Friday, July 6, 2012

June15-16-17 Firemen's School

The graduates (and their instructors) of the 2012 MCRR Firemen's School:

As advertised on the WWW.MCRR.ORG's website, we completed a Firemen's School during the weekend before the NRHS event.

There were some changes from what was planned for the school. (The main MCRR website has the original announcement for those interested in the class outline, located in the "Recent News" section.)

The departure from the original plan was the engine's annual hydro test.Originally envisioned for the class to perform, it made more sense to do the hydro test -- where anything and everything can go wrong -- the week before. As described in the June, 2012, work weekend blog entry, some things did go wrong and the annual test wasn't completed until Friday, June 15th, just hours before the class was to begin.

Friday night's class consisted of boiler basics and an introduction to the proposed MCRR operating rules.

We started Saturday with more classroom instruction, specifically geared to boiler operation and lubrication.

Classroom work complete, we divided the class into two groups. One group went to the shop to gets hands-on experience with the 6 while the other group stayed at the South Station for train operation instruction.

Even though this was a "Firemen's School," our cab crew routinely work as brakemen making up the train and performing other switching tasks. Two instructors worked with half of the class to give the students experience with coupling, uncoupling, and moving the train to build the consist for the NRHS event.

This wasn't show and tell; each student had to get "in there" to work the couplers, hook up air brake lines and give signals to the switch engine's engineer to move the cars back and forth. Watching is one thing; actually doing is another! 

The other half of the class worked at the shop to ready the 6 for use.

One of the many chores for the first use of the engine each year is repacking the waste cellars on the three driving axles and the pilot axle. The students did the 4 cellars on the fireman's side of the engine, leaving the other 4 for the other half of the class.

While repacking was taking place, each student had their own "Engine 6 Fire-Up" sheet and worked item by item through the steps required by the MCRR to start the locomotive.

After the underside work was complete and everyone was able to check off the pre-fire items, the engine was pulled out of the shop and the fire was lit -- 6 times!

Just like the operations group, this was not show and tell. Every student was able to light the fire. After the 6th student lit the fire, instead of extinguishing the fire for the next student, the fire was left on and the boiler was on its way to operating pressure.

Once the boiler reached a few pounds of steam pressure, each student performed the "cross over" procedure, where the engine is weaned from the gasoline air compressor to steam pressure. Yes, cross over can be done with 3 pounds of steam pressure; ask any of the students!

We had planned to bring the boiler to full pressure, start the appliances and take the engine for a few laps. Mother Nature had different ideas. A massive rain storm came in and convinced us to put the fire out and go inside. It rained so hard that a) the waste cellars on the fireman's side which had been repacked and oiled were each loaded with several cups of water and b) the MCRR parking lot was full of water. Had it not been for the threshold into the shop, the water would have been flowing inside via the east entrance.

We pushed the locomotive inside the shop after the rain had stopped.

Knowing that the engineer's side waste cellars had to be repacked on Sunday morning, we took advantage of the evening to do those cellars and cut a few hours off the the time-to-fire on Sunday. Two of the Saturday  morning waste cellar "experts" instructed their fellow students who had been working as brakemen in the fine art of cellar repacking.

Sunday morning started with a short classroom session to refresh the brakemen's hand signals and then, as with Saturday, the class was split in half. Those working with the 6 on Saturday did brakemen duties while the Saturday brakemen did engine duties.

With the cars in order and the boiler on its way to pressure, we towed the engine to the watering station and then on to the fueling station. Every student was able to work the special fire hydrant water meter valve and attempt to wrangle the filling hose in the 6's tender. A similar procedure took place at the fueling point; everyone was able to attach and detach the supply line and manipulate the pump.

While fueling and watering the tender, the appliances were started and tested as appropriate.

Finally -- the locomotive was a operating pressure, the tender was filled so the next phase of the class was actually firing the boiler while an engineer moved the 6 to the South Station to fetch its cars, do the air brake test, and run the train around the track 11 times -- once for each student.

After the operations portion of the class complete, the students went back to the classroom for the written test.

Each student was awarded a "Certificate of Completion" and received two and half days of instruction that met their (and the MCRR's) expectations.

Congratulations once again to this year's graduates.