Thursday, July 20, 2017

Keeping cool

The Museum's primary locomotives are Baldwin-built RS4-TC switchers built for the Army Transportation Corp and the Air Force in 1953.  Their original cooling systems consisted of a large radiator cooled with a fan driven directly from the prime mover, a V12 Caterpillar D197. In the early 1950s this was a typical design used by nearly all locomotive manufacturers.

Beginning two years ago, following a problem with the mechanical drives, the cooling systems were altered with the addition of six electrically-driven fans.  The mechanical fan drive was disconnected from the prime mover and abandoned in place.  

The electric fans were in theory a brilliant solution to an expensive problem.  And they are of high quality intended for use in Kenworth and other large trucks. (Kenworth trucks are built by PACCAR who until 1983 produced legions of freight cars and cabooses.)  However, after two years, shop forces discovered the fans are susceptible to water running down the drive shaft and corroding the electric motor bearings.  When used as originally intended, the fans are not directly exposed to rain because they are located under a hood.  So a modification has been implemented that flips the fan upside down, reverses the motors, and mounts the fan blades upside down.  So far, the system is performing well, but a fall and winter will be required to fully test the alteration.

This is another example of the many small behind-the-scenes projects that keeps the Northwest Railway Museum railway operating.  Consider taking the grand tour on the first Saturday of August to learn more about the workings in the Conservation and Restoration Center!

Friday, July 14, 2017

Thomas we love you . . .

 The Northwest Railway Museum's annual Day Out With Thomas 2017 is underway!  Thomas the Tank Engine is visiting the Museum this week and next, and more than 16,000 people will see the Really Useful Engine as he pulls the Museum's train to Snoqualmie Falls. Tickets are available at TicketWeb!  Check out some scenes from the first day, and as always click on the image to enlarge:

The train passes Puget Sound Energy's Hydro plant museum.
Brian Vogan and his Good Buddies!
Visitors arriving at Day Out With Thomas.
Ready, set, go!
Locomotive 4024

Thomas the Tank Engine

Will call tickets
Engine drivers

Thomas the Tank Engine in depot square park

Motor car rides


Eric Ode

Train tables


Thomas the Tank Engine arrives at the Snoqualmie Falls depot

Thursday, July 13, 2017

A moment of inattention

The Northwest Railway Museum operates a railroad with 13 public railroad crossings.  Some crossings see just a few hundred cars per day while others see thousands, which includes trucks and buses too.

As any driver can attest, just a moment of inattention while driving can have disastrous results.  Issues can be exacerbated at points of restriction such as bridges and railroad crossings. And so that was the result when a tractor-trailer combination from a local construction company was turning from SR 202 onto the Snoqualmie Parkway. It ended up mounting the center median just in advance of the Snoqualmie Parkway railroad crossing, and with disastrous results..

Two crossing signal masts and the accompanying signs and signals were instantly transformed into scrap metal.  The precipitous fall of the signal masts damaged a car traveling in the opposite direction, but there were no personal injuries.  One of two foundations was partially uprooted, and that metal fabrication was damaged beyond repair.

Crossing signals are regulated by the Federal government. Imperfect or otherwise non functional components can render the signals unusable, which means a flag person(s) has to protect the crossing .  To allow regular operation as soon as possible, temporary signals were assembled using spare parts from prior incidents.  Mismatched lights and cracked castings are common reasons for replacement, but for a short term application, they can and do meet regulatory requirements.  Thanks to Jon Beveridge for his many hours of extraordinary effort to get these lights in service just one week after the incident.

Incredibly, Siemens (successor to Safetran Systems) was able to generate a proposal and begin construction of replacement signals in just a few days. Thanks to David and Jeff at Siemens for making that happen!  The replacement signals were completed and shipped to Snoqualmie on a expedited basis, and arrived just one month after the accident. Normally, signals equipment might have a production date four months or more after receipt of order.

June and July are exceptionally busy months for the Northwest Railway Museum.  So the Museum looked to local electrical contractors MT Electric and Chapman Electric to perform the installation. Work included a new foundation, assembly of lights, erection of poles, and testing.  The entire installation took two days and proceeded without incident; great work was performed by Tom Judge and CJ Chapman.

Crossing signals are important safety devices and a timely repair is critical to maintaining a safe operation.  With everything back together, a responsible party paying for repairs, the Museum is all set for another visit from Thomas the Tank Engine, who will be operating over this railroad crossing during Day Out With Thomas.


