Lots and Lots of Staybolts

A brief update to yesterday’s discussion on staybolts:

SPEC has received the stock to be used for C&NW No. 1385’s rigid staybolts and is cutting it to the length, engraving the heat number and drilling the tell-tale holes per Continental Fabricator’s specifications. There will be over 1000 new rigid staybolts created in all, cut to five different lengths as required by 1385’s boiler.

Staybolts Help 1385’s Boiler Keep in Shape

The Flannery Bolt Company is long gone but their products live on as their staybolt and staybolt accessories are reproduced today for projects like the Mid-Continent’s Chicago & North Western No. 1385.  In the steam era staybolt production and replacement were a regular occurrence and such parts were readily available in large quantities. Even in 2018 there are at least two shops readily producing them as a specialty item, but for the 1385 project Mid-Continent has opted to keep it local, producing them in-house at SPEC Machine where the bulk of the locomotive’s overhaul and assembly is taking place.

1385 project volunteer Pete Deets explains, “We decided to have Steve Roudebush [owner of SPEC Machine] make them as the best way to control the cost and delivery schedule.” He adds, “The bolts to go with the sleeves and caps are on the way… there are 72 flexible staybolts on the 1385 but there are also a few hundred rigid stays that will go into the boiler.”

diagram of boiler showing staybolts

The majority of the boiler is cylindrical, a naturally strong shape, but there are also some flat and irregular surfaces within the boiler too, especially around the firebox. With the intense pressures up to 250 psi inside 1385’s boiler, these surfaces would weaken, bow, and eventually fail without staybolts to support them.

The flexability afforded by a flexible staybolt is critical to maintaining the boiler’s strength while still allowing for the expansion and contraction that occurs as temperatures change from one extreme to another within the boiler.  Deets explains:

A flexible staybolt has a ball shape on one end and is threaded on the other.  The ball end fits into and will be held by the cup shape of the inside of the sleeve.  The sleeve will be welded on the outside or wrapper sheet of the boiler above the firebox. The bolt is then dropped into the sleeve and the threaded end is screwed into a threaded hole in the firebox.  The bolt is hammered or “upset” to cause it to swell into the threads and form a steam tight seal and a copper gasket is applied with the cap to seal the sleeve end.  The ball end of the bolt can actually swivel in the cup shape of the cap and it allows the firebox to move in relation to the wrapper sheet of the boiler as the engine goes down the road.  [Locomotive designers] found that allowing that slight bit of movement was better overall for the boiler than trying to hold every bit very stiff and rigid. If things were too rigid the boiler would break the staybolts anyway.  It was also noted there were fairly specific areas of a boiler that were prone to breaking stays so the Railroad Master Mechanics Committee came out with recommended patterns of placement for the flexi’s to alleviate or at least minimize the breakage.

The photos of the staybolt caps reveal a series of numbers stamped on each one. The number represents the part’s “heat number.”  That is a jargon from the steel industry as they refer to every batch of iron or steel (or any metal) that comes out of a furnace as a “heat.”

Deets elaborates on the importance of heat numbers:

That number is vital because every piece of metal that goes into the pressure retaining portion of the boiler must meet very specific requirements of physical strength, mechanical properties and chemical properties and we have to be able to prove the materials we use meet those specs.  Every batch of steel made is tested for chemistry and physical properties and is assigned a unique number.  The records of those batches made for specific applications such as boiler plate follow the steel through the finishing process of the mill and each piece is marked with the heat number and other information.  Those records are the certification that this particular batch or heat number meets this specific set of requirements and we must get a copy of and keep on file the material certifications or “certs” for short.  That heat number represents the “pedigree” of each of those parts.

The below YouTube video produced by Wasatch Railroad Contractors while working on a different locomotive restoration provides a good illustration and explanation of how flexible staybolts work.

Last but not least, SPEC Machine has also been busy finishing up more work on 1385’s brake equipment. Brand new brake heads were cast last summer (see post from Sept. 1, 2017) and are now being machined in preparation for installation.

break head machining

One of the newly cast brake heads is machined to specification. Each brake head supports one of 1385’s brake shoes.

Ever since the C&NW No. 1385 restoration was resumed in 2011 work has progressed steadily thanks in large part the financial support of the 1385 project’s enthusiastic followers. That financial backing has allowed hired professional machinists to work on the project 5-days-a-week and allowed progress to occur exponentially faster than could be accomplished by volunteers alone.

As we head in the home stretch we’re asking for your continued support so that the 1385 restoration can continue moving forward without delay. Please consider donating today by visiting our Donation Page and specifying in the donation form that you want your contribution to support C&NW No. 1385. Donating is easy thanks to our online donation form which accepts all major credit cards and Paypal, or you can use our printable donation form to send with your mailed contribution. Thank you for helping us get this far!

1385’s Boiler Assembly Underway

The assembly of C&NW 1385’s boiler began in earnest late last week at Continental Fabricators in St. Louis. Here are the latest photos from the shop floor, courtesy of Gary Bensman.

 

First Look: 1385 Boiler Courses to Begin Assembly

The first images are now available from the Continental Fabricators factory floor in St. Louis showing Chicago & North Western No. 1385‘s new boiler courses waiting to be assembled.

The pics are courtesy of Gary Bensman who is working at Continental Fabricators on another project at the moment. Continental reports they are moving the courses onto the set-up table this week.

