Saturday, July 30, 2011

Steam Department Summer 2011 Update

The absurdity of life never ceases to amaze me. No sooner had our sandblasting contractor finished up with the 165’s cab, the sky opened up and dumped on the freshly bared metal, turning everything a rusty orange haze by the next morning. I purposely scheduled this work at the end of June to avoid such an event, but Mother Nature had other plans for my sanity.

Roger Stabler and I traveled to Portola June 28th with the goal to prep and primer the cab prior to the July work session. Our sandblasting contractor had a few minor “mechanical difficulties” on the drive over from Reno but was still able to get going by around 11am. While he started blasting the multiple layers of cab paint away, Roger and I started removing four more leaf springs from the locomotive, which are currently being rebuilt at a spring shop in West Sacramento. Thanks to Roger for taking the lead on the leaf spring renewal!



Cab in the process of being sandblasted.


Roger Stabler works on getting the leaf springs out.

My original plan was to get the cab inside the shop for painting as soon as it was blasted. Unfortunately, as you read above, that effort turned out to be futile so Roger and I called it a day. I cursed the rain all night from inside the motel room, which was about all I could do at the time.

June 29th dawned gloriously sunny, almost like nature was mocking me. Roger, undaunted, went back to the paint lockers in the shop and found some rust converter solution left over from a prior project. After a good dousing of the stuff, the orange haze disappeared. We were now ready to paint. Roger and better living through chemicals saves the day again!

No fewer than five paint guns tried and failed to atomize the two part epoxy primer. Finally Charlie Spikes made a run over to the local auto parts store and purchased a fifty-dollar el-cheapo gun, and it carried Roger through the rest of the job. The cab and Roger were now a nifty oxide-red color. We were ready to start replacing the “cancer” or rusted metal later in July. The contractor returned for a second day of blasting, this time in the boiler interior. A great deal of scale was removed, and we are now ready for our initial interior inspection by the FRA later in the season.

Hopefully our good friend Steve Lee from Cheyenne, Wyoming will be on hand in the fall for our first FRA inspection. Here's a link to a recent interview of Steve by John Rimmasch of Wasatch Railroad Contractors in which Steve tells John of his involvement with the 165 project and his ongoing relationship with the Feather River Rail Society.

Back to Sacramento with a bed load of leaf springs, the extra weight yielding a very smooth ride down I-80. Thanks again to Roger for taking time off from work so we could keep on schedule.

Roger applies rust converter solution to the cab.

Primer is applied.


Cab finish primered, ready to go inside.

Fast forward to July 21st. Portola’s own “prodigal son”, Erin Swain arrives to take the lead on the weekend’s task of repairing and replacing some badly rusted spots on the cab. Charlie had previously picked up some sheared 10 gauge steel in Reno and had it ready to go by the time we got in. Thanks Charlie! The first task Thursday was to move the cab into the shop, not only to get us out of the sun but so that we could use the concrete floor to achieve flatness around the bottom, which was the completely rusted away.

Erin’s plasma cutting machine made quick work of removing the offending sections, and new pieces were tacked in place a little at a time, so as not to warp the sheet metal due to excessive heat. Burr Wilson and his son Alex helped out Erin by removing the drip rail piece on the right side, exposing more than a bit of rusted-through roof section. Removing this piece of angle iron involved drilling out a bunch of rivets holding it, then driving them out; a tedious task to say the least. Thanks to the Wilson’s for sticking with it! A big thanks to Erin for making the drive from Flagstaff, Arizona to help out. We hope to see him again soon. Erin also recently rebuilt the power reverse for the 165, which he brought back working like its brand new. Here's a video of it working after restoration. It was a complete mess when he took it home last year, and it is nothing short of miraculous how he brought it back to operation. Great job Erin! Now get on that cab woodwork! (Just kidding- Take your time, we’ve got until Spring 2014).


Erin Swain (below) and Burr Wilson (on ladder) removing rusted portions of the cab.


Rust under a removed section of the drip rail.


Erin working with a grinder- removing a corner section.


Patches in the cab front tacked in place.

In the meantime, Charlie and his son Eric started ripping out shelves in our second parts boxcar in an effort to get things organized. A huge quantity of lumber was removed, and we hope to replace the old rickety shelves with some nice new steel shelving, donations gladly accepted! Working in a steel boxcar in the July sun is no pleasant task. Thanks to those two for getting the job done. Charlie has also been cleaning up driving boxes and pedestal binders in preparation for re-wheeling the locomotive next season. A lot still needs to be accomplished, notably cleaning and inspection of the frame, but we are on our way. Ed Chase did a few hours of sweeping in the boiler removing some sandblast sand on Saturday after operations. Thanks for pitching in! Rod McClure assisted us in getting the driver sets closer to the shop so they could be cleaned. He is the only person I know who can move a set of 6000 pound drivers with a 5000 pound capacity forklift. Of course we had to use some "creative" counterbalancing to keep the back wheels on the ground, that involved just about everyone on the property at the time. Very dramatic but we got it done!


Nathan Osborn and James Cowdery will continue with the ultrasonic readings on the boiler sheets in August. We should be able to wrap up this job by the Fall work session and get the FRA form 4 underway. With any luck we will also be able to start welding the patches into the wrapper sheet at that time. New flexible staybolt sleeves and caps for the patched areas have been completed by the Strasburg Railroad in Pennsylvania, and should be in our hands by the time you read this.

Our next session is Thursday, September 29th - Saturday October 1st. This promises to be a productive and dare I say, “fun” time coming up, so we hope to see many of you in attendance. There is no shortage of work at all levels of expertise, so come up to Portola and join us!

I am quite excited that I will, for the first time, be arriving in Portola by rail for Railroad Days 2011, being held August 20th-21st. A chartered train of private cars will arrive Friday the 19th, coming out of Oakland, including car “Two Rivers” owned and operated by our own Roger Stabler. There may still be a couple of spots available on this car, email Roger Colton: pullman@privatecarservice.net for more info and pricing. I am really looking forward to finally riding in style up the Feather River Canyon, something else I can cross off my bucket list.

Another item of note: We will be starting our next fundraiser in a few weeks to raise cash for the purchase of the superheater flues. Look for details soon! Until then, have a great summer! - JCA