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

Monday, May 9, 2011

Spring 2011 Work Week Report

All photos by Debra Baer unless noted. (Thanks Debra!)

Spring has sprung, an unusually long, wet winter is over, and we are ready to get back to work on the WP 165. Leaving Los Angeles for a few days seldom requires an excuse, but in this case the cabin fever made it imperative. I arrived in Portola on Wednesday, April 27th ready to get something accomplished. Upon arrival we met up with Steve Lee, recently retired from the Union Pacific Steam Department. Steve came out from Cheyenne to help out for the week, and we were very happy to see him on the property. In anticipation for the “big pick” the following Saturday, Rod McClure, Steve Habeck, and Cody Wilson were adjusting the drum brakes in derrick 37, a beastly machine. Built for the WP as a steam derrick, it was converted to internal combustion sometime in the 1970’s. We ordered pizza in, and called it a night.

Thursday morning dawned clear, cold and windy. Breakfast at the Station Café with Charlie Spikes is always a good way to start the day. Charlie, Bill and Duane had spent the previous week getting our parts cleaning tank cleared away and functional so we could start degreasing locomotive parts. A 55 gallon drum of the cleaning solvent only gave us a few inches in the bottom due to the tanks enormous size, more is on order.

The big task facing us on Thursday was getting the pedestal binders ready to come off. This proved to be another colossal task given the amount of crud clogging the holes, damaged studs, etc. Luckily by this time our friends from the Golden Gate Railroad Museum in San Francisco were starting to arrive. Dave Roth, Dave Varley, Jim Prettyleaf, and Severen Edmonds were ready to get dirty, so they were put to work. By Friday Roger Stabler and Dave Wallace also took turns in the pit “persuading” the heavy binders to move, which eventually did. Everything does, in time, bend to our will, some things just not that easily. Bruce Hilliard serenaded us with the needlescaler. Charlie had to run back to Reno to refill the O2 bottles. David Hensarling, president of GGRM, arrived on Friday to check things out, and was put to work reassembling the left side brake cylinder with Jim P. and Nathan Osborn. James Cowdery, "Burr" Wilson and Nathan applied red primer to the first two boiler courses and the dome, which was nice to see, much better than rust colored metal. Doyle McCormack came down from Portland, Oregon to check out his sleeper car, the ”Magnolia Grove”, and visit with Steve Lee. Doyle is a steam veteran and has a lot of good advice for us. Thus started the “Fog of War” period when things were happening so fast that it’s hard to recount everything, so forgive me if I omit any details.


Steve Lee helps to secure a lathe donated by the UPRR for movement into the shop.


The lathe is loaded into the dump truck.

Steve Lee and Doyle McCormack join forces to rig a spreader bar.

The Derrick's master, Rod McClure.

Phil checks the rigging on the Tidewater car prior to a lift.

Friday also saw the Brehm’s up from Phoenix to re-roof the Steam Department’s tool car, the former Denver & Rio Grande boxcar donated to us by the Western Railway Museum in Rio Vista, CA. The three of them set to removing the mostly rotted T&G and recovering with plywood and rubberized roofing. This is a temporary measure until we can mill up the proper wood roofing, but at least the interior can stay dry for the time being. Thanks to you guys for making the trip and getting the job done!

Friday night dinner at the Roadhouse was enjoyable, at least until the Karaoke started. At that point we were ready to get back to our bunks to rest up for Saturday, which proved to be eventful.

Nathan Osborn and James Cowdery prep and paint the boiler shell.

Jim Prettyleaf, GGRM welder removes a wasted section of the 165 wrapper sheet.

Mike Brehm, of Phoenix, AZ after nailing down the new roof on the tool car-JCA photo.



Dave Roth, GGRM Operations Manager, assumes the "Put down the camera and get back to work" pose.-JCA photo

Saturday morning the derrick crew, guided by rigging foreman Phil Schmierer had the Tidewater Southern bunk car back up on trucks for the first time in a long time. The plan was to pick the 165 off its drivers and place the boiler and chassis in the spot previously occupied the TS car. With the binder nuts loose, and the engine back down on the axles and lubricated with some STP (Doyle’s suggestion) it left the confines of the shop for the first time in several years and was back out in the light of day. The move went slowly due to having to pull it out with a chain, before the switch crew could run around and use the coupler on the front. Finally spotted next to the derrick, Steve Lee and Phil rigged the cables, and derrick operator Rod eased the engine skyward, just a bit. Of course the 165 didn’t give up that easy, as Severen, Dave Varley and Dave Wallace had to beat on a couple of the binders before they finally gave in (the binders, not the Severen, Dave and Dave). Once Phil was confident that the rigging was sound, up went the boiler and frame, and as according to plan, the driver sets stayed on the ground, thankfully. With two taglines and numerous holders-on, the engine spinning around 180 degrees to its resting spot resembled a Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade balloon, albeit an incredibly ungainly one. After some careful negotiation through the air, the chassis and frame were set down on cribbing. Sandblasting can now commence later in the season on the boiler interior, on the drivers, and other parts. Roger Stabler has offered to get quotes on the four leaf springs that need renewal. The plan calls for re-wheeling the locomotive this time next year, barring any “unforeseen” events or disclosures once we get the numerous layers of paint and grime off.


The 165 being lowered onto the cribbing. - Dave Roth photo.


The boiler and chassis set, ready for sandblasting. - JCA photo

Thanks to all for a great deal of time, effort, and professionalism during this process. It is my hope that this is as far as we need to go for disassembly, and we can now begin putting it all back together. Erin Swain has been making good progress on restoring the power reverse cylinder at his home shop in Flagstaff, AZ. This is one example of how things are always happening on the 165 project, little by little. In time lots of littles add up to a whole lot.

Our next work session is coming up July 21st-23rd, 2011. By then we hope to have the sandblasting done, including the cab. Erin is going to lead the project to repair the cancer around the base, and renew the wood headliner. Cleaning of parts continues, thanks to Charlie and his son Eric. Thanks go to Rod McClure especially for all the prep work getting the derrick back into fighting shape. Big thanks also to James Mason, our Treasurer, behind the scenes directing all of the steam funds in the right direction. The amount of work left is staggering, but if we have a few more sessions like this last one, some real progress will be apparent real soon. - JCA