Big Boy's Great Midwest Tour: Chicago

1618 views
26 replies
1 rating 2 rating 3 rating 4 rating 5 rating
  • Member since
    January 2019
  • From: Henrico, VA
  • 2,459 posts
Posted by Flintlock76 on Wednesday, July 31, 2019 8:27 AM

Ladder1

Arrived in Rochelle about 20 minutes late.  Unbeliveable Machine!

 

Figures.  I watched the Rochelle cam, saw a UP monster train and some BNSF "punkins," interesting in their own right, but had to give up waiting for the Big Boy, I had other things to do.  Not the end of the world.

  • Member since
    September 2007
  • 34 posts
Posted by Ladder1 on Tuesday, July 30, 2019 9:04 PM

Arrived in Rochelle about 20 minutes late.  Unbeliveable Machine!

  • Member since
    September 2017
  • 2,300 posts
Posted by charlie hebdo on Tuesday, July 30, 2019 9:44 AM

It departed from West Chicago a little  before 9:00, CDT.  Magnificent!! 

  • Member since
    January 2019
  • From: Henrico, VA
  • 2,459 posts
Posted by Flintlock76 on Tuesday, July 30, 2019 9:11 AM

It's 10:10 EDT, just looked at the Rochelle WebCam.  There's a crowd gathered there, but not too bad.  Everyone looks like they'll have a good view.

Thanks for the in-depth report Overmod!

  • Member since
    March 2016
  • From: Burbank IL (near Clearing)
  • 11,605 posts
Posted by CSSHEGEWISCH on Tuesday, July 30, 2019 6:54 AM

Based on my recollections, I hope that somebody realizes that the intersection of 4th Street and Lincoln Highway in De Kalb would be an excellent location to get a picture of 4014.  I have several pictures of CNW SD45's (no d/b) at that location from the early 1970's.

The daily commute is part of everyday life but I get two rides a day out of it. Paul
  • Member since
    September 2003
  • 9,082 posts
Posted by Overmod on Tuesday, July 30, 2019 6:07 AM

Shadow the Cats owner
I am not going to try and force my way into the crowds at the station instead will wait until she leaves town at the Railroad park.

Won't the crowding there be some of the worst of all? Devil

  • Member since
    April 2016
  • 959 posts
Posted by Shadow the Cats owner on Tuesday, July 30, 2019 5:48 AM

I plan on being at Rochelle in the morning to see her go thru there I am not going to try and force my way into the crowds at the station instead will wait until she leaves town at the Railroad park.  My hubby will be there with me.

  • Member since
    September 2017
  • 2,300 posts
Posted by charlie hebdo on Monday, July 29, 2019 9:28 PM

Overmod

 

 
charlie hebdo
I'm  planning to watch it start up in West Chicago. 

 

Something you might consider is being on the bridge to watch as the diesel puts the train back together.  There's going to be a fair amount of switching and moving to and fro to get those two water cars back behind the tender and the obs back on the rear of the train... I was unable to find whether they're planning on doing that tonight, or sometime in the wee hours closer to scheduled departure if there's less traffic then.

When you have something good, the easiest thing to do is to set up a YouTube account (with a burner phone and 'free' e-mail if you're worried about "credential leak") and then just copy the camera video to your computer and upload it from there.  The YouTube software will do the necessary compression and format conversion if that is needed.  I advise that you make the clip public and not restrict access, but disable comments.

Then YouTube will assign an URL to that upload, and you can copy and paste that in a post using the button with the little chain picture (for "insert link" or use the adjacent one for "insert video" (which will load it ready to render in its own dedicated window).

 

Too complicated for me.  

  • Member since
    July 2008
  • 1,375 posts
Posted by rdamon on Monday, July 29, 2019 8:20 PM

I will have to set a reminder to be watching the Rochelle camera at 9:45-10:30AM local.

Overmod: You are right about the switching work needed. That would be good to watch.  When we got into town around 6pm Friday they had a tanker truck loading oil in the tender. I did not see them filling the water tanks.

  • Member since
    September 2003
  • 9,082 posts
Posted by Overmod on Monday, July 29, 2019 7:51 PM

charlie hebdo
I'm  planning to watch it start up in West Chicago. 

