Saginaw Timber
Company No. 2
Restoration Journal

steam locomotives number 2, number 1385, and number 1

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Year: 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011

Pounding Hot Steel: Riveting the Smokebox

Nov. 20, 2013

Saginaw Timber Company No. 2 project volunteer John Risley has served up another short report on restoration activities, this time dicussing the riveting of the smokebox to the boiler.

On Monday Zack and I finished reaming the holes in the smoke box for riveting and set up scaffolding for todays riveting session. [On] Tuesday Gary Bensman [of Diversified Rail Services] was late getting to MC, so we started riveting without him. After about 10 Rivets he showed up and work progressed until we finished up about 3:00 p.m... We had some great help today with Ken Hojnacki, Richard Dipping, Skip Lichter, Linda Rowe, Gary Bensmen, Zack [also of Diversified Rail Services] and myself. Otherwise it was pretty uneventful and everything went pretty smoothly. A good time was had by all. Regards, John.

Richard Dipping reports that In all approximately 48 new rivets were installed. Aside from helping with the riveting, Richard also brought his camera to capture the process.

Empty rivet holes along the joint between the boiler and smokebox. Richard Dipping photo.

Zack preheats steel. Richard Dipping photo.

The furnace used to heat the rivets can be seen in front of the open smokebox door. Richard Dipping photo.

Volunteer John Risley with bucking tool. Richard Dipping photo.

The view from inside the smokebox as flames enter a rivet hole while the steel is heated. Richard Dipping photo.

Skip Lichter mans the furnace, preparing the rivets for installation. Richard Dipping photo.

Wintertime Expectations

Nov. 14, 2013

The winter months in Wisconsin can be unpredictable and along with it the wintertime progress on Saginaw Timber Company No. 2.

Heating the Engine House during the off-season can (and has in the past) cost thousands of dollars each winter. Depending on frequency and amount of snowfall, contracted snow plowing service can reach upwards of $2000 per winter. With train revenue far and few between during these off-season months, heat has had to remain off the past few winters and snow plowing limited to special events-only. This is done in order for Mid-Continent to last until trains start up again in the spring without having to borrow against summertime earnings. That means work on Saginaw Timber Company No. 2 also slows down and can become limited in scope until temperatures warm and the Engine House is fully accessible. With the Montreal (WC&C No. 1) occupying one-half of the engine house and the diesels being kept inside to keep them at the ready for operating when needed, it means No. 2 also gets moved outside for most of the winter.

So what is planned? Project volunteer John Risley explains:

[Work] Will continue till the weather stops us. [We] Plan on riveting smoke box to boiler this next week. Depends too when the locomotive is kicked out of the engine house too. No heat is one thing but Wisconsin winters limit you at times when it gets colder and [you're] working outside in the elements. We can and have worked outside in winter before but if the wind kicks up or the temp gets [too] cold you some times say the heck with it. We jacked the frame up and removed the wheels in a foot of snow once, but it wasn't real cold either. Will be doing what we can and when we can.

Chuck Ham, another project volunteer adds a few more details:

No. 2 will have its firebox temporarily secured to the frame and the smokebox riveted to the boiler, hopefully, by the end of November. The owner expects to make the 29 fitted tapered bolts over the winter for the final connection in the spring. Since there will be no heat in the engine house over the winter, work will be very slow. However, it is expected that plumbing for the FRA steam test will be done over the winter.

Boiler Reunited With Frame

Oct. 17, 2013

Mid-Continent Railway Museum's steam restoration progress continued in a very noticeable way today with a crane coming to the museum to lift parts of two steam locomotives.

First, Saginaw Timber Company No. 2's boiler will be lifted on to the frame/running gear. This comes after successful early tests of the running gear in the preceding weeks. Reassembly and further testing will continue in the coming months.

Next, the boiler (along with smokebox and firebox) from C&NW No. 1385 will be removed from its frame/running gear. The boiler will be set down in the space next to the Engine House being vacated by No. 2's boiler.

Saginaw Timber Company No. 2 boiler being mounted back onto running gear. Jeff Haertlein photo.

