More on the 1385 Boiler Delivery and Subsequent Progress

It has been some time since our last C&NW 1385 status update. Upon delivery of the boiler, a few photos were posted with the promise of more to come, but as Mid-Continent entered our busy special event season the sharing of additional photos and videos got put off by more pressing projects. However, that doesn’t mean work halted on the 1385. Now that the busy 2019 season is behind us, we’ve had a chance to put together this mega-update for you.

Boiler Delivery

C&NW 1385’s boiler has represented the single most challenging part of the locomotives rebuild. Planning of the boiler was started early in the rebuild process and in-depth engineering work started in 2015. The construction contract was signed with Continental Fabricators in late 2016. Many design iterations went back and forth as the project volunteers, boiler engineer, and manufacturer exchanged ideas and tweaked components. Finally, by late September 2019 the boiler was ready to ship, arriving on September 26, 2019. The following photos explain the activities.

In addition to still photos, a series of GoPro cameras mounted on the locomotive, a tripod camera, and a drone were all on hand leaving no angle uncovered. The following photos and video are courtesy Jeffrey Lentz and Randy Long. Update text by Peet Deets and Jeffrey Lentz.

After departing the previous day from St. Louis and arriving at SPEC Machine in the middle of the night, 1385’s boiler is prepped for unloading. Although paling in size to some locomotives, the 1385 is hardly small – seen here dwarfing SPEC Machine’s forklift being used to unload spare boiler tubes from the trailer. As hinted at by the photo backgrounds, SPEC Machine is not normally a locomotive heavy repair shop and is actually located on a working farm.

1385’s running gear was pre-positioned outside on temporary track in order to receive the boiler.

LEFT: SPEC Machine owner, Steve R., talks unloading strategy with 1385 Task Force volunteer Pete D. (in hard hat). CENTER: Mid-Continent volunteer Ed R. gets ready to attach the crane’s lifting straps to the 1385 boiler. RIGHT: Brett M., the engineer of the new boiler, is on hand to help with the boiler lift and make sure everything goes smoothly.

The new boiler is gently lifted off the trailer as SPEC Machine’s Steve R. looks on.

In short order, the boiler has been positioned over the locomotive’s running gear and has started being lowered.

SPEC Machine’s Tyler R. keeps hold of a tether attached to the boiler. Wind speeds picked up as the lift was underway, causing the boiler to want to sway and swivel. The tether straps permit control over the lift without risk of getting fingers or hands pinched by the 41,000 lb boiler.

Despite the large size of the equipment involved, it is a game of fractions of an inch when it comes to placing all the pieces together. Here 1385 Task Force member Mike W. is seen taking a tape measure reading as they battle a bit of a breeze while trying to set the boiler on the exact spot needed.

LEFT: Some components couldn’t be fabricated until after the boiler was fitted and tolerances defined. In the meantime, timbers are used to support the boiler on the firebox end. CENTER: Ed R. verifies boiler placement against blueprints from the Chicago & North Western railroad. RIGHT: The increasing wind level made positioning the boiler on the exact centerline of the frame increasingly difficult. A speed square is pulled out to verify the accuracy of the last attempt.

1385’s boiler is Inside SPEC Machine’s shop, waiting on other parts of the locomotive to catch up before the cab can be installed. Since previous updates, the roof has been covered and rain gutters installed. Inside the cab the wiring for various electrical systems have been installed.

Boiler placement continues to be adjusted as friends and family members look on from inside the shop.

One of the boiler supports was discovered to be positioned slightly too high causing the boiler to sit unevenly. Adjustments are quickly made by Mike W. and Steve R.

With the ash pan and grates not yet installed, this view looking up into the firebox was possible, showing the arch tubes which help circulate water around the firebox walls.

After a bit of struggle fighting the wind, the crew was finally able to get the boiler placement just right and the crane was able to set it down.

Key members of the 1385 crew gather for a group photo to celebrate the completion of a major step in the 1385’s journey toward operation. From left to right, Tyler R., Pete D., Steve R., Mike W. Tim K., and Ed R.

After the boiler was placed and a lunch break enjoyed, a tractor was used to tow 1385 inside the shop bay where work will continue.

Progress Since the Boiler Delivery

In the time since the boiler was delivered work has continued on the hundreds of to-do list items that need to be checked off before the locomotive assembly can be completed. These tasks are less attention-getting than a new boiler, but no less important to the locomotive’s rebuild.