Something you might consider is being on the bridge to watch as the diesel puts the train back together.  There's going to be a fair amount of switching and moving to and fro to get those two water cars back behind the tender and the obs back on the rear of the train... I was unable to find whether they're planning on doing that tonight, or sometime in the wee hours closer to scheduled departure if there's less traffic then.

When you have something good, the easiest thing to do is to set up a YouTube account (with a burner phone and 'free' e-mail if you're worried about "credential leak") and then just copy the camera video to your computer and upload it from there.  The YouTube software will do the necessary compression and format conversion if that is needed.  I advise that you make the clip public and not restrict access, but disable comments.

Then YouTube will assign an URL to that upload, and you can copy and paste that in a post using the button with the little chain picture (for "insert link" or use the adjacent one for "insert video" (which will load it ready to render in its own dedicated window).

  • Member since
    September 2017
  • 2,300 posts
Posted by charlie hebdo on Monday, July 29, 2019 7:40 PM

If it's any good  and if you can tell me where to post it.Then gladly. I'm  planning to watch it start up in West Chicago. 

  • Member since
    September 2003
  • 9,082 posts
Posted by Overmod on Monday, July 29, 2019 7:38 PM

charlie hebdo
Too bad you didn't see it in operation

I don't suppose I could entice you into 'videoing' it when you see it go by tomorrow morning and then putting the clip up and linking to it here... ?

  • Member since
    September 2017
  • 2,300 posts
Posted by charlie hebdo on Monday, July 29, 2019 7:20 PM

Too bad you didn't see it in operation. It's a thing of beauty in motion. 

Then again you would have seen many foamers in all their finery making whistle and Choo Choo noises.

  • Member since
    September 2003
  • 9,082 posts
Posted by Overmod on Monday, July 29, 2019 7:11 PM

Flintlock76
Think you could do a dissertation for us about what you learned, if you haven't pretty much covered it all already?

I am still learning like crazy, and I suspect I still would be even if I had multiple beers with Mr. Dickens and Mr. Barker every chance I had.

The one thing that might be of interest at this point is some of the detail design of the oil conversion.  The setup is basically a Thomas burner said to be very similar to the arrangement on 3985, but the flash wall is very thick (Austin gestured with his arms, hands about a yard apart) and the burner rear-firing in front of this, so not all the firebox volume under the arch is occupied by radiant plume.  There is no refractory on the circulators (!) and any portion of the arch that was sitting on them has been removed (!!) so there is no real surprise that it steams like crazy with decent waterleg flow and to a great extent steam separation above the radiant section.  It does not appear there is a serious quench problem with the waste motor oil plume on these exposed circulators, even though their temperature is tied closely to that of saturated water at not much more than about 300psi.  I haven't watched all the (excellently provided!) Trains videos of running coverage, so I don't know if there is increased or decreased need to sand things like circulators, tubesheet or flues/tubes due to enhanced soot formation or distribution.  I suspect it would be obvious.  

As noted, very little if any pressure-induced 'purge' was conducted before maintenance steam increase was started about 12:30 or so.  The time in between the removal of the insulated 'damper' block on the right side and the audible indication of pressure on the burner was not very long; in fact it took me by such surprise (I was expecting at least a few minutes' purge) that I didn't actually measure or even observe the interval.  I was unable to determine whether very high turndown involves dedicated small nozzles//diffusers or special flameholding or igniting equipment within the burner structure, although I think I would provide that if I were designing a burner for this locomotive.

Waste motor oil requires some careful treatment before it is properly 'bunkered' on a locomotive; at the very least it needs to be 'washed' (with some of the additives like ZDDP or admixed poor-combustible-content like hydraulic oils or antifreeze being removed) and/or centrifugally separated (there are relatively cheap rigs that can do upward of 120gph that are reasonably portable) -- I didn't share enough beer to get to that part of the support.

There is relatively little else needing comment.  I noted what appeared to be a small staybolt-related leak at the front right corner of the firebox, with visible white 'chemical' streaking, but this isn't either a difficult issue or one requiring massive efforts to solve, and may very well be a consequence of some leak 'higher up' traveling under the jacketing.  The cleading on the right rear cylinder looks almost as if it had been done with tinsnips and there is already some fairly heavy denting and creasing in the jacket metal ... this too won't be difficult to get to and fix in time.  It's a working engine, not a concours 100-point trailer or 'roundhouse queen'.  That shows in the way the crew behaves when they're around it.

