VolvoHeretic
VolvoHeretic SuperDork
5/15/24 11:27 a.m.

In reply to 02Pilot :

Watching that video, the only thing I could watch was the distance between the rail cars and the platform because I once was involved with the design of the foundation of an agricultural seed mixing plant which was adjacent to the rail road tracks. One of my jobs was to locate the plant next to the RR tracks on the plot plan just the right distance and height from the train without the train hitting the red iron steel structure but close enough to be able to load box cars with a fork lift. That information is not easily found on the internet. I don't remember how we found that measurement but I never heard back that I caused a crash or derailment. smiley Luckily, my tracks where straight and not curved.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
5/15/24 11:35 a.m.
02Pilot said:

I thought this was pretty cool, especially since we were just talking about the Poughkeepsie rail bridge and station (you can see the rail bridge in the background).

 

Ah, yes, Mr. Glucksman. I've met him on three or four occasions. He takes very good photos and videos, and I'll leave it at that.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
5/15/24 2:03 p.m.
VolvoHeretic said:

In reply to 02Pilot :

Watching that video, the only thing I could watch was the distance between the rail cars and the platform because I once was involved with the design of the foundation of an agricultural seed mixing plant which was adjacent to the rail road tracks. One of my jobs was to locate the plant next to the RR tracks on the plot plan just the right distance and height from the train without the train hitting the red iron steel structure but close enough to be able to load box cars with a fork lift. That information is not easily found on the internet. I don't remember how we found that measurement but I never heard back that I caused a crash or derailment. smiley Luckily, my tracks where straight and not curved.

When Pennsylvania Railroad borrowed one of the Norfolk & Western J Class 4-8-4s (#610) in '44, they were running it out on the Fort Wayne Division as a test to see if it was a design they wanted to adopt. According to the blueprints supplied by N&W it would clear the PRR's platform, but when it arrived at Chicago Union Station, it smacked the crosshead on the platform. Turned out that the blueprint was correct for #600-#604, which were built with "alligator" crossheads, but the  #605-#610 were built with larger multiple bearing, or Laird, crossheads and the blueprint didn't indicate that. Oops.

Also, during the same testing, the valve on the left side froze due to a lubrication problem and parts of the valve gear were damaged, specifically, the valve gear connecting rod and eccentric rod were bent, the eccentric crank was loosened and the reverse gear quadrant was damaged. The engine was out of service from 12/10 to 12/18, and resumed testing 12/18. PRR ran the hell out of the #610, which was a WWII-era build that was still rated at the as-built 275psi boiler pressure (#600-#604 and #611-#614 were built at 300psi, while the #605-#610 were uprated later in life to the full 300psi) and speed approaching 110mph were reported, and on one trip an average speed of 94 mph was maintained for 45 miles. The only thing PRR did not like was the high piston speeds at 100 mph, and they decided to go the route of building more T1s instead. The wrong decision in the long run, really.

NY Nick
NY Nick SuperDork
5/15/24 8:43 p.m.

I know NickD has posted pics of this train before. It moves around the greater Utica area daily (I think). There is a traffic light on a controlled access portion of a state highway, I have lived here for over 40 years and I have never seen the light turn, until today. So I got to see the train cross a controlled access highway. 

NickD
NickD MegaDork
5/16/24 8:18 a.m.

In reply to NY Nick :

Ah, yes, NYS&W UT-1, an absolutely bizarre operation. I see they have a CSX leaser for the usual spring time traffic surge. I've never photographed them crossing Route 12, mostly because I'm usually getting them hopping on the old O&W at Ontario Ave or backing down into Oneida Warehousing next to Campion Road. 

Frosty_Nimiko
Frosty_Nimiko New Reader
5/16/24 12:24 p.m.

Hey I was shown this forum by a friend and stumbled across this thread! Fascinating that there are others in the car community who also appreciate the history and mechanics of the railroad industry.

For my first topic since making an account here I'd like to continue the conversation off about the obscure Pennsylvania Railroad Q1 and how the B&O also had an opposing piston duplex design years earlier and wound up with the same issues.

https://preview.redd.it/mqcj72k57vrx.jpg?auto=webp&s=cc7be4daa1456114fd270c1401ece4e3ef4b3c58

 

Such an odd looking engine that only had one example made like the S1.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
5/16/24 1:10 p.m.