In November 2019, a MCRM members work session was held to help organize the thousands of parts and pieces associated with the locomotive. The palette racking set up during the Member’s work session is being put to good use. As seen here, the racking has tripled the amount of usable space for storage in that spot.

Progress has been made on items that will go both inside and outside the new boiler. Here is the air-operated firedoor that is the target of every fireman. The 1385 is a hand-fired coal-burning locomotive so every shovel full of coal passes through this door. The control valve, cylinder and piston have been rebuilt so the door was able to open itself for the first time in over 20 years.

SPEC Machine’s Steve R. is explaining the disassembly of one of the two steam-driven air compressors that supply air for the braking system and other appliances of the 1385.  Both compressors will be torn down for inspection and necessary repair.  After rebuilding they must be tested to Federal Railroad Administration specification in order to prove they can deliver enough compressed air for safe train operation.

Here is a shot of what is actually the bottom of the superheater header.  As you can see the years have not been kind to the header and some pieces have been broken out.  It was found that the header was weldable so the small blocks shown were welded in to replace that material that had been chipped out.  The area to be repaired must be pre-heated to several hundred degrees Fahrenheit and will be covered with insulation afterward so it will cool very slowly to prevent cracking. The second photo shows the bottom of the superheater header after the welded repair.  After a bit more cleanup the sockets seen in the surface will be cleaned up by machining so they will be ready to accept the superheater units and be clamped to a steam tight joint.

This is the throttle body that normally resides inside the steam dome and is used to control the amount of steam getting to the cylinders.  In the first photo it is upside down in the large milling machine so one of the surfaces that connects to the dry pipe can be cleaned up and made steam tight.  A leak at that end of the throttle body would allow a constant flow of steam into the cylinders that could not be controlled.

The second photo shows the throttle body as it will sit in the steam dome.  The throttle spool will fit down into the large opening and when the throttle is shut the top of the spool will rest on the upper edge of the opening where you can see the small beveled edge.  The bottom side of the spool will rest against a similar sealing edge inside the body to create the steam tight seal of a closed throttle.

The first photo above is of the throttle spool sitting upside down on the bench.  The shiny edge just inside the ring of the spool closest to the camera will contact the sealing surface inside the throttle body.  The shiny edge at the table will contact the surface at the top of the throttle body.

The second photo shows the sealing surface at the bottom-most end of the throttle body where the body will connect to the dry pipe.  This is the surface that was getting machined in the picture of the body in the milling machine.

This is the superheater header wrapped in insulation to allow it to slowly cool after the repair welding.  The superheater eventually will be installed inside the smokebox at the front of the boiler. The two large flanges seen in the photo connect to the branch pipes that carry the superheated steam down to the valves and cylinders which then turn the driving wheels.

This is the bracket mounted inside the steam dome at the top of the boiler that will hold the throttle body. The fire tubes and a couple of superheater flues are visible inside the boiler.

This is the throttle body (now attached to the bracket from the previous photo) and looking at the sealing surfaces for the spool.  The shaft of the throttle spool will drop down through the hole in the center of the body.

A different view of the throttle body mounted to the bracket and edge of the steam dome.  The front of the locomotive is to the right and the backhead, cab and crew would be to the left.  Differing from the old boiler, the new boiler has a removable steam dome and the dome ring has been pulled off to accommodate this fitting work.  When re-installed, the ring will extend well above the throttle so the dome lid can be properly installed.

Lastly, we have a before and after picture of the ball ends of the superheater units.  Before cleanup you can see how rough they became through use and storage.  The ends now have a freshly polished sealing surface.ange.

Thank you for your patience with our delays getting this update created. We’re looking forward to a productive 2020!

Please remember that while we appreciate the public’s enthusiasm to see 1385’s progress, the contractor shop where the 1385 work is taking place is a private business, not a museum. They are not open for public tours. Any persons without prior authorization showing up at their shop hoping to see the 1385 will be turned away. If you wish to partake in future 1385 volunteer work sessions, consider joining Mid-Continent as a member.

C&NW 1385’s Cab Rejoins Rest of Locomotive

The rebuilding of Chicago & North Western No. 1385’s cab is largely complete. Work was done in the shop of Loren Imhoff who volunteered his time and expertise to finish the job. The task required working closely with SPEC Machine in regards to fabrication of missing or broken hardware such as window slides and latches. 

