Railway Preservation News

Maine Central #501 & John Smythe
Page 1 of 3

Author:  John Smythe [ Mon Dec 25, 2017 9:10 am ]
Post subject:  Maine Central #501 & John Smythe

Hello everyone, I'm now a member of this website. I'm not looking to fight with anyone but willing to finally get to the real truth regarding why I decided to part ways with CSRX in the year 2000 after being part of the effort aimed at restoring MEC #501 to full operational condition. I worked as a volunteer between the years of 1996 to 2000 under direction of the late ( Matt Rines ) who was a 470 RR Club Trustee. Matt died in 2007 from a battle with Colon Cancer. He was a good man and I was very depressed when I learned of his death. There is a old thread / topic that seems to not exist anymore on this site that kind of nailed my hide to the wall for things that I'm not guilty of or had no hand in doing. I'll be happy to explain it all as after I left the project I kept every scrap of paper, blueprints, diagrams, letters, photos and video, etc that have anything to do do with the project.
Today is Christmas 2018 & I'm going to go downstairs to cook pancakes for my 97 year old Mom, my wonderful fiancee, Eve & myself then time to open presents and be thankful for all we have that is good despite all the evil & turmoil that is everywhere these days.
Once I get used to using the website, etc I'll be happy to engage all who wish to discuss MEC #501 project, she is the most wonderful piece of machinery that I ever worked on, I failed in my efforts to finish what I started, even more so when I offered to buy the #501 from the club in 2011 & pay for the relocation & restoration to modern FRA standards. Nobody can say I didn't try my best to acquire the #501, I came into a windfall of cash and real estate holdings after the death of my Dad, the cash was there but the leaders of the club just dug their heels in & there in N. Conway she still sits outside rusting away.
Once again I'll be happy to resolve all old issues as best I can, I'm a honest man and have nothing to gain by telling fake stories or tales. Merry Christmas everyone.

Author:  10stewi [ Tue Dec 26, 2017 4:40 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Maine Central #501 & John Smythe

While I cant remember every detail from the previous discussions, there is a small bit I can still remember reading.

From this I have to ask, what in your opinion was the shortcomings of the original restoration attempt?
Also, what were the problems initially between the museum and the restoration crew?
Furthermore, what was the list of tasks that was found, and were these responsible for creating the hostility when the costs were realized? Or rather, was hostility created because of the capabilities of the restoration crew relative to the tasks?

Hopefully learning experiences can be gained and considered in the future from what you and others involved have discovered!

Author:  John Smythe [ Wed Dec 27, 2017 8:34 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Maine Central #501 & John Smythe