On the subject of the NYS&W, they announced that they're getting a new president this June, James Bonner from the New York & Atlantic. Im curious what that'll mean for the NYS&W in general and the Utica Branch in particular.

The NYS&W has kind of been coasting since 2008. They're doing okay business, but from people who are familiar with the industry, the NYS&W hasn't really been chasing new customers or really trying to grow the business. I think part of that was the one-two punch of the Conrail split in '99 and then NYS&W president Walter Rich's death in 2007. For years, NYS&W had profited heavily from the fact that Conrail had pretty much all the NY/NJ port traffic locked up, and if CSX and NS wanted to handle any traffic from there, they needed a way in. Walter Rich had taken over the moribund NYS&W in 1980 and had built it up into a fairly healthy railroad, and the NYS&W had access to the ports at it's own yard in Little Ferry, so NS and CSX began interchanging large amounts of traffic with the NYS&W, especially once the NYS&W took over directed services of the D&H in 1988. But, when Conrail was split between NS and CSX in 1999, they now had their own routes to the ports over the Conrail Shared Assets Operations, and the NYS&W fell by the wayside, losing the big SeaLand and Hanjin stack trains and selling off most of their new big motive power (SD70Ms and B40-8s). Then, Walter Rich passed away rather unexpectedly less than ten years later, and the privately-owned railroad was handed to his estate and his widow ceded day-to-day operations to a management team, which never seemed to have the spark and feistiness of Rich.

In no place is that more obvious than the Utica Branch. The Utica Branch is currently active from Utica as far south as Sangerfield, but the line actually proceeds south to Chenango Forks, to where the line splits between the Utica Branch and the Syracuse Branch. Between Sangerfield and Chenango Forks, the line has mostly been idled or out of service for over a decade. New York has repeatedly pumped money into that line to rebuild and reopen in it (at least once in 2016 and again a year or two ago) and in every case, it's been rehabilitated, NYS&W has run a single train over it to show it is open, and then never run a train over it again. NYS&W management believes its arrangement where CSX brings traffic to NYS&W at Utica for its local customers concentrated around Utica is satisfactory and cost-effective and maintains that there is no on-line traffic between Sangerfield and Chenango Forks. Now, there are those that say that there are customers that could be pursued or won over to shipping by rails, but NYS&W is just content to run the line as they are.

So, what are the possibilities? Keep in mind, Bonner isn't a name I really know but New York & Atlantic seems to be a shortline that's doing pretty well:

  • Utica Branch keeps running as it is. Realistically, the Utica Branch, despite being disconnected from the rest of the system and being a hodge-podge of lines, seems to be pretty healthy. They run UT-1 five days a week almost every week, and especially in the spring those trains can be pretty healthy in length.
  • Expansion south. The press release says "Bonner is a growth-oriented leader with a collaborative and results-driven leadership style that has been transformative to the overall operations of the NY&A", so maybe he'll pursue some customers further south of Sangerfield.
  • Utica Branch is shuttered. It's a weird disjointed operation, has a really jury-rigged collection of lines, and requires it's own motive power, which could all be negatives. I'm sure the trail folks would love another trail down through the valley. But I think this one is least likely though. It's there, it's in pretty good shape, and it seems to have a decent amount of traffic.
  • Utica Branch is sold. Again, kind of unlikely but this has been rumored sometimes over the years. I know that there was some hopes that Finger Lakes Railway was going to buy it when their motive power showed up in Utica, since FGLK really aggressively pursues customers and could potentially rejuvenate the southern portion (it was actually headed up to Maine to take over the Rockland Branch). Other people have always hoped that Mohawk, Adirondack & Northern would take over, since they are operating out of the same yard, and have often sent crews and equipment over to the Utica Branch when NYS&W motive power is out of service. This is also kind of the hopes of railfans, since the MA&N has ex-Erie-Lackawanna Alcos and the Utica Branch is ex-DL&W/E-L. I think the issue with MA&N taking it over is the lack of a crossover in the yard. Walter Rich actually hoped to take over the ex-NYC/PC line from Utica to Lyons Falls when Conrail still had it, but when Conrail had a derailment that wiped out that switch and then rebuilt the line without it, it killed that because getting over there would require running several miles west on Track 2 and then running back east on Track 1 (the opposite of traffic directions) to access the northeast side of the yard and then head up to Lyons Falls.

