New Axle Lubrication System Takes Shape

Work continues at SPEC Machine in Middleton which includes creating a new lubrication system for the main axle journals on our engine. The Chicago & North Western’s drawings give specifications for either using oil or hard grease on the axles and as the 1385 came to us the engine used hard grease.  As the serious running gear work was begun, the decision was made to convert the journals to oil lubrication.  The largest change necessary was to design and build oil cellars to replace the grease cellars that had been used previously.

The first picture shows old and new side by side.  The next picture shows the simple box the grease cellar is.  It is shaped to hug the axle to keep big chunks of ballast out and the holes in the bottom are there to allow the indicator chains to hang down to give the servicing crew an idea of how much grease was left in the cellar.  While it works well in this service it won’t hold much oil for very long.  To use oil you need a sealed box to hold some extra oil to constantly feed the lubricating pad that will be pressing up on the journal.

Shown below on the bottom of the oil cellar from left to right are a drain plug, the water drain/oil fill port and the plug for the oil level standpipe.  The eight small holes are there for the mounting bolts that will attach the mounting lugs to the bottom of the cellar.

The next shot shows the cellar in place below the axle and in the bottom of the driving box.

The next picture shows how “form-fitting” the cellar is in following the shape of the axle.


With the end cover removed you can see the oil level standpipe standing up into the oil space.  Once we receive the custom made pads from Armstrong they will also tell us where the oil level should be kept while the engine is in service.  Knowing that we will cut off the standpipe to the proper level to indicate when the cellar is full.

The C&NW’s history of frugality earned it the nickname the “Cheap & Nothing Wasted.” It is easy to see how that nickname came about when you see things such as the engine number 135 stamped on the right-hand jaw of the driving box next to the machined surface.  On the other jaw is stamped 1385. The photo above is repeated below with the stamped text enlarged for easier viewing. Even years ago the railroads practiced recycling and “repurposed” useful parts to keep the R-1 fleet running.

As a reminder, SPEC Machine is a private facility and the 1385 is not accessible to the public nor open for tours. We are looking forward to showing off the 1385 to everyone upon its return to Mid-Continent Railway Museum.

Early August 2019 Boiler Progress

August has arrived and with it is a new update on 1385’s boiler as it progresses toward becoming a finished vessel.

The fire door ring has been fitted to the firebox and backhead sheets and will be welded in place.  The firemans’ shovel will pass through this opening many, many times feeding the fire that will keep 1385 running.

fire door

Looking at the other end of the firebox we can see where the rear tubesheet braces will be installed.  Those are the wider-spaced holes below the field of closely spaced 2” tube holes.  The braces are necessary because the holes in the tubesheet are above the top of the throat sheet so the braces are welded to the inside of the belly of the boiler.  The braces are shaped like an elongated and squished “Z” so they can enter the hole in the tubesheet at a right angle and also lay flat on the boiler shell belly as they are welded in place.

The shot of the top of the boiler shows that just a ‘few’ stays need finish welding.  You can also see that the steam dome base has been finished. The holes that do not have stays inserted are going to be some of the flexible stays and are awaiting the installation of the sleeves on the outside of the shell before the bolt itself can be applied and welded in place.

We do not have an anticipated return-to-service date for the 1385 but every weld is one step closer. Stay tuned to this webpage or our official Facebook and Instagram pages to keep up with most up-to-date information on 1385’s progress.

We appreciate the public’s enthusiasm to see the 1385’s progress first-hand; however, the contractor shops where the #1385 work is taking place are not open to the public. Anyone showing up at our contractor’s locations requesting to see the locomotive will be turned away. Please help #1385 return to operation as expeditiously as possible by respecting our contractors’ wishes.

Late July 2019 Boiler Progress

Welding and patience continues at Continental Fabricating as more stays are completed on the R-1 boiler.  No, the pictures are not upside down, that is merely the positioner at work to allow the greatest productivity and weld quality possible.  The steel forging which makes the base of the steam dome has been tack welded in place and you can see the welder’s feet as he makes the root and fill-in welding passes while he’s standing on the floor.

The other parts of the steam dome are being fitted together and the welding has been partially completed and soon will be done.  For the new boiler we have adopted a more European approach by having a removable steam dome.  This will make maintenance and inspection tasks much easier in the years to come.

Photos are courtesy of Continental Fabricators.

Early July 2019 Boiler Progress

Progress continues with the welding of staybolts at Continental Fabricating. The boiler is now mounted to the positioner and like a huge rotisserie it can be rotated to allow the welders to work from the best possible position and comfortable welders make for better welds.

In these pictures, the boiler’s fireman (left) side is down to allow for work on the top of the wrapper sheet without having to set up scaffolding or work from a ladder. This minimizes or eliminates fall hazards. From the firebox side this will allow work to continue without welding overhead so the workers aren’t standing under a shower of sparks as they weld.

The below photo inside the boiler is a unique perspective that won’t be available much longer. The steam dome has not yet been welded in place so this allowed Continental Fabricator’s Tom G. to position the camera right in the top of the boiler shell where we can see the water side of the crownsheet and the rows of staybolts that tie the crownsheet and wrapper sheet together. We can also see the rows of staybolts yet to come, many of which will be flexible stays.

C&NW #1385 boiler as of July 8, 2019. Photo courtesy Continental Fabricators.

Mid-June 2019 Boiler Progress

Chicago & North Western #1385’s boiler continues to see steady progress. Since the last update, the boiler has been moved across the Continental Fabricators shop floor and is now on the positioner.  With the boiler now on the positioner, it can be rotated to allow workers to put it into the best position for welding and assembly in areas that would otherwise be difficult to access.

C&NW #1385’s boiler on the positioner at Continental Fabricators. The positioner allows the boiler to be rotated. June 11, 2019. Photo courtesy Continental Fabricators.

Installation of the crown stays is also in process. Crown stays are the staybolts that connect the wrapper sheets – which wrap around the firebox – to the crown sheet (i.e. the top of the firebox). The crown sheet is directly above the fire and is the hottest part of the firebox.

crown sheet diagram

The crown stays (shown in green) support the crown sheet at the top of the firebox, preventing it from bowing inward from the immense pressures.