Well the basic reason for much of the bitterness boils down to 3 things. Number one was that The 470 club was sweet talked by a man named Peter Bouley who operated a so called Steam Locomotive repair business out of Rhode Island. I was a very experienced mechanic who grew tired of repairing motor vehicles & wished to put my acquired skills to use bringing steam engines back to life, in other word just re-learning a new trade. Problem was I could not learn much of anything from someone who didn't know what they were doing & after loosing his " R " stamp, was of no more use in the restoration project. The more books I read & the more I people I talked too, confirmed my suspicions that the club had in fact hired the wrong man & had shelled out close to $35,000 or so and #501 could not pass a hydro test. The club felt cheated, I was angry at him, I was even working for him at his shop in RI & was being warned by those who I have always considered to be experts that we needed to beware of him. A great deal of damage and very poor workmanship took place before the 470 Club unloaded him for good.
The second thing of issue was that many of the other CSRX volunteers & paid employees in my opinion threw many obsticals in the clubs path. I got sick of the constant instant rules that some people would make up, I didn't like being blamed for allegedly breaking their tools even after I went & purchased my own identical tools, grinders, power cords, air lines, chains, come a longs, etc. I had the receipts and etched my name on them as well. Every week it was the same roundhouse foreman Courtney Gregg who tried to lay blame on me for missing tools, damaged tools and on& on even though I owned my own and never borrowed theirs. I really got pissed off for all the nit-picking. I read him the riot act one day, following that he was most uncooperative & continued the same B/S till I lodged a official complaint with his immediate supervisor which solved the problem at hand but did nothing to solve it long term. Again if CSRX people broke or damaged their shop tools then don't come crying and trying to blame me as I had my own set of the same items & I took good care of my tools. Always did & still do.
The third thing was another so called volunteer who used to work at the Wolfboro RR until it went out of business. It's a long story, too long, but nowhere in any railroad codes are regulations that allow the use of muffler pipe, EMT electrical conduit pipe and brass brazing rod ever make any sort of repairs to a pressurized vessel, meaning of coarse a locomotive boiler. Once these repairs were discovered, the code books, photos shown to 470 Club trustees including my supervisor & project manage Matt Rines, this volunteer was asked to not perform any more volunteer work on #501.
There are other things but I wanted to get things done, was working to educate myself on steam locomotive repairs done the right way and a lot of things that were done by these volunteers left a lot to be desired, thus much work needed to be done all over again a second time by myself in order to make it right. There's only so many hours in every weekend that I could perform such mechanical work to the #501. It was decieded by the club trustees that Peter Bouley was all through, the other volunteer was to not volunteer on the project anymore & I was given a green light to engage other outside vendors to replicate needed parts from MEC blueprints, find sponsors to recreate parts for the engine that would fall under a 501(c) 3 IRS deduction status, and just basically keep plugging away to repair the screw-ups.
The new FRA section 49 codes were being revised and the clock ran out before we could get someone to re-tube & re-flue the boiler, take ultrasound measurements, etc. New codes came into effect in 2000, we could have snuck over the finish line but winter was just getting underway, I was at the end of my rope & suffered a nervous breakdown & needed to be in the hospital. Kind of end of story. The owner of CSRX & I had a falling out as well, so I voluntarily turned in my company keys & left in Dec 1999. I did complete a few more items on the to - do list that continued into the year 2000 but then I just stopped.
I've been accused of many things that were never my fault by people who had a axe to grind with me just as much as I had a axe to grind with them, no matter how they were added up it was just a mess. Many of my so called accusers have not one iota of a clue what kind of work I did perform, what I did successfully accomplish, they were & still most likely are still of the wolf pack attack mentality as I had to deal with arguing about tools & power cords broken or missing that wasn't my problem, but theirs to solve within their own people As I have stated it's a long story that needs to be explained even all these years latter.
The truth hurts at times as we go through life but if I'm not the culprit and bring things to light, this wolf pack attack mentality goes hand in hand. Their loss not mine. If only my detractors had stepped up to the plate and helped The 470 RR Club and me instead of busying themselves attacking us & being obstructionists more positive things could have & would have been accomplished.

Author:  John Smythe [ Fri Dec 29, 2017 3:32 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Maine Central #501 & John Smythe

Just so everyone does know I'm very jealous of those who were & are working to get MEC #470 operational again. They have a lot of people all pulling in the same direction, I wish them great success. I only wish that I could have gotten the same with my undertakings.
For the record over the 3+ years that I was involved with the project I was able to secure the help of several individuals & companies who created / donated many much needed missing items, some for a fee, many for a tax write off. Those donated items included a new stainless steel air tank that is located on the fireman's side of the boiler directly under the running boards. Built to ASME standards it would never rust nor need to be drilled for FRA requirements, all welded construction including new air line fittings. Two replacement Builders Plates, a few hundred copper gaskets for the " D " & " K " style Flex Bolts. A couple of dozen Superheater " U " bend tube ends. Offer to test & certify 3 Ashcroft Safety Valves. A new Throttle Packing Retainer, new Throttle Yoke, new Brass Throttle Lever & associated attachments. Steamtown USA in Scranton allowed us to borrow the complete throttle assembly from sister locomotive #519, some 3 dozen different parts were replicated from the #519 unit. Any items that needed to be cast were done so at no charge to the club by Walter Newman. New Carbon Rod was cut & machined for the Turbo Generator to replace all damaged ones found in the unit, a broken inspection door was repaired & welded so that it fit properly. Hundreds of new nuts, bolts & washers of all various lengths & size.
Other items purchased such as new " D " & " K " Stay Bolts, Weld on cups, washers & caps were included. Each were cut to specific size & diameter that were deemed necessary to replace. A argument arose as to why so many of the large " K " Style Flex Bolts were removed when they did not leak during any of the hydro tests. The reason for this was, a R-4 Engineering study would needed to be undertaken to be in compliance with the new FRA Boiler Codes of 2000. Many of the " K " Bolts were replaced during the life of the boiler by MEC, they ranged from 1 1/8 " to 1 1/2" in, some were straight thread, some were necked down, on many the threaded spherical ball which sits in the cup were so galled / stripped that it would only be the right thing to make all these " K " Bolts a standard size therefore when mechanical mathematical calculations of that area were made it would be very easy to do, simple as that. New tapered studs 12 1/2 " threads per inch were produced to replace those found to be broken off by others before me who didn't take the time to heat up the straight threaded nuts on the opposite end before tying to remove them. Several had turned the whole length of the shank before shearing off and only left what remained of them still stuck to the boiler shell by just a couple or three turns, if not replaced then at some point in time when there was full pressure & 400* heat against them they could have come right out & caused a huge problem, no explanation needed. 210 New 2" boiler tubes were ordered from Anderson Tube Co. New Drive Cylinder retainers, spring type metallic packing & gaskets were custom made to MEC Blueprint specifications by Robert Yulle of Historic Machinery Services, he also supplied us with all " D " & " K " Staybolt supplies. The club was going to hire Bob to do additional work to finish the drive pistons, rings, bearings & whatever else needed doing to put the drive gear in working order. Repairs were made to make the Superheater Tubes in working order. Unfortunately.... a former employee of CSRX & Wolfboro RR named David took it upon himself to try to fit the throttle assy in a undersized Micky Mouse lathe and ruined it. Without reading up on a 2 stage valve assembly type spool before trying to grind loads of metal off of it & have the cutting bit chattering while attempting such shoddy repair he turned it into junk. Lynn Moedinger of the Strasburg RR in Penn, analyzed the spool & throttle body. So much damaged was caused by this individual that most likely a replacement would have to be made, costing thousands of dollars. Despite having good hearted people donate thousands of dollars in free things for the project, one major F/U sent all that savings down the drain. Like the saying goes.... " Dumb questions are cheaper than dumb mistakes. "

