The Orange Empire Railway Museum has, and uses, an extensive network of track which requires a lot of maintenance. Also, since the Museum is growing, new tracks are being laid. All this by volunteer workers, also known as Museum members.The M.O.W. machines used are donations from railroad companies and have seen their better days. The Museum M.O.W. workers are very pleased at the very supportive donations of the machines, but, these machines need lots of repairs before they can be used. The base plate shown is a part off of a M.O.W. machine used in replacing ties and the age and condition of it are readily apparent. The base plate needs to have repairs made to the connection point for a hydraulic piston of the machine. This piston is needy also and is presently in the 16″ lathe for work.. All this work is being done by an old machinist, using old skills, and an old machine to repair an old M.O.W. machine. However, all are still young at heart so it works for us. I believe it was Mae West who said: ” Why don’t- cha’ come up and see me sometime?”. Why not? We throw in a free bag of chips when you visit the Machine Shop.
Active railroad museum members are pack-rats disguised as normal people. They act normal until they come near railroad artifacts in danger of going to the scrap-dealer.When this happens, their thin veneer of normality is cast aside as they busy themselves with plans to save the artifact in question. They are capable of heroic actions as they carry the rescue plans to successful conclusion. This is how the Orange Empire Railroad Museum came into possession of a pile of rusty cast iron alleged as the remains of a water tank used by the Southern Pacific Railroad’s narrow gauge line in the Inyo Valley of California.
Rusty piles of old iron, with history attached, have the a curious power to attract people capable of restoring old iron piles to their former glory. So it came to pass a plan was approved to restore the S.P water tank. A subsequent examination of the iron pile revealed the legs would have to be machined to a common length and the mounting surfaces trued if the restoration process was to go ahead smoothly. But how was this to be done?
After consultation with shop people, it was decided the OERM machine shop could and would do the work. The images below tell the story of how the machining of the water tower legs was done. Click on any image to enlarge the image gallery.
The machining operations on the leg assembly parts were completed without difficulty beyond that expected when machining large, rough and irregular castings. The historic value of these pre-1900 cast iron parts and the wish to avoid difficulties during assembly were reconciled by not machining any surface which could be seen after the legs were assembled. The erection of the leg assembly was completed smoothly due to the care taken in setting in setting all foundation piers to a mutual height and the leg parts machined to uniform length and true surfaces.
The Orange Empire Railroad Museum‘s operating steam locomotive is the Ventura County Railroad No.2, the VC-2 as we know it. Like all steam locomotives, the VC-2 has its balky moments when steamed-up. The boiler water injectors, vital to safe operation, were becoming hard to start. They never failed to start, but the starting difficulty was a pain-the-ass thing for the crew. An inspection revealed the boiler water check valves were at fault due to excessive wear. The inspection also revealed cracks in the check valve cover nuts. New check valve parts were needed. The OERM Machine Shop got the job after a suitable amount of begging by the Steam Crew was noted and approved by the Machine Shop personel. This the story of the making of the required parts.
An agreement was reached that established the material to be used, dimensions of the parts, general design, and the date of completion. All this is made necessary by the complete lack of part drawings, as is usual in the repair and maintenance of antique railroad machinery. The initial machining of the parts consisted of routine lathe work and was accomplished without any difficulty. A thread plug gage was made to ensure the nut would fit the check valve housing after the nut was threaded on the lathe. The next machining operation was the milling of the fins of the check valves. This operation was a complicated one as the valve fins were slightly angled from the center-line of the valve to cause the moving water to impart a rotation to the valve so as to evenly distribute valve seat wear. The shop is blessed with an early version of a CNC vertical milling machine. However, it is so “early” it requires the use of punched paper tape to input the CNC program data. An ancient laptop computer is used to emulate punched paper tape, of which we have none. This machine gets the job done so we are fortunate to have it. The fin geometry was analyzed and a moderately complex G-code control program was written to achieve the required fin shape. The program was de-bugged while machining a wooden test piece. The subsequent machining of the valve fins was done without major incident.
The parts were finished in the lathe and delivered to the Steam Crew and were installed in the check valve assemblies without delay. The following locomotive steam-up revealed the injector start problem was gone. The injectors remain problem free to this day.
Photographs of the making of the check valves are presented in the gallery below. Click on any photograph to enlarge the view.