  • Member since
    January 2019
  • From: Henrico, VA
  • 2,459 posts
Posted by Flintlock76 on Monday, July 29, 2019 6:37 PM

Overmod, 'Hegewisch,and rdamon, thanks for being our eyes and ears!

Especially you, Overmod!  Think you could do a dissertation for us about what you learned, if you haven't pretty much covered it all already?

  • Member since
    September 2003
  • 9,082 posts
Posted by Overmod on Monday, July 29, 2019 6:27 PM

Flintlock76
And I'd imagine they're "breaking-in" the head-end crews as well

My understanding is that there is ONE head-end crew at this point, Dickens and Barker.  When hours of service say they can't go, the Big Boy won't go. (Although there was one fellow wearing a vest with 'engineer' embroidered on it who went up and down into the cab a couple of times -- I should know who he is, but I don't.)

Dickens confirmed this to a couple of questioners during the time I was listening; I don't think it is exaggeration.  

Now, I have little doubt that the logistics of stopping the 'exhibition' at these UP facilities across the system is to inspire employees to volunteer for assisting with the trips.  It's just that that help won't extend to running or firing the engine when it is pulling ...

It's certainly true that the two of them are 'learning by doing' -- and I think they are learning some very interesting things with the oil firing that UP manifestly couldn't 'get done' with the 4005.  

  • Member since
    January 2019
  • From: Henrico, VA
  • 2,459 posts
Posted by Flintlock76 on Monday, July 29, 2019 4:47 PM

Thanks again Mod-man!

3,000 miles and still "breaking-in?"  Not really surprised.  And I'd imagine they're "breaking-in" the head-end crews as well.  Running a Big Boy is an art that has to be re-learned by the UP crews, and in this case they have to learn by doing.

  • Member since
    September 2003
  • 9,082 posts
Posted by Overmod on Monday, July 29, 2019 4:20 PM

In other news: we decided to take 55 instead of 57 back down, and chase the Springfield 110mph trains instead of one of the Illinis.  We'd have been right on top of the wreck when it happened.

  • Member since
    September 2003
  • 9,082 posts
Posted by Overmod on Monday, July 29, 2019 3:44 PM

Flintlock76
One question though, just what was the problem with the front packing?

Very similar to what I'd expected.  The piston rod was CNC-machined and had a small runout mark not fully polished out.  This picked up the edge of the metallic packing and unseated it slightly, which allowed the steam blow, and not incidentally began building up a phenolic-like layer of cooked oil that precluded reseating the packing easily. 

So something reasonably easily diagnosed, but taking a longer time to actually fix, which was consistent with what we observed in the early days of operation.

They now have about 3000 miles on the engine, and in some respects it still is considered 'breaking in'.

  • Member since
    July 2008
  • 1,375 posts
Posted by rdamon on Monday, July 29, 2019 3:32 PM

We parked at the middle school. We we got to the shuttle stop there was a older couple whe said they were waiting there for amost a hour.  I ordered a Uber and had them join us ($5 well spent).

Noticed a pair of hoses running between the split sections of the train (one leaking water) was that for cooling the cars that they had open to the public? 

  • Member since
    January 2019
  • From: Henrico, VA
  • 2,459 posts
Posted by Flintlock76 on Monday, July 29, 2019 1:07 PM

Great report Mod-man!  Thanks!

One question though, just what was the problem with the front packing?  I suppose it's corrected by now? 

  • Member since
    September 2003
  • 9,082 posts
Posted by Overmod on Monday, July 29, 2019 10:25 AM

A few notes:

West Chicago presence was awesome.  Go on their Facebook page (if you do that) and comment that it was.  No problem with parking, no problem with shuttles, no problem with access, free iced bottled water for everybody (and no running out!), properly managed lines for the attractions, etc.

Thousands and thousands of people, most of whom were not 'card-carrying railfan' types.  Constant crowd walking both ways across the bridge, independent of the shuttle buses.  The event ran until 4:00 but new people weren't admitted starting a few minutes after 3.  Lines for attractions were hopelessly long, and isn't that a wonderful thing, considering.

Crew was there and stayed accessible.  Austin Barker gave me a rundown on the Dickens-Barker burner, the problem with the right-front packing, and the current state of Green Velvet oil availability; the engine is burning waste motor oil, apparently well enough 'prepared' that there is no firing difficulty with it.  Ed Dickens for some reason appeared to be avoiding me, but he was the soul of civility to a VERY wide range of people, some of whom were ... difficult.  (He has a Weimaraner, he likes tugboats, he signs hats in green because that's the color pen he uses for inspections...)

