Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Cass Scenic Railroad, West Virginia

It's June 2017: I've been to the USA again and found another spectacular steam railway. I have to admit that I like the American Olde Steamy railroads. They seem to do higher, steeper and/or longer than we do in the UK; some to a massive extent and Cass Scenic Railroad is one of these.

I've visited the Cumbres and Toltec, Durango and Silverton, Georgetown Loop, Mount Rainier and a few others before. Cass was new to me and what a gem. It's steepest gradient is 11% or 1 in 9.09 and, according to wikipedia, is the third steepest non-rack railway in the world.

Cass is the home for Shay locomotives. Like Joyce (there is a connection), Shays are geared locomotives and they don't go fast. They are designed for steep gradients, sharp curves and poor track as built for logging railroads in the last century or earlier. Cass has about five operational Shays plus a Heisler and a Climax although not all in workable condition.

So what's a Shay?
Shay No. 2 at Bald Knob Summit
Shays have a three cylinder vertical steam engine along the right hand side. The engine drives a flexible shaft which powers all axles using a ~2:1 bevel gear mechanism. To counteract the weight of the side-mounted engines, the boiler is offset to the left of the chassis; I wouldn't describe this as an elegant feature but it probably prevents a lot of toppling accidents.
Three cylinder vertical engine
Three cylinder vertical engine with air brake pump in the foreground.
Driveshafts are below.
Like Joyce, the engines revolve quite fast and produce a purr rather than a chuff when in motion. A variable length drive shaft with gimbal bearings enables the drive to reach the axles whilst also being able to negotiate sharp curves and undulating track. Bevel gears provide the 2:1 gear reduction.
Drive shaft with gimbal bearing and square variable length shaft joint
Other end of above drive shaft
2:1 Bevel gearing to axles
All the action is on the right hand side. Although one-sided, it does make preparation easier by avoiding the need for access to both sides.
RHS Action Packed side
LHS not so populated
Cass Scenic Railroad is steep. It runs for 11 miles to a height of 4842 feet through some of the most spectacular forestry locations. It also has a zig-zag.
Route from Cass to Bald Knob summit
There is an extensive loco fleet, definitely not of the conventional type.
Loco Fleet
Trains arrive loco-first from the yard to depart propelled from the 'Depot' at Cass.
Arriving at the 'Depot'
Video clip is here on YouTube (including bells & whistles).
The train propels the carriages (cars) from the depot up to the summit except in the zig-zag.
Departing from the depot.
Video clip is here on YouTube (including bell but no whistles).
The train passes this location by the maintenance shed.
Running line leftmost
It begins the ascent and approaches a level crossing. Note that, in the USA, heavy use is made of the whistle when approaching a hazard. (Memo to me: must get one like this for Joyce).
Crossing approach
Being a propelled train, it's possible to book to be in the carriage adjacent to the smoke stack. Whilst this seems like an enthusiasts' heaven, the smoke stack is extremely loud. Many passengers use ear defenders and I'd very much recommend this as 2-3 hours of the noise is somewhat fatiguing and it also drowns the informative commentary.
Video clip is here on YouTube (including whistles galore but no bells).
Cass Level Crossing
A second video clip is here on YouTube (including whistles galore, no bells but many birds).
The line climbs up the hillside.
Line fades away behind
Video clip is here on YouTube (including no bells, whistles or birds but the gentle purring of the fast revving steam engine).
Onwards and Upwards
To gain height in a short distance, the Cass railroad has a zig-zag. I've tried to capture the gradients encountered.
Video clip on YouTube of the train arriving at the zig (including no special sounds).
Line climbing to meet the zig-zag middle section
Video clip of Shay setting off hauling the train up the middle section of the zig-zag (sounds different hauling in reverse).

The train approaches the down-coming train waiting on the top section of the zig-zag.
Down train ahead on left
Video clip on YouTube of the train meeting the down train.
The up train goes into a long spur and waits while the down train follows into the spur. The down train then reverses out and down the zig; the up train then reverses out and up the zag.

