WP 165 Restoration Blog

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

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Fall 2014 Workweek Report

The last work session of the 2014 season proved to be quite productive on many fronts. I am quite pleased with the turnout, and the willingness of our diminutive band to accomplish a great deal in a short amount of time.

I spent the first part of the week in the Bay Area, visiting with my parents and my oldest daughter who is now ensconced at San Jose State University, studying animation and illustration. I was glad to spend a few hours with her, and enjoy a slice of pie at Nation’s Giant Hamburgers in Pleasant Hill before she needed to return to the dorms. 

Sunday morning, September 21st, the trek continued and it was back up the hill to Portola. The rain started around Rocklin on I-80, a real curiosity since I don’t see this phenomenon in Southern (Alta) California very often anymore. Upon arriving I was able to hang out with my pal David Wallace, and his friend Kari. David owns the red Santa Fe caboose on the property and they were up working on flooring for it, among other things.

Settling into the Pullman, which I may say, was as clean as I have ever seen it (thanks David Elems!) I enjoyed the pitter-patter on the roof and the general tranquility that is lacking so many days back at home in Lakewood.

Monday saw the arrival of Steve Lee from Cheyenne, and Dave Varley from the GGRM. Dave has been laboriously pouring over stress calculations on the boiler to generate our FRA Form 4 document. I am happy to report that he is 99.9% done! All that is lacking now are a couple of test results on a bit of metal from the two barrel courses of the boiler. Dave is confident that given the robust construction of the pressure vessel, we should have no problem achieving the full 180 pounds PSI of operating pressure. We thank Mr. Varley for sticking with this truly thankless task. We didn’t see much of him all week unless he popped out to take a measurement or two.

Kirk cleans and primes components- a never ending task!
David Elems, Steve Habeck, Rod McClure, Charlie Spikes, and Kirk Baer deserve our thanks for getting things switched in, lined up, cleaned up and checked out prior to our arrival. Without them we would be spending a day or more just getting ready to work. With their help we can hit the ground running, and accomplish as much as we do, so thanks guys!

First thing Monday morning, our Boilermaker Norman continued work on the replacing the rigid radial stays in the patch area of the wrapper sheet. This requires a good deal of grinding, skill and patience. By the end of the week he had 20 out of 25 done. Channing and Erik from former Western Pacific Steam Tug Hercules in SF joined us early in the week. We are always happy to host them; they are full of enthusiasm and come ready to work. The guys worked replacing flexible stay bolt caps, assisted Dave with measurements, and began down the long road toward replacing the branch pipe bolts in the cylinder saddles. These bolts were wasted away due to being surrounded by wet asbestos for many years. Steve brought with him the reconditioned safety valves, thanks for letting us cross those off our list!

Charlie and Duane got the rear cab support bolted back up so we could mount the new cab floors that Roger fabricated, previously primered by Kirk and Dave Anderson. The effort they went through to do this task proves the axiom that it takes three times “at least” as long to replace something than it does to remove it in the first place. Thanks for sticking with it guys!

Mike Mucklin, fresh in from his tenure as an Alaska Railroad conductor, spent time polishing valve and piston rods with Hank. The end result was certain mechanical parts are starting to shine up, and the locomotive is looking more like an operational machine as opposed to a park engine. Steve also got more than a few threads cleaned up on the flexible sleeves, not too many left to go!

Mike Mucklin shines up the left side piston rod.
Unfortunately Bob Sims was not able to be with us this time due to personal reasons, but we thank him for getting the DRGW tool car to the point where we could use it, and return tools to a specific spot every night. This reduces the morning confusion to a great extent. Bob is back in Portola continuing work on the car as I write this. We also thank him again for his generosity in the acquisition of the Metropolitan injectors for the engine.

Tuesday, an authentic milestone was achieved with a successful initial inspection of the boiler interior by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA). This allows us to move forward with reassembly including the tubes and flues, and puts the WP 165 back on the federal roles as a soon to be in-service locomotive once again. This was a big weight off our shoulders, and I am thankful to Steve Lee and Dave Varley for being on hand for the occasion.

Jeff, Nancy and Ken drill out the cab top plates.
Kirk comes up for air in the firebox taking thickness readings.

Dave Varley taking measurements of the various components for the Form 4.

