Monday, February 27, 2012

A Hurco SLV-40 arrives at the MCRR!

Hahaha...some of you are probably asking "what the **** is a  Hurco SLV-40?"

(A plea to the machinists of the world...please skip the next few paragraphs!)

For the rest of us...

The first thing you should know is that a vertical milling machine is sort of like a drill press -- which has the ability to move the spindle that holds the "tool bits" up and down -- while at the same time, moving the table which holds the chunk of steel being machined left, right, in, and out from the machine body. All of the movements can be done simultaneously and with precision measured in thousandths of an inch.

Where a drill press can drill holes, a vertical milling machine makes holes, slots, and grooves on flat, curved, and irregular surfaces by feeding the workpiece against a rotating tool bit containing a number of cutting edges. In other words, the milling machine can make any part needed to make any machine.   

The second thing you should know is that instead of an operator changing tool bits, moving the spindle up and down, and moving the table left, right, in, and out, a computer does the work based on a program written by the operator, hence the moniker "Computer Numerical Control" (CNC).

The third thing you should know is the CNC vertical milling machine can make unlimited identical parts, discrete parts, or one-off variations of a part ("Hey, I need the same part but can you move the groove 1 inch to the left, widen it a bit, and add a flange with three mounting holes on the right?") and have it done in a fraction of the time it would take a machinist to do it on a drill press, lathe, and grinder.  

The last thing is that Hurco Companies, Inc. of Indianapolis, IN, was founded in 1968. They have maintained the same mission since founding: providing innovative products, software and CNC controls to help customers maximize productivity through reduced setup time and multi-tasking on the shop floor.


Anderson Tooling's Jim R. and Justin R. are mechanical and electronic/automation experts.  They are in the process of training Shawn R. in the same field. Jim and Justin have been Midwest Central members for years, but just started volunteering around Ghost Train time last year....and yes, they are brothers! The three of them finalized the installation of the SLV-40 and the smaller BMC-20 this past weekend.

Jim R. performing some diagnostics at the Hurco BMC-20's control station. The BMC-20 arrived a few months ago and needed some additional tweaking. 

Shawn R (left) watches while Justin R. continues the checkout of the SLV-40. 

An unencumbered view of the SLV-40.


February, 2012 Work Weekend

We worked on a few projects...

1. The never-ending D-9! We decided to remove all the windows to replace the molding which holds them in place. Three justifications: there is a massive amount of surface rust under the molding which would have caused problems with the new paint; we would have to mask around the molding and glass; the molding had flaking yellow paint which looked like...

Elsie B. cuts the ledge off the inner molding which eventually allowed us to lift the glass out of the frame. 

2. There is always something to do on the 6. During the North Pole Express, we needed sand for the drivers but our source of silica sand wasn't open. We had to use ordinary construction sand, not perfect, but adequate for the task. Wayne P. removes the construction sand from the sand dome in preparation for silica sand.  

3. Our primary focus in the coming years is getting the 2 running under its own power. John G. sandblasts some parts for the 2. (Of course, there is no way to tell he is sandblasting anything, let alone parts for the 2. "Trust me...")

4. We eventually expect the Plymouth Diesel 14's radiator cores to be returned from the shop. The bolts holding them in were loaded with "gunk" so Elsie B. wire-wheeled them to perfection. Unfortunately, it was later decided that we should use new stainless steel bolts instead of the old ones. Sorry, Elsie!

5. Operators of the Plymouth Diesel 14 have been commenting on how long it takes to set the independent brakes. Roger R. performs a thorough inspection of the brakes and their linkage and made numerous adjustments to get them the way they should be.

You will notice the large drive chains connecting the gear box to the front and rear axles. 


January, 2012 Work Weekend

The curtains had the stuffings beat out of them during the North Pole Express. Fireman Elliot H. brought them home and added some reinforcements. The added material should allow them to withstand the constant snapping, unsnapping, pulling, pushing, flapping in the wind, and other forms of mistreatment.

After the reinforcements were added, he thought, "why not dress the side curtains up a notch?" Using the "railroad roman" typeface, a large "6" was printed and cut out of decorative material and sewed onto the side panels. The next few pictures show the numbers under construction and the reinforced panels hanging for their portraits.

The enhanced cab enclosure in place on the 6.

The two Plymouth diesels, the 14 and the D-9 were the center of attention for the January work weekend.

The D-9's torque converter had a leak which was repaired and then started leaking again! Nuts! The staff removed the t-c once more to replace the failed O-ring. This time, rather than removing the engine, it was left in place and the t-c winched out of the frame for repair.

Chris P. looks at a part from something. Perhaps the blogster needs to take better notes while taking pictures.

Randy V. and Nathan V. formulate their plan to remove the radiator cores from of the 14.

Roger R. continues his oil cooler repair project. The likely cause of the failed O-ring was overheating and the likely cause of the overheating was a plugged oil cooler. 

Back at the D-9, the windows were removed to give access to the rust that had built up on the cab. Besides removing the sliding side windows, the fixed-in-place rear and front windows were also removed. 

