"Goldilocks" Time Frame for a Steam Restoration?

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"Goldilocks" Time Frame for a Steam Restoration?
Posted by xboxtravis7992 on Saturday, April 07, 2018 12:12 PM

I tried asking this before, but I posted it into the wrong sub-forum here; but, do you guys think there is a "Goldilocks" schedule for steam restoration or steam rebuild? By that I mean, an average amount of time in which a restoration or a rebuild can be undertaken; at which the highest likelihood of successful returning an engine to operation can be achieved. You know, a "not to long, not to short, but just right lenght of time" type of situation.

In contrast, is there a time frame where there becomes a high likelyhood of "never going to see it finished" can be determined with an engine? How long can a rebuild or restoration languish until somebody pulls the plug and cancels it completely? Or how long can a group just keep working on an engine at such a slow pace that the project dies? Can a new group return working on a previous project that was abandoned by a prior group and have success?

Lastly, does social media and transperency help or harm these restoration projects in terms of generating public support? For example, does a railroad with monthly updates on its rebuild/restoration work have a better chance at generating public intrest in the finished job than one which doesn't regularly report on the restoration status? Should secrecy be maintained on restoration progress to protect the buisness of a tourist railroad and its employees privacy?

I know that steam rebuilds/restorations can be a hot button topic in the community sometimes; but I figure its nesscary to ask these questions since it seems to many projects languish in 'rebuild-hell' for far to long. My quick example of this is the G&W 75 15 year FRA rebuild which has been ongoing for... over 15 years now...  I just want to see if there is a sort of accepted "standard" length of time these projects are supposed to go on; and if deviation from that timeframe causes harm to the possibility of completing the project.

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Posted by Firelock76 on Saturday, April 07, 2018 12:29 PM

Not claiming to be an expert on this by any means, but I can pass along what I've read over the years.

Biggest problem?  No suprise here, money.  Lyn Moedinger of the Strasburg RR said it best, "It's always going to cost more than you think it will.  I've never been right on an estimate yet,"  which the folks at the Western Maryland found out to their horror when they started the restoration of C&O 1309.  Without deep-pocket corporate sponsorship, think the Union Pacific's restoration of the Big Boy, it's an uphill slog with fundraising.  It seems the restoration of a steam locomotive for mainline operation can run anywhere from (depending on it's condition) $750,000 to $2,000,000.

Also, the massive infrastructure to rebuild steam just doesn't exist anymore.  Look at any vintage films of steam backshops, that's all gone now, with few exceptions.

And replacement parts.  The bins at those backshops filled with parts ready to use are all gone as well.  New parts can be fabricated, but again, that costs money.

Look at it this way, 70 years ago the Union Pacific could have accomplished the tear-down and re-build of the Big Boy in about a month's time, if that long.  Can't be done nowadays, for all the aforementioned reasons.

Secrecy?  Well, that's really a judgement call.  If you announce you're restoring a famous (fill in the blank) there's always the possibility you're going to be pestered by foamers asking "when-when-when" which I'm sure can be a major headache.  Sometimes it's best to do the restoration on the "QT" and spring it as a surprise, which some organizations have done.  Thinking of "foamers,"  for years the Reading and Northern, who own Reading 2102, was asked "When is it going to be returned to service?"  The answer always was "No plans to do so at this time,"  but I always had a suspicion that really wasn't the case, the R&N folks from Andy Muller on down love that engine.  Easier to say "no plans" than to come up with an statement of "when"  and then be bothered by constant inquirys.

I'll have to give Mr. Moedinger the last word on this, he's the maestro.

"Spend the money, do it right the first time.  Don't restore it for some one to be running ten years from now, do it so they'll be running it fifty years from now."

Time frames?  It takes as long as it takes.

One other thing.  If you're restoring a locomotive for mainline use you'd better be sure you've got a friendly mainline to run it on.  It makes no sense to spend $2,000,000 on a major restoration just to have it "putt-putt" around a museum track at ten miles an hour.  You can restore an 0-4-0 or 0-6-0 or 2-6-0 that will do the job just as well for a fraction of the cost.

Just my opinion anyway.

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Posted by nhrand on Saturday, April 07, 2018 12:29 PM

This is a very good question and I hope there are some good answers  -- I certainly don't have an answer.  The restoration of the Boston & Maine 4-6-2 at Steamtown is a perfect example of one lanquishing for decades and I think longer than the G&W 75.  Obviously money is the major need for any restoration but why was the restoration of Norfolk & Western 611 accomplished so quickly when other good candidates for restoration went nowhere ?   I hope someone familiar with successful vs. unsuccessful restorations can provide some thoughts.

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Posted by zugmann on Saturday, April 07, 2018 12:49 PM

nhrand
Obviously money is the major need for any restoration but why was the restoration of Norfolk & Western 611 accomplished so quickly when other good candidates for restoration went nowhere ? I hope someone familiar with successful vs. unsuccessful restorations can provide some thoughts.

Stuff like this helped:

http://www.nscorp.com/content/nscorp/en/news/norfolk-southernsupportsrestorationofhistoriclocomotivethroughsa.html

 

PS. Amazing how much can change in three years.

 The opinions expressed here represent my own and not those of my employer or any other railroad, company, or person.