Erin Swain takes joy in his labor!
Life member Erin Swain made the long journey north from Flagstaff, AZ on Wednesday, as soon as his employer, the BNSF released him from the bonds of servitude. Erin has been making up cab woodwork and other details, including the side windows, and restoration by him and his dad of cab electrical switches originally donated by Norm Holmes. Working long hours, he got the lower portion of the cab steel replaced, as well as a new right side drip rail on the roof. This piece of angle was prepared by Charlie, and riveted on by Norman, Erin and Kirk prior to the cab going up in the air. A nifty addition was a new cab hatch actuation lever fabricated by Erin, based on the lever on the extant WP 26 at Traveltown in Los Angeles’ Griffith Park. #freeWP26 Cab Hatch Video The cab boys have a great deal to be proud of. Later, on Saturday, the cab was reunited with the engine, and it looks great back where it belongs. Not to mention the piece of shop floor it languished on for several years is now available again!

The drip rail is riveted on by Erin and Norman.

Mike Mucklin oversees the positioning moves.
On the matter of the cab lift: Originally Rod McClure had planned on using the WP derrick to lift it back into place; however, this plan was tossed asunder when one of the engaging screws on the slew drive froze the house into a less than desirable angular position. Lots of effort from Roger Stabler, Channing and Erik, and David Elems failed to free up this part, so the decision was made to use the two forklifts, which in the end proved to work just fine. Just goes to prove that derricks need love too!
Chris gets the forklift operators- Dave Elems and Rod McClure, in sync.
Back in place again!
Norman gets the air compressor bolted up while Rod looks on.
While access was available, Steve suggested putting the air compressor back up on the side of the boiler. After a mad scramble to find the bolts in the parts car and clean them up, it went on with little complaint. With parts finally going back on, the old girl is starting to look like her old self once again!

Ken and Nancy, along with Jeff and Dave Roth from GGRM continued to drill the remaining holes on the tender deck plates. These they completed in short order, followed by reaming to allow the rivets to slip through nicely. Roger made up a makeshift rivet oven, and was able to drive one rivet but the heat was just not there. We will try again when Steve brings the Wasatch oven with him next time from Cheyenne. The team of Ken, Nancy and Jeff later took on the unenviable task of cleaning the detritus out of the tender cistern. Three wheelbarrows of rust later they all looked like Umpa-Loompas, but they took it in stride, and we are now ready to sandblast in the spring. They truly embody the WP “Willing People” spirit. Hank although under the weather most of the weekend, did manage to get a couple hundred flexible stay bolt caps reconditioned and ready for use. New Teflon gaskets are now being made up at the Strasburg Railroad. These will be reapplied in the spring.

After pushing the engine back in the barn on Saturday evening, and a good amount of cleanup, it was off to Kirk and Debbie Baer’s compound for a session of decompression on their deck. Camaraderie was the order of the evening, as we always enjoy a change of scenery and the fellowship afforded after the bacchanalia is over. Several Tri-tips were cooked up on Debbie’s fabulous grill, and desserts did abound. Thanks again to our gracious hosts for putting up with us!

In closing, 2014 provided some challenges to be sure, but in the end the progress we made as a team was excellent. I look forward to the day we put pressure back into the 165 boiler again, but the steps we make must be careful and well planned for the sake of safety and practicality. We are fast approaching the 10 year mark in this restoration, and no one is more anxious to get it done than me, but if we remain methodical, and persistent, we will get steam up soon enough. In the meantime, we will enjoy our journey, safely, and reach attainable goals one by one, eventually culminating in our final goal to get the WP 165 back into the action, and I can’t think of a better bunch of folks to get it done with! Have a happy and safe Holiday Season! -JCA

Click here for a gallery of work session photos from Mike Mucklin.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Coming Back to Life.

Please enjoy this excellent program put together by Eugene Vicknair for the 2014 WP convention held recently in Fairfield-

Coming Back to Life

Have a great remainder of the summer season, we will be back with more updates in the Fall. - JCA

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Summer 2014 Update

 A few pics from the Summer work session:

Roger works on tube holes. - Bob Sims photo

Hank and Michael put up new grease packs in the driving boxes.- Bob Sims photo

Turning staybolts. Bob Sims photo.

A beehive of activity. - Bob Sims photo
Ethan trims the fire hose padding on the recently installed air receiver.

Severn begins the task of replacing flexible staybolt caps.

Time for a BS session after work.

Erin Swain restored the power reverse, which is now back in place.

