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.

 

Hot Flanging a New Door Sheet

Early February Mid-Continent members Jason Sobczynski, Dave Wantz, Bob Ristow, Don Angles and Jim Connor traveled to Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum in Chattanooga. At the TVRM shops, they assisted Gary Bensman in flanging a new door sheet for the WC&C #1 fire box.

Pictures show the McCabe Flanger is use and hot flanging (heat and beat) operation.

The heat and beat operation was a very intense 45 minutes from starting to heat (two rose bud torches) to completion.

The metal is heated to bright red, almost white. One person guides the flatter and one person administers hard blows to the flatter with a sledge hammer for 30 to 40 seconds. Metal is heated again and the pounding continues.

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Riveting Work Weekend

Work this weekend included installing 8 rivets in the WC&C #1 fire box patch. Friday afternoon and Saturday morning was spent in preparation. A backer plate was fabricated. Then a test plate with 4 holes was formed and used to determine the rivet length needed. All the tools were lined up and test hole riveted. Testing went perfect and all 8 rivets in the patch were installed in an hour and 15 minutes.

Rivet crew of five; Bob Ristow, Pete Deets, Roger Hugg, Ed Ripp and
Jim Connor.

Pictures show Pete Deets welding on the backer plate. Pete and Bob Ristow reaming rivet holes. Ed Ripp running the rivet gun. Completed patch with 8 rivets installed. The patch will be welded in place in the near future. Also a picture of Bob’s progress on the boiler check valves.

–Jim Connor

Lund Machine and Tool Works on Firebox Replacement Pieces

Some progress finally to report. Jim Connor took some photos and hopefully will forward them to you. Lund Machine and Tool arrived Monday after noon. Work started immediately on the firebox replacement pieces. The old sheet pieces were removed in the area of the new rear tube sheet, a 1/2″ thick plate with the keyhole shape was fitted into place. The engineers rear corner patch was fabbed and is ready for 9 rivets. The front tube sheet was removed.

The swing links for the front truck have new bushings installed and work continues on disassembling and inspection.

–Bob Ristow

Photos by Jim Connor.

C&NW 1385 Steam Status

C&NW #1385’s initial restoration efforts were documented within the pages of the Mid-Continent Railway Gazette and Mid-Continent’s The Steamer! newsletter and were not documented online. The following is an overview of #1385’s status written for the website as of June 29, 2006.


The image most people have of Mid-Continent involves the Chicago & North Western #1385 under steam, pulling either the Prosperity Special or the Circus Train or one of our own special excursions like Snow TrainTM or the Santa ExpressTM. The power of this image is so strong that museum guests still come here expecting to see the R-1 sitting in front of the depot, ready to make the day’s runs, even though she has been out of service since June of 1998.

We knew several years ago that her time was limited and began a fund raising campaign in 1996 entitled “Help Steam Live.” The campaign goal was a mere $250,000, when we thought the needed repairs would simply be tube and flue replacement plus patching the interior side-sheets of the firebox. But once the work commenced, the extent of the firebox damage from over eighty years of service became apparent. The result of a visual inspection by the State’s boiler inspector was the condemnation of the firebox.

While Mid-Continent’s volunteer shop crews wrestled with the decisions on how to proceed with the repair work, Federal guidelines for steam boiler operation changed, mandating even further major repairs. The museum engaged Steam Services of America in 2001 to perform a complete inspection of the boiler in light of these new requirements. The result was a significant expansion of the repair plan to encompass a major overhaul of the entire boiler. And the new price tag approached $750,000, well beyond the money raised by the “Help Steam Live” campaign. The R-1 was parked in favor of repairing less costly locomotives.

Still the museum was holding a significant amount of money restricted for the purpose of restoring this specific locomotive to operating condition. So in 2004 an agreement was entered with Deltak Construction Services of Plymouth, MN for the manufacture of a completely new boiler using all-welded construction techniques. The cost of $415,000 proved to be significantly lower than the cost of repairing the old boiler. And the long-term maintenance cost would also be less, insuring the R-1’s ability to operate far into the future.

Phase 1 of this program is now complete with Deltak delivering the engineering study and approved boiler drawings to the museum. Phase 2 will be the purchase of the needed materials. And Phase 3 will involve the boiler’s actual construction at Deltak’s shop, concluding with a successful hydro test.

When finished, the C&NW #1385 will be the most expensive of the three steam locomotives currently under repair. And that is why she is at the end of the list in terms of priority. But no concept of a steam program at Mid-Continent has ever been considered that would exclude the R-1 from being returned to operating condition. She is the gem of the steam locomotive collection.

View a history of C&NW #1385 here.