Monday, June 29, 2009

Steam Engine #103 Leaves Essex for a New Home

After spending the last 38 years at the Valley Railroad in Essex, Connecticut, steam locomotive #103 moved to its new home on Thursday June 25. At 9:15 pm that evening, 103 touched down on the rails of the Naugatuck Railroad in Waterville, Connecticut. The “Naugy” is the operating heritage railroad of the Railroad Museum of New England (RMNE).

Steam locomotive No. 103 was built by the Baldwin Locomotive Works in November 1925, for the Sumter & Choctaw Railroad, a small logging railway in northern Alabama. It has a 2-6-2 wheel arrangement. The engine worked there for over 30 years, and was sold in 1962 to the Empire State Railway Museum of Middletown, NY. 103 operated at Middletown until late 1966, and was moved to the new Valley Railroad at Essex in early 1971. As the crews worked to get ready for the Valley’s opening day in the summer of 1971, 103 was readied for her role as the first steam locomotive of the new railroad. After a midnight test run (the first operation of 103 at VRR), 103 triumphantly pulled the first 3-car VRR train into the Essex depot on the morning of July 29, 1971-- 100 years to the day of the first run on that very line.

In 1972 and early 73, 103 had to work harder to move the 4 and then 5 car trains needed to carry the growing passenger load, and work commenced on a larger steam locomotive at Essex, 2-8-0 #97. First steamed up in March 1973, 97 entered regular service that summer and quickly replaced little 103. 103 last operated in 1975, and had been on display at Essex ever since.

Ownership of 103 was transferred in 1986 by Empire State to the Railroad Museum of New England. RMNE started operation of the Naugatuck Railroad in 1996 and has been transferring RMNE locomotives and cars from VRR to the Naugy. For the last 8 or 9 years, an RMNE crew has gone to Essex annually, to oil and grease 103’s moving parts.

The move of 103 was done under the supervision of Bob Eberheim, an RMNE member who has decades of professional rigging and heavy hauling experience. Bob coordinated the cranes and the heavy-haul tractor-trailers that loaded, moved and unloaded 103. Starting the loading process in the Essex station parking lot at 3 pm, 103 and tender were loaded and ready to go at 4:30 pm, and they rolled out of Essex for the last time.

Going faster than it ever had on rails, 103 moved along at 50-55 mph until a fan belt broke on the truck hauling the little locomotive. After a two-hour delay for repairs (at $349, it was a very expensive fan belt for that trucker!), 103 arrived at RMNE’s Chase Yard in Waterville. The tender had already been unloaded and pulled out of the way, and the two cranes were ready to set up and lift 103 off the trailer.

Back on rails at 9:15 pm, tender connected again at 9:40 pm, and safely tucked away on Track 5 in Chase Yard at 10:10 pm, 103 was ready for the next chapter in its 84-year career. And a tired, happy crew closed the gate and went to eat a late dinner. Except for the fan belt trick, the move was without incident, which is just how the RMNE crew likes these things!

Locomotive 103 weighs about 45 tons in working order (steamed up with fire and water in the boiler). It is considered a small steam locomotive, suitable for speeds up to about 20 mph, and easily operated in either direction, as befits a short-line locomotive. The engine and tender together are 50 feet long. The tender carries 3000 gallons of water and 5 tons of coal.

RMNE plans to spruce up 103 and paint it; replace the missing cab windows and make sure the engine is secure against the weather. Locomotive 103 will be displayed at the 1881 Thomaston station once she is ready.

Preparing the 103 for transport from the Valley Railroad

Getting ready to lift onto the trailer

Locomotive 103 is now secure on the trailer

The tender was much easier to coax onto its trailer

Comparing profiles between 103 in the foreground and Valley Railroad #40 in the distance

Engine 103 begins its journey to RMNE, passing through the front gates at Valley Railroad

Heading down the highway, probably the fastest 103 has traveled in a long time!

Arriving at Chase Yard in Waterville, with RMNE volunteers waiting

Unloading begins

Engine 103 is safely returned to the rails once more

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Rebuilding a diesel engine from the ground up...

