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RyPN Briefs February 2, 2009
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The Anatomy of a Locomotive Restoration
Getting your feet wet

Mike Overlander .:|:. All photos used with permission

This installment of the restoration of SRR E8 #6914 at the Tennessee Valley RR Museum, will attempt to document the early stage of its second team effort. This began during the spring and summer of 2004, roughly 16 years after its arrival, by TVRM member Robert Frye. But first, thanks to the diligent research by TVRM's Steve Freer, I'd like to share a few additional pictures of the work on the locomotive in prior years. Here are 5 photos Steve took, representing that time, where work was performed in the steam generator area and the cab, 4 taken in late 1995 and early 1996. Also, a photo under the outside pole barn taken in September 2000.

Outside under the pole barn in September 2000 - Steve Freer
The condition of the cab in November 1995 - Steve Freer
Inside view of Grady Ragan grinding away in the locomotive during the mid 90s - Steve Freer
Left side rear view of SRR 6914 in January 1996. - Steve Freer
Right side rear view of SRR 6914 in January 1996. - Steve Freer

When the locomotive arrived in 1988, it had seen nearly 35 years of service, and taken on its share of wear and tear. Most certainly during its service life, it has undergone numerous running repairs and overhauls, but one thing it suffered badly from now was wiring fatigue. We cannot be sure how much, if any, of the wiring was ever replaced, but these problems were very evident in the electrical cabinets. Representative of this state of affairs, are these pictures by Robert, in the rear electrical cabinet and rear engine controls cabinet, before he began work on them.

Left side view of the rear electrical cabinet - Robert Frye
Another view of the right side of the rear electrical cabinet - Robert Frye
The average condition of the wiring after 35 years of service - Robert Frye
A view of the rear engine controls cabinet after leaving NJ Transit - Robert Frye

Robert saw this as a part of the project he could relate to, as he is an electrical engineer by trade. So in 2003, he sought permission to tackle 6914 electrical woes. And thus, the project came to life, albeit somewhat slowly, under the pole shed adjacent to the shop building.

In as much as the steam generators had long ago been removed, Robert decided the vacant space in the rear of the locomotive would make a good work shop. That, and the fact that the rear half of the wiring is much simpler than the front half, led to the decision to begin with the rear half of the locomotive and work forward. This is where I came on to the project. I had been working with the weekend crew on the restoration of SRR 2-8-0 #630. We had quite a few people on that project at the time, and it was suggested I give Robert a hand. So I became the second team member to take up the cause.

The project saw a setback in November 2003, as part owner Sam Frissel passed away unexpectedly. While some things needed sorting out about the future of the locomotive, the museum and founder Bob Soule encouraged us to continue to return the unit to serviceable condition. And in barely a blink of an eye, the museum suffered other serious tests, which included President Bob Soule himself passing away unexpectedly in February 2006. After a time, we all overcame our disbelief and sorrow, and renewed our efforts on 6914.

Early in this phase, a lot of time was spent cleaning the accumulated crud from the electrical cabinets. Also, one important piece of the wiring puzzle would be a wiring diagram. TVRM was fortunate to have acquired a copy of an original schematic for 6914. However, it was somewhat deteriorated and was missing a few small pieces. Robert set to restore the print, by transferring it into a modern CAD drawing. Six difficult weeks of nights and weekends were required to complete this single task. Once this was complete, he went into the engine to first fill in any gaps caused by the deterioration, and then again to look for any modifications made by Southern or anyone else.

After repainting, the electrical cabinet is reassembled. - Mike Overlander

While Robert confirmed wiring to print and began removing the old wiring, I was cleaning, stripping, and sanding various areas to be repainted before any new wire was installed. As an example, there is a wiring duct running from the battery boxes to the cab along the fireman's side of the carbody. Once the battery cables, dynamic brake cables, and control wiring was removed in September 2004, I began cleaning and repainting this duct up to the center doors. Near the midpoint of this duct, TVRM member Kevin Deakins cut out a badly rusted section and replaced it with new metal. Meanwhile, Robert continued documenting wires, switches, relays, etc. in the electrical cabinet at the "B" end. He also tackled the cooling fan control cabinet with the same process. We also removed the reverser, the dynamic brake cam switches, and the field shunting contactor, which ended up in the hands of TVRM engineer Mike Little. Over a number of weeks, Mike expertly disassembled and reconditioned all three of these, returning them in plenty of time to be available for the reassembly of the "B" end electrical cabinet. During early 2005, we cleared out almost everything electrical in the rear of the locomotive, and began reassembly by first painting the interior of both the high and low voltage compartments of the rear electrical cabinet. Various parts were cleaned and repaired, a few replaced with new items as needed. Some parts, like the battery charging resistor, were re-plated at a local plating company, saving time and money on replacements. Robert even acquired the necessary equipment to rewind a number of the coils in the cabinet, again at great savings, and of future use to TVRM. By late September 2005, this electrical cabinet was nearly complete, and here is picture I took of the high voltage area, as a comparison to Roberts' before photos.

Removing the radiator hatch using a custom built lift beam. - Robert Frye

While this work was going on, we picked up TVRM members Andy Hendee, Jim Olson, Dick McBride, and Don Kimbrel began assisting us. Andy and Jim began by planning and executing the removal of the "B" end radiator hatch. All the plumbing and wiring was disconnected, and all the bolts holding it in place were removed. Remember, we have air tanks on the roof, so that adds to the plumbing requirements. The height of our shop and crane wouldn't let us lift the hatch using only slings, and this required us to design and fabricate a lifting beam that would allow us to rig the crane hook as close to the hatch as possible. This would allow the hatch to clear the roof of the locomotive when the crane was raised to its maximum height. So, by then end of September 2005, we were ready to pull this hatch. Here is a photo Robert took of the hatch just after it was lifted in October, for the first time in many years.

