Early September 2019 Boiler Update

The busy bees at Continental Fabricators have been making excellent progress on C&NW #1385’s new boiler. By late August work on staybolt installation was wrapping up. The next few photos show that work taking place.

The first shot is looking from inside the firebox at the firedoor ring and we can see the finished welding.

In this second picture we’re looking toward the front of the firebox at the crownsheet and rear tubesheet. The small group of staybolts not yet welded in are the flexible stays and the larger holes in the firebox sheets will accept the arch tubes. The arch tubes have a dual purpose in that they will form a structure to hold the arch brick in the firebox. They will also promote much better water circulation around the firebox while the locomotive is in operation.

This third shot shows the outside of the staybolts yet to be finished and with the boiler rotated on its side. We’re looking at the top of the vessel in the center of the picture.

This fourth picture is looking down through the steam dome inside the boiler at the braces welded in place to support the rear tubesheet. Those braces were discussed in an earlier update and this is a look at the finished product.

With the structural welding completed, as people across the nation were getting ready to fire up their grills for Labor Day weekend cookouts, the folks at Continental Fabricators were preparing a roast of their own. C&NW 1385’s boiler was moved inside Continental’s enormous heat treating oven for its Post Weld Heat Treatment (or PWHT). This process helps to relieve stresses built up during the welding process. The following two photos were taken while the boiler was cooling off after completing the heat treatment.

Next up, the boiler will get sandblasted and painted. The interior will receive Apexior paint which will help protect the steel from corrosion as it boils the water for steam.

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.

“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.