined by Nathan Osborn and Mike Mucklin. More needle-gun work was the order of the day and the din was jarring, but progress was made. Mike continued his photo documentation of work on the project. Mikes fine work is featured in this post. More of this work session can be viewed online here.

By Saturday Erin was getting tired of chipping paint and decided to check out the power reverse, which has been overlooked up to this point. We are happy he did because on removing the rear drain plug he got over five gallons of water out of the cylinder. The little drains were of course plugged and we are lucky it didn’t freeze up and crack something expensive to replace. One thing led to another and we decided that a proper rebuild was best done on the bench so it was dropped down and loaded in Erin’s truck to be rebuilt in his home shop. We are confident it will come back to us in better-than-new condition.

Director Parker finally made it in Saturday afternoon. It would have been sooner but the railroad had different plans for him. Matt spent a good couple of hours chipping away inside the boiler shell. Yet another task everyone hates but one that needs doing.


Matt Parker looks very serious.

The power reverse comes off.


Thanks to everyone who came out this time. Each time we literally and figuratively “chip away” at the task, and one day it will lead to steam returning to Portola. Thanks to unsung hero Norm Holmes who made sure we had full welding bottles, and for finalizing the tube sale with the V&T, as well as our new FRRS treasurer James Mason who is helping us figure out the steam department finances. James' efforts will allow us to finally bring our boxcar home from Rio Vista in September.
Our friends in Cheyenne also deserve our gratitude for their continued assistance and advice.

Also, a big thanks to Bob Sims for his continued generosity. Bob donated another $1000.00 to the cause, as well as some vintage WP oil and kero cans that will look great and be quite handy when we get steaming.

The cab and tender signage is just about done as of this writing. We could still use another $500.00 to complete the funding of this sub-project. Sean of Starr Studios in Big Bear City, CA has done an exemplary job of replicating the originals. These should be on display somewhere in the shop area by next spring. Thanks to all of you that have donated to this signage, your generosity will soon be on display for all to see, and will instill a great deal of pride in our WP heritage. A separate blog post outlining the entire process will be up soon, thanks to Sean who has been sending progress photos of the entire job.


One of the new tender signs almost ready.



Have a great summer! See you in the fall.- JCA

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Spring 2010 Workweek Report

Tuesday, April 6th, 2010

I soon realized that one benefit of my new gig in Fillmore, California was the ability to be on the correct side of LA when I began my trip north for the spring workweek. Having gotten in one whole day of work on the D&NE 14 Monday, I awoke in my palatial digs in ATSF superintendent car 409, got dressed and got out. I was soon over the Grapevine for points north. After arriving at my parent’s house in Concord I relaxed a bit, and loaded up what remained of poor Dana’s life in the bed of my truck. Thanks to Craig Ferguson and Martin for bringing it all over to my folks house. I think my Dad was glad to have the floor space in his garage cleared up.

Hank Stiles and Steve Cope started cleaning up Wednesday in preparation for the work. Steve spent a good deal of time cleaning the pit, which doubles as the cats litter box. By the time Roger and I arrived that afternoon the engine was accessible and the floor was clear of detritus. Thanks to you guys for the effort and sorry again about the small mix up as to when I was going to get to the property.

Roger set about chipping a great deal of scale and rust from the roof sheet under where the rear sand dome sits. This is one spot where the jacket rusted through and water seeped into the insulation. The result was a good amount of wastage on the boiler sheet. Roger’s handy ultrasonic tester confirmed that there were pitted spots well in excess of what could be built back up. We decided to remove two sections of the sheet for renewal. This stayed area amounts to approximately two by three feet of shell.




The denuded boiler shell, about as far down as it can go.


Hank, Roger and Steve hard at it.

In the meantime Hank started the removal of flexible staybolt caps, which is required at intervals by the Federal Railroad Administration, or FRA. Removing the caps allows the railroad to inspect the bolts for breakage or any other condition that would require replacement. There are a large number of them, so Hank was at it for a couple days with Roger’s impact gun. Sadly the gun gave up the ghost and is back in Woodland for repairs. Happily Hank was able to remove enough caps to fill a five gallon bucket to overflowing. Steve helped out Hank and kept the area clean and safe, which we greatly appreciate.

For two evenings Roger primer painted the new cab and tender plates that will replace the originals on the locomotive. Thanks to Roger for the donation of the paint and thanks to Eugene Vicknair, Bob Sims, James Mason, Norm Holmes, and Steve Habeck for their donations to the fundraiser. We were able to meet our goal, and the plates will be going to the sign shop next week. All of these gentlemen embody the spirit that will allow us to get steam up in Portola again one day.


The replica sign plates in primer paint.

By Friday it was the proverbial beehive of activity. Dave Wallace showed up ready to work. He and I set ourselves upon removing the steam dome studs in preparation for replacing them with new. These being quite numerous, it took a great deal of time to slowly worry each one out with an accursed heavy pipe wrench, first one way then the other. By the end of the exercise we were both feeling our age. Dave and I, back in the 80s at Rio Vista could do stuff like that all day, but sadly those days are behind us. My hope is David’s twin boys, Patrick and William, will take a shine to working on this old stuff when they are older, and we will only have to supervise from our easy chairs.

The ever affable Matt Parker joined the fray, and needleguns rang out like angry hornets for the remainder of the weekend. I would like to welcome William “Burr” Wilson and his son Alex to the party. They arrived Saturday and made great progress needle scaling the front pilot beam, coupler and pilot deck. I was impressed by their tenacity and hope they can come back and join us in July.