On October 21st the cab was loaded on a trailer for transport from Cross Plains, Wis. to SPEC Machine’s facility in Middleton, Wis. where the frame and running gear of the locomotive are continuing to undergo restoration. The front of the cab rests overtop the boiler backhead which means it cannot be permanently mounted to the frame until the boiler is delivered and installed onto the locomotive frame.

Forklift carrying locomotive cab

C&NW 1385 cab departing for SPEC Machine. Photo courtesy SPEC Machine.

Cab on trailer for transport

C&NW 1385 cab departing for SPEC Machine. Photo courtesy SPEC Machine.

Cab on trailer for transport

C&NW 1385 cab departing for SPEC Machine. Photo courtesy SPEC Machine.

Lettering could only be completed on the fireman’s side due to shop space constraints in Imhoff’s shop. Lettering of the engineer’s side and application of the waterproof roofing material will be completed at SPEC Machine in the near future.

At SPEC Machine, work is currently spread across several tasks. With the recent placement of the front truck under the frame, efforts on the locomotive have now centered on the valve gear, cross heads and cross head slides.

Meanwhile, another important matter is also being attended to. SPEC Machine’s facility was never designed as a railroad backshop (and is located four miles from the nearest railroad line). With the planned delivery of the boiler in 2017 and the installation of the cab, the height of the locomotive will grow beyond the size of the overhead door in SPEC Machine’s shop (see photo). In a show of commitment to the project, SPEC Machine has initiated construction of an addition to their shop building with the new bay designed to meet the needs of the 1385 project. The new shop bay will provide adequate clearance for the assembled locomotive to be easily rolled in and out of their shop as needed during the delivery of the boiler and the locomotive’s ultimate departure to Mid-Continent Railway Museum.

Donations continue to be needed to keep the C&NW 1385 project rolling into the project’s latter stages. Please consider contributing by visiting our donation page.

C&NW 1385 Front Truck Complete, Cab Receiving Finishing Details

Work continues at a steady pace on Mid-Continent’s Chicago & North Western No. 1385 steam locomotive. SPEC Machine’s Steve Roudebush took some time out of his day on August 24, 2016 to show off the latest progress on the locomotive’s rebuild for this report.

The change most instantly noticeable upon walking into the shop was the shiny, like-new front truck sitting in the center of the shop floor. Like-new may not be a fully appropriate term, as considerable portions of the front truck are new. One wheel set had a goodly amount of life left in it and merely required machining to bring it into proper profile. The second wheelset had been worn quite thin and needed to be replaced with a brand new wheelset forged in Pennsylvania for the 1385. Binders, spring hangers and truck equalizers were also created new to replace heavily worn originals.

C&NW 1385 completed front truck

C&NW 1385 completed front truck

Additional work on the front truck included pouring Babbitt, lining the pedestals with bronze, and polishing pins and bushings. The front truck is fully complete and ready to be rolled under the locomotive, which is anticipated to happen sometime in September.

Above where the front truck will be rolled under, the pistons have been fully bored and the valve cages nearly completed. One of the valve cages that was found to have cracks is being replaced with a new one. The new valve cage is anticipated to be machined on SPEC’s CNC machine in the coming weeks. Work has also begun on the crosshead guides and valve gearing. After those tasks are complete, brake rigging and appliances will be next on the task list.

The two major components missing from the 1385 as it sits in the SPEC Machine shop is the cab and the boiler. To see the cab, we took a short drive to the shop of Loren Imhoff. Imhoff has graciously donated all his time spent working on the cab. Inside was a nearly complete cab. Already quite sharp looking with a bright green interior and a black exterior, another coat of paint will be added inside and out. The ceiling vent, which had proven to be a challenge due to limited available drawings, was complete and functioning. A few items remained to be completed: the ceiling needs a few boards painted and installed yet, the windows need a few hardware items remade to replace lost or broken originals, the seatboxes are not yet constructed, but all is expected to be completed by October and the cab brought to SPEC Machine so it can be made ready to mount to the frame and the roof weatherproofing material applied.

The other major component on which the 1385 Task Force has focused a great deal of attention on lately is the boiler. It has taken longer for the boiler to reach construction phase than was originally anticipated, but this was one area of the locomotive rebuild that was not to be rushed in any way. As the single most expensive component of the project, there is no room for error. Finally satisfied that the boiler design is ready for production, the 1385 Task Force has now begun gathering quotes for manufacturing of the new boiler. Once a vendor is selected and the order signed, production is expected to occur fairly quickly.

