A Visit to the Essex Shop 4


We’ll go back a couple months for this post – back to the start of June, where I headed over to the Valley Railroad shop in Essex, Connecticut over lunch.  Why would I head there over lunch?  Well, I received word that there was some activity on No. 97 – one of the Valley Railroad’s veteran locomotives.

No, 97’s FRA mandated 1472 day inspection/rebuild program has not officially begun.  Instead the shop forces are working on a smaller project designed to stabilize the locomotive so her condition does not deteriorate while funding and parts for the entire rebuild project are secured.  Part of this stabilization is the removal of 97s tubes and flues from her boiler.

The day I went to the shop, Chip Mahoney – a summer intern at the railroad – was cutting out some of 97s superheater flues with a torch, and thankfully he wasn’t camera-shy, not only allowing me to photograph him working, but also shared some of his incredible knowledge of steam boilers while he was working (even more impressive that he’s only 18 and recently graduated high school – see this post on the Valley Railroad’s Engine House Blog).

I started out wandering around, getting a few of my more artsy type shots as the guys finished up their lunch.

 Valley Railroad locomotive No. 97

Valley Railroad locomotive No. 97’s smoke box is open at the railroad’s Essex, Conn. shop.

 A look into No. 97

A look into No. 97’s cab

 A drop light hangs in 97s firebox

A drop light hangs in 97s firebox

 Old tubes lay in a stack behind 97s tube sheet. They have been cut out in preperation for their eventual replacement.

Old tubes lay in a stack behind 97s tube sheet. They have been cut out in preperation for their eventual replacement.

 Sketches taped to 97s cab outlining where to needle scale the metal - part of the stabilization process.

Sketches taped to 97s cab outlining where to needle scale the metal – part of the stabilization process.

 A specialized tool rests on 97s pilot in between uses. The tool is used to cut out tubes in the locomotive

A specialized tool rests on 97s pilot in between uses. The tool is used to cut out tubes in the locomotive’s boiler.

Once Chip finished up with his lunch, he suited back up and headed to 97, picking up where he left off.  He began cutting a couple flues out from the smokebox side – explaining to me the process of cutting a few tubes on one side, then moving to the firebox side and cut them from there.  Doing this lessened the twisting forces on the firebox tube sheet – something that can degrade the integrity of the boiler.  Obviously an effect that needed to be avoided.

Some photos of Chip working on the smokebox side of the locomotive

 Valley Railroad shop employee Chip begins to cut out 97s superheater tubes

Valley Railroad shop employee Chip begins to cut out 97s superheater tubes

 A closeup look at the torch doing its job

A closeup look at the torch doing its job

 Sparks of molten metal bounce around the inside of a superheater tube

Sparks of molten metal bounce around the inside of a superheater tube

 Sparks of molten metal bounce around the inside of a superheater tube

Sparks of molten metal bounce around the inside of a superheater tube

Then he moved to the firebox side, squeezing himself into the opening

 Chip inserts himself into the firebox of 97 to cut the opposite side of the tubes

Chip inserts himself into the firebox of 97 to cut the opposite side of the tubes

And getting to work on the opposite sides of the tubes he cut from the front of the boiler.

 Valley Railroad shop employee Chip adjusts the flame on his cutting torch before removing a tube in No. 97s boiler. The railroad is doing stabilization work on the Consolidation so she does not deteriorate further during storage before her rebuild project begins at some point in the future (schedule is still to be determined).

Valley Railroad shop employee Chip adjusts the flame on his cutting torch before removing a tube in No. 97s boiler. The railroad is doing stabilization work on the Consolidation so she does not deteriorate further during storage before her rebuild project begins at some point in the future (schedule is still to be determined).

 Chip cuts the firebox side of a superheater tube

Chip cuts the firebox side of a superheater tube

 Chip adjusts his torch

Chip adjusts his torch’s flame as he prepares to move to another tube

Of course, in between his cuts, I had to get an artsy type detail shot

 A number of tubes sit in the boiler, already cut and awaiting removal

A number of tubes sit in the boiler, already cut and awaiting removal

And a shot of 97 without her boiler jacket and insulation

 A view of 97s boiler with her jacket and insulation removed

A view of 97s boiler with her jacket and insulation removed

With those tubes completely cut, Chip made his way back out of the firebox, and over to the side of the shop to get a drink – it does get a little warm in that confined space.  While doing that, he mentioned that something else interesting was going on in the Locomotive Servicing Facility – Mike Ozaruk was power-washing the underside of locomotive No. 3025.

Walking through the side door of the shop into the LSF, I found Mike in the pit, wearing a head-to-toe Tyvek suit and wielding a power washing wand.  He was making his way through the undercarriage of the locomotive, spraying degreaser then hitting it with the power washer, cleaning the underside of the Mikado.

 Valley Railroad shop employee Mike takes a pause while degreasing and power washing the underside of locomotive No. 3025

Valley Railroad shop employee Mike takes a pause while degreasing and power washing the underside of locomotive No. 3025

 Valley Railroad shop employee Mike power washes the undercarriage of Mikado No. 3025 in the railroad

Valley Railroad shop employee Mike power washes the undercarriage of Mikado No. 3025 in the railroad’s new Locomotive Servicing Facility in Essex, Connecticut.

 Valley Railroad shop employee Mike power washes the undercarriage of Mikado No. 3025 in the railroad

Valley Railroad shop employee Mike power washes the undercarriage of Mikado No. 3025 in the railroad’s new Locomotive Servicing Facility in Essex, Connecticut.

With a bunch of unique photos, I bid everyone at the shop farewell, which wrapped up a quite productive lunch.

Thanks for looking!
Tom

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4 thoughts on “A Visit to the Essex Shop

  • Al Crossley

    Cool, or, rather, hot stuff, Tom! Easy to forget how demanding any steam loco is, regardless of size. Perhaps the smaller ones, with their tighter interior spaces, are worse than the big boys. Nice to see what happens when, Santa, Thomas, et. al., aren’t the main focus. Interesting, too, about those twisting forces; would never have known. Curious, when you cut the tubes off, how clean is the result? Is filing or sanding necessary before new tubes go in? Anyway, thanks!

    • Tom Nanos Post author

      Thanks Al! Good question about the rest of the process – I neglected to include any of that. The tubes, as shown here, are cut just inside the tube sheet so the heat from the cutting torch doesn’t warp the sheet (right about where the flare ends from rolling the end onto the tube sheet). Then the remainder of the tube is removed carefully with a hammer and cold chisel, again, to avoid damage to the tube sheet.

  • Edward J Dankievitch

    very nice job. Keep up the great work. some of us rail fans have always wanted to be behind the scenes but have are unable to. thank you for this chance to see….