 

Construction of the new boiler is anticipated to be completed in late March or early April 2018. The boiler will then be shipped to SPEC Machine in Middleton, Wis. where it will join the running gear and cab so final assembly of C&NW 1385 can begin. After reassembly is completed (estimated late 2018), the locomotive will be shipped via heavy-haul truck to Mid-Continent Railway Museum where its already-rebuilt tender awaits its arrival.

Upon its return home, 1385 won’t be quite ready to begin pulling passengers trains immediately. It will first need to go through a period of break-in runs and adjustments as well as undergo Federal Railroad Administration inspections before it is cleared to enter revenue service.

Running Gear, Shop Prepares to Receive Boiler

Specs and drawings are finished for the boiler and all current drawings have been released to Continental Fabricators in St. Louis, the manufacturer of Chicago & North Western #1385’s new boiler. Continental spent late November and December working on the firebox. The stay bolt layout is in full swing with cutting and fitting the sheets taking place in December.

Stay bolt sleeves and washout components are currently in process at SPEC Machine. Stay bolt lengths have been compiled so that work can begin on machining these components in preparation of the firebox assembly.

There will be an amount of trial and error with the sizing and tolerancing of some of the components. The welding process that each will endure during fitting to the boiler has the potential to distort the parts significantly. SPEC Machine is building some sample parts to try to simulate the installation process. These samples will better estimate how much distortion to expect so the appropriate adjustments can be made. This will require some extra work but will minimize the potential for these parts to cause issue on on the actual boiler.

The latest engineering work has been centered on the the steam dome. Designs are currently being reviewed by Continental Fabricators with an emphasis on compliance with American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) code.

Continental Fabricators is currently set to begin production of the bulk of the boiler in early-to-mid January. Once production ramps up, things should move quickly with the new boiler anticipated to be completed in late March or April 2018.

Upon completion of the boiler, it will be shipped to SPEC Machine in Middleton, Wis. where it will be set onto the running gear. In the intervening three to four months, the 1385 Task Force and SPEC Machine personnel are doing their best to have the balance of the locomotive ready. The goal is to for the most part complete the repair phase on the rest of the locomotive so by the time the boiler arrives, efforts can be entirely focused on reassembly. The plan calls for having as many parts as possible finished being machined or cast so workers can simply grab an item from the shelf, attach it to the locomotive and move on to the next item. Areas that are going to be seeing attention in the coming weeks include items like grates, grate bearers, brackets, water glasses, throttle linkages, lubricators, journal pads, oil celler liners, and many other small but crucial parts.

Part of preparing the locomotive for the boiler’s arrival involved moving it into SPEC Machine’s new shop bay. The preexisting shop did not have adequate clearance for the 1385 in a fully assembled state so an expansion of the shop was required with a larger door and higher ceiling clearance. That construction project was completed in late fall 2017.

With the new shop bay ready, the next step was to move the 1385’s running gear to its new berth. What sounds like a relatively small task was anything but. Even without the tender, boiler, or cab to worry about, the locomotive’s running gear alone still weighs approximately 90,000 lbs. The first task was to construct temporary panel track into the new shop bay. Volunteers gathered at SPEC Machine on November 11th to construct 60 feet of new track.

MCRM volunteers Ed Ripp and Dick Gruber, both of whom’s careers are in the Wisconsin & Southern Railroad’s maintenance-of-way department, led the effort. The other volunteers, all of whom were new to track work, were ready and eager to be imparted with knowledge. Lessons included using the proper tools for the job and how to work smarter, not harder. Each person got a chance to try all the various tasks. Nancy Kaney, one of the first-time gandy dancers commented, “It was a great learning experience. Dick and Ed were really good teachers.”

With the panel track prepared, the next step was to move the partially reconstructed locomotive into the new shop bay, a distance of only about 30 feet. This took place December 18th. Volunteers began arriving around 5 a.m. to lubricate and tow the locomotive out the shop door. A crew from Ideal Crane Rental arrived at 7 a.m. and began setting up the crane and adding the necessary 100,000 lbs. of counterweights.

MCRM volunteer Ed Ripp looks on as the crew from Ideal Cranes readies for the lift.

By 9 a.m. a small crowd of 20 or so volunteers, family, friends, and well-wishers had gathered to watch the process. The first lift attempt occurred shortly after 9:30 a.m. but was was halted so that a few small brake components could be removed to avoid taking damage from the lifting cables. A few minutes later they were ready to try again but had to stop when the the fireman side of the locomotive was raising slightly faster than the engineer’s side. After a few minutes of adjusting the cable lengths, the crane operator tried once more, this time gracefully hoisting the roughly 90,000 lbs. and four years worth of hard work off the ground.

While the locomotive was suspended in the air, ground crews slowly spun the the locomotive’s running gear 180 degrees. Completing this maneuver now will simplify steam-up tests later this year by making it so the locomotive will only need to be pulled forward by 20 feet or less to have the smokestack clear of the building.

Mike Wahl, 1385 Project Manager (Left), and Steve Roudebush, owner of SPEC Machine (right) check the locomotive’s alignment before it begins its decent down to the rails.

With seeming ease, the crane operator lined the locomotive directly over the track and gently lowered it onto its own wheels once again – the whole operation taking only a couple minutes once the wheels were off the ground.

With the locomotive back on the rails, volunteers and crane crew went about removing the cables and attaching a custom made drawbar to allow a tractor to tow the locomotive inside its new berth. With the job complete, the crew disassembled the temporary panel track and headed into the shop for a chili lunch and to make plans for the next work session.