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Sorry for the extended radio silence: things have been busy in the real world and in the steam shop.

As I’d imagine everyone knows by now, for the first time in many years IRM has two operable steam  engines!  Shay 5 entered service over Memorial Day weekend.  

A beautiful sight to see.


Some machines just look fast.  Looks can be deceiving.


But there is more good news.  It is not enough to preserve the machines; we also have  to preserve and teach the skills needed to run them.  To that end, I am excited to report that already this year we have qualified two new steam locomotive firemen and one new steam locomotive engineer.  Congratulations to Ken, Don, and Eric.  

Ken, newly qualified as an engineer.


Don, newly qualified as a Fireman.


and Eric, newly qualified as a Fireman.  Congrats all!


But today, I am not here to talk to you about locomotives, I am here to talk to you about holes.  Pits, to be specific.  The IRM steam department has long been hampered by the lack of  an inspection pit, which makes a lot of work underneath  the locomotive very inconvenient to perform (especially for those of us who are not as skinny as we once were).

Last year plans for an inspection pit were drawn up, and work began this summer almost as soon as the Shay and 1630 were out of the shop.  

Volunteers began breaking up the asphalt pad inside the shop almost as soon as 1630’s steam test was complete.


The next day’s spoils.


The next Monday, volunteers from the steam and track department began unbolting the rails.


Which were then removed from the building, courtesy of mechanical assistance from the track department.


A bolt can’t be stubborn when its a liquid.


This was the state of the shop as of Memorial Day.  This is a once in a lifetime view—you will never see our shop this clean again.


During the week our friends in B and G came through and removed the remaining concrete and pavement.  All that is left now is to start digging.

Stay tuned!
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IRM's long awaited Model Railroad and Pullman Archives building has begun construction. Yes, we finally broke ground about three weeks ago and already the contractors are pouring concrete and installing foundation forms for the new building. The size is quite impressive with having a footprint of 100 by 135 or 13,500 square feet of space. I hope to give you more data as the building progresses. As for the Buildings and Grounds Manager, Dave Diamond, he is at the site every day making sure all the details of construction are  followed. Here are the first pictures of the exciting new building.

Our contractor is preparing the ground for construction on a very cloudy day.

The concrete footings are already poured and now the foundation forms are being assembled into place. 

Another view of the buildings large footprint.

More forms installed. Now just waiting for the concrete to pour.

The concrete arrives just in time for the pour.

This is the foundation for the center steel support beams.

Yes, that is Dave Diamond viewing the pouring of the foundation support centers.

All this construction is made possible by your donations to the museums newest building. Please consider supporting this project by donating to the Model RR Building construction!       Thanks  Roger           

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The absence of posts is a clear sign of progress, or so I will keep telling myself.

It has been a busy month in the shop.  Work has primarily focused on the beginning of the end of 1630’s annual inspection.  

1630’s arch tube caps were reinstalled.


The boiler pressure gauges were calibrated and installed.


And the brake gauges were calibrated and installed.  Here Ken and Ray can be seen using a dead weight tester to check the gauges ‘calibration.


Here is a picture showing the internal workings of a “double spring” gauge.  Pressure gauges contain a curved bourdon tube.  As pressure increases, the tube straightens, moving the needle.  In a double spring gauge, there are  two bourdon tubes.  The difference in tension between the two tubes holds the needle steady, whereas in single-tube gauges the needle tends to bounce as the locomotive travels down the tracks.


Joey and Conn inspected and cleaned the pilot truck journal boxes.


And I lapped valves, and then lapped more valves, and then lapped yet more valves.  In this case, I am lapping a gated check valve on the line from the injector into the boiler.


Our concerted efforts over the past month paid off, and I am excited to report that last weekend 1630 passed its federal hydrotest, which is the first of three major steps towards entering service each year (those being the hydrotest, an internal inspection, and a steam test).  

It is not enough to have a working locomotive, however.  You need to have people who know how to run it.  A few weekends back, the steam department held a training class on locomotive firing  and train handling  for all of our operating crew members.  Steam Department  Assistant Curator Jason Maxwell and experienced steam locomotive operator Ken  Ristow lectured on locomotive firing, while Ray Weart and Phil Hehn  addressed air brake and train handling.   

Ken, ever helpful, brought pretty pictures to help explain things


He also brought a homebuilt demonstrator to illustrate how sight glasses reflect conditions in the boiler


Trainings such as this are critical to passing on knowledge of steam railroading and, ultimately, to the continued operation of steam locomotives at IRM.  It was heartening to be one of the oldest members of the audience.


Although many of our efforts recently have focused on 1630, work on other projects has also continued.

Ben continued to machine parts of 428’s spring  rigging.


While Phil, running the museum’s horizontal boring mill, continued to  machine the tops of 428’s  axle boxes.


Meanwhile, final prep work on the auxiliary tender was completed, and it was primed for painting.  As of this post, the first coat of black was being applied.


With the warmer weather, Jeff has also resumed work on the Bay City crane, which he expects to have back in operation shortly.