It turns out the boiler pressure has to be kept above around 200psi, so they periodically blow back up all the way to 300psi (not some lower layover pressure).  How they were doing this earlier in the day was fascinating if you knew what you were looking at... there is what I can only describe as a piece of 2x4 covered with tinfoil that is stuck in the primary-air inlet, and when that is removed natural circulation through the stack is enough to allow the burner to be fired on high turndown, with no visible haze (you can see the heat ripples).  I did not observe the rate of pressure rise, but it would logically be relatively slow.  At about 2:00 they appeared to need a bit of additional blowing up and the blower was engaged at low mass flow; this gave a bit of visible haze but no particular 'lifting' or smoke ejection; I only saw one of the pops lift once, not for very long (presumably they used injection to quiet this quickly).  Ed quietly joked at one point 'don't tell, but it's all a fake; we make smoke to blow out but we push the engine around' ... don't you be-lieve it!

Whistling took place only a couple of times per hour, and then only at relatively low volume.  I suspect this was a condition imposed, perhaps Sunday only, by West Chicago, but a fairly substantial range of those I observed were complaining about the lack of whistle sound.

A bit of bad news that is probably not much of a surprise: 3985 will be 'stored serviceable' but there are no immediate plans to run it through the QC rebuild process at this time, either now or for a mid-2020s timeframe.  Apparently the plan is now to run the Big Boy indefinitely as the 'second locomotive' -- Ed noted specifically that California will be on the agenda later this year, which may be no surprise to those following the tour postings but is a confirmation that the engine can go lots of places and will be used to go lots of places on the UP system.

It's astounding how most people seem to think steam locomotives work.  A very large number of people asking questions seemed to think the oil was mixed with the water in the tender, and this mixture was burned directly to generate steam.  

  • Member since
    July 2008
  • 1,375 posts
Posted by rdamon on Monday, July 29, 2019 9:23 AM

CSSHEGEWISCH

My adult son and I went to West Chicago on Saturday and we had a pretty good time of it.  The crowd was well managed and well behaved and it wasn't too hard to get some good shots.

 

Probably there the same time with you.  Made a overnight stop in Naperville on our way back from Oshkosh Friday night. 

T-Shirt lines were crazy ..  will see about ordering online.

 

  • Member since
    March 2016
  • From: Burbank IL (near Clearing)
  • 11,605 posts
Posted by CSSHEGEWISCH on Monday, July 29, 2019 7:19 AM

My adult son and I went to West Chicago on Saturday and we had a pretty good time of it.  The crowd was well managed and well behaved and it wasn't too hard to get some good shots.

The daily commute is part of everyday life but I get two rides a day out of it. Paul
  • Member since
    September 2017
  • 2,300 posts
Posted by charlie hebdo on Sunday, July 28, 2019 8:52 AM

Have fun.  It's a great display.  I saw it pass my place Friday and I'm  going to watch it depart Tuesday. 

  • Member since
    January 2019
  • From: Henrico, VA
  • 2,459 posts
Posted by Flintlock76 on Sunday, July 28, 2019 8:30 AM

Have fun Mod-man!  I'm sure you will!

PS:  I hope you can get close enough to have a good, technical conversation with the steam team members.  I'm sure they'll enjoy talking with you.  

A "give-and-take" with you will be a lot more enjoyable for them than the usual "How do you steer it?" questions!

  • Member since
    September 2003
  • 9,082 posts
Big Boy's Great Midwest Tour: Chicago
Posted by Overmod on Sunday, July 28, 2019 8:04 AM

Second day of a three-day layover in Chicago.  No Newswire story or Kalmbach video posted yet, so if you go -- the 'official' recommendation is to park at the West Chicago Metra station (free parking) and ride the shuttle buses provided to the actual site ... about 10 minutes, they say.  I'll be there part of the day today.

Set your GPS to 475 Main St, West Chicago IL.  That's not the station, but it's the civic offices directly across Main St. from one of the parking-lot entrances.

Join our Community!

Our community is FREE to join. To participate you must either login or register for an account.

Search the Community

Newsletter Sign-Up

By signing up you may also receive occasional reader surveys and special offers from Trains magazine.Please view our privacy policy