Saginaw Timber Company No. 2 boiler being mounted back onto running gear. Jeff Haertlein photo.

Volunteers assisting with the boiler lift and mounting. Jeff Haertlein photo

After mounting the boiler back on the running gear, Saginaw Timber Company No. 2 is towed off the mainline and back to the Engine House. Jeff Haertlein photo.

Running Gear Test Drive

Sept. 16, 2013

Yesterday we posted a lengthy update and new pictures showing the progress of steam engine Saginaw Timber Co. No. 2. As that update was being prepared, yet another big step was taken with the locomotive.The running gear went for a test drive!

The locomotive is still without without its boiler and cab, but the running gear (wheels and attached moving parts) were pushed and pulled around the North Freedom yard (with the help of a diesel locomotive) to look for overheating rods and axles/journals as well as listen for squeals, clunks, and other noises that can indicate problems with the complex set of moving parts.

The verdict from project volunteer John Risley: "Nothing serious and it just pointed out a few things needs that need adjusting. The frame and running gear tracked beautifully like it was supposed to do."

More adjustments will be needed after the weight of the boiler is added, but this test represents a big milestone toward getting #2 running under its own power once again.

Eccentrics and Valve Timing Voodoo

May 28, 2013

Written by Jeffrey Lentz with contributions from Chuck Ham, John Risley, and Richard Colby.

In mid-July, the chassis and running gear of Saginaw Timber Company No. 2 was pulled from its outdoor work area to inside the engine house where it was spotted over the inspection pit. This was done to allow easier access for reassembly.

The running gear being towed to the engine house inspection pit. Richard Colby photo.

The running gear upon arriving in the engine house in mid-July. Richard Colby photo.

Over the inspection pit. Jeffrey Lentz photo.

The boiler sits outside the engine house, waiting to be reunited with the chassis. Richard Colby photo.

John Risley, a project volunteer reported in on July 24th:

Was down at MC the other day, just an update one what I saw and was told. Previous weekend some of the grease lines were greased and checked to make sure they were functioning as supposed too. Much of the brake rigging was hung with new pins and holes reworked, binders in place and tightened. These will have to be played with as locomotive rolls and shoes and wedges are adjusted. Thanks to Russ Brown for coming down and helping out in a big way and all the others who did as well.

Last weekend and during the week, Skip has been fitting the side rods on and that is a slow process due to having split bearings, you just don't slap them on like you would if it had solid bearings. Cotter pins installed on break rigging, Oil lines tested and hooked back up for the cellars under main driving boxes. Found one rotten hose that needs replacing. Pretty tedious and non-glamorous work but all things that have to be done. A whole lot of more tedious and non-glamorous work to do yet.

On July 29th, fellow project volunteer Chuck Ham added details on further progress made:

The crosshead guides were cleaned and polished so that the crossheads move very smoothly and easily. The side rods and main rods were installed and the locomotive was lubricated for the first time. Next is to install the valve eccentrics and straps. This will be a very important step as the valves must be set and the locomotive timed to establish the exact position of the eccentrics on the main driving axle. When that is done the main axle will be marked for cutting the keyways that will hold the eccentrics in position.

Eccentrics and eccentric straps while removed for adjustment. September 2, 2013. Jeffrey Lentz photo.

On August 13th, Chuck Ham provided another update on the progress being made on No. 2:

The No. 2's frame and running gear were moved outside again to make room for the diesels to get their regular 31- and 91- day FRA inspections. Jim Eng made a new split main brass for the fireman's side main rod and Skip was in the machine shop last week carefully doing the final fit-up before finishing installation of the rod. More initial lubrication and adjustment as well as cleaning and painting are being done while the frame is outside. Next up will be fitting the valve gear in preparation for cutting new keyways in the main axle to fix the eccentrics in the proper position.

The plan is to have all of the work under the locomotive completed by the end of August in preparation of reinstallation of the boiler when the cranes are on site for the 425 trucks and other scheduled lifts. Skip still needs help with the cleaning and painting as well as the installation of the heavy eccentrics and eccentric blades, part of the valve mechanism. He could also use help in adjusting the valve timing so that he can mark the main axle properly for the keyways.

