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 Post subject: Sandblasting a displayed locomotive--is it ever right?
PostPosted: Tue Jan 21, 2020 11:23 pm 

Joined: Fri Oct 01, 2004 1:33 pm
Posts: 347
Location: Oroville, CA
A bit of background first.
For decades I tried to care for a displayed steam engine. I no longer live in the area and so the care or lack of it has been done by others. There is a new group hoping to restore the engine--ON DISPLAY ONLY. One thing they are debating is the removal of the protective fence because it is now "an eyesore." (because they are proposing to fix it up, I won't add that the engine itself is falling into that category ). I have advised against that idea, but it is still to be seen what will happen. Right now they want to take down the fence to make it easier to work on the engine and then perhaps replace it later with something more attractive--it is presently chain link with three strands of barbed wire on top.
So now to the "fixing up." They want to sandblast the engine. I have advised against doing so because it will pretty much render the axle and rod bearings unfit. Presently they are not too bad, and in the 1970s I even borrowed an Alemite gun and filled the rod bearings with fresh grease (grease donated by the 4449 crew when the engine was here overnight). All the other accessory bearings have been lubed too (dynamo, air pump, etc.) and back in the 1970s all this stuff was actually still functional. I don't know what shape it is in now.
I was always taught that in preservation one should "do no harm" and I consider sandblasting "doing harm." Their stand is that the engine is a monument display and will never be moved, so it's not an issue. I did mention that the underlying insulation material will likely be disturbed by the process, but they claim the contractor is familiar with engines and there will be no problem.
What is this group's opinion on this?

_________________
Steamcerely,
David Dewey
Celebrating the return to the American Rivers of the last overnight steamboat, Delta Queen!


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 Post subject: Re: Sandblasting a displayed locomotive--is it ever right?
PostPosted: Wed Jan 22, 2020 12:40 am 

Joined: Mon Aug 23, 2004 2:14 pm
Posts: 511
Location: Essex, Connecticut, USA
Greetings:
A few comments...

In my opinion, sandblasting a locomotive still insulated with asbestos is inviting problems. There is no way to prevent high pressure air from disturbing the asbestos. In it's dry state, asbestos is "friable" that is it can become air born if disturbed. To the best of my knowledge, asbestos is dangerous when it is air born and therefore can be breathed into the respiratory system.
I think that it would be advisable to have the asbestos removed by a licensed contractor prior to any restoration work that might disturb the asbestos.
Now, since most removal contractors have no experience with steam locomotives, it is also advisable to hire someone who IS familiar with steam locomotives to show them how to properly remove handrails and piping, etc. as well as properly removing the boiler jacket.

By properly, I mean carefully, so those items can be re-installed or used for patterns.
I would note that even as I write this, Gary Bensman is performing these duties at Steamtown National Historic Site in conjunction with the work being done on "Big Boy" No. 4012 as he did previously with several other steam locomotives in that collection.

As far as sandblasting is concerned, think about it: if the side rod bearings have just been greased, how will sand get in between the bearings and the crankpins, especially if they are greased again after sandblasting? What I have always done is to mask around crankpins, axles and such with plastic wrap and duct tape and avoid blasting those areas. Clean them by hand, there aren't that many of them. I have had several steam locomotives sandblasted which were later moved without damage/incident.

A lot of issues can be avoided with a bit of knowledge about steam locomotives and taking care to avoid getting sand in critical areas in the first place.

By the way, I have found that areas which are really heavily rusted (like the tops of boilers & wrapper sheets) are best dealt with using a scaler/needle chipper or such prior to sand blasting. The idea is to get down to bare metal and then coat the surfaces with a good primer. For locomotives that are going to be outside, I use an epoxy coating made by Sherwin-Williams that when dry is difficult to remove with a scaler/needle gun (note: I hold no stock in that company).

Good luck!
J.David


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