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 Post subject: Re: NKP 759 History (includes the "freeze") for Record
PostPosted: Sat Sep 19, 2015 9:35 am 

Joined: Mon Sep 15, 2008 7:59 pm
Posts: 64
Location: Springville, PA
Some observations, (and maybe some good eye opening information)

759: Too large for what Steamtown does.
1) It barely fits in the roundhouse. It takes a very skilled engineer to put the stack under the smoke jack while keeping the headlight 1 foot away from the balcony. The turntable railing is still an issue.
2) Coaling requires the locomotive to negotiate some very sharp curves to get to the coal dock. Having been involved with bringing the 759 over to the shop for asbestos abatement, it was a lot of work for 4 guys to walk and an extremely slow move with rails screaming the whole way to get the locomotive to the shop tracks just once. I was surprised it didn't roll a rail over during the move.
3) Where will this restoration be done? The shop is big, but with 2 other locomotives and one switcher almost finished, there will be little room to take apart the 759 and properly lay out her components for restoration.
4) Who will restore the locomotive? There are currently 3 mechanics (one currently on furlough) and one welder working on steam locomotives. 3 more are working on the diesel. 2 older volunteers come in regularly to help out. A few of these mechanics also maintain the passenger cars and are sometimes called out for train service. Only 3 of the mechanics in the shop are actually interested in trains. For comparison: According to the 765 web page, there are 70 - 100 volunteers that maintain the 765 and perform work over the winter non operating months.
5) Where will the locomotive operate? Yes the Pocono mountains were the home of some large steam locomotives back in the day. However, they hauled trains that were much much longer than the 6 car excursion trains that Steamtown normally runs. For those of you that have taken a train handling air brake class, it would required at least a 12 car train of Steamtown coaches in good condition (no en-route failures) to provide enough braking (remember tons per operative brake?) effect to properly bring the train and the 220 ton locomotive safely down the steep DL&W grades over the Poconos. (keep in mind the number of mechanics that perform coach work)
6) Track in general. The Pocono mainline is good for 25-30 MPH. Anything over that and you are braking the max speed limit on the railroad. To quote a visiting engineer, "This is one beat up railroad". To operate the 759 over this railroad at 30 mph (Top speed with lots of speed restriction as the norm) with less than good quality track, the maintenance requirements would seriously escalate to a level that would outweigh the revenue made by the trip.
7) Turning it around. Currently, the only place to turn the locomotive is at the Portland wye or at Steamtown (turntable or wye). With NS use at the Portland wye down to a minimum, track maintenance there is also at a minimum. A trip around the wye on a Berkshire is a not for the light hearted. Steep grades on the wye make for an interesting trip in a large locomotive.

These are my personal observations and thoughts. Not those of my employer.

I do hope this sheds some light on the subject.

PS. The 26 does not have high pressure oil on the crown brasses. Wet oil cellars and journal pads only.

Bruce Mowbray
Springville, PA


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 Post subject: Re: NKP 759 History (includes the "freeze") for Record
PostPosted: Sat Sep 19, 2015 10:40 am 

Joined: Thu Jun 17, 2010 9:31 am
Posts: 399
Ross, keep in mind that SNHS is not just tasked with restoring steam locomotives. I don't know if you have ever visited the park but much has been done over the past decade or so. You may not care about the work that went into the exhibits, or the new roof that was put on last year, or all the other little things that fall under ground keeping or just 'paying the bills.' In their defense, 3254 should have carried them until 26 was done but I believe they made the right decision in not risking catastrophe and taking her out of service.

And steamfan765, I really don't see what bearing the experience of the FWRHS has on what gets restored at Steamtown.


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 Post subject: Re: NKP 759 History (includes the "freeze") for Record
PostPosted: Mon Sep 21, 2015 10:01 am 

Joined: Thu Jun 17, 2010 9:31 am
Posts: 399
After some thought on this thread there is one point that I want to bring into focus. You have to ask yourself, what makes Steamtown unique, and what makes it invaluable? The first part of the answer has to deal with being under the umbrella of the NPS. We are talking about a facility that is going to receive funding annually no matter how many people come through the door. How many excursions have had to close their doors after a season of poor ridership, rising insurance premiums, the death or declining health of the operator, or a catastrophic blow to either the motive power or the right of way? Steamtown is subject to none of this. Now, it does hurt them in other ways, but it also means that at the end of the day, Steamtown survives.

The second part of my answer to this question is an overlooked but important one. Steamtown has the ability to be, and in many ways has already become, a Mecca for rail enthusiasts. This board and others like it, and even this thread, are full of criticisms; comments about the time it has taken to restore BLW 26, or the early retirement of 3254, or the introduction of diesel power on the main. As I have already said, much of the annual operating budget gets spent on infrastructure, as the park has a duty not only to the locomotives in the collection but also the entire site as a whole. What you have received by way of this all-encompassing preservation model is a fantastical hub of all things rail.

Please consider for a moment what can, and what has occurred at SNHS. Aside from the in-house excursions available, we have the F3 units which belong to, I believe, a joint effort between the Anthracite and Tri-state Historical Societies, frequently on the main and given full use of the backshop. The 765 just completed a visit that saw use of the yard for their collection of passenger cars and other equipment, a stay in the roundhouse, and the ability to make a quick repair to get them back underway. Both the ELDCPS and the local RHS chapter have offered rare mileage trips, Santa trips, and other excursions and events in conjunction with the very preservation friendly D-L that just could not have happened without their combined dedication and the commitment of the park.