Overview of eccentrics and connections. Jeffrey Lentz photo.

Detail of main driving axle. Jeffrey Lentz photo.


The following day, John Risley added:

We started the valve timing last week by establishing TDC (top dead center) and fitting the cams to the straps for initial assembly. As I am learning as we go, the final setting of valves and marking of axle for keyway slot will be down the road. It is not a onetime deal as things need to work in first. Since my last visit on Wednesday last week, Skip has installed the cams onto the axle and installed the eccentric straps.

John followed up on August 15th, sharing:

We did set the valve timing today on the #2, but it’s not permanent as we will have to do this again a few times as the new babbitt wears in on the eccentric straps and cams are once again moved to where they belong. After final adjustments to the cams and straps are made, then we can mark the axle for the keyway slots. One strap needs to be extended 0.25 [inch] and others may need tweaking (lengthening or shortening) as we get closer to marking the axle for machining. As the eccentric straps wear in shims will be removed or added as needed. When these settle in we can set valves a final time for marking the axle. There is some real voodoo involved in timing Stephenson Valve gear and this work is a first for me. After a 3 hour drive home and rehashing what we have done so far it is starting to make more sense to me, but I wouldn't want to try this on my own quite yet. If new Babbitt hadn't been poured and the existing bearings were still good enough to use, we would be much further along. But when you add a new axle, new eccentric/cam bearings and have to start from scratch this valve timing seems to take on a life of its own. The weather was nice and cool today so it was enjoyable working conditions.

I have met a few members who have helped out and Skip has mentioned a few others as well. He is grateful for any help offered. You will always walk away having learned something new and if you’re not careful one day you might learn how to time one of these things. It may not be rocket science, but they don't teach this stuff at too many places anymore, so come learn and have fun doing it. Regards, John.

During the second half of August, the work continued to revolve around setting the valve timing. In the world of railroading, one becomes accustomed to measuresments being large. Weight is conveyed in tons, distance in car lengths and volume is in thousands of gallons. However, when it comes to setting valve timing, steam engines are very precise in their demands. An August 28th, engine house visit found work being done to try to solve the problem of valve timing that was off by a mere 1/8th inch. This was causing the valve “event” to happen too early; adjustments to the eccentrics were needed. As of September 7th, the valve timing was finally considered done for the time being, although later adjustments may be necessary once the boiler (and its large amount of mass) is placed on the chassis.

With the valve timing taken care of for now, efforts have moved on to focused on the keyways. The keyways consist of a notch cut into the eccentrics and the axle. A key is then inserted, locking the two components together and providing the link between the Stephensen’s Valve Gear and the driving wheels.

Detail of the keyway. Jeffrey Lentz photo.

Finding a keyway cutter is proving to be a bit of a challenge. Although a keyway cutter has been found for rent, the price is steep it would need to be brought in from several states away. Efforts are ongoing to locate a suitable keyway cutter closer to home.

While waiting for resolution of the search for a keyway, other parts continue to be assembled. Chuck Ham added this bit of news from the shop on September 8th:

On a steam locomotive, the devil is in the details, and two details ended up costing another full day in the machine shop. Among the worn out parts found when the locomotive was disassembled was a very complex tapered wrist pin that connects the front side rod to the center front side rod on the engineer’s side.  The machinist took the old pin to use as a model in designing the new part.  The new 8 pound wrist pin and its nut were beautifully crafted, fit perfectly when the side rods were reassembled and looked exactly right.  But when the locomotive was moved back and forth to adjust the timing, this beautifully crafted pin turned out to be  ¼ inch too long, and its hand-made nut ¼ inch too thick and interfered with another part!  So, this part of the running gear had to be disassembled so the pin and its nut could be modified on the lathe.   

This weekend Skip finished timing the locomotive and marking the main axle for the keys to hold the eccentrics in exactly the right place.  But in the process of removing the eccentrics, blades and rods found that one set of three bolts that hold one of the eccentric rods to its eccentric blade were worn and were just a little too easy to remove from their holes.  These three bolts are specially made to fit in their holes perfectly and provide an exact alignment whenever the parts need to be disassembled.  So, today Skip was back in the machine shop reaming out the holes and hand making brand new bolts for the required perfect fit.  

