Assist Engine: Group Field Trip to Maryland RR Will Benefit K4 Work | News, Sports, Jobs

Railroaders Memorial Museum executive director Joe DeFrancesco leans on the 80-inch conductors of K4 locomotive 1361. Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski

The Western Maryland Scenic Railroad took seven years to restore a Pennsylvania-built steam locomotive to working order, completing the job in 2021.

The Cumberland-based railway has enlisted the help of other organizations and individuals in the heritage railway community and wants to repay the debt – while using its newly rebuilt engine to encourage historic preservation elsewhere.

As a result, WMSR is making its Baldwin Mallet 1309 available for a fundraising excursion next month that could raise up to $70,000 for the refurbishment of the Railroaders Memorial Museum’s K4 steam locomotive 1361, which is the subject of of a reconstruction in fits and starts for 30 years.

“It’s been a minute, hasn’t it?” said Western Maryland executive director Wesley Heinz of the Altoona saga.

It’s been a long time, but the K4 effort has gained new momentum, since a reorganization last year involving a new museum director from Altoona, a new chairman of the museum’s board, who once ran Norfolk Southern Railway, and a nationally respected consulting firm responsible for reconstruction, according to Heinz.

Altoona-built K4 1361 by the Pennsylvania Railroad is seen in York on August 26, 1988. Courtesy Photo

“What happened in the past has happened” said Heinz. “(Now it’s time) to move on.”

He knows the K4s well “turbulent past” said Altoona museum executive director Joe DeFrancesco. “(But) I can’t stress enough that this renewed effort is a new future.”

DeFrancesco is optimistic about Maryland’s fundraising but conservative in his estimate. “It could (generate) anywhere from $10,000 and up,” he said.

Tickets are $361 per person and 200 seats are available.

“Do the math,” he said.

Railroaders Memorial Museum Executive Director Joe DeFrancesco leans over the new firebox as he examines the boiler of locomotive K4 1361. Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski

The October 14 evening tour will run from Cumberland to Frostburg, Maryland, with food, drink, entertainment and a discovery horse-drawn carriage among the cars.

K4 whistle to use

The Baldwin locomotive will use the K4 whistle.

“The voice of 1361”, said DeFrancesco.

Tickets are available on the WMSR website.

Click on “Book now!” in the window titled “Support the Spirit of Altoona on October 14!”

“It will be a gala on rails” said DeFrancesco.

Heinz made the suggestion for the fundraiser. “I said ‘I’m all ears'” DeFrancesco remembers saying.

“It felt like a natural fit” said Heinz.

All proceeds will go to K4’s catering, except for the wholesale cost of food that WMSR chefs will prepare for passengers, Heinz said.

Members of his organization know people at the Altoona museum, where he has been a dozen times, Heinz said.

“We really want to lead the way in preservation,” he said. “Help your friends when they have something special.”

Baldwin carried coal

The Baldwin, built at Eddystone near Philadelphia in 1949, “is this amazing tool that we can use,” said Heinz.

In commercial service for the Chesapeake and Ohio, she hauled coal on branch lines in southern West Virginia for seven years.

It has been in excursion service since November.

It was designed to be slow.

It was the locomotive version of “the Honda Accord,” Heinz said, “the locomotive of the everyday worker. … You shot them, and they ran.

The Pennsylvania Railroad’s K4s were different.

“Built for high-speed passenger service and to run on time,” he said. “65 to 85 mph, all in a day’s work – and some have been timed to go faster.”

The K4 was the first “Scientifically Designed Locomotive”, said Davidson Ward, president of FMW Solutions, the project’s consultant, citing the late Smithsonian railroad expert Bill Withuhn.

Prototypes tested

PRR experts tested prototypes for it on a treadmill in Altoona, checking energy and fuel and water consumption, Ward said.

The Altoona-built 1,361 would have regularly traveled from Philadelphia to St. Louis and Chicago, Heinz said.

He referenced the K4 and the Baldwin in an anthropomorphic – and feminine – way.

Locomotives have always been “romanticized” he said.

It will cost approximately $2.4 million to complete “from top to bottom” restoration, according to DeFrancesco.

