Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Weyerhaeuser Timber locomotive 1 rehabilitation

Weyerhaeuser is perhaps the best-known forest products company in the Northwest and has a long and colorful association with railroads. It was formed in 1900 shortly after Fredrick Weyerhaeuser purchased nearly 1 million acres of forestland from the Great Northern Railway’s James J. Hill (athough technically Northern Pacific Railway land). By 1903, Weyerhaeuser had over 1.5 million acres of land and would soon become a dominant industry force.

In the coming decades Weyerhaeuser got involved in many of the most successful forest product operations in the Northwest including the Snoqualmie Falls Lumber Company and the White River Lumber Company, two of the most significant forest industry operations in King County.

White River Lumber was based at Enumclaw, Washington until its operations wound down in the early 21st Century. In its earlier years, logging was conducted by rail. A series of railroad spurs was built into the woods and radiated from Enumclaw. Steam locomotives dominated these lines until the summer of 1951 when a brand new locomotive arrived – a Fairbanks Morse H12-44 diesel electric locomotive. This modern locomotive was designed around the famous FM opposed-piston D38 1/8 marine diesel engine. This workhorse was well-built by standards of the day but its unusual diesel engine design was poorly understood by the railroad industry and did not become widely popular.

White River’s Fairbanks Morse locomotive carried the number 1 and for nearly three years operated on the logging railroads radiating from Enumclaw. (For a period of time, it also operated with White River caboose 001, also in the Museum’s collection.) However by 1954, logging operations had transitioned to trucks and the locomotive 1 was relegated to the short branch line connecting the mill with railroad interchanges on the Northern Pacific Railway and the Milwaukee Road. Later, it was transferred to Weyerhaeuser’s operation at Vail, and still later was sold for use as an industry switcher.

Locomotive 1 was acquired by the Northwest Railway Museum in the 1980s. It is complete and has remained in service for nearly 60 years. It saw a number of repairs and minor modifications but remains largely “original.” Notwithstanding, 59 years of service exacts a toll and locomotive 1 was in need of attention.

Beginning in November 2009, locomotive 1 has been undergoing a major rehabilitation in preparation for exhibition in the new Train Shed exhibit building and to allow its continued use on the interpretive railway. Work has included electric traction motor cleaning and brush replacement (see 18 November 2009 blog post), replacement of the piston rings in the upper pistons (to be detailed in an upcoming blog post), steel carbody repairs, and extensive preparation for repainting. Aided by a grant from the National Railway Historical Society (“NRHS”) the work has been performed in the Conservation and Restoration Center by a combination of volunteers and contractors. The project is expected to wrap up later in 2010 and is valued at nearly $25,000.

Carbody: Fairbanks Morse built a very robust carbody but steel plus water still equals rust. So badly deteriorated steel sheeting along the side of the battery boxes was cut out and replaced. A plasma cutter was used to remove the rusted panels and a Metal Inert Gas (“MIG”) electric welder was used to replace them with new. Meanwhile, a metal skirting – part of the Raymond Lowey-designed streamlining – was cleaned and primed for reattachment. New metal studs were cut and welded to the side of the locomotive and the skirting was in turn welded to the studs. Several broken and cracked welds found elsewhere on the carbody were also repaired.

Paint preparation: At some point in the locomotive’s past, two incompatible paints were applied. As a consequence, at 59 years of age, paint was peeling off in large sheets. Unfortunately, the only effective way to address coating failure is to remove the failed coatings. Abrasive blasting is often used to remove old paint from steel but it can be very hard on old locomotives. Grit can get into bearings and the force of the blasting can damage the steel panels. So the Museum used a more labor intensive but less damaging method called needle scaling. A needle scaler has a set of metal pins that are fired at paint or rust and the concussion causes the foreign material to break off and separate from the steel. A common application has also been to remove scale from the inside of a boiler. After the majority of the paint and rust has been removed in this manner, a sander is used for final surface preparation. Then it is primed with a polyurethane primer.

After the entire locomotive is prepared, it will be painted with a high gloss industrial polyurethane coating. It will be placed on exhibit in the new Train Shed exhibit building in 2011.

1 comment:

Frederick said...

I have more than a few photos of this locomotive which I have taken while it was "resting" in Snoqualmie. While the "aging" of the locomotive did add a certain "charm", it's great to know that the locomotive is receiving such thorough maintenance such that it may be enjoyed for future generations!