Railway Preservation News

Want to run a PRR Steamer this weekend?
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Author:  prr643 [ Mon May 01, 2006 3:01 pm ]
Post subject:  Want to run a PRR Steamer this weekend?

Greetings all:

I'm happy to announce that the Williams Grove Historical Steam Engine Association will be operating our PRR B4a 0-6-0 643 on Saturday May 6th. We are doing so because we have had inquires from attendees of the PRRT&HS annual meeting that is being held nearby in Camp Hill that wish to take advantage of our engineer school program. For $75 you will be taught to operate the locomotive and then you will operate the locomotive for 30 minutes. You can purchase more then one 30 minute block if you wish. I do not know exactly how many blocks have already been reserved, so I suggest reservations if you are interested. Any unreserved blocks will be available on a first come first serve basis. All proceeds go towards the work that still needs to be performed on 643 (mostly cosmetic at this point), and towards the newly created fund to purchase the land the association and 643 currently reside on. Anyone interested can e-mail me off list at prr643@hotmail.com, or tom@jebtech.net. Due to the short notice of this opportunity payment will be cash only, to be paid on site before you play with the big toy ;). Photographers and other rail fans and convention attendees are welcome to stop by and check us out, but we hope you will take advantage of this unique opportunity to actually run a PRR steam locomotive, and if you don't, a small donation toward keeping us going would be greatly appreciated. We apologize for the short notice, but we were not sure this was going to be possible until further testing on 643 was perfomed this past weekend. To those attending the convention, have a great time!

Tom von Trott
Crew, PRR 643
Williams Grove PA

Author:  bobyar2001 [ Mon May 01, 2006 4:40 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Want to run a PRR Steamer this weekend?

This is a great deal and I hope you do well, with the general public as well as rail enthusiasts. But please don't mention "playing" and "big toy" when speaking to the general media. Such terms greatly demean your hard work and sweat and will always be picked up by a reporter looking for a human interest story.

Author:  wilkinsd [ Mon May 01, 2006 5:09 pm ]
Post subject:  "Big Boys and their big toys"

bobyar2001 wrote:
But please don't mention "playing" and "big toy" when speaking to the general media. Such terms greatly demean your hard work and sweat and will always be picked up by a reporter looking for a human interest story.

After spending a good part of Saturday afternoon listening to a fellow motorman say "Look at our big toys!" and "We're just big boys playing with our big toys" I agree with Bob. While I think the enjoyable aspects of working in railway preservation should be expressed to the public, I think such language about this being "playing" demeans the legitimate aspects of the work. I also don’t think it comes across well to the public that a volunteer is treating a real-life, full-sized piece of rail equipment like a toy. They may be operating with care, but if you say it’s just a big toy, it tends to convey the wrong message.

Author:  prr643 [ Mon May 01, 2006 7:48 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: "Big Boys and their big toys"

Interesting point, I'll keep that in mind.

Author:  wilkinsd [ Mon May 01, 2006 11:20 pm ]
Post subject:  643 Question


Actually, it's pretty neat to see the work your group has done on the 643. I do have a question. I remember reading that the locomotive was reboilered following it's Pennsy ownership. Is this true? Also, did the original boiler have a belpire firebox?

She looks great!

Author:  John Bohon [ Tue May 02, 2006 7:28 am ]
Post subject:  Re: 643 Question

The answer to both of your questions is yes. The 643 was reboilered by H. K. Porter after WW II and she was converted to a radial stay boiler at that time.

John Bohon

Author:  prr643 [ Tue May 02, 2006 5:07 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: 643 Question

Thanks John for answering for me.

Another interesting fact, as we performed all the work on 643 the last few years we have pretty much determained for sure (as sure as we can be without another B4a to compare it with anyway) that the new boiler that was installed in 1945 is a bit larger then the original. We have always theorized this was the case, but after we started working on the frame, and getting ready to remove the boiler, it became evident very quickly that the clearences on the frame just didn't jive with the original B4 drawings. This became even more evident after we worked on the frame while the boiler was away. It had to be close in many of the dimensions so it would fit the frame, and the cylinder saddle, etc, but it is bigger for sure. Just a tid-bit.

According to Pennsy Power 3 the oringal B4 class were radial stay, and the B4a class were Belpair.

I would kill to see a picture of 643 (as #5) with her original boiler at the steel mill in Harrisburg, but I've never seen one, and don't know if any exists. One of her on the PRR as 643 would truely be a treasure.


