Tuesday, August 18, 2020

924 takes the main

In celebration of a social-distant, Snoqualmie Railroad Days lite, the Northwest Railway Museum was pleased to introduce to the community newly certified steam locomotive 924, an 1899 Roger's built 0-6-0 that served the Northern Pacific Railway in Washington until 1923, and continued in service for the Inland Empire Paper Company until donated to the Museum in 1969.

NPR 924 arrives at Snoqualmie on Aug 15, 2020

The open cab helped the crew tolerate temperatures in the 90s.

Northern Pacific Railway 0-6-0 924 has been undergoing rehabilitation and restoration for more than five years, and on Saturday, August 15, 2020, it finally had an opportunity to "strut its stuff" on the main track.  The operation was technically just a testing day, and was planned to check out - or prove - all the work that had been performed up until that time.  The 924 was accompanied by a combine car with several observers, and diesel-electric locomotive 4024 to provide a light braking load as desired, and to allow for safe backup movements.  And the day was a spectacular success: the only issues evident were already known to the 924's team.  

The 924 is temporarily sporting an open cab while plumbing is continuing to be adjusted.

How remarkable was Saturday's run?  The last time the 924 propelled itself up a main track Jimmy Carter was President, Amtrak was still introducing the original Superliners, and EMD/GMD's model SD40-2 locomotive was enjoying peak production. That was in 1979 when the 924 was on loan to the Chehalis-Centralia Railroad, and the 924 steamed its way down to the Burlington Northern mainline to greet British Columbia's Royal Hudson 2860 as it passed by on a tourism promotion tour.

Good lubrication, and appropriate procedures to apply it are essential on a steam locomotive of this vintage.  All the bearing surfaces are "plain" and if they run dry of oil, they will be quickly consumed.

The day was also an opportunity to continue the training process for crew members new to steam. The 924 has been set up to burn solid fuel, and there is a little more planning required before moving the locomotive.  Planning?  Solid fuel takes time to ignite so the fireman has to ensure the fire is already hot and the boiler is producing more steam before the engineer cracks open the throttle.  Otherwise, the locomotive will quite literally run out of steam.

Beginning this month, the 924 is now sporting its circa 1906 cab side lettering.

The original plan for Snoqualmie Railroad Days 2020 was to mark substantial completion of the 924 with steam powered excursions to commemorate the Suffrage Specials.  Two of those trains visited Washington State in the years leading up to the ratification of the 19th Amendment that gave women the vote on August 18, 1920.  Unfortunately, the Covid 19 crisis allowed only social distant viewing of the 924; other elements of Snoqualmie Railroad Days were hosted on the web.

What's next?  The 924 will be getting some plumbing and running gear adjustments.  The tender will be painted.  The sand dome will be reinstalled.  And the volunteer crews will be practicing their wood chopping and chucking skills.

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