To Preface: A great deal of preparation went into getting ready for the Spring 2013 work session. Lots of folks, including Roger Stabler, Rod McClure, Steve Habeck, Charlie Spikes, James Mason, Susan Scarlett, Rick Gruninger, and Severn Edmonds went above and beyond to make sure things went smoothly. I am very appreciative for their efforts.
I made good my escape from the Greater Los Angeles area early on the morning of Tuesday April 16th. A fierce headwind driving up the valley gave me some idea of what lie ahead. A midday stop in Sacramento at our spring re-builder to load six rejuvenated leaf springs left my truck somewhat lower to the ground. I handed off his payment, which was substantial, and it was off to lunch with Steam Team member Dick Coudin and Paul Zaborsky, Railway Manager at WRM. Temperature at sea level was in the low 80’s, but the clouds hanging over Donner remained ominous.
With around 1000+ pounds of spring steel in the bed of the truck, my power steering seemed to be a lot more powerful. A few snow flurries up ahead, but thankfully no chain controls were being enforced. Winter was in full force by the time I made Beckworth, not being able to see more than twenty feet in front of my hood. I was able to make out the crossing gates on Road A23 ahead, and aimed straight for them. Being raised in Southern California, I don’t get into violent snow storms too often, and the remainder of the trip into Portola was dicey to say the least. I pulled through the gate, the sun immediately came out, and I was greeted by the familiar sound of a Fairbanks-Morse prime mover thumping off in the distance.
Wednesday morning, the first order of business was to wash the sandblast media out of the mudring. Joined by boilermaker Norman Comer, Charlie Spikes, Dave Anderson and Kirk Baer, we used a variety of means to clean out the black sand. Temperatures were still in the high 30s, it took a while for Charlie to thaw out the pump on the water trailer, and I managed to thoroughly soak myself to the bone, but by lunch the mudring was cleared out.
Kudos goes to Kirk Baer and Dave Anderson who got the locomotive frame needlescaled and primered prior to our work session. The locomotive looks great, as do the drivers that were painstakingly cleaned up by Dick Coudin and others, who stuck with it until the end. Great job guys!
Two full weeks at Portola was my longest stay to date, and the days tended to flow into one another. I can say that a great deal of extra work on the boiler was accomplished by Norman, and later in the session by Roger. The rear tube sheet that the late Dana Greeley started cleaning up six years ago was finally finished by Norman after three arduous days of grinding and pounding. Just about everyone on the crew had a hand in this unsavory job and ate more than a little grit in the firebox, but now we are onto other things. Another tube sheet patch is indicated, this time in the upper knuckle of the rear sheet, an area that was badly cracked, and badly repaired by the previous owner. Dave Varley, who is generously generating our FRA Form 4, a document which calculates the stresses on various parts of the boiler, identified a few more spots to take a closer look at this summer. Thanks go to Nathan Osborn, who spent a few days taking more ultrasound readings to relay to Dave Varley for use in the Form 4. This is another task that is seemingly unending, but Nathan has stuck with it.
Norman and I spent two full days getting the spring rigging set up, no small feat given that our white forklift was down. The “new” springs had a good deal more arch to them which made getting them back into their old positions a bit of a challenge. The porta-power was up to this Herculean task, and everything went back where it belonged. We were joined by Severn Edmonds from GGRM, and our own Hank Stiles by now, and we were off to the races.
|REBUILT SPRINGS FINALLY IN PLACE.|
Severn spent time cleaning up the shoes and wedges for the pedestal jaws, and Hank started to polish up the journals on the driver axles. These jobs can prove to be somewhat repetitive, but at times like this we are glad the engine is an 0-6-0, and not a 2-10-4. Severn drilled each shoe for a set-bolt, a clever way to keep it in place on the frame while being set on the drivers. I suppose this SP trick would have been used by the WP as well if they had thought of it. All the while Steve Habeck, helped by Greg, Matt and Dave Elems had been switching things around so that the tender could be positioned for removal of the oil and water cisterns at the lift site. They also cleared up the shop track so we could position the driver sets outside and put up the side rods prior to the pick. A lot of thought goes into these switch moves, especially given how crowded our yard is, and we really appreciate it.
|Dave, Steve, and Charlie on the forklift put side rods on.|
|Driving boxes go on- thanks to Hank for his handy lifting rig.|
An evening in the lounge car “Silver Debris” and a viewing of Blazing Saddles helped to clear our heads as well as provide a bit of perspective on things. A nice little treat for all…
Fast forward to lift day, suffice to say a great deal took place on all fronts prior, but the focus of our work was to get the 165 rolling again, and that day was now at hand.