The museum has raised about $200,000 for that amount since the reorganization was announced in June 2021, including $100,000 from members of the Pennsylvania Railroad Technical & Historical Society, DeFrancesco said.

Money raised since the reorganization was announced will allow the museum to purchase and train materials for the firebox, he said.

The museum is now trying to raise an additional $200,000 for the installation of a fireplace, he said.

The firebox is the most important component of the restoration budget, according to DeFrancesco.

The organization hopes that showing progress in “parts)” will encourage donations.

“There is still a long way to go” to complete the restoration, DeFrancesco said.

“(We) devour the elephant one bite at a time,” he said.

Most previous repairs OK

Before the 2021 reorganization was announced, restoration efforts had cost about $1.7 million, according to DeFrancesco.

Most of the repairs were done at the Steamtown National Historic Site in Scranton, through a partnership between Steamtown, the University of Scranton, and the Railroaders Memorial Museum.

Most of these repairs were acceptable — “not lost” said DeFrancesco.

This restoration effort had begun after the K4’s main bearing and drive axle failed during a field trip in 1988.

The breakdown ended a year and a half of excursions following a partial rebuild which began after the locomotive was brought to Conrail’s Altoona workshop in 1985 from Horseshoe Curve, where it was on static display. For years.

The locomotive was taken out of service for the PRR in 1956, according to online sources.

FMW manages the catering, directing the work of a handful of local volunteers — skilled machinists with backgrounds as Norfolk Southern employees of the Juniata Locomotive Shop, according to DeFrancesco.

FMW schedules sessions depending on funding, DeFrancesco said.

Since last year, previous repairs to the steam dome have been corrected, leading to a successful inspection, and work has been done on the undercarriage and chassis, according to DeFrancesco.

Workers also removed the combustion chamber and other components from the boiler, so a rebuilt combustion chamber could be installed, DeFrancesco said.

Planned security updates

Some of the firebox work will be based on safety updates put in place by the Federal Railroad Administration in 2000, after a 1996 steam locomotive incident near Gettysburg, according to Ward.

Some will be based on safety updates put in place for railways in the 1920s, when the safety requirement for pressure vessels was reduced from 3.75 times normal operating levels to 4 times, according to Ward.

FMW consulted the original blueprints and performed electronic analysis, modeling and laser and ultrasonic testing on the combustion chamber – the part of the boiler where a fire is built under water contained within a carbon steel jacket. top and sides, creating steam.

The tests revealed rivets of inappropriate composition, given the movement and stretching of the boiler when heated, according to FMW’s Wolf Fengler, in a video provided by DeFrancesco.

It also revealed a design issue caused by brackets connected to the rear head that “hang a little in the boiler,” creating a stress problem, Fengler said.

It revealed issues with butt-welded steel sheets that weren’t perfectly aligned, according to Fengler.

And that revealed issues with the side sheets needing to be thicker, and issues with stopper bolt sizes, patterns and spacing, Fengler said.

The stop bolts hold the steel sides of the combustion chamber water jacket at a specific distance, creating the space for the water to be heated with steam.

Once the combustion chamber is complete, workers will put the boiler back on the frame, run the steam pipes to the cylinders and various appliances, and make any necessary repairs to these appliances, including the injectors that supply the boiler with water, a said Ward.

The workers will also take care of the engine gearing and running gear: crankpins and side rods, bearings, spring rigging and brakes.

Century of service

The goal is to prepare the K4 1361 for a “century of operation”, said Ward.

It will be different than it was in the revenue department, he said.

The RRP “used and abused” the K4 then, running the locomotive maybe 28 days a month, he said.

As an excursion locomotive, the K4 will have “a better lifestyle in retirement” he said. “We’re gonna baby this like the museum piece that it is,” he said.

A museum piece perhaps, but also an engine of economic development and vector of “living history” education, according to DeFrancesco.

“More useful than a mere relic”, he said.

“Run full or just hang around,” Heinz said, “you will hear it breathe, and it will become this living thing.”

The Mirror’s staff writer, William Kibler, is at 814-949-7038.


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