Steam railroading to return to Alaska!

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Dick_Morris
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Re: Steam railroading to return to Alaska!

Postby Dick_Morris » Sun Jun 26, 2016 5:14 am

The Alaska Railroad 557 restoration crew has also been on a quest for a builder's plate. The Baldwin Locomotive Works builder's plate for 557 was last seen on the locomotive over 50 years ago. Due to material shortages during WWII and the utilitarian nature of the USATC Consolidations, the original plates were cast iron and only nine inches in diameter. After an exhaustive search for the original failed, we moved to "Plan B."

I did the research to determine what the plate should look like and another of our volunteers drew it and printed a plastic replica on his 3D printer. It was too big for his printer so he had to print it in four pieces and glue them together. One of our supporters, Pat Garley, operates Artic Fires Bronze Sculptureworks, which is probably the only commercial foundry in Alaska. Most of his work is bronze for the artist community, but once a year he demonstrates his portable cast iron cupola at the Museum of Alaska Transportation and Industry where he and about a dozen artists participate in an iron pour. He took the plastic pattern for the replica plate and duplicated it in wax so it could be cast using the lost wax process. On Saturday, June 26th, they poured the replacement builder's plate for 557. The photo shows the plate immediately after breaking it out of the mold and before all of the investment had been removed.

For the fans of Tanana Valley RR #1, another project by Pat and his group of artists was a to cast a replacement smoke box door. TVRR #1 is receiving repairs so it can again operate in Fairbanks and one needed repair was replacement of the original door which had broken during operations. Pat and his crew used the original to create a flexible mold and wax pattern and cast the replacement using the lost wax process.
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557 builder's plate reduced.jpg
TVRR #1 smokebox door.jpg

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Fender
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Re: Steam railroading to return to Alaska!

Postby Fender » Sun Jun 26, 2016 8:25 am

Nice job on the builder's plate! I've seen bronze Baldwin plates, that appeared to have been cast flat and then bent to match the smokebox diameter. But with cast iron, I expect the curve would have to be cast in.
Dan Watson

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Dick_Morris
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Re: Steam railroading to return to Alaska!

Postby Dick_Morris » Sun Jun 26, 2016 11:06 am

Thanks. I tried several times to get a good mold in Petrobond so I could cast it in brass, but the guy who did the 3D pattern was only able to print straight sides with no draft on the letters and I could never get the pattern to pull cleanly. When the offer came to use lost wax to cast it in iron (which was material used in the prototype) we went for it.

For a while we grappled with how to curve the plate, but a couple of the photos we found clearly show it to have had a flat face. The round "ghost" of rust where it was on the smoke box made it appear to have been closely fitted. There are two schools of thought in our group - that the back followed the radius of the smoke box, and that there were spacers holding it slightly off of the smoke box and the ghost made it appear to have had full contact because of a build up of junk in the space between the plate and the smoke box. We have most of the drawings for the locomotive and two drawing indexes showing different production runs by BLW. The water level plate and several others are listed, but not the builder's plate. We also have a list of the pattern numbers and materials used for the locomotive by BLW which verifies that cast iron was used.

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Fender
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Re: Steam railroading to return to Alaska!

Postby Fender » Sun Jun 26, 2016 3:34 pm

If you have any trouble fitting the plate to the boiler, you could try having it cast in ductile iron. Ductile is not nearly as brittle as gray iron, and could probably be bent to match the smokebox.
I've used body putty and a rod with a hemispherical end to add "draft" to lettering on a pattern for making a mold to cast.
Dan Watson

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Dick_Morris
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Re: Steam railroading to return to Alaska!

Postby Dick_Morris » Thu Jul 14, 2016 6:30 pm

A new status report has been posted to http://557.alaskarails.org/restore/prog ... index.html

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Dick_Morris
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Re: Steam railroading to return to Alaska!

Postby Dick_Morris » Thu Aug 11, 2016 5:12 am

A new status report has been posted at http://557.alaskarails.org/restore/prog ... index.html. Pictured this month are stay bolts and work on tender back-up light, new cab floor, injector start valves, and pilot braces.

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Dick_Morris
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Re: Steam railroading to return to Alaska!

