(Note: pictures of the 2009 OTR can be found on the MCRR's website starting here!)
With Sunday morning being the only one slightly poor weather day, our Midwest Central Railroad had record and near- record crowds for the entire 2009 Old Threshers' Reunion.
The locomotives and cars behaved "well." The volunteers, ranging from ticket sellers, conductors, and brakemen to engineers and firemen, insured once again that riders were satisfied and that the trains ran "on time."
The Henschel, 16, our hard fuel locomotive, played a different role at this year's Reunion. Usually fired up at past Reunions but having no place to go, the 16 was designated a "primary" engine to replace the "some assembly required" 6.
During the off season, the 16 absorbed many hours of shop staff work. Matt rebuilt a more powerful steam-electric generator which was installed by others in the shop; Griffin, Dustin, Jesse, and Abe fabricated an cab operated boiler blow-down valve (and "how sweet it is!"); Mike E and Elliot (hey, that's me) fabricated and installed an air compressor inlet filter and a post air compressor dirt/moisture trap. John W, Steve, and Dillon did lots of cosmetic cleanup all over the locomotive.
The first fire-up brought a "fix me now" item to light. After a few hours of operation, a water leak appeared near the top-front of the 16's belly tank. No mere coincidence, in the same area of the leak, the front suspension attach point appeared to be pulling out of the chassis. Removing the belly tank's inspection panel revealed what was going on: the attach point was torn away from the belly tank's front baffle causing a) the leak and b) the bulge at the tank's top.
The shop staff (Dick D, Paul K, Roger, Dave O and a few others) cut a large square hole in the top of the water tank to gain access to the problem area. After lots of grinding, sanding, and shaping, they fabricated a new suspension attach point and resealed the tank by late evening.
The 16 exhibited one other unfriendly trait. After a while, it became difficult to maintain steam pressure due to a "lazy' fire (hahahaha...perhaps it was due to a "lazy fireman!"). In every case, the culprit was traced to a plugged blower ring making it impossible to increase pressure while at a stop. While many questions persist about the type and quality of the hard fuel, we have high confidence the problem has been resolved! As for the lazy fireman, well, tune in tomorrow for the next edition of "The Heat of the Night."
For the record, each time the 16's fire problem cried out for attention, the diesel switcher, the 14, proudly took the 16's place at the front of the train. Some people wonder why running the 14 requires an fireman. While the engine is self heating, watching for people along the engine's left side is something the switcher cannot perform by itself. The two man cab crew is an added layer of safety.
The 9 performed flawlessly. As written in past blog postings and MCRR "Orderboard" articles, during the off season the staff performed hours of maintenance on the steam cylinders and drive train. Much like driving the family car -- turn the key and warm the engine -- the 9 simply pulled its train with nothing further to be written. Why can't they all be this way?