Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Tamping for a better ride

Many different disciplines are required to prepare for the Museum's operating season.  After a winter shutdown, there is a certain amount of work re-activating the locomotives and coaches, but the bigger effort is performing annual maintenance.  Maintaining track, bridges, and signals require significant resources to inspect, repair and maintain.  Statistically, most railroads each year will invest about 60% of their resources into those three areas.

For the Museum's track and bridges, the last 12 months have been busy.  Substantial reconstruction of bridge 35's east pier, installation of more than 750 ties (including 500 feet of reconstructed track at Snoqualmie Falls) and surfacing of more than a mile of track are among the year's highlights.

During the last few weeks, crews have been changing ties and surfacing track in North Bend.  Surfacing is a slow process that uses a ballast tamper, jacks, and a good set of eyes!  The tamper is a Jackson that was delivered to the Northern Pacific Railway in the 1950s.  Before track tampers were introduced, men with tamping bars performed this work.

Check out the dip in the track in the first photo below, and how Mark S. and Brandon P. made it disappear in the second.  Come up to Snoqualmie and ride the train this coming Saturday, April 4 and check it out for yourself!  First train departs Snoqualmie at 11:30 AM.


Saturday, March 28, 2015

A new roof every 100 years

New floor for the 276 installed in 1998
Coach 276 is unremarkable yet at the same time it is remarkable.  Built in 1915 by the Barney and Smith Car Company, it has carried hundreds of thousands of people, primarily between Spokane and Vancouver/Portland, but also to Seaside and Bend, Oregon. Among the first all-steel coaches,Spokane, Portland and Seattle Railway coach 276 remained in passenger train service until the beginning of Amtrak in 1971. Soon after, it was acquired by the Northwest Railway Museum and has been carrying passengers between Snoqualmie Falls and North Bend ever since.

Years of use has required past collections efforts including new upholstery and flooring.  Yet it was difficult to address roof rehabilitation before completion of the Conservation and Restoration Center. Now the Museum is able to apply roof panels "like it was a new car."

http://skilfab.com/SkilFab is a sheet metal company located in Snoqualmie and they have extensive tooling for the cutting, forming and shaping of sheet metal.  The 14 gauge panels from the 276 were an easy match for their modern equipment, though the shaping process was somewhat tedious. 

SkilFab workers form the
roof panel.  Watch the
attached video clip to
see how it works!
The original roof panels were (probably) made on a large press using a die, which was an uneconomical option for a single coach roof.  At SkilFab, a sheet metal brake fitted with a round die was used to "bump" the heavy sheets into the correct profile.  The profile was cut into a  piece of sheet metal that was used to check the profile throughout the manufacturing process.  Workers stopped after every few "bumps" to check and made corrections as needed.  Upon delivery to the Museum, the back sides of the panels were coated with zinc primer and the panels were test fitted. Once there was a good fit, each panel was fastened into position with cold rivets.

The first new roof panel is completed!
The first panel is test-fitted to allow
The new panels are very similar to the originals but there are some important differences.  First of all, the original roof used two separate pieces to clad between the bottom of the lower clerestory and the outer edge of the upper clerestory.  The new roof panels are a single piece and are modified from the original profile so that there is no flat area on the top of the lower roof for water to pool. They will also be attached to the car using a different system. The original roof panels used a standing seam.  The new panels will be plug welded and the seams will overlap.  This will be easier to install and there will no longer be a standing seam to leak.

Gary James is leading the project. 
Volunteer Arnie L. is playing a big
role too, as are other Museum
The Museum's Gary James has been leading the effort inside the Conservation and Restoration Center.  Gary is a shipwright and his skill set is perfect for the project. He has been performing much of the day-to-day work, and is providing direction for volunteers who have offered to participate. 

Before permanent installation began, the steel carlines were treated with rust converter, primed with zinc, and the ceiling cavity was insulated.  A new "Z" channel was installed on the top edge of the car side and is used to capture the bottom lip on the roof panel.  The installation is expected to take two weeks and will help prepare coach 276 for its second Century of service!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Tools that made tools

Consider this: every tool or machine was made by a tool or machine.  So there are factories full of tools and machines that do nothing but make tools or machines.  For the connoisseur of fine machines, the tool-making tool is highly sought because it is usually well maintained and precise.

Imagine the excitement in the Northwest Railway Museum's Conservation and Restoration Center when word arrived of an opportunity to tour the shop in Yakima where the Century lathe was built.  Now imagine the excitement when they learned it was possible to buy some of the machines to equip the Museum's collection care center. 

Store front for McIlvanie
Machine Works in
Yakima, WA.
Opened in 1922, the McIlvanie Machine Works made the famed Century Lathe at their facility in Yakima.  (The shop has a heritage rail connection too: it fronts the Selah branch of the Yakima Valley Transportation Company interurban line, a former Union Pacific property now owned by the City of Yakima and operated by the Yakima Valley Trolley.)  The last owner passed on and family heirs chose other career paths.  And certainly the machinery is out of date: there is not a computer anywhere to be seen.  These machines are old-school, relying entirely on the skill of the machinist, and exactly what a railway museum needs to maintain Century-old machinery!  So please enjoy a few photos of what has become a rare resource: a machine shop without CNC (Computer Numerically Controlled) capability.

A famed Century lathe, though this one probably never left
the factory. It is on the production line and was used to
produce parts for new Century lathes.
American Pacemaker lathe.

A McIlvanie drill press, probably the
prototype.  Note how it operates from a
driveline.  You changed speeds by
selecting a larger or smaller pulley
The pattern for the McIlvanie drill press.  This aluminum
pattern was pressed into casting sand.  Then the molten steel
was poured into the void that the pattern left behind. 

Overhead drivelines were located throughout the front shop.

The capstan on a turret lathe.  Different holes can be machined
into a piece mounted in the lathe chuck.  The turret or capstan
can be turned to each tool bit so it can be used over and over
again without having to remove and reinstall the bit.

The speed selectors on a Century lathe.

Thread cutting tool.

Radial arm drill press, and this one will
soon be inside the Museum's Conservation
and Restoration Center!