Author:  John Smythe [ Fri Jan 05, 2018 4:55 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Maine Central #501 & John Smythe

pT-04695%20(Small).jpg [ 54.79 KiB | Viewed 3554 times ]
From the lack of responses I see I'm getting, I guess that not many people are interested in MEC #501 Project any longer. I see lots of people have read the postings but only one response thus far. Oh well, after almost 20 years I guess memories have faded, times have changed, etc.
I have a lot of technical data & stories I wish to tell & will to the best of my ability answer anyone's questions pertaining tom this topic. Thanks.

By the way the photo is from October 1983 taken at Whitefield, NH at the Ball Signal as #501 was being transported from Steamtown, VT to CSRX in N. Conway, H. Many photos were taken as she was moved between Whitefield & N. Conway. I have most if not all of them. The exact date escapes me at the moment. I do know that this was the last official MEC freight train to ply the rails between Rigby Yard & St. Johnsbury, VT. As the consist passed through Bartlett a lone freight car or two were picked up on their way back to Portland, ME. At Intervale, NH the #501 was set off on the B&M line South to N. Conway. The Conway Scenic RR #1055 picked her up and brought #501 onto CSRX property.

Author:  Cody Muse [ Sun Jan 14, 2018 1:30 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Maine Central #501 & John Smythe


Thank you for the information, it has been a very interesting read. Fills in lots of gaps in both my mind and my notes!

Thanks again,
Cody Muse

Author:  John Smythe [ Mon Jan 15, 2018 8:13 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Maine Central #501 & John Smythe

Thank You for your kind comment.

Author:  Alexander D. Mitchell IV [ Mon Jan 15, 2018 9:14 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Maine Central #501 & John Smythe

As one of the too-long-time denizens of RyPN, allow me two discrete observations:

1) The "Railfanning" forum is something of a "hidden secret" to the website, not prominently positioned or promoted and drawing perhaps one-tenth the traffic of the Interchange forum.

2) The typical standard of discretion that stands here, and for some good reason, is that it's OK to point out or call out mistakes, failures, etc., but specifying particular individuals or companies to blame gets seen as afoul of the "no personal attacks" rule. Certain claims can, in the right circumstances, be viewed as defamatory to the point of libel/slander, and at least one prominent 4-8-4 owner took this to the point of threatening legal action against this website's curators/owners--and that action and its aftermath are the main reason this website is but a shadow of what it once was and was intended to be.
It does not matter if the claims made are completely true. If they can be construed as defamatory, someone will take offense. And ANY competent researcher or journalist knows darn well that a perfectly true statement can still be misleading by leaving out important appropriate context.

There are ways to address such things as the appropriateness of repair technique or materials, the competence of the technicians who used them, etc. without naming names publicly. Look at what I just said above about "one prominent 4-8-4 owner." Everyone who has been here awhile knows damned well to whom I refer, but it's still obscure enough to not be actionable. Similarly, if someone like the Strasburg or Union Pacific were to initiate legal action against a supplier of substandard material or work, or someone files suit against an excursion operator or a motion with the Surface Transportation Board, that's a matter of public record. The now-quite-controversial actions of the Western Maryland Scenic RR regarding certain restorations, employees, or contractors dances a fine line--taxpayer monies, but private employees/contractors.....

And as I type this, I'm sitting in a relative's living room because my car decided to screw up on me right in front of a garage everyone in the area spoke highly of; I soon found their competence was lacking and had the car towed 15 miles to a garage that I can trust because I've stood there with them working on one of my earlier cars and they proved their competence........ but I'm still loath to name names..............