The 14's radiator cores awaiting transport to the fix-it shop.


December 2011 North Pole Express

Expecting it to be cold (isn't that a surprise for late November and December!) we decided to enclose the rear of the 6's cab. This was not a problem in past years because, with a few exceptions in 2010, the 6 never performed for North Pole Express. The 9's cab was nearly enclosed except for the entryway to the tender and that had a curtain.

On Thanksgiving Day, while everyone else was chomping on turkey, volunteer Elliot H. was converting some moving blankets into a cab enclosure. The 40 inch wide panels were perfect for the enclosure. One panel for each side and two across the back offered sufficient overlap.

Although there are no pictures to offer proof, on Thanksgiving Friday, Elsie B., Brian B., Jesse V. and Elliot H. finished the curtain project and readied the 6 for service. They filled the boiler at the special "water station" provided by the city of Mount Pleasant, performed (another) mid-season hydro test and then brought the boiler to pressure.

There was one day of  North Pole Express trains for the first weekend, Saturday, November 26. This was the first time we operated on Thanksgiving weekend and as expected, everything worked well.

Much like the inaugural weekend, the second weekend went without a hitch. The 6 pulled every train on schedule.

There were plenty of opportunities for student firemen and student engineers to get time operating the 6.

After 4 days of flawless operations we were lulled into complacency: what could possibly go wrong?

Well, it became cold.

The Thanksgiving weekend and first weekend of December were unseasonably warm. Having the cab curtains was still a necessity -- it wasn't that warm! -- but every day was above freezing, and on some days, well above freezing.

The cab crew lit the fire early on December 10, Saturday morning. Notice the snow? The temperature was hovering right around zero that morning. The snow was "crunchy."     

The fun thing about zero F was that the steam was really thick. Not any thicker than on any other day, but the extreme cold enhanced the appearance of the steam.

The cab crew gave a quick test of the boiler blowdown valve.  

The engineer slowly moves the 6 away from the shop. With the cylinder cocks open, the front of the 6 begins to disappear from sight.

We like to take a few laps to warm the steam cylinders. Here, the 6 running light climbs the hill into the north station.

With the cylinder cocks open and working hard, the 6 puts on quite a show.

So...what about the cold? While we were bringing the boiler to pressure and making the light laps, the fuel in the tender was getting colder and colder. With the engine idling or running light everything appeared normal -- and then we put cars on it.

It was noticed pulling up the hill with empties that there just wasn't enough fire to keep the pressure up. Then, 200 passengers boarded the train -- and we suspected there wouldn't be enough heat to pull it around the loop. That cold oil was cold THICK oil and simply wouldn't flow through the fuel line fast enough to provide the necessary fire.

While the first train's passengers were loading, another crew warmed the diesel Plymouth switcher, the 14, and met us along the east side of the park. We coupled up and let the 14 do most of the work. All we needed to do was run the air compressor for the train brakes but not much more.

While all of this was happening, we made a special order of diesel fuel to dilute the "tar" in the tender. As soon as we uncoupled from the first train, we moved the 6 to the yard to await the diesel shipment. We unloaded about half the thick oil in the tender and added 200 gallons of diesel fuel.

Unfortunately, we missed pulling the first train out of the south station and pulling the second train of the day. However, once the diesel was thoroughly mixed with the heavy oil, the 6 performed like it did on the warm days.

Following the six days of North Pole Express, Roger R, Steve R., Chris P., and Elliot H did the end of season boiler wash. The previous washes (after the Old Threshers' Reunion and Ghost Train) were quick boiler rinses. The end of season wash requires removal of all boiler plugs and check valves, removing all of the residual water from the steam lines, and an extensive washing of the boiler.

We accomplish the removal of residual water by pressurizing the boiler with the twin-screw gasoline air compressor. If you look closely, you can see the hose leading from the compressor to the rear of the cab.   

Steve R. holds the air hoses as Roger R. runs the engine back and forth to force the water out.

The mist coming from the right hand steam cylinder is being forced out by the compressed air flowing through the lines.

After going back and forth numerous times, it was almost time to move the engine into the shop to remove the boiler's plugs.

One of the plugs (actually, not a plug but a "hand hold") is located in the smoke box, which gets incredibly dirty after 6 days of operation. Using a pressure washer, Elliot H. washes the soot out of the smoke box so the hand hold can be a) located and b) removed.

Not shown was backing the locomotive into the shop with compressed air, or the removal of the plugs.

With the plugs out, it was now time to wash the boiler.

We moved the 6 to the "washing station" and started the most critical part of the entire project.We consider it the most critical because every last bit of "crud" must be removed from every nook and cranny inside the boiler.

Steve R. is suited up with rain gear (lots of water splashes back on the operator) and readies himself for the first phase. Chris P. untangles the water line.  

Roger R. guards the golf cart -- and stands watch for Steve's indication to "stop the water!" 

After washing the boiler (and with the pressure washer, washing the top of the tender and cab) we moved the 6 back into the shop to install several small blowers to help dry the boiler.