On Friday the 26th, two 75 ton capacity hydraulic rigs from Bragg Crane in Reno arrived right on time. Given the current state of our 200 ton WP derrick, I made the decision that we would go with the sure thing. That decision proved to work out, as the lift went quite smoothly. Steve Lee was assigned the job of lift-master, the only person allowed to give signals to the cranes, just to keep confusion to a minimum. Four of us also donned the hardhats and went around with bars to move driving boxes this way and that to get everything in alignment. After about 40 minutes the frame and boiler were reunited with the driver sets, and it was onto the tender. The oil tank had been previously removed the day before using the big rental forklift, so all that remained was to remove the water cistern and place it on blocks for sandblasting this summer. The foot valves in the front were a bit of a problem, but Roger cut the holes in the steel decking a bit larger, and we prevailed.
|Roger in the boiler, removing rivets in the rear tube sheet knuckle.|
|Dave Varley, GGRM Chief Mechanical Officer, pouring over stress calculations for the 165 boiler.|
Engine and tender (frame) were reunited for the first time in many years, and the switch crew pushed us into the shop, a good feeling after weeks of work, done safely and professionally by all involved.
Erin Swain, life member from Flagstaff, Arizona, was all the while patching holes in the roof of the locomotive’s cab, and they were numerous. He managed to get his project just about done, including driving rivets in concert with Kirk who also helped to grind welds. Erin will start milling the wood for the cab interior soon, which will look great no doubt. Thanks to him for seeing this portion of the project through!
|Up we go!|
|Lift master Steve Lee with a re-wheeled locomotive.|
|Back indoors after two years.|
|Severn and Roger take a break from setting wedges and binders.|
The GGRM boys along with Hank and Roger started the arduous task of placing the wedges and pedestal binders back up into place, which took all day, and was finished up on Sunday by Severn. A great deal of effort was expended by all, but the goal at hand was in site, and we reached it just in time for a delicious meal expertly prepared by Gail McClure that included Tri-tip, chicken and all the sides, and two tasty cakes for dessert. Thanks to Gail for such a great meal!
This was our biggest and most complicated work session to date, and I expect there will be more like it as we get closer to steam-up. Thanks to everyone who pitched in, gave up their time to help the project along. I appreciate it greatly as does everyone in the Feather River Rail Society. Those in attendance included: Hank Stiles, Charlie Spikes, Steve Lee, Roger Stabler, Kirk Baer, Dave Anderson, Matt Parker, Dick Coudin, Erin Swain, Severn Edmonds, Garrett Brisbie, Jim Prettyleaf, Nathan Osborn, Dave Roth, Dave Hensarling, Dave Varley, Jeff Boone, Deanna Knowles, Nancy Harding, Ken Asmus, new volunteer Mike (sorry didn’t catch your last name!), Bob Sims, and a few others which I am omitting to be sure, for which I apologize. I missed a few of you thanks to the “Fog of War” atmosphere that hangs over the chaos and general confusion these events generate.
|Charlie begins to clean up the tender frame decking.|
|Group photo Saturday night. Yes there are wheels behind all the folks. Thanks to Eugene Vicknair for this photo.|
Next summer the work dates will be Thursday July 18 through Saturday the 20th. This is usually our lightest work session as far as patronage is concerned; come out and help if you can. Our focus will now be on getting the boiler buttoned up for its hydro test. I would like to accomplish this by the end of the year, but it may take longer. I set realistic goals for the project, but I also have to take into account that life sometimes gets in the way.
Thanks again to everyone for your help, as well as to our members and friends who graciously continue to provide financial and moral support. I look forward to our next outing together! Thanks also to Dick Coudin for many of the photos used here. More can be view in his 165 gallery. Look for some video to be posted soon, thanks to Bob Sims. Now for a nap…- JCA