Other exciting projects have also been in the works, so stay tuned for an update about everyone’s favorite Union Pacific consolidation.  
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This winter we have been replacing rusted steel panels on the 2524. Welding in new sections of steel on one vestibule end of our last remaining unrestored Rock Island coach.  This has been accomplished in the unheated barn 10. Very cold but our work continues in spite of the harsh environment. Paul Cronin, in the fall of 2018, began this part of the project by removing all the old rusty steel and insulation from the area in these following pictures.

December15, 2018, here is a view of the vestibule wall with all badly deteriorated areas removed.

Our welder, Jarred, measuring for new steel replacements.

He just finished weldingthe new support pieces.

This piece was just fabricated and installed on the other side.

February 16, found Jarred again measuring for new steel parts.

March 2 Gregg Wolfersheim assisted Jarred in welding more new steel pieces.

March 9 of this year, the end panel is completed with a coat of primer.

We in the coach department hope to continue on this project of replacing the rusted plates on both ends of the coach. Stay tuned for more updates.   Thanks  Roger 

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Work has continued to progress on 1630’s annual inspection.  Over the past few weeks, a number of tasks necessary to having a water-tight boiler have occurred, including the installation of washout plugs.

Blake and Blake carefully cleaned the washout plugs to ensure a tight seal.

This is the tapered washout plug and corresponding hole for the front engineer’s side corner of the mudring.

Blake installing one of the few plugs that can be reached without climbing on or under the locomotive.

Last year several plugs were unusually hard to remove, which indicates that they are getting worn. After careful measurement, Eric machined replacements.

We also reinstalled the arch tube caps.  The arch tube caps must be removed every year so that the interior of the arch tubes can be cleaned.  

Jason and Ray reinstalling one of the arch tube caps in the cab.

A few weeks ago, I showed a picture of Don repairing a defective patch on the front of the auxiliary tender.  That patch had been installed to seal two holes in the tender tank.  Last week, Don and Sam cut out the bad section of tank from the interior and patched it to prevent further deterioration.  

The holes were positioned underneath the coal bunker, meaning that Don and Sam had to lie down to reach the holes.

During preparations to recoat the interior of 1630’s tender a minor hole was also discovered.  Further investigation revealed a small section of bad metal which Don and Sam cut out and repaired.  

A slightly easier spot to weld.

We are fortunate to have such skilled volunteers willing to dedicate their time to keeping our trains rolling.

In the past few weeks, work has also continued on 428’s spring and brake rigging.  

The slot on the right shows how worn these components were when this locomotive was removed from service.

After they were filled in with weld, Ben remachined the slots to the specifications that Baldwin intended.

Finally, for the past two weekends the track department has been conducting its annual track inspections.  Several steam department volunteers joined them to assist in this important task and to gain familiarity with our railroad.

They sure picked a warm day to do it.

Minor repairs were performed as they went.

The track crew on March 2nd.

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Please don't ever say that the volunteers in the coach department are not devoted and tough in this cold weather. In spite of the extreme of this winter a new group of volunteers began removing old paint and rust on the X 5000. Here are a few action shots! You can almost here somebody's teeth chattering!

Bill Jr and Cathy Mitura removing old paint in the freezing weather.

Darek Mitura and Bill Davis, Sr, removing more old paint from the x 5000.

Bill is getting up in the world.

Warren call me on one of the coldest days, January 27, 2019 and asked if I would like some homemade Dynochili.

Here he is cooking on the X 5000 stove. It was a little KOLD but we both had a good time enjoying the chili.

Cathy and her friend, Heidi, enjoying time together removing more old paint.

They started this project December 15 2018. Little did we know that working in barn 11 was going to be quite cold! Pictured here is Eddie, Bill Sr., Cathy and Darek.

Just removing a small portion of old peeling paint makes a world of difference. With more volunteers we might be able to remove the old paint scale on the other side and get it ready for priming and painting in a few years. Want to help? Visit us in barn 10 and/or 11 on any Saturday or Sunday and we can continue the project.    Thanks     Roger

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Steam Department Mid-Winter Update

Despite the Polar Vortex, work in the steam shop has continued unabated.  

Our shop crews have been hard at work on 1630’s annual inspection.  

Conn testing telltale holes in the firebox.


Volunteers inspecting the valves on the cross-compound air compressor.


Phil inspecting and cleaning the sight-glass and water column passages.


Conn again, using an ultrasonic tester to chart the main reservoir’s thickness.


And Carina, painting it black again afterwards.


These volunteers worked their way down the frame of the locomotive, cleaning old grease off the rigging.


Work on our auxiliary tender, which we are hoping to place in service this spring, has also continued.

Several patches on the front of the tender were laminating.  Don cut out the bad metal and welded in new patches.


Holes were drilled to mount new steps.


And a new platform was installed to provide access to the brake wheel.


Don needle-scaled around the rivet heads.


While Carina and the Blakes gave the front of the tender a final round of sanding.


Surface preparation on the tender is almost complete, and we are hoping to be able to begin painting in the coming weeks.  