True, there is some red tape attached as you are volunteering or operating at a NPS facility. R&N 425 made a stop for Railfest 2014 but could not run due to not having filed the proper paperwork for clearance but realistically anyone who has their house in order and is a good neighbor can play ball. In this sense, Steamtown is and can be so much more than what those in the rail community wish to give them credit for.

I for one am thrilled that the 759 is housed indoors at Steamtown, and in good condition. It is obvious to me that the NPS values what they have in 759 and because of them, it will be around for years to come. I don’t get bent out of shape because it is only on static display, not with so much going on around it. I also care about a number of other locomotives in the park that are not as fortunate to be out of the weather the way that 759 is. Instead of putting money needlessly into 759 and having a third operational locomotive, I would rather that the park spread their funding around and keep working at preserving the other equipment, so that it, too, is around for years to come. To do anything else is short sighted and selfish, IMO.


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 Post subject: Re: NKP 759 History (includes the "freeze") for Record
PostPosted: Mon Sep 21, 2015 11:23 am 

Joined: Thu Feb 27, 2014 10:08 am
Posts: 237
Mr. Mowbray - Your seven observations re: NKP 759 are all great points which would also fit somewhat in Mr. Glueck's thread, "All Dressed Up and No Place to Go" in that they illustrate the many factors, besides operability or near-operability, that go into the difficult decision of what gets restored and what sits.

Some of the issues you mention appear to have workable solutions while some go more specifically to site specific business/operating issues. All are spot on.

Please note that my suggestion for 759 restoration/maintenance was in the context of the potential economic and logistical benefits of a partnership with the Fort Wayne group. As you stated, the FWRHS has about 800 members of which 70 to 100 volunteer to actively maintain 765. Given the small number of volunteers working with you and the other preservation specialists in Scranton that you cite, a partnership with FWRHS may have the added benefit of giving the Park Service management insight into how to better recruit and retain dedicated shop volunteers through the Park Service's Volunteer in Parks program.

Most troubling is the reported condition of the Pocono main and the Portland wye. This is a challenge that would be difficult/impossible for the the Park Service to remedy since it does not own this track. Also, any condition issues could potentially pose an additional risk of damage to any restored artifact that the Park Service decides to operate over this trackage.

Thank you for directing my attention to the technical error re: Baldwin 26 in my previous post. I have edited (and hopefully corrected) it accordingly. The editorial theme of the post remains unchanged.


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 Post subject: Re: NKP 759 History (includes the "freeze") for Record
PostPosted: Mon Sep 21, 2015 3:22 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 11:54 pm
Posts: 1733
"The chances of S'town restoring the 759 ( or any other engine) are less than zero.

Sad but true.

Ross Rowland"


It is sad if:


There is a need for the locomotive, there are no better or least as worthy alternatives, and the resources exist to rehabilitate, maintain and serve the locomotive. Right now, most or all of the necessary conditions required to even consider launching a restoration do not exist.

There's simply more to the story of the steam era than big locomotives running long excursions. Sometimes that reality doesn't comport our fondest dreams.

Steamtown has sixty plus acres of land, an array of buildings, rolling stock, and a library full of documentation and images. These things all require care and have some value to the visitor, who more than likely will not be a hardcore railfan. Should there be events to cater to the hardcore railfan? Yes, because they are part of the public-but there's also the family with "a couple two-tree" kids looking to spend the day, who need multiple things, because the kiddies have at best a 45 minute attention span.

Steamtown was once described as the "Jurassic Park" of Steam. Before you go resurrecting a T-Rex, you better think about containing it and feeding it-and remember it doesn't want to be fed, it wants to hunt.

Those of us who are, and have been actively involved with Steamtown want to see something that meets the needs of the visitor and that is feasible with in the present and anticipable physical, financial and staffing of constraints of the facility.

Of course, once the Iron Horse Society is fully running, if some generous benefactor shows up with wads of cash-enough to restore the engine and deal with Bruce Mowbray's list of issues-we'll be happy to place a call to the Superintendent to say "there's an opportunity presenting itself".


Last edited by superheater on Mon Sep 21, 2015 3:44 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: NKP 759 History (includes the "freeze") for Record
PostPosted: Mon Sep 21, 2015 3:41 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 11:54 pm
Posts: 1733
"Please consider for a moment what can, and what has occurred at SNHS. Aside from the in-house excursions available, we have the F3 units which belong to, I believe, a joint effort between the Anthracite and Tri-state Historical Societies, frequently on the main and given full use of the backshop. The 765 just completed a visit that saw use of the yard for their collection of passenger cars and other equipment, a stay in the roundhouse, and the ability to make a quick repair to get them back underway. Both the ELDCPS and the local RHS chapter have offered rare mileage trips, Santa trips, and other excursions and events in conjunction with the very preservation friendly D-L that just could not have happened without their combined dedication and the commitment of the park."

In my completely personal opinion, what is happening here is analogous to opening the source code.


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