 

NY Nick
NY Nick SuperDork
5/16/24 1:27 p.m.

In reply to NickD :

I know of one business that sits directly adjacent to that line south of Utica. They ship ~200 tractor trailer loads of material (in and out) annually to Houston Texas. I have wondered about the logistics and cost of doing that by rail instead of truck but never was in the position to challenge the status quo. 

NickD
NickD MegaDork
5/16/24 2:40 p.m.

In reply to NY Nick :

The big customers are:

  • FX Matt Brewery (via siding off the Utica Main located on Schuyler Street street trackage)
  • Oneida Warehouse, New Hartford (on ex-NYO&W trackage)
  • McCraith Beverage, New York Mills (ex-West Shore)
  • Fountainhead Group, liquid applicator, sprayer, & fogger equipment, New York Mills (ex-West Shore);
  • SCI Plywood, New York Mills (ex-West Shore);
  • Di Highway Sign & Structure, Inc, New York Mills (ex-West Shore)

Oneida Warehouse is the most frequent, even if they don't move the most carloads. It's literally one or two boxcars to there every weekday. Then there are three feed mills in Sangerfield that they service, and those probably move the most carloads at a time, but they don't always go down there. In the spring though, they get moving lots of cars, and NYSW used to send their last SD45, #3618, up to help out, but it seems like in recent years they just borrow some power from CSX.

The death of the line south of Sangerfield was in '09, when the pet food company in Sherburne shipped their last carload. Theoretically, there are a few shippers in that zone who could conceivably come back- CV Pet Foods and Baillie Lumber chief among them, but I hear there is just kind of a lack of effort from NYSW. Also, you would think for any shipper who wants access to NS, the direct routing south to Binghamton for interchange would be far cheaper than a CSX haul to Syracuse and then a trip down to Bingo over the NYSW Syracuse Main. When they last moved trains over that line after the '16 rehab, they ran cars from Chenango Forks to Di Highway and back, but that was literally one or two northbound movements and one or two southbound movements, I think to make the state happy, and then it ended.

I'm also just kind of shocked that they don't use the line for car storage. There's big money in that. Mohawk, Adirondack & Northern doesn't have any customers north of Boonville, so they store tons of cars from there to Lyons Falls. They were just moving a bunch up there the other week, and someone had a video of all the MA&N's power, the three C425s and the M420W, dragging a long string of tank cars north.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
5/16/24 3:07 p.m.

In reply to Frosty_Nimiko :

The B&O N-1 actually began as a recommendation from Baldwin that B&O declined in '32-'33, before revisiting it again themselves in '37. Also, around '37, Baldwin proposed a duplex drive 4-4-4-4 to the Atlantic Coast Line, replete with Otto Kuhler streamlining, a vestibule cab (an odd choice in ACL's warm climate operations) and centipede tender, perhaps as a way to make up for the disastrous balancing issues that had plagued the earlier 4-8-4s that Baldwin had built for ACL. There seems to be a correlation between the fact that Baldwin was the only manufacturer pushing duplex drive designs, and the fact that in the mid-'30s Baldwin had a string of completed passenger locomotives that had horrendous balancing issues.

The cylinders next to the firebox was certainly a disastrous idea, and neither PRR or B&O had much luck with it. D&H also had a very experimental high-pressure, four-cylinder, triple expansion 4-8-0, #1403, with rear-mounted cylinders. It had a 500(!)psi boiler and then was expanded in three stages, being used first in a high pressure cylinder under right side of cab, then in an intermediate cylinder under left side of cab, and finally in two low pressure cylinders at front of locomotive, with the rear and front cylinders both joined at the second axle's crankpin, from which it exhausted through the stack. Without a trailing truck, those cylinders were under the cab, with the firebox up and over the rear drive axle. Again, not a success, but I'm not sure the rear cylinder issues ever factored in. It was immensely powerful, having a 3-axle tender booster as well, but it was very slow, and the high-pressure triple-expansion system was always a nightmare.