The auxiliary generator awaits disassembly before being shipped out before being moved to Chattanooga for evaluation. - Robert Frye

With the hatch out of the way, we decided to pull the auxiliary generator assembly out as well, to be able to send that to the Chattanooga Armature Works for evaluation. In another photo by Robert, here is the aux gen on the floor awaiting further disassembly.

If you noticed in Steve Freers' photos from late 1995, some of the side sheets had been removed for repair of both the sheets and the framework that is the carbody construction. In August, 2005, Dick McBride and Don Kimbrel began the tedious task of removing the remaining side sheets as well as the shutter sections which permit the air flow to the radiators. This was grimy, heavy work even though it does not look as though is should be. This was very important work, as we need to evaluate any rusted areas to be repaired, as well as make much of this accessible for painting. Over a number of Saturday sessions, they removed batten strips and side sheets one after another. Rusted and broken bolts were removed, as well as the carbody door frames. And I must mention that during this time, Kevin Deakins has been working on the doors, to repair age and damage, and fit new windows. We also had the support of member Jim Robinson, who doggedly ran a needle scaler over much of the truss work being exposed by the removal of the side sheets. By December of 2005, the entire skin of the locomotive had been tagged and removed, paving the way for cleaning, painting, and reassembly sometime in the future, thanks to the unending dedication of the group of TVRM's volunteers named above.

During this time, there was also a whole host of smaller tasks being worked on and completed. We checked out the unfortunate scrapping of 3 units in South Carolina for parts. Wiring clamps were remade to protect various high voltage cables. A MU test box, capable of being inserted between the 27-pin MU connections of 2 locomotives was built. This will enable safe testing with another locomotive when the time comes. The backup headlight was reconditioned and rewired. It is hard to note everything that was covered, but it all adds up over time.

Replacement of the pilot resulted in a major undertaking, here with the finished results - Mike Overlander

The start of 2006 saw a couple of new tasks taken on. First, the low voltage wiring that was removed needed replacement. Members Dana and Jody Johannes helped Robert construct two, 80 foot wiring harnesses of low voltage wire. Then a couple of weeks later, member Bill Schafer lent a hand and installed these groups of wires, as well as working on covers for electrical cabinets and a number of other jobs. Bill supports this project and many other functions here as time permits, even serving on the Board of Directors. We also had Don remove the old pilot, which can be seen in Steve's September 2000 photo of the front end. Fortunately, a new one had been purchased, and was waiting in the warehouse for someone to rise to the challenge of installing it. This lucky person was me, as I had a free moment to tackle the project. Did I say free moment? How silly. Not only was this not a brief task, it took me until September, 9 months of my available weekends to get it done. As a short overview of why it took so long, allow me to list a few highlights. There was a missing support bracket on the locomotive, it was not bent quite right, there was excess material along the top edge (remember measure twice, cut once rules) a lot of holes to match and line up, and a revision in the MU hose configuration and attachment scheme. I was asked (kiddingly) if I was ever going to finish it. I received assistance from Don, Jim Robinson, and Lonnie Farmer in fabricating new supports for the pilot. Here is a photo I took of the results. You be the judge.

Of course, many other tasks were worked on in 2006. Don was working on replacing bad sections of hat rail along the engineers' side. This is the support for the side sheets. Also included are the drip pans at the shutter/radiator sections, some badly rusted out. Robert bought material for fabricating 2 new battery boxes, as time, moisture, and acid vapors had inflicted considerable damage to the original ones. These were fabricated by Robert and then hot dip galvanized by the local plating company. Wiring progress was also made, landing wires in various places on refurbished terminal blocks. Member Pat Powers joined us during the summer, and took on the task of placing conduit and emergency stop buttons and wiring to replace the old style of emergency shut down. Parts were cleaned and painted. Robert took on the unenviable task of repairing some significant rust issues at the rear corners of the locomotive. The steam generators really accelerated wear and tear back there, and the repairs took some careful planning and considerable time. It would appear that with new battery boxes and the other repairs, this area will not be a problem well into the future.

A view inside sister locomotive 6913's cab, taken on a visit to the Southern Appalachia Railway Museum, Oak Ridge, TN - Robert Frye

Towards the end of the year, with the pilot completed, we decided to turn our attention to the braking system of the locomotive. Shortly after its arrival, the 24RL system was removed completely, and plans were to reinstall a 26L. Now was as good a time as any to continue that process. In one last photo for now, Robert took this picture of the engineers' location, much the way it used to look.

For now, I'll leave it to that, as all we started in 2006 was investigation and planning for a brake system. This installment promised to bring the reader up to date, but I think I'll close here. I will bring much more detail on repairs, planning, and progress for 2007 and 2008 in the next installment. I wish to thank everyone mentioned here for their help in producing this article, and for their involvement in the project. I will also say that there are some other members of TVRM who have stopped by and offered their well wishes and in some cases a bit of their time and toil, all of whom we appreciate and genuinely welcome whatever support they can provide. Some of them include Steve Wasiura, Chad Thompson, Alan Maples, Mike Little, Mark Ray, David Pugh, George Walker, Jim Show, Jeremy Nolan, Pat MacCarroll, Jackson Case, Adam Moore.