Hi gang! Just got back from our 50th anniversary trip to New Mexico. First time in that state and we spent most of the time in Santa Fe and it's area (Taos and the Ghost Ranch). It was wonderful, great weather and terrific food. Yesterday we went back to Albuquerque to meet with the bass player in my old R&B band, his wife and his terrific home. They too moved away from their ancestral locale to be near grandkids. He had clued me into the locomotive restoration project on-going in ABQ, where they're bringing SD 2926 back to full running condition. The site is open to the pubic on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 11:00 to 2:00. We wouldn't be getting there until almost closing time so I called and asked if we could still come and they said to hurry. We took an Uber and got there at 1:45. Glad we did!
This was one of the big late model 4-8-4s built by Baldwin for the Santa Fe. It features a very large tender with 4-axle Buckeye Trucks. The engine has 80" Boxpok drivers. They've added Timken light-weight roller bearing alloy side rods, thus bringing it up the the latest steam engine specs. The engine was a park engine that was brought to this industrial spur that has access to BNSF trackage. They're very far along with boiler pressure testing underway. They expect to run it later this year. It was capable of over 100mph.
My wife was a great sport! It was her birthday and she agreed to go with me to this out of the way spot and spend time learning about restoring a relic. She asked terrific questions and really was engaged. Steve, our docent, was one of the main mechanical engineers on the project and is a retired nuclear engineer at Sandia Labs. Another member of the team is the founder of Ticket Master. It was terrific crew and I was immediately envious. We spent over an hour learning about this magnificent, big engine. My uncle worked at Baldwin during the years of this engine's manufacture and probably designed parts of it.
When the loco was turned over to the City to display in a part, all of the specialized tooling necessary to maintain such a machine was scrapped for pennies on a dollar. All of those tools needed to be sourced or created in order to do the things needed to get it running. Steve gave us a thorough description (including showing us the custom tooling) on how they had to hone the 28" cylinders. To purchase a commercial hone big enough to do the job would have been over $30,000. They have a very limited budget living mostly off of donations, so they had to make their own. The hone had to be completely aligned with the major access of the machine being the center of the main driver's axle. Before honing, they needed to ensure that the crosshead guide and crosshead were in line with the bore which in turn had to be in line with the axle. They created an adjustable plate with a very small center hole to support a piece of stainless steel wire that was fastened at the other end at the center of the main axle. The plate was centered using a dial indicator swung about the cylinder diameter and the adjusting screws were manipulated to bring the plate's hole to dead center. They then used a dial indicator fastened to the crosshead bearing and touching the wire to align the crosshead slide with the bore. It was not in line when they started. Just getting the crosshead guide re-babbeted was a seriously difficult task.
They are very far along and are now doing boiler pressure testing in preparation for final certification. They expect to be running later this year.
At the end of every work session the engine is pushed back into it's "garage" by a Trackmobile so vandals can't get their hands on it. Once the boiler testing is completed they will start fitting the boiler insulation and jacketing. A fellow was fitting a small piece of jacket to the other side. It was very shiny.
The piston and rod are removed and stored separately to make it easier to move the engine (all roller bearings on main axles), and to rework them before re-installation. The engine is immaculate.
The elevating stack works and they demonstrated it for me and I made a movie, which I'll put up on YouTube tomorrow.
This engine probably didn't look this good except for the day it was born. All the exterior painting is Imron, and they even used more specialized paints for any parts that receive wear. The paint was donated by the manufacturer.
Here I am showing the comparative size of the 80" drivers and that brand shiny new return crank. The new rods were so much lighter than the plain bearing rods that they had to shave off metal on the big counterbalances on the drivers. Instead of requiring lubrication every major station stop, the new rods can go a couple thousand miles before using a grease gun on them. This engine has bigger drivers than N-S's 611. Just getting brake shoes was a major challenge since no one makes an 80" brake shoe. They cost $1,000s.
Here is the very clean and easy to understand tender Buckeye Truck.
For those of you who like to weather the heck out of steam locomotives, just look at the refections on that tender. It's like an expensive car. All of these engines looked like this when they were new. Builders photos showed flat finished because they sprayed them with a flat spray for the pictures since the reflections made it hard to get a good picture, but it was washed off before delivery. Trucks usually aren't painted so cracks can be easier to spot. Same goes for couplers.
I anyone gets the change to get to Albuquerque before it's put out on the main line I would whole heartedly recommend seeing this. It's very rare for any of us train lovers to get so close to a running locomotive where you can actually touch it. Most engines in museums are surrounded with railings, and they're all painted over. This one's real and is going to be alive again. And it's a stunning engine.
The address is: 1833 8th Street, NW, Albuquerque, NM. It's only about a mile and a half out of downtown heading north. It lies in a very industrial area and the engine is not easily seen from the street. Our Uber driver didn't know it was there.