Saturday, September 12, 2009

Steam Engine Maintenance

Prairie Dog Central Steam Engine #3
I volunteered today at the Prairie Dog Central railway. I had emailed earlier this week to say I was available, and I was asked to help wipe down their steam engine #3. I arrived this morning at 9 AM sharp and reported to their steam engine guru, Bob Harris.

My job, along with veteran Ziggy, was to wipe the engine down with varsol to clean it up. I put my coveralls, safety goggles and rubber gloves on, and got to work! The job basically consisted of wiping the engine with Varsol (a solvent), then doing a "dry wipe" with a cloth, then another wipe with Varsol and some oil to give it a shine. That's my pail and gloves on the engine in the photo above. I did the first wipe and some of the dry wiping, and Ziggy did the oil wipe. It took about four hours, and a lot of climbing, to get the job done but I think it looks a lot better now. The bell in particular was filthy, being just behind the stack. I also washed the windows in the cab.

After that, we did a water test to see the quality of water in the boiler. The intent of this is to see what additives, if any, need to be added to bring the water into specification. The water has to be pretty "basic" (opposite of acidic), not have too many dissolved solids, and have enough sulfides in it to absorb the oxygen in the water so it doesn't corrode the boiler system. There is so much to learn about steam engines!

We wrapped up around 2 PM. I decided to head out and take a few shots of the returning excursion train before heading home. I shot it three times before it reached Inkster Junction. Here's the video...

Thanks to everyone at PDC for showing me around. I look forward to volunteering again.

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