Eugene Vicknair was the loneliest of our lot, banished to outside the shop documenting the cab woodwork. The wood headliner, window rails, etc. need to be removed prior to sandblasting. Eugene has graciously offered to complete an exhaustive study and draw up what needs to be replaced at a later date. A sandblasting contractor showed up to look at the cab and the interior of the boiler shell. The quote is forthcoming. With any luck sandblasting will save many hours of painstaking needlescaler work, if we can secure the funding.

Saturday night at the board meeting we were visited by Charlie Spikes, who seems to be healing nicely. We look forward to having him back and wish him a speedy recovery. Maybe he can cheer us on, or just yell at us to work faster at the next work session in July.



Everyone at the end of another long day.

News of an impending snowstorm on Saturday night spooked me, so I was out and back down to Concord by ten pm. Negotiating Donner Pass with the storm clouds ripping across the sky at sunset was spectacular. At dusk you could just make out the snow sheds above Donner Lake, a dark stripe on a snowy field of white. The view brought to mind thoughts of those men who pushed their 4-4-0s, and later the massive Cab-aheads through those sheds and back down into Nevada. Moving the fruit blocks and limiteds of old while keeping their massive shiny engines in motion were huge endeavors to be sure, but not as big as the men that braved that hill on a daily basis, and still do.

See you all back in Portola July 29th-31st, 2010. -JCA

Sunday, February 28, 2010

WP 165 Sign Plate Fundraiser

Here is your chance to donate in a rather conspicuous way to the Western Pacific locomotive 165 restoration at WPRM Portola. I am in the process of replicating the enameled number plates that are bolted to the side of the cab, as well as the large Western Pacific “Feather River Route” trademarks that reside on each side of the tender.

Each of the six individual 24” tall number plates requires a sponsor at the $100.00 level. If the donor wishes I will stamp his/her initials into the plate, as long as the donation is received by April 10th, 2010. Update: Still need three more number plate sponsors!

The same did go for the 40”x 45” rectangular tender trademark logo plates. Eugene Vicknair has generously kicked off the fundraiser by donating the initial amount for the first tender logo. Update: Both tender logos have been claimed! Thanks to Eugene and James Mason!
To donate simply mail a check to:

WESTERN PACIFIC RAILROAD MUSEUM - WP 165 SIGN FUND
PO BOX 608, PORTOLA CA 96122

Important: Please note “WP 165 SIGNS” in the memo line of your check.

I you prefer to donate via Paypal Click here.



One set of original number plates removed prior to being put in storage. - Mike Mucklin photo

Tender trademark plate returned to the 165 after many years in private hands.

Some of you may wonder why we are not utilizing the original number plates or the tender logo recently returned. Simply put, these are wonderful artifacts, but due to the abuse they have taken, restorative measures would alter their current appearance (patina if you will). This would irreparably damage their value as museum artifacts. Replicas are much better suited to long-term display as well, given the value of the originals to certain less-than-reputable “collectors”. The replicas will be marked as such and no attempt to pass them off as originals will be made.

Thanks again to Eugene for preparing the artwork and overseeing the quality control on our new plates. As a donor you will be proud that you helped give the 165 its distinctive “WP Look” when they are reapplied near the end of the restoration.
I cannot thank all of you enough for your past and future support. Without you, the “Willing People”, WP history would simply pass into obscurity! - JCA

Donations to date:

Eugene Vicknair - $450.00

Norman Holmes - $100.00

James Mason - $350.00

Bob Sims - $200.00 + $1000.oo to the 165 Steam Fund

Sunday, January 17, 2010

A New Year, a New Tube Sheet.

Welcome to 2010, which promises to be a year of significant progress for our project. I am happy to report that thanks to the generosity of G.W. Redman of Redman Equipment & Manufacturing we have a new section of front tubesheet ready to go. This donation of time on the Redman machinery would otherwise take us, with our limited resources, several days of effort on a conventional drill press. The accuracy of the holes in size and location is unparalleled as well. The hole layout is significantly more uniform than ALCo was able to achieve back in the day. Thanks also go to longtime friend of the project, Paul Boschan, Redman's code compliance officer, who facilitated the donation. Paul also helps us out with his sage advice pertaining to boiler matters and related issues from time to time.


The CNC "Quick Drill" machine making holes.

This part of the pressure vessel was replaced due to the deteriorated condition of the existing piece, having been over-rolled, cracked and welded through the bridges repeatedly over the years. We could have used the original front tubesheet as is, but the amount of work it would have taken to keep it serviceable would be frustrating and tedious.




Approximately 120 holes drilled precisely.


Thanks also go to Nathan Osborn who measured the original and generated the cut pattern and drilling plan into AutoCAD. During the Fall work session Nathan brought up a printout of the tubesheet patch in full size, which we matched to the existing piece to verify accuracy.


Paul Boschan and G.W. Redman with the new sheet section.


Section ready to be loaded for the trip north.


The tubesheet will come up to Portola in the Spring for the work session, April 5th-10th. Until then it's ensconced in the garage, tucked out of the way. It will be welded in after the boiler is completely scaled out inside, and we are sure that most of the work in the shell interior is complete. With the lower portion of the sheet removed access to the water space is much easier than dropping in through the dome, at least for us older chunkier individuals!

Our next fundraising drive will raise cash to have replica cab numbers and two WP feather heralds for the tender done. I am happy to report that our intrepid FRRS Secretary and board member Eugene Vicknair has donated $350.00 for the first tender insignia. Thanks Eugene for your continued generosity! More on this fund-raising effort in a later post.

For now I wish everyone a happy and prosperous 2010. Please continue to follow our progress here and on our Facebook page, for those of you so inclined. We are over 200 "fans" so far and growing fast! - JCA