Please note that the dates for the Fall 2014 work session have been changed to October 2, 3 & 4.
After this session work days will be on an as-needed basis only. There will be no more scheduled work sessions. - JCA

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Spring 2014 Workweek Report

Due to several poorly timed illnesses, I hadn’t been back to museum property since the summer of last year. Suffice to say I was ready to get out of the confines of the greater Los Angeles area and head north. On Tuesday I made it to Concord and spent a wonderful day with my parents, old home week for me. The next day Dad and I made our way back to Plumas County by way of the scenic Feather River Canyon, always a treat for the eyes and the spirit. After arriving at the museum we were pleased to find the accommodations in such a clean state, thanks to Rick Grunninger and David Elems for putting in so much time and effort into cleaning and organizing.  We were hosted that evening by the ever gracious Debbie and Kirk Baer, a nice period of decompression after the drive, and an equally nice welcome back to Portola.

The next morning, Wednesday, those in attendance, including Steve Lee all the way from Cheyenne, Wyoming, had a hearty safety breakfast at Sharon’s Café on Commercial Street. Dad ordered the famous full plate of biscuits and gravy, his one indulgence for the year, and finished it with only a bit of trepidation.  Getting back to the museum, I was heartened at the shear amount of work that had been accomplished on the needle-scaling and primering operation. Kirk, Charlie, Matt and Dave Anderson had gotten the tender frame side sills and two trucks completed, they really look great! Charlie spent some time getting the new steel deck plates in place on the tender frame, in preparation for drilling the rivet holes. Later in the afternoon the contingent from the Bay Area: Dave, Severn, Jeff, Ken and Nancy arrived and got settled in. Hank and Michael worked on relocation of one of the right side air reservoir brackets, necessary so that we can use the new drilled tanks which don’t fit quite as well as the original lap riveted vessels.  That evening Dad and I along with new volunteer Mike had a sensible meal at Lena’s Café and we called it a night. It was a bit chillier than we anticipated.

The Crew assembles for Breakfast at Sharon's
Friday morning after literally taking over the majority of the space at Sharon’s, leaving well fed yet again, we hit the shop with whatever we could muster. We were very lucky to be joined by two gents who work on the former Western Pacific tugboat “Hercules”, Erik and Channing. This ocean going steam tug is now preserved by the National Park Service in San Francisco along with several other vessels and artifacts, and is well worth a visit. I set these boys on the task of finishing up the fitting of the rear tube sheet knuckle patch, started by our boilermaker Norman. Some drilling and reaming was still required to prepare for the riveting operation to take place the following Sunday and Monday. 

Kirk vacuums out more sandblasting media from the shell interior.
Roger Stabler started early on making up a test rack for the locomotive’s air compressor from heavy angle iron. He and Mike chopped and welded until the compressor could stand on it’s own. At that they began inspection of the various check valves, shuttles, and appurtenances that make it run. A gallon of Marvel Mystery Oil was poured into anywhere and everywhere on the steam and air sides. The diesel boys were tuning an air horn outside, which encouraged everyone to don a pair of earplugs.  The sweet sound of a Nathan M5 (at least after they got it tuned) spurred us on.

Ken, Nancy, and Jeff began the task of drilling for the rivets on the tender frame plates. Thanks again to our friends at the Golden Gate Railroad Museum for the use of their magnetic base drill press, a real necessity for an operation such as this. They went at it tirelessly, and by the end of the weekend, only a few holes remained to be drilled.  Around 4:30pm we started the shop cleanup, and soon after we were enjoying a bit of fellowship and libation.  Later we once again traveled en masse to Kirk and Debbie’s for a nice cocktail hour and cookout at their compound. Kirk was able to talk tugboats with Erik and Channing as the rest of us caught up on what’s been happening in the world of steam preservation since we last met. Thanks from all of us to Kirk and Debbie for letting us into their beautiful home and allowing us a nice change of scenery from the rail yard.
Ken and Nancy drilling out the tender deck plates.

By Saturday we were up to full speed.  A great deal was being accomplished by everyone, including Bob Sims who had recycled and rescued a set of cabinets from one of our parts cars. Bob stripped them down and resized them to fit into the steam tool car, and they look as good as new. I am hoping that now our boiler tools will have a nice orgainized home from now on. Thanks Bob for everything you do!

Michael and Hank repacked the grease pads for the main drivers. This involved a great deal of slicing and squishing of the waxy stuff. These will be installed in the summer when the engine is again over the pit.

Eric and Channing took on the challenge of removing the remaining flush staybolt caps from the wrapper sheet.  Most of these had been removed previously, but the most stubborn had been left. The guys along with Severn figured out a smart method of removing them: this involved welding an anti-creeper, which is a track part, directly onto the cap, and using it as a handle that could be wrenched on. This process worked very well, and is a good example of the ingenuity required to work on old machinery in less than ideal situations. 

