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.

“Drawing” Conclusions on C&NW 1385

On the afternoon of Friday, February 24, 2017, the C&NW 1385 Task Force received the latest packet of shop drawings for the new boiler from Continental Fabricators for Mid-Continent to markup and approve. The painstaking process was started the following day at SPEC Machine and great progress was made.

Boiler review meeting

A C&NW 1385 boiler review meeting is held on, Feb. 25, 2017. The locomotive’s running gear and cab are just visible in the far left background. Photo courtesy Pete Deets.

Previously, Brett Morley of Performance Engineering had completed a SolidWorks™ 3-D model derived from countless hours measurements of the original boiler by him and others on the 1385 team as well as a study of the Chicago & North Western’s drawings for the locomotive, obtained from Lake States Railway Historical Association. The model provides a 3-D representation to check, among other things, whether and how well all the parts will fit together. Files derived from the model were provided to Continental Fabricators who then created their own preliminary construction drawings that are now being sent back to us to proof, mark up and return. The packet received on February 24th is the latest iteration.

boiler drawings

CNW 1385 boiler drawings undergoing review. Feb. 25, 2017. Photo courtesy Pete Deets.

The 1385 team must examine every minutia of the shop drawings to prevent any mistakes. It is a very painstaking and tedious process but the manufacturer will build precisely what is on the paper and it is Mid-Continent’s responsibility to make sure what is there is what we want and need.  

A few of the many details being reviewed include:

  • Diameters and shapes of each course
  • Overall length of the boiler
  • Mud ring size, shape, placement, and material
  • Shapes and placements of clearance holes
  • Size & placement of washout plugs
  • Placements of the throttle/superheater header/branch pipes
  • Size and placement of the safety valve outlet and appliance manifold outlet
  • Placement and size of cutouts in the smokebox

Every dimension on every drawing is going to be checked. Every description of every weld called out will be cross checked. The material listed for each part will be checked. These things will each be cross referenced against the C&NW drawings, actual measurements of the old boiler, and the SolidWorks™ model.

CNW 1385 drawings on table

The CNW 1385 boiler review meeting team sets up shop at SPEC Machine. Feb. 25, 2017. Photo courtesy Pete Deets.

With a project this scope, any mistakes are forbiddingly expensive so the team is proceeding as swiftly as they can without rushing the job. As the first round of checking concluded on Saturday, a fair sized chunk of the job has been completed. So far the Task Force have been quite pleased with what has been supplied from Continental and when finished, all the corrections will be sent back to them. Once those corrections are applied, Continental will send another packet and the process will repeat until there are no more corrections. Despite the intense workload on the Mid-Continent volunteers and partner contractors, the project is staying quite close to the manufacturing timeline and we are getting ever closer to the actual build.

News Article: Big (and Expensive) Period for Steam Locomotive Begins

Wisconsin State Journal reporter Barry Adams dropped in for a visit to SPEC Machine late last week to see what was new on the Chicago & North Western No. 1385’s restoration since his last visit to see Mid-Continent’s flagship steam locomotive one year ago. You can read the full Wisconsin State Journal article and view the numerous photos at Madison.com.

A few highlights from the article:

  • Steel for the new boiler will be cut this week (February 20, 2017) at Continental Fabricators in St. Louis.
  • Additional steel will be cut and shipped to Tennessee Valley Railway Museum where the new firebox is to be crafted.
  • The firebox will be delivered to Continental Fabricators in St. Louis, Missouri, attached to the boiler, then shipped to SPEC Machine in Middleton, Wisconsin where it will join the running gear and cab for final assembly.
  • Arrival of the finished boiler is now expected for June 2017.
  • This is the most costly phase of the locomotive’s restoration. The new boiler and firebox will cost roughly $700,000. (Please consider visiting our donation page!)
  • SPEC Machine is building a 1,500 square foot expansion to their shop to facilitate final assembly of the 1385 on-site.
  • Other upcoming projects at SPEC Machine include refurbishing brakes, installing pistons, rehabbing the superheater header, refurbishing the sand dome, and the many other parts that are yet to be installed.
  • Mid-Continent’s goal is to have No. 1385 fully assembled and returned to the rails in 2018.

 

C&NW 1385’s Boiler Design Review Meeting Held

A design review meeting was held at Continental Fabricators in St Louis, Missouri on Tuesday January 24, 2017  Members of Mid Continent’s 1385 Task Force were in attendance as were Gary Bensman of Diversified Rail Services, Steve Roudebush from SPEC Machine, and Brett Morley of Performance Engineering. The meeting covered all of the details necessary to build the new boiler as well as provided a platform for everyone involved in the design process to review the fabrication plan with the team at Continental.  It was a very productive meeting with everyone having input into the planning of the new boiler and Continental coming away with some clear direction enabling them to proceed with the task at hand.

Action items to come out of this meeting include the development of Continental’s final production schedule. Fred Steinkuehler, Vice President of Plant Production at Continental is currently developing their schedule. He is basing the plan on Mid Continent’s detail drawings and expects to be finishing up within a few days. While the production department work out their timeline, the engineering department will continue the preparation of internal shop drawings. We expect Continental to be wrapping up their engineering phase over the course of the next few weeks.

With the boiler process well underway with Continental Fabricators, and the major parts of the running gear and cab near completion, the Task Force identified the many remaining accomplishments still needed. Completion times were assigned to each and a general schedule was outlined. It has been determined that, excluding any major unforeseen concerns, the 1385 can be returned to Mid-Continent next year (2018).  Timing can be determined more accurately as these projects move along.

 

CNW 1385 Boiler Drawing 3D View

CNW 1385 Boiler Drawing 3D View

At this juncture of the 1385 restoration, it was decided to forgo hosting an Open House this year. The many hours otherwise required by Mid-Continent volunteers and staff to organize and host the event will instead be spent toward expediting the completion of 1385. In place of the Open House, there will be additional volunteer work day opportunities during the year.

The Task Force is very enthused and motivated, and thanks everyone for their support.

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.