Our machinists and welders, meanwhile, have stayed busy working on projects to support Union Pacific 428’s eventual return to steam.  

I spent the last month machining new T-bolts for our wheel lathe on the 1940s vintage Boye and Emmes lathe.


While Ben has continued to bore holes in the brake rigging on the Kearney and Trecker milling machine.


Meanwhile, worn components were built up with weld so that they can be remachined.


Although I do not have any pictures to prove it, work has also continued on the Shay.  Following the successful steam test this fall, we are continuing to make minor improvements and we look forward to public operations this summer (dates will be announced on the IRM website once finalized).  

As a reminder, you can also follow the steam shop on facebook at facebook.com/irmsteam.  
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Winter didn't start out too bad but the last four weeks sure has made up for the earlier malaise. In spite of the cold, snowy, icy, did I say cold,  Sandi and I with help from Eddie and Bob are still on our restoration schedule. You must ask yourself how have we been working in barn 11 during this cold and miserable winter.  We have five oil space heaters which keep the sleeper relatively warm at 50 degrees. Let me tell you that 50 degrees sure feels great when you come in from a 10 degree outside temperature. Here's our latest accomplishments!

Here Sandi is painting the wall trim next to the entrance door.  

Another wall by the entrance door.

The entry door and walls now are all painted. 

Bob has been working on the womens bathroom.  He is removing all the old paint. 

This shows the emergency tool box.   The correct sledge hammer, saw, and pry bar, were found and added. They were not in the Mt. Harvard when I acquired it.

Here is a Before picture of the hallway. Below is the After photo. Quite a difference!

Again another picture of the hallway now showing the two side windows.

The two windows shown here were removed in August prior to the start of the hallway project. The exterior and interior sides of each along with all four metal frames were cleaned, repainted and reinstalled. You must remember that we started this hallway project way back in October, 2018!  It really didn't take us too long to complete this repaint.

Another picture of the entrance door leading to the newly painted hallway. 

Don't forget to stop by the Mt. Harvard when you next visit the museum. We are still hoping to have the sleeper in showcase weekend this coming year. That's our goal! And.... Donations to the Mt. Harvard project are greatly appreciated.        Thanks   Roger

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This late fall the Buildings and Grounds Manager, Dave Diamond, focused on the the major upgrading of the Barn 3 structure. The barn was built in the late 1970's or early 1980's and certainly needed attention. The structure was beginning to fail in spots and so the decision was made to invest a rather large amount of money into the structure. This will preserve the life of the barn for many more years. Dave Diamond and his crew inspected the supporting posts this summer and discovered a number of them were in a fragile state. A contractor was selected and work began this late November to repair and replace any supporting posts and to also reside the entire barn. The large eastern four barn doors will be replaced this coming Spring. Your donations to the General Fund have made this and many other projects a reality. Please remember it when you consider this years donations to your museum.

The contractor is beginning to replace the siding on the north side of the barn.

The 84 and the Dover partial exposed.

The North side of the barn. Does that look nice!

In order to let in more natural light new skylights were added near the top of the roof line.

Here is the Southern exposure of the barn.

With the old siding removed the Lake City comes in view.

Another photo of the beautiful Lake City before the new siding has been installed.

The South side is now complete.

The Western entrance before the new siding has been installed. Please notice the ripples in the old siding. Now take a look at the very last picture and you can see the difference.

Here is a photo of the southern side facing the signal display.

The Western entrance being repaired and resided.

What a beautiful upgrade to your museum campus. There will be other projects like this one happening in the near future. Remember the General Fund this year! Have a safe and healthy 2019 New Year!      Thanks    Roger  

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The matching grant provided by the Milwaukee Road Historical society has made it possible to begin this phase of the Mt. Harvard restoration. Paul Cronin and I formulated a plan of action before the exterior work was even started. We decide to repair all the damaged and rusted sections all in one time frame. By removing all the "problems" we could then purchase enough steel and supplies at one time helping to reduce the costs of materials. Paul contacted Gregg Wolfersheim and a work schedule was formulated to remove the old damaged steel sections. This is what you will see with these photos.

Gregg and I removed the vestibule door and trap to reveal the wall condition.

This is the area where the new stars will be secured and installed.

Here he is cutting out the old steel to be replace with new.

An overall look of the damaged section.

Here is what it looks like after Gregg removed and cleaned the area.

This is another job that needs to be repaired. The rusted area was partially removed when the sleeper was at Mid Continent RR Museum. Now we intend to remove and repair the entire area.

Gregg removed even more rusty steel to reveal a much larger area to restore.

The length of this repair is about 25 feet. Not any easy job to fix!

Gregg is smiling after his job has been completed.

Top view of the vestibule with the floor tile removed.

The rubber floor tile has been removed showing the thin floor steel.

This is a view of the other side of the Mt. Harvard with the trap and vestibule door having been removed revealing more rusty steel.

Remember there is still time to contribute to the match! Act by December 31 to double your impact! Your support will help accomplish our goal for the Mt. Harvard!      Thanks  Roger

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