Author:  prr643 [ Tue May 02, 2006 5:21 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: 643 Question

Opps, I was wrong there, I was just reviewing the PP3 book and noticed it was not the B4 that had the radial stay box, but the B3, the difference between a B4 and a B4a was a larger grate area.

Author:  prr643 [ Tue May 02, 2006 11:48 pm ]
Post subject:  UPDATE FROM WGHSEA: Want to run a PRR Steamer this weekend?

Update: We have decided due to the short time before Saturday to not take reservations. It will be first come first serve, between 11-5. All other details are the same. Directions can be found on the website at www.williamsgrovesteam.org.

Thanks everyone for their interest in 643!

Tom von Trott

Author:  Les Beckman [ Wed May 03, 2006 12:59 am ]
Post subject:  Re: 643/reboilering by Porter

Man, you could have knocked me over with a feather when I heard that PRR 643 had been re-boilered by H.K. Porter sometime after World War II. The B-4a had been sold to Central Iron & Steel (later Phoenix Iron & Steel and still later, Phoenix Steel) at an undetermined date. What I find really curious is, why did CI&S decide to re-boiler # 5 after the Second World War? Wouldn't it have been much cheaper just to go out and buy a used steam locomotive at that time? Certainly there would have had to have been a large number of small steam switchers becoming surplus, with dieselization moving into high gear at that time. Why spend all that money on a brand new boiler for number 5? As I recall, when # 5 (ex-PRR 643) was discovered at the old Phoenix Steel plant after it was abandoned, there were also a couple of saddletank steam engines on the roster. I think one was originally saved by the Williams Grove group and the other scrapped, although perhaps I have that wrong. Maybe CI&S purchased a new (or a couple of new) steam saddletankers from Porter at the time of the re-boilering and Porter gave them some kind of a "deal". I just can't believe that CI&S just went out and re-boilered the old timer. Does anyone know the real answer to this mystery?

Les Beckman

Author:  John Bohon [ Wed May 03, 2006 8:20 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: 643/reboilering by Porter

I do not have an answer to why the 643 was reboilered but can speculate a little. Since the work was done in 1945 the war was barely over. The atom bombs ended the war rather abruptly and perhaps the work was scheduled, and approved by the government if it needed to be, before anyone knew there would be no invasion of Japan. Even if the war was already over I am sure the railroads were still extremely busy. There may have been fewer locomotives available than one would think. I would also bet the boiler was worn nearly to the point of having to be taken out of service or may have already been out of service.

As for the other steel mill engines I know an 0-4-0T came to the Grove around the same time as the 643. In fact before my days there they would couple the engines together and have pulling contests to see which engine could pull the other. I am told tha saddletanker always won. By my era the saddletanker was on display beside a restraunt in Enola. I remember going up there one evening during a show and trading injectors in order to get a working injector for the 643. I think that engine is privately owned these days. I know it was sold to the restraunt against the wishes of most if not all of the people on the railroad crew.

If the mill had other engines I am unaware of them. The 0-4-0T was not new in 45 and I think operated under reduced pressure at William Grove. I am fairly sure the mill did not recieve a new engine from Porter when the 643 was reboilered.

John Bohon

Author:  Les Beckman [ Wed May 03, 2006 9:48 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: 643/reboilering by Porter


Thanks for the info. Yes, if the 0-6-0 was re-boilered in 1945, then the war might have just ended. Still a little strange, but I guess, plausible. Somewhere I have a reference to the other two locomotives that they found at Phoenix Steel. If I can dig and find it, I'll let you know.


Author:  G. W. Laepple [ Wed May 03, 2006 10:04 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: 643/reboilering by Porter

If my memory is correct, when the steel mill was sold off and demolished, the two steam locomotives and a diesel were found. The 0-4-0T was a standard Alco industrial saddle tank, and the diesel was a small center-cab. I don't know its fate.

Author:  wesp [ Thu May 04, 2006 7:44 am ]
Post subject:  Re: 643/reboilering by Porter

Here's the status of the second engine:



Author:  Alexander D. Mitchell IV [ Thu May 04, 2006 11:57 am ]
Post subject:  Summerdale Jct. Restaurant loco

Not "current" by any stretch of the imagination.

The restaurant, which overlooked the northern/western end of Enola Yard, across the river from Harrisburg, Pa., was closed and demolished several years ago, perhaps as long as 12 years ago. I think its replacement was an Advance Auto Parts outlet. The loco "disappeared" around the same time; I seem to recall local rumor that it was relocated to the steam loco collection of the late Blue Mt. & Reading steam mechanic in Hamburg, Pa., but it's almost likely that it was scrapped instead.

Dan Cupper, do you have an update?

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