The line climbs onwards to the summit at Bald Knob (4842 feet) through some amazing countryside.
Almost at the summit
Shay No. 2 at the Bald Knob summit
View backwards from whence we came
Finally, Shay No. 2 descends somewhat more quietly than when climbing (including not much noise at all!).

A fantastic 5 hour journey, one of the best there is.

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Operating Experience (2)

Joyce has taught me (and continues to teach me) a thing or two about operating a heavy piece of steam machinery, particularly the bits I didn't address during restoration.

This innocent looking axle box oil filler cap is one example (right front).
Filler cap with original fitting (1)
The lid can be swung out of the way for filling. The cap bracket is peened on both sides to a pin which passes through the oil filling pot.
Filler cap with original fitting (2)
The problem is that the pin has become loose in its 'pot holes' over the years and leaks out any oil which is above the lowest level of the horizontal pin. This is not only a waste of oil but not nice environmentally.

Three of the axle box pots are like this and leak whereas a fourth one (right rear) which doesn't leak has the bracket rotating around its pin firmly fitted in its 'pot holes'.

I decided it would be prudent to convert the pins to threaded short pins which should prevent further leakage.

In advance, I made these short pins about 18mm long, 8mm in diameter with an M8 thread. The original pin diameter was about 1/4" so M8 was an ideal size.
M8 Short pins
I removed the original pin and threaded the holes for the M8 short pins. This photo shows them in place with the bracket suitably adapted to rotate around the pins.
Short pins with adapted lid bracket
So how did I prevent the metal filings from the tapping tool from getting into the bearing, I hear you ask? I blocked the hole to the bearing with a cloth and used a magnet on a stick to fish out the filings produced.

I've topped up the oil level to where it would have leaked previously. Fingers crossed it will be successful.
Level topped up above the new pins.
Here's the finished job (one of four). The bracket is a bit tight and the cap has to be rotated to the correct position to make it seal properly. I also had to reshape the bracket to enable the (90 year old) spring to push the cap home.
Finished job
Three to go. (Technically the non-leaking original one can be left but I would prefer them to all be the same).

One small point that I'd been mystified by for some time is whether the axle boxes use a pad to 'wick' the oil to the bearing surface or the bearing simply dips into the oil bath. I found an old photo from when I was making a new axle box cover gasket. It clearly shows a pad beneath the bearing.
Axle bearing showing oil pad

Operating Experience (1)

It's been five months since I last wrote any blog articles on Sentinel 7109. Joyce has been performing better than I'd expected. I'd previously formed the idea that Sentinel locos chuffed about quietly doing their thing but Joyce has a passenger role and a steep gradient to climb every journey.
8th July 2017 - Rapid take-off
(from a video by Callum Willcox)
Finding myself cab-bound on most operating days and short of a thirty foot long selfie stick, I'm heavily reliant on others for photos of Joyce in action. However, many have enthusiastically come to the rescue with fantastic videos on YouTube. (Search for 'midsomer norton steam' and you won't be short of videos to keep you occupied for hours).

7109's blog also began as a means of recording my own engineering restoration activities for myself and anyone else who might find it useful. Thus I'm avoiding becoming a train pictures blog and intend to maintain the original theme. (I reserve the right wander off subject when I feel like it of course!).

To begin with, hauling two carriages seemed a heavy load for Joyce and the best way to climb the 1 in 50 hill was to keep her in 'start' cut-off setting and trudge up the incline at about 5mph for six minutes. After some months of experience, a dual train running day was held in March 2017; for part of the day Joyce was allocated two wagons and a brake van on the up line. It became clear that Joyce hardly noticed this load at all and could be made to 'fly' out of the station, change into 'fast' cut-off setting and ascend the hill without difficulty.

I discussed this with members of the Sentinel Drivers Club and was given the hint that it was wise to open the regulator fully when in 'fast' cut-off. I'd previously been scared of doing this as it felt akin to always driving with my foot hard on my car's accelerator.

However, with this in mind on the next running day, I decided to give it a go with two carriages. To my astonishment, Joyce shot out of the station and up the gradient with little fuss and got to the end of the run in 4 minutes!

I'm now very pleased and educated that a Sentinel is far from a quiet chuffer and can be very much a hard working, impressive steam locomotive.
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