Following the completion of the keyway, the chassis and running gear will be ready for the boiler to be mounted. This will require a crane to be brought in to lift the boiler. The goal has been to do this while a crane is already on site at Mid-Continent in September for other locomotive and rolling stock maintenance projects, but it is unclear if such a timeline will still be achievable. From there, work will commence on adjusting the driving gear for proper balance.

Skip Lichter can be found in the engine house working on No. 2 most days between the hours of 9:30 am to 5:00 pm.  Aside from the big-ticket items, lots of scraping and painting is necessary among other tasks, so there is work available for people of nearly any skill level.

View of running gear on August 28, 2013 from front end, engineer’s side. Jeffrey Lentz photo.

Side rod detail. August 28, 2013. Jeffrey Lentz photo.

View looking directly down at link and link blocks (left) and an axle (right).

Engineer's side driving wheels with rods connected. September 2, 2013. Jeffrey Lentz photo.

Completed Tender Tank Arrives

May 28, 2013

Yesterday we unveiled a photo showing the Saginaw Timber Company #2’s new tender tank and it has already received quite the response. In this steam status update, you will find additional photos of the tank’s construction, its delivery, and some new details on the locomotive’s restoration progress.

Back in autumn 2012, a contact out west came across design drawings for tender tanks. The find included the original design specifications for the type of tender used by the #2. This information was passed on to the locomotive’s private owner (the #2 has always just been operated under lease agreement at Mid-Continent). After visits to the Mt. Rainer Scenic Railroad in Washington state, home to sister locomotive #70, it became clear from their experience that the creation of a new tank was the way to go. A tour of Mt. Rainer revealed “stacks” of old tanks that had been replaced on that railroad with new, all-welded tender tanks.

With the original blue prints in hand, construction of a completely new tank became a much easier task. It also served to all but confirm that the tank on the #2’s tender throughout its time at Mid-Continent was indeed not the original. The existing tank is slightly narrower than the deck of tender, leaving the ends of the tender deck boards exposed for a few inches at the ends. The tank designs recently discovered call for a tank that exactly matches the width of the tender deck. Most likely, the original tender tank was removed many decades ago, but photographic evidence was never clear enough to discern when that may have occurred.

The fabrication of the new tank was given to Milwaukee Boiler, the same company that performed much of the work on the boiler several years ago. Once work began, fabrication took a mere six weeks. It also turns out it would be among the last projects completed by Milwaukee Boiler. The company, which has long been used by Mid-Continent for assistance with restoration projects and makes use of a facility every bit as historic as the locomotives they have helped restore, is closing its doors. However, some of the owners are hoping to reorganize with a new startup that will hopefully come to fruition.

The tender tank was delivered on Thursday, May 23, 2013. The tank, weighing in at nearly 11,000 lbs., exceeded the lifting capacity of any one crane or forklift available to Mid-Continent. With Mid-Continent’s heavy-duty Lull lift temporarily out of commission, unloading the heavy tank became an extra-large challenge.

Yet remaining on the tender tank is installing the water valves, toolboxes, oil bunker, etc., then mount it on the frame.

In other areas of restoration, the final set of drivers has still not been pressed on to the new axle. After months of delay by the contractor, a decision was made to have the work done elsewhere. The plan was to have Milwaukee Boiler take on the job, but they could not accept the job due to their pending closure. Instead, the wheels were shipped to North Freedom and the job will be done by volunteers at Mid-Continent.

To press the drivers on to the new axle, liquid nitrogen is going to be employed to shrink the metal enough to allow the axle to be pressed on. As of Memorial Day weekend, a custom made rigging is being set up to allow the action to happen quickly before the metal can begin to expand again.

Once the final driver set is completed, the wheels will finally be ready to roll under the frame. From there, lifting the boiler on to the frame can follow and the #2 will once again start looking like a locomotive.

Please note: the appearance of stripes on the tender is the result of the image scan quality and do not appear on the actual tender. All photos by Linda Rowe unless otherwise specified.


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