The stillborn ACE3000 was also to use rear-mounted cylinders. The design was a 4-8-2, with rearward-facing front cylinders driving the two front drive axles, forward-facing rear cylinders driving the rear two axles, and then the second and third drive axles were to have a crank on the axle centers with a short connecting rod pairing the front and rear "engines". It seems devilishly complex and like it wouldn't have offered much of an advantage, but I guess with the engineer sitting ahead of the drive axles, he may not have noticed if there was a set of axle slipping away, so pairing them would have made that less likely. The crash of diesel prices in the '80s rendered that whole escapade pretty much a moot point, so we never learned how that would have worked.

Frosty_Nimiko
Frosty_Nimiko New Reader
5/16/24 3:26 p.m.

In reply to NickD :

ACL being proposed a duplex with streamlining was always a curiosity to me because it made little sense in a "hindsight" point of view, diesels were up and coming along side the most recent big engine from Baldwin being less than stellar. Ironically enough I'm well equipped with 3D modeling and just so happen to be making a model of the ACL R-1 Northern. Fascinating engine that would've made a great preservation piece but sadly ACL dieselized practically overnight. I believe you covered the engine in detail in the past in this thread too!

The ACE3000 had several different design concept and all of them were just hilariously outlandish. Like a foamer's fever dream! Ross Rowland must've been under the influence of something rather strong during that time period.

Something that I've seen and wish to have seen be realized is a proposal from Lima to NYC to put a double belpaire firebox on one of the Niagaras. To imagine that NYC, a fierce competitor and future unfortunate accomplice to the PRR, with a locomotive equipped with a Belpaire is bonkers.

Another thing that Lima proposed that I'm sure you've heard of is the "Lima Type" 4-8-6 steam locomotive. That would've been a real treat to see how it'd operate in a real scenario.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
5/16/24 3:27 p.m.
rslifkin said:

I haven't seen any info on how bad the damage is, but it sounds like LA&L had a fire on 428 (a C425) last night. 

Mentioned back at the beginning of April, I finally saw photos of LA&L #428 with fire damage. Sounds like it was a main generator that caught fire, and the word is that it "is unlikely to return to service."

Honestly, seems like dark times over at the LA&L family. Alcos being phased out, sections of the WNY&P being idled after no traffic in a year's time, pretty much everything in Oil City is drying up and blowing away, and scrapping is in full effect. Almost everything on the Ontario Midland was scrapped; locos (except for the two, #361 and #408, that went to SNEX and are now on the Batten Kill), plow, flanger, side dump, boxcars, MoW equipment, whatever else they had. So far the MLW/Alcos which have been cut up seem to have had either major frame or mechanical issues, or they are lower HP switchers which are too small for freight trains and were exchanged for credits, as part of the Tier 4 locomotive program. The rumor mill also says that the big GE AC6000CWs are for sale, if they haven't been sold already.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
5/16/24 3:42 p.m.
Frosty_Nimiko said:

In reply to NickD :

ACL being proposed a duplex with streamlining was always a curiosity to me because it made little sense in a "hindsight" point of view, diesels were up and coming along side the most recent big engine from Baldwin being less than stellar. Ironically enough I'm well equipped with 3D modeling and just so happen to be making a model of the ACL R-1 Northern. Fascinating engine that would've made a great preservation piece but sadly ACL dieselized practically overnight. I believe you covered the engine in detail in the past in this thread too!

Something that I've seen and wish to have seen be realized is a proposal from Lima to NYC to put a double belpaire firebox on one of the Niagaras. To imagine that NYC, a fierce competitor and future unfortunate accomplice to the PRR, with a locomotive equipped with a Belpaire is bonkers.

Another thing that Lima proposed that I'm sure you've heard of is the "Lima Type" 4-8-6 steam locomotive. That would've been a real treat to see how it'd operate in a real scenario.