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Posted by xboxtravis7992 on Saturday, April 07, 2018 12:56 PM

zugmann
 
nhrand
Obviously money is the major need for any restoration but why was the restoration of Norfolk & Western 611 accomplished so quickly when other good candidates for restoration went nowhere ? I hope someone familiar with successful vs. unsuccessful restorations can provide some thoughts.

 

Stuff like this helped:

http://www.nscorp.com/content/nscorp/en/news/norfolk-southernsupportsrestorationofhistoriclocomotivethroughsa.html

 

PS. Amazing how much can change in three years.

 

 

I had no idea they sold a painting to finance the resoration Surprise. I was out of the country at the time, so I missed a lot of the progress and news regarding the restoration of 611.

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Posted by samfp1943 on Saturday, April 07, 2018 1:40 PM

xboxtravis7992

 

 
zugmann
 
nhrand
Obviously money is the major need for any restoration but why was the restoration of Norfolk & Western 611 accomplished so quickly when other good candidates for restoration went nowhere ? I hope someone familiar with successful vs. unsuccessful restorations can provide some thoughts.

 

Stuff like this helped:

http://www.nscorp.com/content/nscorp/en/news/norfolk-southernsupportsrestorationofhistoriclocomotivethroughsa.html

 

PS. Amazing how much can change in three years.

 

 

 

 

"...I had no idea they sold a painting to finance the resoration Surprise. I was out of the country at the time, so I missed a lot of the progress and news regarding the restoration of 611..."

 

 

  Groups intent on building or rebuilding steam locomotives, seem to be hyper-inventive in finding sources of finance for their endeavours.  In America, or the U.K.; not to mention many other locations, come stories of how inventive they can be.    Here is one link to a site in the UK that mentions the building of THREE New Builds: http://www.rail.co.uk/rail-news/2014/april-2014-a-big-month-for-new-build-steam-locomotive-projects/

Admittedly, it dose date to 2014, but the A-1 Tornado is a fact and is in operastion.  I am most certain that the other two locomotives mentioned have progressed as well.

In the USA there is the group that has set a goal to buil a brand new PRR T-1.  And then there are the RedG RR's T-1's 2100 and 2102 . The 2102 is currently owned by the  RDG, Blue MTN & Northern RR. T-1, 2100 is now back in the East from its life in  the Northwest. It apparently will require a large sum to get it into operational condition from the attempts that were made at it's conversion to fuel oil from coal(?). 

Sam

 

 


 

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Posted by Firelock76 on Saturday, April 07, 2018 7:50 PM

One of the reasons N&W 611 was restored in such a short time was when the N&W Steam Program was shut down in 1994 611 was in excellent condition, it was used but not abused and well-maintained right to the end.

Certainly, after sitting idle for 20+ years there were things that needed to be attended to, however it could have been much worse.  Also, 611 had been sitting under cover for most of those 20 years. 

Much of the fundraising wasn't just for the locomotive's restoration, but also to build and supply a permanent support system to keep it alive after the most current rebuild. 

Look at it this way, it was a lot easier to get 611 going again than a steamer that's been sitting in a city park for 60 years with no upkeep at all.  Rust never sleeps, as they say.

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Posted by nhrand on Sunday, April 08, 2018 10:53 AM

One way to keep a restoration project from languishing is to employ professionals.  Steam Operations Corp. a steam locomotive restoration firm founded by Scott Lindsy, located in Birmingham, Alabama comes to mind.  I have no connection with the group but I've seen some of their work and it seems to me that they have the know-how to keep a project moving  ---  if you have the money. Regarding the latter, I suspect a lot of projects fail because the interested groups have no experience with raising money.  Here again, some professional help might be needed and in particular, help raising money outside the railfan community which is probably not a broad enough group to support many projects.

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Posted by M636C on Monday, April 09, 2018 7:59 PM

A problem in England recently has been that many of the people who had experience working on steam locomotives are gradually dying off from old age. In the UK, steam lasted on the main lines until 1968, so maybe fifteen years longer than in the USA. However, even people who have learnt how to do some of the critical tasks post the steam era will be aging now. Some means of extracting the more critical skills and knowledge early in the project would be very useful as the older and experienced volunteers are replaced by younger people. After all, it took twenty years or so for "Tornado" to be completed.

Peter

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Posted by xboxtravis7992 on Tuesday, April 10, 2018 1:36 PM

M636C

A problem in England recently has been that many of the people who had experience working on steam locomotives are gradually dying off from old age. In the UK, steam lasted on the main lines until 1968, so maybe fifteen years longer than in the USA. However, even people who have learnt how to do some of the critical tasks post the steam era will be aging now. Some means of extracting the more critical skills and knowledge early in the project would be very useful as the older and experienced volunteers are replaced by younger people. After all, it took twenty years or so for "Tornado" to be completed.

Peter

 

I think here in the U.S. we are pretty firmly in the era where none of the original steam guys are actively involved in preservation. The big problem though is the first generation (and some of the second generation) of preservationists here are also retiring or passing away. I don't know how much that affects some programs compared to others. Some railroads have very good programs though that train younger volunteers so they can keep the flame alive after that first preservation generation is finally gone.

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