Author:  John Smythe [ Tue Jan 16, 2018 8:41 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Maine Central #501 & John Smythe

I really pity you sir. May I ask you about your involvement with the #501 Project? How many hours , days, weekends, etc did you put in to help between the years 1996-2000?
In many ways I wish I never had gotten myself involved with The 470 RR Club & the MEC # 501 Project. At the time my parents & I owned a beautiful home on big Sebago lake, I could have been enjoying swimming, fishing, sail boating but instead put many years of expert mechanical skills & aptitude to work out in the heat, cold, rain & snow to do my best to make a dream of many materialize. I refuse to take blame for shoddy workmanship that was not of my doing before I began to volunteer my time, I tried my hardest to undo the unsound work of others as time went by. I received little help from management & roundhouse crew at CSRX. I was considered a flatlander from Massachusetts, talk about prejudice! More later, I have to run some errands before snow moves into the area.

Author:  jayrod [ Wed Jan 17, 2018 10:47 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Maine Central #501 & John Smythe

John Smythe wrote:
I really pity you sir. May I ask you about your involvement with the #501 Project? How many hours , days, weekends, etc did you put in to help between the years 1996-2000?

With respect, I think you may have missed the point of ADM4's post. RYPN exists to share constructive news, information, tips and techniques that furthers ALL our rail preservation efforts. This can only happen if we conduct ourselves in a respectful, professional manner. Otherwise, it'd be just another foamer forum of one-upsmanship without any real content. Thus, we won't tolerate flaming anyone or anything for any reason. We all understand your story and definitely your passion. And I'm sure members will have their opinions one way or the other no matter what gets posted by whomever. That's just human nature and none of us can change that. But we can chose to take the high road and rise above it.

Again, with respect, I and others have no valid opinion of your situation one way or the other and don't need to be convinced one way or the other. With that said, lets get back to sharing and not stating cases.

In my humble opinion,

Author:  John Smythe [ Wed Jan 17, 2018 11:27 pm ]
Post subject: 

It's been a long day at the shop. My wonderful job as a Prototype Tool Developer keeps me very busy. The best part is I don't get dirty & sweaty anymore plus I make money hand over fist now. Later.

Author:  John Smythe [ Fri Jan 19, 2018 1:54 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Maine Central #501 & John Smythe

I only feel it's fair & reasonable to be able to defend myself & my past work from those who have smeared me with FAKE INNUENDO regarding what I did or did not do as a volunteer on the #501 project from 1996-2000. Others have used my name in posts so why can't I do the same?

Author:  Zak Lybrand [ Sat Jan 20, 2018 3:57 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Maine Central #501 & John Smythe

Does this thread smell a bit like desperation to anyone else besides me?

Author:  hullmat991 [ Sat Jan 20, 2018 10:05 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Maine Central #501 & John Smythe

Zak Lybrand wrote:
Does this thread smell a bit like desperation to anyone else besides me?

Ehh..... Not quite, but it is getting there. At least it is nowhere near as bad as the hyperbole that Lenny Shaner spouts out.

In all seriousness; it was ridiculous to create an account just to resurrect a long dead thread to argue against what was said 12+ years ago. Let it go.

Author:  John Smythe [ Mon Jan 22, 2018 4:40 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Maine Central #501 & John Smythe

If others believe I'm flogging a dead horse then perhaps I am. The problem is the number of views this particular topic has thus far received since my first post is nearing 1,000 views, hardly what I'd describe as boring.
Believe me my work as a " Prototype Tool Development " person occupies a large portion of my daily time. I have much work to do & a short time to perform it in. I have put my college education & degrees to practical use & make a sizable salary doing so.
I have no intention of ever being any part of a effort to restore a steam locomotive ever again. I just like to reminisce on occasion & set the record straight on a few things regarding the MEC # 501 Project. Evidently it ruffled a few feathers. I figures it would. I used to get dirty for a living, now I don't anymore except when I go to the bank and cash large paychecks & put the dirty greenbacks in my pocket to spend as I damn well please.
Some people are perhaps very jealous of my terrific success. Perhaps those who write badly about me have purchased & used one of many, many mechanical tools I have had a hand in developing.
I want to thank those who are so concerned about my health. I am doing just fine, I'm NOT depressed by any means, healthy as ever & making money hand over fist doing something I enjoy. Life is VERY GOOD!

Page 1 of 3 All times are UTC - 5 hours [ DST ]
Powered by phpBB © 2000, 2002, 2005, 2007 phpBB Group