John Bohon in print

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John Bohon in print

Postby Fitz » Fri Aug 11, 2017 4:29 pm

It is always nice to find the face that matches the name in these forums. Being a big steam fan, I had to order Trains magazine's special, Big Steam is Back, which arrived this week. There are some good articles and some so-so. One of the best was written by G. Mark Ray, concerning the colossal rebuild of Southern 4501. On page 76 is a photo of our own John Bohon operating an overhead crane to hoist a set of 4501's drivers. Good to see you at work, John. The work required to get 4501 back in service was incredible. You folks did one fine job on that one.

Mark D
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Re: John Bohon in print

Postby Mark D » Sat Aug 12, 2017 9:57 am

Guess I should have bought that magazine after all. I decided, "nah, I've seen enough pictures of old steam engines,"
Mark D.
Mark D. - The bottom of the information curve

John Bohon
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Re: John Bohon in print

Postby John Bohon » Sun Aug 13, 2017 10:16 am

Without seeing the picture I believe it was probably taken when we were putting the drivers back under 4501. Jim Wrinn was in the shop nearly the entire week. Being one who does not particularly like having my picture taken I ask my old friend not to put my photo in print. You see how far that got me. On the day the photo was taken I was outside the pit preparing the driver journals for installation, staging the drivers outside the pit as needed, and using the crane to put them on the drop table when the time came. That was all done while assisting the guys in the pit in any way needed. If I remember correctly I was only in the pit during the installation of the last driver since I was not needed on the next pair and we were short a man. It was a busy week for sure.

The rebuild of 4501 was indeed massive. The entire interior of the firebox was replaced except for a couple of small patches in the upper corners of the throat sheet. Those had been installed in 1985 and with little running time since the metal was like new. Since this is a very difficult part to form the decision to leave them was made. We did replace every staybolt even in those patches so 4501 has 100 percent new staybolts. The backhead sheet was also replace as one piece including the corners and welded to the wrapper. Fitting the new backhead to the old wrapper was a chore that took quite a while. The result of the work is the boiler of 4501 is almost ridiculously tight. I am often the first person to the shop in the mornings and it is not unusual for 4501 to be popping off after sitting all night on a banked fire.

The running gear was just about as big a job. Everything was taken apart to the frame. The springs were sent out and tested to be sure they were still working as intended. New driver boxes were cast and machined along with the shoes, wedges, and bearings. New oil bath journal boxes were fabricated. Converting the trailing truck to roller bearing was almost impossible with the old worn out truck so we built a new one specially designed for roller bearings. The lead truck was bent from who knows how many derailments and we heated and straightened it, think lots of heat and some creative ways to bend the parts of the truck that needed to be bent. The wheelset in the lead truck was replaced with roller bearings.

During the rebuilding we were constantly hearing the railfans comment on the installation of a stoker and feedwater heater on the 4501. There was even more noise concerning the color we were going to paint 4501. Now that the engine has been in service a few years we seldom if ever hear any comments about the stoker or heater and only rarely hear from somebody unhappy the engine is not green. Funny how all that works.

The results of all the work is 4501 is now a very reliable mainline capable loco9motive with no mainline to run on. The few trips it made under the steam program were nearly flawless. Fortunately we have a local shortline we can run 100 mile round trips on and 4501 is often earning her keep on those trips. Personally I moved to the track department before the 4501 was complete and had only an occasional small hand in the last reassembly. I only saw 4501 on the mainline one time and that was while I was doing a track inspection on another of our operations and was able to stand next to the NS mainline while then train left Chattanooga. Like yesterday morning I often see 4501 at the shop and just like yesterday morning I am sort of amazed it is really all in one piece.

I am sorry to have rambled on like this but I want to add that while 611 and 765 are great and impressive locomotives, I have seen both run many times, I was always more impressed with what TVRM was doing in the steam program. Instead of the massive modern roller bearing equipped locomotives the little 1904 built 2-8-0 number 630 with 57 inch drivers was hammering up and down the mainline on solid bearings and maintaining the same 40 mph track speed as the big guys. It is true our smaller engines almost always had diesels in the consists which were to big for the engines to handle alone. Still that running gear was going fast and so was the shovel in the cab, no stoker on the 630. On more than one occasion the diesels broke down and the only option with a train full of people was to open the throttle and shovel faster. On those occasions 630 picked up the whole train including the dead diesels and maintained track speed to get the train to its destination. On one trip the diesels failed going to Ashville, NC and after a long delay waiting in Ashville for replacements those failed on the way back to Knoxville. The original overhaul of 630 did not anticipate mainline running but after early teething problems and getting all the driver axles on oil lubrication 630 proved to be very reliable, just like the big guys. Having taken quite a beating on the mainline 630 is running as I type on the museum local trains today. Not bad.

John Bohon

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