Monday, December 28, 2009

Boiler Washing! (2009 Edition, part II)

Unlike the first boiler washing event (see "Boiler Washing! (2009 Edition, part I)" ) where the weather was dry and relatively warm (around 45F), part II was cold and damp. The weather during the second North Pole Express weekend was uncomfortable -- below freezing, poor visibility, freezing rain or snow late at night -- and the day selected to deal with the 9 followed along.

The mess north of the shop was made worse from the dripping tender of the 9. The staff had moved the 9 about 500 feet north to drain the boiler and tender. The boiler drained completely while the tender took its sweet time, with a good portion of it flooding the snowed in area immediately outside the building.

Dustin B and Mike E replace a gasket in the "Chicago" air fittings.

The air hose was connected to a companion fitting next to the whistle. This connection allows the boiler to be pressurized. Once pressurized, the air compressor, turbine, injector lines, and steam cylinders can be "blown" dry.

Here, John G. wrestles with the air hose connections. The new gasket, while making a tight connection, made it a bit harder to snap the two pieces together.

While John is wrestling with the connection at the top of the boiler, Dustin B is wrestling with another connection at ground level.

The boiler is pressurized and the blow dry begins. Water vapor can be seen rushing from the various openings on the engine.

The next few pictures show the vapor coming from the fireman's side injector line check valve. The 9 has four injector check valves, two on the fireman's injector and two on the engineer's injector.

Now that a good portion of the water is out of the fireman's injector line, the locomotive's air compressor is started. The compressor tries to compress air into the 9's air brake system.

Mike E tinkers with the bleed valves on the steam driven compound air compressor.

After the stationary items are blown dry, the steam cylinders must be blown dry. The only way to dry the steam cylinders is to operate the locomotive, moving it back and forth as if it is actually under steam.

There are no still pictures of this adventure, instead, check here for a composite youtube video of the action. In the video, John G can be seen dancing with the air hoses to keep them from being entangled within the crankshaft, wheels, and axles of the 9.

After the steam cylinders were dried, the 9 was pushed into the shop for removal of the boiler plugs and the shield located in front of the flues in the locomotive's smoke box.

That done, the 9 was pulled out of the shop and placed where the high pressure washing could be performed.

The remaining pictures show the staff washing the various nooks and crannies inside the boiler.

The morning had been fairly warm (just above freezing) but it turned colder as the day wore on. By mid afternoon, the wind had picked up and the temperature dropped to the low 20's.

Dustin finally called the outside operation to a halt when the water was freezing as fast as it was applied to the skin of the 9. The last few corners of the boiler were cleaned after the 9 was pushed back into the shop.


Saturday, December 26, 2009

2009 NorthPoleExpress: 2nd Weekend

With the kinks worked out of the 9, all there was to do on the second North Pole Express weekend was to run the locomotive, with and without cars.

Unlike the first NPE weekend, this one was more wintry: it had snowed several times during the week. Saturday and Sunday's weather wasn't too good. There wasn't much additional snow or rain, but there were low clouds and poor visibility. All in all, it was more "North Pole" -like.

The days' schedules consisted of: fire-up; move some stray flat cars around, pull a passenger train, do some "hot laps," pull a passenger train, do some "hot laps," and so on until it was time to put the train away for the day.

The north depot was snow bound on Friday. With the help of the Case back hoe and some manual labor, the platform was cleaned enough for the riders. Besides cleaning the platforms on Friday, several volunteers had to cut through ice which had encrusted all the tracks and switches. The Plymouth diesel switcher (14) was quite handy in breaking through the ice.

(Many of the pictures following are courtesy John G. and Jennifer B.)

The firemen had a fire going by mid morning and had the boiler under pressure shortly thereafter. Once the boiler reaches about 60% of its maximum pressure, the appliances -- steam turbine and air compressor -- are started.

One of our brakemen, Steve R. wanted to get some time in as a fireman.

Shop supervisor Mike E. likes to fire the engines (as does many of the shop staff!).

The next few shots show the 9 and its train coming up the hill at the north end of the park pulling towards the north station for the first load of the day. Engineer Dustin B. gently brings the train to a halt in the precise spot.

Once loaded with passengers, the train continues along the park's east side.

Here is a youtube video of the 9 passing the south station.

Elliot H. gets to fire the boiler! Actually, it looks like he is holding the leather strap in place keeping it from floating away. There is no smoke in the picture so someone else must really be at the fireman's controls.

After the train and passengers have been in the south station (aka the "North Pole") for about 90 minutes, the 9 backs into the station, attaches to the train, and pulls it back to the north depot where another load of riders await their turn.

This scene is taken inside the "North Pole" as the train passes through but before stopping to discharge the passengers.

Mike E. gets a turn at the throttle...

...while Elliot H. fires the boiler.

Fireman Abe C. gets his turn at the throttle.

Elliot H. gets HIS turn at the throttle...and nothing broke.

Pulling passenger cars out of the "North Pole."