Channing prepares to weld the anti-creeper to another stubborn staybolt cap.
Not pretty but it works!
Roger and Mike hooked up the house air and finally got the air pump to start doing its thing; the result was quite dramatic, with Marvel Mystery Oil shooting everywhere and the familiar “thump-thump".Video follows:

Roger with his completed pump stand.
Black clouds finally closed in, the temperature dropped significantly, and the snow came. It was too warm to stick, so it just made a sloppy mess. I had misgivings in regards to the evening BBQ, but as quick as it blew in, it was gone and blue sky dominated. The evening meal of grilled chicken, donated by Dave Anderson, and my chili (an old family recipe, if your family name is Chasen) was enjoyed by all. After, Dave Roth was appointed entertainment chairman, treating everyone to the evening’s feature film. Another fun and productive weekend for the WPRM steam crew.

Dad and I made our retreat Sunday morning back to Concord where I actually got to see my mother on Mother’s Day, probably the first time in over 20 years! The visit was too short before I had to get back on the road and head back to Southern California, where we celebrated my wife Rita’s Mother’s Day with my daughters. The next day the temperatures at our house in Lakewood were in the high 90’s. For me it was hard to believe that I was being snowed on just two days before…


After Dad and I left, Norman Comer and his burly helper arrived to complete the riveting on the knuckle patch. This was accomplished through mainly brute force on Norman’s part. Riveting overhead is not a task for the weak of heart, or weak of upper body strength. Norman, being a tug-o-war champion is one of the few in our circle that can take this on. Steve was able to borrow the propane forge from Wasatch Railroad Contractors, thanks to him and John Rimmasch for making it happen. Kirk was appointed the red-hot rivet passer, probably not the job he thought he would undertake when he woke up that morning.

Norman riveting into the knuckle patch.
Kirk getting ready to pass a heated rivet.
 In the meantime, Erin Swain is manufacturing the windows and doors for the cab at his home in Flagstaff, Arizona. He hopes to have these completed by the Fall work session. So far from photos he has sent, they look great!

The Superheater flues purchased through the fundraising drive are now fabricated and waiting to come down from Washington State. Thanks to Stathi Pappas of the Mount Rainier Scenic Railroad for getting this done. We now have just about everything needed to put the boiler back together. All we need now is sweat, tears and lots of labor. 
Brand new flues ready to travel!
 Please consider a monetary tax deductible donation to help us along. Checks may be made payable to: FRRS, PO Box 608, Portola, CA 96122. Please note “165 Steam Fund” in the memo line of your check.

Thanks again to everyone who has donated cash, materials, time and even moral support. We are getting ever closer to Western Pacific steam returning to Portola! - JCA

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Spring 2014 Steam Department Update

Hello to all of our friends and followers! Winter has passed us by, and as is the case here in California, we never really had one. Spring is upon us and it is time to start considering what we want to, and can accomplish in the 2014 season. 
Our primary goal for this year should be completing a successful hydrostatic test on the boiler. For this to happen will take a great deal of effort on the part of all of us, but when we pull together, a lot can get done. This is evidenced by last years effort to get the chassis back on its drivers, as well as putting up the rebuilt springs. When we work as a team it can happen. Thanks again to Roger Stabler for funding the spring rehabilitation!

As I write this, the superheater flue material has arrived in Mineral, Washington and they await the swaging on the ends. This will be done by Stathi Pappas and his crew at the Mt. Rainier Scenic Railroad. The completed flues will be brought south in June when Stathi’s Porter locomotive number 2 comes back to California for operating dates on several railroads. Thanks to those guys for helping us along with this project. Also thanks again to all of our superheater donors that made this possible! A list of donors is forthcoming.

The Spring work session will be Thursday May 8th through Saturday the 10th.  Someone should be on hand most of that week prior cleaning and priming. Kirk, Dave and Charlie continue this chore, the locomotive is looking far better for it.

Steve Lee, along with our friends from Wasatch Railroad Contractors will be out soon to finish up the welding on the patches after boilermaker Norm Comer completes the fitting of the new metal. We will then be ready for the new rigid and flexible stays. After that there are studs to replace, plugs to make, water glasses to install, and a few other sundry details before we start rolling tubes and flues in. Plans are being made for a full-out two week long session in Portola to get all of this done, more details as they become available.

Again thanks to all of you have been supporting this project, not only with your donations of time, material, and funds, but also with your moral support and kind words of encouragement. That means more to us on the steam crew than you can imagine. See you soon, and have a great Spring season! - JCA

WP 165 in the Portola Roundhouse, October 2nd, 1945 - Bob Sims Collection - FRRS Archives