Worth noting that Baldwin was about the worst when it came to "Diesel denial". In '35, Baldwin management insisted that while diesel locomotives might take over top passenger trains, they would never handle heavy freight duty and were likely to be a passing fad, and that steam locomotives would be built for at least 50 more years. Baldwin really just hoped that their Duplex drive locomotive would woo back ACL and didn't think that the EMC E3s would really get the nod.

Some sources say that it was actually a Hudson that Lima tried to convince NYC to install a double-Belpaire box on. Niagara or Hudson, it likely wouldn't have worked on either. The design of the firebox made it so that it woudn't have worked on an engine with 80" drivers. There would have been physical interference with the swell of the firebox and it would have caused issues with designing the spring-rigging. NYC also did have serious consideration of a C-1a 4-4-4-4 Duplex, which was to be an S-1 Niagara with Duplex Drive design. Their big post-WWII plans were to electrify from Croton-Harmon to Buffalo immediately, and then eventually all the way to Cleveland, and then have a fleet of C-1a Duplexes handling passenger runs to Chicago and St. Louis. The arrival of the diesel killed off both of those plans.

Frosty_Nimiko
Frosty_Nimiko New Reader
5/16/24 5:08 p.m.

In reply to NickD :

It's kind of fascinating when looking back into the history of railroading a bit and seeing that after WWII the railroads basically just, fell apart. The interstate, airplanes and the favoring of suburbs definitely did not do any favors to the railroads.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
5/17/24 10:40 a.m.

In reply to Frosty_Nimiko :

In one of the Don Ball Jr. books, there's a quote from the president of the N&W, circa the late 1970s, pointing out how stacked against them the odds were.

Airplanes had no infrastructure to be maintained and you can't really tax the sky, and most of the airports were built by the government using government funds.

The highways and interstates were, again, constructed by the government using government funds and the roads themselves weren't taxed, just the end users.

Meanwhile, railroads were almost always completed at the corporation's expense and were taxed to death by the government.

The ICC controlled the rates and had the final say on discontinuing services and even abandonment of the railroad. So if a service was costing you money, you couldn't charge more to make it profitable, and you couldn't discontinue that service to stop bleeding cash. And if your trucking company was losing money, you could just pack it in and go home with what funds you had left, but with a railroad, you had to keep going until you were bankrupt, and even then you were forced to keep going until the ICC finally decided to let you die.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
5/17/24 11:08 a.m.

The resurgent Mount Rainier Scenic Railroad has announced that they will be overhauling Carlton & Coast 2-8-2 #11/#55 and putting it back in service as their next steam locomotive. Pretty exciting news because the #5 is a really unique little machine. It was built in 1924 for the Carlton & Coast by H.K. Porter, and usually when you hear H.K. Porter, you think of little 0-4-0 and 0-6-0 saddle tank engines. H.K. Porter tender engines were fairly rare, and something as big as a 2-8-2 was exceedingly rare, with this particular engine believed to be about the biggest engine that Porter ever built. Like a lot of those logging engines, it changed hands a couple times, working for Port Of Gray's Harbor, which is where it gained the #5, before eventually passing into preservation. Mount Rainier Scenic eventually decided to restore the #5 to operation, but by that point, the original H.K. Porter tender was found to be too far gone to repair, and so they instead paired it up with a leftover Vanderbilt tender off of a Northwestern Pacific 4-6-0 that had been scrapped decades earlier. Adding to the weirdness was that the tender was still equipped with a rear tender vestibule. This didn't allow a crew to pass through the water and fuel bunkers and enter the cab, it actually sealed the tender up against the leading car. There's a couple reasons for this design: A light tender certainly would get buffed around by longer and heavier passenger cars while stopping, it would prevent the tender from from riding up on the diaphragm buffer plate and telescoping into the head car, and it seals the head car from dirt, smoke and cinders if the lead car door was left open. It was used on Vanderbilt tenders of the Harriman Empire (SP, UP, etc) but mostly vanished from the scene by the '30s and is believed to be the last surviving tender still equipped with a rear vestibule.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
5/17/24 11:15 a.m.