Friday, July 7, 2017

Steel chemistry

Rehabilitation of former the Northern Pacific Railway steam locomotive 924 has been underway in the Conservation and Restoration Center for the past year and a half. One of the remaining boiler vessel requirements is completing the package of documentation used to obtain regulatory approval. And one of the remaining details is confirming the chemical composition of the boiler plate, which is a factor used in determining the pressure vessel's maximum operating pressure.

The preliminary calculations used data from the manufacturer's marketing literature.  This is useful for a theoretical exercise, but unreliable for the final document because every batch of steel is different. Furthermore, steel used for patches and other repairs conducted over the last 118 years may greatly differ from what the locomotive was constructed with in 1899. So 23 test sites were identified and prepared with a flapper wheel to remove all paint, rust and other contaminants.

The Mistras Group was engaged to test each of the plates used in the boiler. In all, 23 individual plates were identified and received an arc-flash optical emission spectrometer test. Carbon is one of the components that the Museum is concerned about and this method is an efficient way to determine if the sample is OK, or if further investigation is required. Rogers Locomotive Works claimed that their boiler plate was manufactured with not more than .18% carbon content. More carbon means stronger plates, but it also makes them brittle and prone to cracking, particularly if welded.   

The Mistras technician Haley Lowe conducted optical emissions spectroscopy using a Metorex Arc-Met 930 Metals Analyzer.  The portable device (or at least when compared to the small refrigerator-sized mass spectrometer) was introduced more than 25 years ago and is popular in laboratories and foundries where chemical analysis of metals is required.

The device creates a high voltage electric arc on the surface of the metal.  The device analyzes the light created by the arc and produces a print out indicating material composition by percent. The report includes sulfur, silicone, and carbon, but also other common components including chromium, manganese, copper, tungsten, and phosphorus.

The testing provided lots of good news and reason for optimism, but also revealed three plates that will have to receive further testing, and in the absence of better news may have to be replaced due to abnormally high carbon content. Two sheets are in the firebox and are most likely replacements installed after the locomotive was built.  The third sheet appears to be a patch that will most likely have to be replaced.  Is this bad news?  Not really.  The locomotive is 118 years old and defects were expected.  And it may be good news because these potential issues have been discovered before the locomotive was reassembled!

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Oh Canada!

In honor of Washington State's neighbor nation's 150th Anniversary of Confederation, Spike is pleased to highlight a little-known object in the Northwest Railway Museum's large object collection: former Canadian Pacific Railway officials car 25 (1918 - 1964), nee "Saskatchewan" (1918 - 1928), nee "Earnscliffe" (1881 - 1890), nee "Chapleau" (1881 - 1890).

The 25 was purportedly built as a coach in 1879 by the Gilbert, Bush and Company of Troy, New York for the Quebec, Montreal, Ottawa and Occidental Railway ("QMO&O").  It had an eventful history in the fast-expanding railway empires of the new Canadian Nation, and is an excellent example of late 19th Century wooden car construction. It experienced several ownership changes, and at least two reconstructions before May 1890 when it entered service as private car Earnscliffe.  

Earnscliffe was assigned for the use of dignitaries including Canada's first Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald, who would have used this car whenever traveling by rail, up until his death in June 1891. Macdonald would almost certainly have traveled in this car during the spirited election of 1891 when the wedge issue was reciprocity (free trade) with the United States. By the way, he handily won using a rather remarkable slogan: "The Old Flag, The Old Policy, The Old Leader."  So free trade would have to wait for another 100 years.

Railroad cars usually have a much longer shelf life than elected officials, so Earnscliffe continued as a private car.  Which brings us to the famous photo accompanying today's post: On May 17, 1894 dignitaries including Canadian Pacific Railway President William Cornelius Van Horne (in the center gazing to his left) posed with private car Earnscliffe on the occasion of the dedication of Stoney Creek Bridge in Rogers Pass, British Columbia. 

Mr. Van Horne was an American railroad man from Illinois who on the recommendation of James Jerome Hill (himself a successful railway man born near Toronto) was hired to complete the Canadian Pacific Railway, and he succeeded beyond nearly all expectations. Meanwhile, James J. Hill went on to complete construction of the Great Northern Railway with its terminus at Puget Sound here in Washington State, and a less than cordial relationship developed between the two men. And the resulting legacy of economic aggression unleashed along the Washington - British Columbia border is an important interpretive theme the Northwest Railway Museum looks forward to sharing with future visitors.

Happy 150th Birthday, Canada!