Postby Dick_Morris » Sun Oct 23, 2016 1:47 am

A columnist for the Anchorage, Alaska, newspaper paid a visit to the 557 engine house last Wednesday and wrote about the 557 restoration project. His column also features Patrick Durand, our president and project manager. Some of you may remember Pat from his tour of the U.S. about 20 years ago with his 1/8 scale Alaska Railroad F7.

https://www.adn.com/opinions/2016/10/22 ... del-train/

Since my last post on 557 there are now a couple more status reports at http://557.alaskarails.org/restore/index.html.

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Dick_Morris
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Re: Steam railroading to return to Alaska!

Postby Dick_Morris » Thu Nov 17, 2016 4:39 am

The status report covering our October activities is posted at http://557.alaskarails.org/restore/prog ... index.html.

Not mentioned is our acquisition of last weekend, donation of a 16" Cincinnati shaper. Although no longer common in commercial shops, there are certain jobs, such as one of the operations we need to do on the journal bearings, for which a shaper is ideal.
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Cincinnati 16 reduced.jpg

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Dick_Morris
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Re: Steam railroading to return to Alaska!

Postby Dick_Morris » Thu Jul 13, 2017 11:04 pm

It's been quite a while since I have posted anything about the overhaul of Alaska Railroad #557. Despite the silence, work continues at a steady pace, with 4-10 people working four days per week. Well over 50,000 hours of volunteer time have been expended since the project started in August, 2012.

On July 8, 9, and 10 the crew held a Stay Bolt Blitz to install as many of the rigid stay bolts as possible over an extended week end. Ten or 11 volunteers were on hand each day. The final weekend stay count was 219. The regular work-day crew has continued the work and the backhead and right side now have all but a couple of stays which will be installed when the firebox corners are fitted. The few remaining stays on the left side will be installed on Saturday.

The photos show the right side and backhead after today's efforts.

The hex shaped caps are part of the sockets for flexible stay bolts. All those visible in the photo are upgrades to the original rigid stays.

For more photos see our Facebook page at "557 Restoration Company" or wait until early next month for the next monthly status report. It will be posted at http://www.557.alaskarails.org/restore/index.html
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DSCF0535 cropped and reduced.jpg
DSCF0512 reduced.jpg

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NP317
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Re: Steam railroading to return to Alaska!

Postby NP317 » Fri Jul 14, 2017 10:28 am

Exceptional work you are all doing!
How thick are the new firebox plates?
My understanding is that the originals were only 1/4" thick. Wartime construction.

Huge job. Monty would be proud.
~RN

BClemens
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Re: Steam railroading to return to Alaska!

Postby BClemens » Fri Jul 14, 2017 10:56 am

Back about 1964-65 a group from NHRS Richmond visited Ft. Eustis for a demonstration/tour of the base. The consolidations were active then and I believe there were about four or five of them plus a switch engine or two. There is still one of them at the Transportation Museum at the Base. We came down from Richmond on the train which took us onto the base where we boarded some tour cars behind the locomotive... What a thrill! The demonstration lasted almost all day and they even demonstrated some track maintenance too.

I remember the terrific sound of the four chime whistle on the engine they were running for us. Thing is, all of that is gone... the base is still there and active but no more steam... not all that long ago either.

BClem

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Dick_Morris
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Re: Steam railroading to return to Alaska!

Postby Dick_Morris » Sat Jul 15, 2017 1:57 am

NP317 - Thanks for the kind words. In my opinion, the quality of our overhaul compares favorably to any locomotive overhaul being done in the U.S.

My understanding is that the originals were only 1/4" thick. Wartime construction.

Firebox side and crown sheets were 3/8". We have increased that to 7/16".

There are a number of rumors that have evolved around the USATC Consolidations. Among them was one saying that corners were cut in the design and/or construction of the boiler due to wartime material restriction. This is not true. From 1942 through 1945 all three manufactures used the same drawings, although there were some minor evolutionary changes to the boiler during that period. I have found references to a modification to the boiler for the very late construction, but I haven't been able to find drawings or details on what was changed. Per the BLW specifications, which mirror the specs from ALCO and Lima, "Boiler built to comply in all respects with the A.S.M.E. Boiler Code, except that the shell shall have a factor of safety of 4." Also, "Each boiler shall be tested in conformance with A.S.M.E. Locomotive Boiler Code."

Note that all boiler work and modifications are being done under the oversight of Robert Franzen of Steam Services of America. He is a mechanical engineer and well versed in steam locomotive boiler operation and design. He has done the structural analysis of the boiler and prepared the package to obtain FRA "Form 4" certification.

Monte's name often comes up and we do our best to honor his memory.


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