How the #5 looked while working for the Port of Gray's Harbor with it's original tender. It ran on the Mount Rainier Scenic through the '80s and '90s but was removed from service when it came due for recertification and has sat ever since, so it's been a while since she's been out and about.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
5/17/24 11:16 a.m.

A tender-first angle that shows off that rear vestibule.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
5/17/24 11:20 a.m.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
5/17/24 12:41 p.m.

Up in the same region, you have a rather obscure steam locomotive with a pretty big claim. Northern Pacific #1070, an 0-6-0, has the distinction of being the only steam locomotive in the US to operate in every decade of the 20th century. The Northern Pacific purchased the #1070 new from the Manchester (New Hampshire) Works of the American Locomotive Company in 1907 and it ran on the NP up until 1957-1958, even being converted to oil-firing by the NP as late as 1950. It was sold off to Simpson Timber Company at McCleary, Washington in 1958. Northwest Glass Company in Seattle acquired it a year later and it was there until 1963. The Bellingham Branch of the Northern Pacific Railway was for sale, and it was purchased by a group, who also scooped up NP #1070 and moved it to Sedro-Wooley to form the Lake Whatcom Railway. It ran there from 1963 until 1998 before being parked. It operated under state law and inspections since 1958 when it was first owned by Simpson Lumber Company and when the FRA began assuming jurisdiction of State regulated railroads, NP #1070 was granted an exemption by the FRA during the George H. W. Bush administration.  The exemption ran out during the Clinton administration, so the locomotive was retired in fully operational condition. Reportedly the boiler is in good shape, but requires a full 1472 inspection, and the Lake Whatcom Railway, a small little operation, just can't swing the costs of the overhaul. Still, pretty impressive run.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
5/17/24 12:51 p.m.

Also pretty interesting is that the #1070 was responsible for the end of Burlington Northern's steam ban. From just about when it was formed, until 1988, the BN banned any active steam locomotives or historic equipment on their rails. That was a big problem with getting steam power to Vancouver, B.C. in 1986 for Expo '86. Then, in 1988, BN had a southbound freight go on the ground someplace north of Sedro-Wooley. To reach the derailed cars on the north end of the mess, the remainder of train still on the tracks had to be pulled away from the derailment, but BN didn't have a locomotive in Sumas to do the job. The connection to the Lake Whatcom Railway was still intact, and it was on the side of the derailment that they needed access to, but the only motive power that Lake Whatcom had was the #1070. So BN waived the ban and allowed the #1070 onto their rails to help out, and after that, BN was a bit friendlier toward steam locomotives, eventually allowing trips by Frisco #1522, SP&S #700, and SP #4449.

 

NickD
NickD MegaDork
5/20/24 10:44 a.m.

Yesterday was N&W #611's 74th birthday, having rolled out of the N&W's Roanoke erecting facilities on May 19th, 2024. Despite that late date, the #611 wasn't the last steam locomotive built by N&W (that went to 0-8-0 #244 in December of '53) or even the last N&W 4-8-4 (that went to sister #614). She had a relatively short career of just 9 years, running up until the very end of steam on the N&W due to a heavy rebuild prompted by a bad wreck in '53 that meant she was in better shape than the rest. W. Graham Claytor Jr. began trying to convince N&W president Stuart Saunders that #611 should be retained in working order,  since it was in good condition with an extended boiler flue time certificate, and O. Winston Link offered to purchase No. 611 for $5000, although the N&W replied that it was not for sale, but he continued to champion for it's preservation. In late May of '61, Stuart Saunders donated the locomotive to the Roanoke City Council, and the rest is history.

That's yours truly at the controls of her, three years ago.

VolvoHeretic
VolvoHeretic SuperDork
5/20/24 11:16 a.m.

In reply to NickD :

At the beginning of the Northern Pacific 1070 video above, I'm a little confused about the pulsing exhaust puffing out of the flue stack. Is there some kind of piston driven forced air injection into the fire box? I know nothing about steam locomotives but this has bothered me for quite some time. smiley

NickD
NickD MegaDork
5/20/24 12:32 p.m.

In reply to VolvoHeretic :

When it's under motion, that's the steam being exhausted from the cylinders.

