SP&S 700 1472 day FRA-Mandated Boiler Inspection: The work ahead

on Saturday, March 5, 2016

In anticipation of the 1472 rebuild, the Pacific Railroad Preservation Association (PRPA), the 700’s support team of volunteers, recently began planning for this big project. In autumn of 2015, the scope of the project was carefully studied and a timeline was formulated. A project plan and accompanying budget was created, and was finalized and approved at the beginning of this year. A fundraising strategy was identified, and teams were put into place to finalize the rebuild plan, and to implement the fundraising. The rebuild effort is expected to take about 34 months from start to finish, with a target for completion of November 2019.

Photo by Mark Toal

There is much work to be done: the work consists of removing all of the jacketing and lagging, external piping, all cab fixtures (basically gutting the cab), cleaning out the smokebox and firebox, and then removing all superheaters, some tubes and all of the firebrick. Other pesky problems (such as minor leaks) and issues that have accumulated over the last 15 years also will be addressed in parallel to the main boiler effort, when possible. The sheet thicknesses of the boiler have to be measured with ultrasound equipment and a visual inspection of the boiler has to be done. We have to inspect everything that has been removed. And finally, the new and rebuilt components must be reinstalled and then tested.

Photo by Mark Toal

The good news is that we have already addressed just about all of our underneath the boiler issues during the last 10- year period. We rebuilt the front and trailing trucks, rebuilt the brake systems for the engine and tender, rebuilt the couplers, and repaired the lateral motion devices. The running gear will not be a focus of this rebuild, and in fact, in late 2014 when this work was completed, our assigned Amtrak inspector ok'd the 700 for service on Amtrak passenger trains. Also, it is important to note that the 700 went through a 15 year successful rebuild before, as noted earlier, in the year 2000!

So that leaves us with the last part of the equation: fundraising. The PRPA has launched the first of several fundraising campaigns for the 1472 day inspection, and the official kickoff occurred during the PRPA's annual meeting on January 23! The PRPA raises money for the benefit of the 700 separately from the Oregon Rail Heritage Foundation (ORHF), as do all of the other member engine groups and organizations for their equipment restorations, within ORHF. The fundraising activity is now highlighted on the PRPA website, and the Friends of the SP&S 700 Facebook page. The initial focus of the fundraising will be on one area: superheater tubes. We have to replace ALL of them. We made things simple by diagramming all of them on the superheater fundraising page. Donations are in the form of superheater sponsorships. It’s very easy: select the tube or tubes you want to sponsor, and then follow the instructions for completing your donation. Your name will be listed on the fundraising page next to the number of the tube you sponsored. The superheaters are the most expensive component of the rebuild, hence the need to make this the initial fundraising focus. Fundraising for other major items will occur later at various times.

The next blog entries in this series will be regular progress updates, and we will describe the activities taking place, thus bringing readers closer to the activities within the confines of the Oregon Rail Heritage Center! Our work officially began on February 13, and that’s when we started getting “organized” so that when we take things apart, we will know where everything is supposed to go and where to find the parts. During disassembly, everything has to be carefully documented and then stored (or discarded, if the item is planned to be replaced). Each items is safely stored at our facility for easy retrieval.

The work is now in full swing! The very first step of disassembly was the removal of the steam safety (pop-off) valves. The 700 has three of these, and they had to be removed and safely stored first. Second was the removal of the turret casing, steam dome cover and the throttle box cover. Some of this required extra lifting power with the help of a small crane (Carry-Deck) that resides at the Oregon Rail Heritage Center. Next came the removal of all of the jacketing, and the lagging (insulation) directly underneath. This is a very messy operation, and it is conducted mainly during non-opening hours at the Oregon Rail Heritage Center. The jacketing is bolted on in most places, but there are also pop rivets that secured mainly the jacketing at the bottom half of the boiler. The pop were drilled out, making this a very tedious task. We began at the top of the engine and worked our way down, removing the jacketing and lagging and cleaning up the surface of the engine as we went along. All of the jacketing and lagging is now removed, leaving the 700 in a "naked" state. We carefully mapped out the placement of the jacketing for future re-installation.

Photo by Mark Toal

The disassembly of the cab interior fixtures has now begun, and descaling of the boiler will next begin, so that the areas for ultrasound measurement can be mapped and marked, and measured. The surface rust isn't too bad this time around, so the effort to clean the surface should be relatively easy compared to 15 years ago!

Our current progress can be observed since the 700 is on display at the Oregon Rail Heritage Center, along with SP 4449 and OR&N 197. The Center is open to the general public on weekends (Thursday through Sunday) year round except for just a few holidays, from 1 pm to 5 pm and admission is free. If you happen to be in the area and want to see our progress and activities up close, come see us!

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