1385 Status Overview

Jeff Bloohm, President of Mid-Continent, has shared a brief overview of the Chicago & North Western No. 1385’s status.

Here is an update as to where the 1385 is towards completion:
Frame work including driving boxes save fitting the boiler mounts and furnace bearers, brake cylinders and valve gear pivot points is finished.

Work on the drivers is finished. Work on the rods save the wristpins into the crossheads is finished. The cylinders are finished. One valve cage is finished, the other about 40% done. Work on the drive wheel suspension is finished. The cab is 75% finished.

Work is now concentrating on the front truck and that is about 60% finished. The axles have been inspected and journals polished. The bad set of wheels has been pressed off and the new wheels are being machined. The wheels on the other axle are also being turned. The boiler design is within weeks of being ready for 3rd party review.

Work yet to be done:
Final teardown, cleaning, inspection and repair plan for the valve gear, pistons, valves, and brake rigging. All appliances still require inspection and repair planning. The superheater header, ash pan, and stack require close inspection and repair planning. The fountainhead and all valves need inspection/repair/replacement.

After delivery of the boiler, the jacketing will need repair/refitting/rework.

C&NW 1385: 106 Years Young

Today is the locomotive’s 106th birthday so we are celebrating with a restoration update!

The R-1’s tender tank is complete and ready for paint. The gallery below shows the construction of the new tender tank.

The frame is also done and is in primer paint. In mid-February 2013, Mid-Continent volunteer Jim Connor delivered the deck tender boards to DRM Industries.

One item of debate had been over whether to attempt to salvage the trucks. The trucks had largely sat idle with the tender since 1973 when the tender from steam pile driver X263579 was substituted for use with the 1385. Most people’s image of the appearance of the 1385 tender is actually the X263579. The old tender was stored at end of track for nearly 30 years at Quartzite Lake where it eventually became buried in mud and debris caused by flash flooding in 1993. The trucks remained largely buried until the tender’s rescue in April 2002 [see December 2011 issue of Mid-Continent Railway Gazette for the rescue story]. With guidance from Steve Sandberg, new project consultant, it was determined that seeking “new” used trucks during the current restoration was a better option.

Two used serviceable trucks were purchased in mid-February 2013. They had previously been used on a freight car. One truck had all four casting marks and the other had three. This tells us how many times the trucks have been rebuilt. When all four casting marks are removed, the truck is scrap. The wheels will be pressed off and new ones pressed on.

The draft gear resides inside the coupler assembly of the tender to help dissipate the shock of coupling into a string of cars or trying to start them. It also helps smooth out the forces through the coupler as when going down the track. In late 2012, Mid-Continent was seeking a replacement for the tender’s draft gear. As it would turn out, Miner, the manufacturer of the original draft gear used on the tender, was seeking old draft gears for their corporate museum. The draft gear found on the 1385’s tender was a model which they lacked in their collection. Discussions between the Steam Task Force and Miner led to a trade arrangement in which Miner supplied a more modern style draft gear in trade for the old one.

The plan is to finish the tender and move it to North Freedom for display. This will offer a visible sign of progress on the project. With most ongoing work either taking place off-site or being of the engineering and design variety, there has been little thus far for visitors to Mid-Continent to actually see.

As for non-tender developments, the Steam Task Force is continuing to work on boiler engineering with nothing specific to report at this time. Meanwhile, work on the cab has picked up. Boards have been milled for the cab roof. Investigations are also taking place into finding a suitable replacement for the original Lehon Mule Hide covering for the cab roof.

As for overall project status, there is still much work to do. The biggest cost area, the boiler, still lies before us. Work is also yet to begin on the running gear. Roughly 70% of the Wagner Foundation’s $250,000 challenge grant has now been met by matching donations since the challenge began in June 2011. Despite this progress, the project will still require roughly $1 million in additional donations in order to cover the estimated total cost for the project. That is why YOUR help is needed. The sooner we are able to meet this fundraising challenge, the sooner everyone will be able to enjoy seeing 1385 under steam. Anyone wishing to make a gift to the 1385 restoration can do so directly on our donation webpage or can find instructions there for how to mail your donation. Finally, THANK YOU to everyone who has already donated! We couldn’t have gotten this far without your help!