You'll also get some pulses when they're sitting and running the air brakes, either to maintain pressure or to pump up cars that were just attached. When those run, those have big pistons in them and they make a loud rhythmic bang-bang-bang-bang-bang noise whenever they run. You can feel that throughout the entire locomotive when they're on. Like in this video of #4449's air pumps being run.

Then you also have a blower, which was a nozzle in the smokebox aimed at the "petticoat" at the bottom of the smokestack, which ran off compressed air. When the engine wasn't moving and you didn't have the draft from the exhaust to draft through the firebox, you turn on the blower to create a venturi effect to pull a draft through the flues and keep the fire burning and keep the smoke from filling up the cab. Someone pointed out it was always best to actually turn the blower on shortly before arriving at the station, because the blower piping builds up condensation when it's off and then when you turn it on, for the first couple seconds it mixes that condensation with smoke and cinders in the stack and rains a filthy black rain will leave station personnel and passengers with noticeably altered attire if done at the station.

As for the other appliances, the injector adds water to the boiler, again using a venturi effect, where steam is blown through a nozzle to create a vacuum that sucks water into the boiler and overcomes boiler pressure. Those don't run constantly, but are "fired" when needed and in the cab, you hear a deep rumble as it adds water to the boiler. There is also a pipe that vents the steam being used by the injector and those are aimed straight down under either side of the cab, and when they're firing the injector it'll be blasting steam and water straight down at the ballast. I remember when I was running #611, one crew member was going to have me fire the injector, and the other guy goes "No, don't have him do that. When that handle goes over center, the pressure wants to kick it all the way open and you'll blow a hole to China in the ballast."

Then, there is the dynamo or generator, which sits usually just ahead of the cab and looks like a turbocharger, which it kind of is. On one side, steam is run through to turn an impeller and then exhausted, while what would be the cold side of the turbo is a generator, which would run around 2400 RPM and generate 32 to 37 volts DC. These were only used to light the gauge lighting and interior in the cab, and the headlights and marker lights and number lights on the locomotive and tender. These were not used to light coach lighting. They run pretty much constantly and they have a very distinct, and fairly loud, whine. 

Usually right near the dynamo is the safety valve, also called "safety pops" because they "pop off" or a "squirrel's tail" for the shape of the steam plume. There is usually two of them, a lower pressure to bleed off when it gets two high and a second one for if it continues to climb to an unsafe level. Those are very loud and release a large plume of steam straight up in the air when they release for 30 seconds to a minute. You'll see those usually trigger when the engine is sitting at a station and not really using much steam, other than the appliances, or when it's done being hostled. Realistically, you shouldn't really see those being tripped when sitting, and especially not when in motion, since that's a sign of over-firing the engine and keeping the fire hotter and the boiler pressure hotter than it needs to be, plus you're wasting steam pressure and water every time they're open. When O. Winston Link was photographing the N&W under contract, one of the rules was, he could not publish any photos with the safety valves lifted because it was a sign of an improperly fired engine and was indicative of waste, and N&W was trying to frame themselves as an efficient railroad devoid of waste. He said there was many great shot ruined by the safety valve lifting, and there was a location or two where the fireman would be getting pressure up for an approaching hill and lift the valves and he could never get a photo that N&W would approve.

Then you have boiler blowdown valves, which are usually low along the boiler on the sides of the firebox. When water is boiled and turned into steam, only the pure H2O leaves the boiler.  But "water" is seldom pure H2O.  It usually has other compounds dissolved in it, and most commonly it is elements we usually associate with "rocks" (calcium, etc.) Eventually, these elements become so concentrated that they precipitate from the water and form a scale on the insides of the boiler. Besides taking up space in the boiler, high concentrations of this material tends to make the water produce foam and that foam can get carried over into the the cylinders, and the piston rod can bend or the end cap of the cylinder can be blasted off the end when it tries to compress that water-heavy foam.  Either situation tends to ruin the day of the train crew and the Road Foreman of Engines. The even bigger problem is that these sediments can form scale, which is an insulator and separates the water from the source of heat.  The reason the boiler material does not melt in the presence of the fire is that the water takes the heat away as steam.  If there is insulation between the fire and the water, the metal of the boiler can soften and melt.  This can also tend to ruin a man's life... abruptly; it is known as a boiler explosion. So, when an engine had been sitting for a while and not circulating water, you would open those and eject large jets of steam from either side of the locomotive, just ahead of the cab, and blow a bunch of that sediment out. You were then supposed to blowdown the boiler every so often, depending on water conditions. David Page Morgan mentions going to Meredosia to see the two Wabash 2-6-0s that were still running in '55 and "in the first 6 miles to Meredosia both engines were blown down at least four times" because the water quality was so poor and Wabash had cut back on water treatment. Again, not something you want to do excessively, because it wastes a lot of steam pressure and water.