EMD 16-567 Engine Update

Several years ago, EMD GP-9 1732 suffered engine damage while in service... Further examination revealed that the crankshaft had broken-effectively sidelining the locomotive. At that time, the required scope of repairs was in excess of available resources required to perform that work, so the 1732 was set aside for future attention. In order to understand the eventual and future scope of repair, some background information is in order.

A failed crankshaft on a railroad diesel engine entails a complete teardown inspection in order to ascertain the degree of damage to the engine block, or in EMD parlance, the crankcase. First, the engine needs to be removed from the locomotive-not an insignificant task for a small railroad operation lacking in-house heavy lifting capability. Then, all of the power assemblies (heads, pistons, rods, and liners) must be removed, along with all the accessory items that are bolted to either end of the engine. Only then, can the crankcase be separated from the oil pan, rotated 180 degrees along its long axis in preparation for removal of the main bearing caps and then… the crankshaft. By now, it should be obvious that the scope of the tear-down labor component is rather excessive, considering that the minimum labor outlay will effectively be doubled in order to re-assemble and re-install the engine. Additionally, we haven’t even considered scope of repairs on the crankcase or acquisition of required material, i.e, crankshaft, engine gasket set and a whole host of other items-at a minimum.

With this entire in mind, it can be safely stated that this path is not a viable option, given the limited use the locomotive will see and the ongoing competition for scarce resources with other projects. Some might even view this option as a veritable "bottomless pit" or "black hole."

The next option would be the acquisition of another diesel engine. Once again, a new or completely "rebuilt" engine would fall way outside the budget. Another choice would be the purchase of an "RTO" or "running take out" engine. In other words, an engine that is operable, and has been or will be removed from an operable locomotive. While this option can be less costly than those discussed previously, this course of action is not without attendant pitfalls.

The EMD GP-9, equipped with the 16-567C engine is one of the most, if not the most, popular locomotives ever to ply the rails. Long ago banished from Class 1 railroad service, this design still enjoys considerable popularity in regional, short line and industrial railroad applications. It is estimated that approximately half of the 4,000 plus units, constructed over forty years ago, are still in service. Many of these GP-9’s have undergone considerable mechanical and electrical upgrades in order to suit modern operating conditions and maintenance practices. Accordingly, pricing for complete locomotives has historically kept up with inflation-so much so that several examples of the GP-9 have been re-sold in excess of their original delivery price!!! In turn, this state-of-affairs maintains ongoing pressure on the supply of spares found in the second-hand market. At any given time, the supply of RTO engines can be limited.

Yet another issue pertains to the type of warranty (if any) offered by the seller-not to mention shipping and ultimately off-loading at Thomaston Shop. If this sounds like a case of the "moon and stars being in correct alignment" to conclude a successful deal, I wouldn’t argue the point.

A closing thought: Roy D Chapin, Jr., the automotive scion who purchased the Jeep brand for American Motors once said, “Be ready when opportunity comes… Luck is the time where preparation and opportunity meet.”

—Submitted by RMNE Locomotive Staff

Editor's Note: This is the first in a series of posts about the RMNE's ongoing process to rebuild its EMD 567-C engine block in order to return our GP9 1732 back to service. —DRM

Monday, June 8, 2009

Order Board for June 2009

RMNE President Ralph Harris has most of the arrangements completed for this year’s visit by Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends, which remains the largest by far RMNE fund raiser. Nancy Pratt again will be using her organizational skills as the DOWT Crew Dispatcher and is now taking requests for positions. The event will be running 31 July, 1-2 then August 7-9, the usual Friday-Saturday-Sunday schedule. Please contact her as soon as possible at her new e-mail address or tel. 203.579.5930 – Thanks!

Communication & Signal Department
Steve Butterworth has begun a summer project to repaint signals and signal cabinets in the historic New Haven Railroad appearance of white with black trim. With the help of Chad Boutet and Hal Reiser the Seidel Crossing in Waterville was completed. Chase Commons Rd will be next. Steve suggested a 2 or 3 person crew, equipped with a wire wheel grinder and sander for surface prep, and a portable generator to provide power where it couldn’t be tapped from the signal cabinet. Contact Steve if you can help with this project.

