Railway Preservation News

Alaska Railroad 2-8-0 #557 to be returned to service!
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Author:  Dick_Morris [ Sat Apr 28, 2018 6:09 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Alaska Railroad 2-8-0 #557 to be returned to service!

The cars are essentially empty. Although our top priority is to get the locomotive operating we are doing some initial planning and preparation for operations. When we learned these cars were in the hands of a recycling firm we asked for them and were able to arrange a donation. We have requested that the ARR store them in their Anchorage yards for the immediate future.

A permanent shop location is still in the planning stages, but one possibility is at the end of an industrial spur in Palmer.

Author:  Dick_Morris [ Mon May 07, 2018 2:30 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Alaska Railroad 2-8-0 #557 to be returned to service!

The April status report is posted at http://www.557.alaskarails.org/restore/index.html.

After rebuilding, the first of our Pyle-National K-240-I turbo generators passed its test with flying colors. The rebuild included repairing a badly worn section of the shaft. We undercut the worn area and our neighbors, Alaska Roteq, contributed building it up by thermal spray coating. We then machined it back to specs. Tested on air, the generator ran smoothly and put out 33 volts. Final testing and adjustment will be done when our boiler is returned to service.

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Author:  Dick_Morris [ Tue Jun 12, 2018 8:10 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Alaska Railroad 2-8-0 #557 to be returned to service!

The most recent status report is posted at http://www.557.alaskarails.org/restore/index.html.

Author:  Dick_Morris [ Tue Jul 03, 2018 5:42 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Alaska Railroad 2-8-0 #557 to be returned to service!

The June status report is posted at http://557.alaskarails.org/restore/index.html.

Since we aren't yet operating we work hard to stay on the radar screens of our stakeholders. In addition to presentations at various meetings and welcoming several groups of visitors each week to the "Engine House" each week, we participate in special events three or four times a year. A couple of weeks ago the venue was the "Colony Days" celebration in the 1930s era Palmer depot, now repurposed as meeting space. The day is coming closer when ARR 557 will again stop in Palmer to pick up a load of passengers.

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Author:  Dick_Morris [ Wed Jul 25, 2018 1:28 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Alaska Railroad 2-8-0 #557 to be returned to service!

I posted this to our Facebook page and thought it might be interesting/useful to some people here -

Here are a few words of steam locomotive esoterica about the way the Baldwin Locomotive Works identified a locomotive. Rail enthusiasts tend to use the builder's number to identify a locomotive, but those appear to be hung onto the locomotive when it goes out the door and don't appear to be particularly significant to Baldwin. The class and serial number are applied before the locomotive is constructed and they follow it through construction.

557's class and serial number are 280 19S 809.

The designation 280-19S identifies a locomotive from the Baldwin Locomotive Works as a Consolidation with 19 inch bore. The S stands for Steam. BLW class number 280 19S is the classification for the War Department S160 Consolidations and all other 2-8-0s with a 19 inch bore that BLW built after about 1940. (BLW used a different classification system before that, but it was also based on wheel arrangement and bore.) This was a BLW classification and was not used by the other S160 builders.

557's identification, 280 19S 809, is made up of the class and the sequential serial number for the 809th 2-8-0 with 19 inch cylinders that BLW built under the revised classification designation. Note that it was not the 809th S-160 - other designs were built with the same wheel arrangement and cylinder size, including at least one outside framed 3 foot gauge locomotive of a completely different design that went to South America.

The serial numbers for the first order of BLW S-160s was 190 to 339, so their classification and serial numbers were 280 19S 190 through 339. I think Great Smokey Mountains 1702 was the second S160 that BLW built, so it is probably 289-19S 191. ARR-556 is 280 19S 517.

The class and serial number were used in the construction of the locomotive and to identify it to a customer. In addition to using this number in the drawing index, it was also used on the specification sheet for the Alaska specific S-160s and the class, or class and serial numbers, show up on some of the drawings.

The serial number is important when determining what version of a drawing applied to a particular locomotive. Each drawing listed in the drawing index states whether a part applies to all locomotives in the order, a portion of the order (many of the drawings for the 5-1/2 foot gauge Indian locomotives in the same order as 557 were unique to the broad gauge locomotives), or a single locomotive. The drawing index that the order 557 was built under says serial number 809 was the only locomotive in that order that had a knuckle coupler.

Many of the parts - rods, valve gear, frames, etc,. were marked for a specific locomotive, so a lot of our parts are marked with 280 19S 809. However, when dismantling 557 we learned that parts designated for a particular locomotive didn't always end up on the locomotive they were built for. On 557, the number stamped into the cab and the number painted onto the cylinder block under a dozen layers of old paint carry different serial numbers than the locomotive serial number. The numbers came from locomotives in the same order number and don't correspond to any of the other Alaskan S160s, so the swap was done at the factory upon construction.

The photos show a couple of valve gear parts with the complete locomotive ID. Also attached are identifications on two places on the boiler. On the boiler, only the class number is included without the locomotive serial number. I don't have a photo handy, but the most prevalent marking is on the rear vertical surface on each of the locomotive frames.

Also shown is a cover letter and the first page of the specifications for Alaska Railroad 551 through 554, the first group of S160s received by the ARR. The locomotives are identified by their class and serial number. Note that the ARR road numbers, USATC numbers (2379-2382), and BLW builder's numbers (63636-63639) don't appear anywhere.