Finally, up near the front at the bottom of the cylinders, you have the cylinder cocks. When the engine sits for a while with it steamed up, you'll get condensation collecting in the cylinders. Again, water doesn't compress, and a bent rod or broken cylinder head ruins everyone's day, so there are relief valves at the bottom of the cylinder to vent steam and water when you start moving after sitting. It'll shoot jets of steam out of the bottom of the cylinders in time with the cylinders when they're opening. You don't want to leave them open permanently, because it's unneeded and you're bleeding off cylinder pressure, and you really don't need to leave them open more than two or three revolutions of the drive wheel, but a lot of your tourist lines leave them open for the first 1/4 mile of the run just for the spectacle. I've been trackside when R&N #425 left Port Clinton and I'll say that by the time that steam gets 5-10 feet from the engine, it's pretty much cold but very wet. It's a bit like being in the middle of a huge sneeze. I've seen people think that people trackside are going to the flesh seared from their body by the steam cylinder cocks, but you you have to be so close that the locomotive would clip you with the running boards or cylinders.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
5/20/24 4:40 p.m.

On the topic of #611, there were a lot of people disappointed to learn that she apparently will not be running on the Virginia Scenic Railway for the Goshen-Staunton Shenandoah Valley Limited, after running a couple of those trips late last fall. 

Directly from the Buckingham Branch Railway/Virginia Scenic Railway's page. Definitely very strange when all of the trips were sold out last year, and BBR/VSR launched a pretty huge renovation at Goshen to accommodate the trips, includdin building a new 1500ft siding from scratch, access roads into a new 400 car parking facility and provisions for watering and coaling the #611, as well as rounding up cars for a train from all corners of the land and building a volunteer train crew of car hosts.

Of course, there are already rumors and facts floating about, but no hard answers.

One rumor was that it was insurance-related, but an employee from Buckingham Branch said, no, it was not related to insurance issues. He did confirm that BBR has a pretty big rail replacement project planned for this fall, which could be affecting operation of these excursions (hard to host passenger excursion when MoW crews are hard at work), and that the railroad has had a big crew shortages since mid-February that is only now just starting to get better (hard to spare crews for popular, but ultimately, unnecessary excursions when you're stretched thin).

I could also see getting together enough passenger cars potentially being an issue. I know they really had to scrape together the pool they had last year. Used to be it wasn't hard to get together a string of passenger cars for something like this, back when the country was littered with retired Erie Stillwells, Reading and DL&W M.U. cars, Pennsy P70s and B&O converted heavyweight cars, but when it became so that cars had to be Amtrak standards (roller bearing, 480V HEP) to be moved around, a lot of those became "grounded" at museums or tourist lines. 

According to Ross Rowland, who seems to be involved at a certain level with this operation,  there were perhaps some issues between BBR and Virginia Museum of Transportation. Sounded like BBR busted their ass getting Goshen set up and running the trips, and VMT didn't really back them up. There were also some rumored leadership issues within the #611 crew which added additional turmoil to the equation. The small crew who got it done last year said we need at least a year off to catch our breath. According to both Ross and the unnamed BBR employee, the BBR will likely run the trips again in 2025 but this year was too much. 

Unfortunately, it sounds like another year will tick off the #611's boiler cert with no action. The #611 becomes due for her 1472 in 2030, and I have to wonder what the future will hold for her then. She was restored in 2015 for the NS 21st Century Steam program, which unexpectedly shut down in 2017, and since then it's always been a struggle to find a place for her to be able to run in the long-term.

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