Weekday Work Opportunities
Gene Pfeiffer is spending a lot of weekdays on the railroad, usually at the Thomaston Shop. He could use some help, especially now since his usual assistant is on light duty due to recent surgery.

Train and Station Crews URGENTLY Needed
We’ve begun our 2009 operating season and train and station crews are needed! Please call Barb Walcott at 203.525.5290 or 860.283.5790 so that she doesn’t have to spend all her time tracking down the necessary staff. If you'd like to get involved, but don't know where to start, get in touch with us and we'll get you started.

Bob Harrington reports that the current project is repairing the electric brakes on the tie inserter. The IHC loader remains out of service for now, and hydraulic repairs will be needed on the Dyna-Hoe.

NAUG 1732’s future diesel engine has now had all 16 heads removed from the block by “The Two Daves” and others. Hopes remain high that we won’t find any freeze damage inside the block.

NAUG 2203 is currently our only operating locomotive, covering our regular service runs and any switching moves needed.

NH 529 has received attention from the two Daves plus Matt Andel and perhaps others. The installation of the new auxiliary generator is about complete. Water and fuel leaks are being attended to – the maintenance history of this loco back in the Amtrak ownership era (1980s) showed these were common problems.

NH (CDOT) 2019 continues to receive attention to get it into standby status. Scott Paribello and others have been working on it.

Coach 4989 (“The Cadaver”) has been brought to the TSY for stripping of usable parts.

Coach 4990 (“The Beater”) has recently received a roof re-glopping by Steve Butterworth and Hal Reiser. The car will also be receiving some well-needed window work and other repairs to prepare it for DOWT.

Coach 5046 will be getting its windows replaced over the next several Saturdays – 13 June maybe but 20 and 27 June for sure. Project chair Sam Walker has already begun to manufacture the wood guides that will be installed in the window openings. The replacement will be complete with the serviceable old windows going to other coaches. There will be opportunities for painting and fitting – help will be needed to get this necessary job done. Contact Sam if you can help with this project.

Coach 5805 continues to receive the installation of exterior patching led by Jon Chase and Dan DiTullio. Sam has been working in the welding needs as time permits. Inside the coach, Stan Bogacz and company continue to work on the lower deck ceiling. Tony Pratt has been fitting metal patches (that will later be welded in) to repair rust outs near the window post bases. Work to come – interior fitting out including lighting, baggage racks and seat assemblies, including re-upholstery.

NH W-221 has been spotted on track 10 near the south end of the shop so that needle scaling and an interior cleanout can begin. Chris and Dawn have already been hard at work needle-gunning one of its trucks.

Caboose (Van) CV 4014 has had it’s basic roof installation completed, reports owner Al. Work included stripping off the layers of tarps, old roof walks, and roofing material then wood repairs, surface preparation, then the installation of a rubber membrane type covering that replaces the former covering. Al is pleased with the success of this project and thanks all who assisted him. He feels that the success came from thorough planning. A more detailed account will appear in the Spring 2009 Along the Line.

Thomaston Station - As Walt Hermann continues his recovery fro heart surgery on light duty, he has traded his chain saw for garden tool sand has been quite busy gardening around the Thomaston Station.

Thomaston Shop - Electrical installation work continues.

The Huntington Ave (Waterville) passing track rail replacement project continues. On June 6 Pete LaBouliere, Howard Pincus, Timothy Reed, and Matt Lawson worked the project with 25-ton crane PTM 198, moving in new rail and removing the old. Only about 8 rail lengths remain to reach the south switch, which will complete the project.

Celeste is looking for some assistance passing out brochures at the Quassy Amusement Park in Middlebury, Connecticut. This is part of the “One Tank Travel Expo” on 14 June – many local attractions will be there. Contact Celeste if you can help out this day.

A special train was run up to Torrington on May 30 to carry actors portraying President Abraham Lincoln and his entourage into town. Of course, RMNE brochures were handed out to some of the 500 or so that met the train.
– Bill Sample, Editor.