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Author:  Dick_Morris [ Sun Aug 05, 2018 6:03 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Alaska Railroad 2-8-0 #557 to be returned to service!

The latest status report has been posted at http://557.alaskarails.org/restore/index.html.

New spring hangers were fabricated. The old one on top shows why.

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Author:  Dick_Morris [ Thu Sep 06, 2018 11:30 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Alaska Railroad 2-8-0 #557 to be returned to service!

The most recent status report is now available at http://557.alaskarails.org/restore/index.html

Getting rid of ugliness, one part at a time. We have moved to overhauling the front truck. This is the top of one of the swing links showing a long-ago "repair" to compensate for wear. The mating pins had the wear pattern that would be expected. Originally, the link was flame cut from mild steel with the critical surfaces machined and a case hardened bushing installed at the bottom end. They were supported on case hardened steel pins. There were originally oil holes, but the welded "repair" covered them. Our repair involved a welded build-up with a harder material and re-machining.

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Author:  Dick_Morris [ Sat Nov 10, 2018 9:47 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Alaska Railroad 2-8-0 #557 to be returned to service!

The status report for October accomplishments can be accessed at http://557.alaskarails.org/restore/index.html.

This has been a busy and productive month for us. Robert Franzen and Bob Gold spent 10 days leading us in installing radial stays and Robert advised on a number of upcoming projects.

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Author:  John Risley [ Sun Nov 11, 2018 10:02 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Alaska Railroad 2-8-0 #557 to be returned to service!

As always very impressive! Thanks for the updates. Regards, John.

Author:  Dick_Morris [ Sat Dec 01, 2018 12:51 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Alaska Railroad 2-8-0 #557 to be returned to service!


The restoration shop for Alaska Railroad #557 is only about five miles from the epicenter of today's 7.0 earthquake. We dodged the bullet. Main damage was a tool box turned over. The drawers probably all extended and caused it to tip. We also had a can of paint fall off of a shelf and open when it hit the floor. Friday is not a scheduled work day so no one was there when the earthquake hit. Our neighbor across the parking lot is a working man's clothing store. He had a broken fire suppression sprinkler pipe and received quite a bit of water damage.

Service on the Alaska Railroad is suspended while they do an assessment.

(My own house in Anchorage came through OK. A few things knocked off the shelves and no electricity for about an hour.)

There were a number of places in the Anchorage and Wasilla area where roads were damaged. Traffic on the main road going north from Anchorage has two of the four lanes closed due to failure of an area of flll under the road. One of the videos/stills of damage that is going around shows about 100 feet of a two lane road that was destroyed. It is about three miles from the Engine House. Schools will be closed for a few days while they are inspected and a number of stores are were closed while they clean up and restock the shelves.

I haven't heard anything about the Museum of Alaska Transportation and Industry, which has a large rail related collection. It must be very close to the epicenter.

Author:  Dick_Morris [ Fri Dec 07, 2018 5:55 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Alaska Railroad 2-8-0 #557 to be returned to service!

The November status report is posted at http://557.alaskarails.org/restore/index.html.

There have been several discussions of waste for journals. The photo below is of the Armstrong oilers that we received recently. Contact information is in the status report.

Although 557 escaped any significant affect of the earthquake a week ago, we were very fortunate. At least four schools in about a 25 mile radius of the epicenter suffered structural damage and will be closed for the remainder of the school year or beyond and a number of houses encountered major damage. Throughout the affected areas, many stores, libraries, and residence had everything on shelves dumped onto the floor. The Alaska Railroad was able to restore service to the entire road within about four days.

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Author:  Dick_Morris [ Sat Dec 08, 2018 8:53 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Alaska Railroad 2-8-0 #557 to be returned to service!

I started our annual fund raiser with a $5,000 challenge. The challenge is now up to $25,000 as an anonymous donor has pledged an additional $20,000.00 to the matching pool. Please consider a contribution to return Engine 557 to operation and make your donation double in value! Information on contributing on line or by mail is at http://557.alaskarails.org/support/donate.html.

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Author:  Dick_Morris [ Fri Dec 21, 2018 4:29 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Alaska Railroad 2-8-0 #557 to be returned to service!

Starting on November 26 through about the end of the year we are posting to our Facebook page a reprise of photos of the Alaska Railroad #557 restoration over the last six years. https://www.facebook.com/557-Restoratio ... 931790950/

Author:  Dick_Morris [ Tue Dec 25, 2018 12:01 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Alaska Railroad 2-8-0 #557 to be returned to service!

The link to the December status report is at http://557.alaskarails.org/restore/index.html. It includes some additional information and photos from our earthquake.

December 22, was our last work day in the shop for 2018. The crew is off enjoying the Christmas season and we will resume with a work call for Wednesday, January 2, 2019. This allows us to wrap up the December report early.

Wishing everyone a peaceful holiday season and prosperous new year.

File comment: Image courtesy of Shannon Cartwright.
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Author:  Dick_Morris [ Tue Feb 05, 2019 2:01 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Alaska Railroad 2-8-0 #557 to be returned to service!

The January status report can be found at http://557.alaskarails.org/restore/index.html.

One project for this month has been for our shop to manufacture replacements for several of the wash-out plugs. The steps and the final product are shown with an original in the first image and an original and a new one in the second image.

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