Driver Tire Removal Started – SP#1744

One of the many items we have to restore, rehabilitate or replace are the driver tires for our Southern Pacific Railroad steam locomotive #1744. After removing the driving wheel sets from the locomotive’s frame over the past few months, we have now started the process of removing the steel tires to allow for work on the driver centers and the eventual replacement of the tires.

One of the many items we have to restore, rehabilitate or replace are the driver tires for our Southern Pacific Railroad steam locomotive #1744. After removing the driving wheel sets from the locomotive’s frame over the past few months, we have now started the process of removing the steel tires to allow for work on the driver centers and the eventual replacement of the tires.

Driver tires are designed to be replaced given they wear over time. Tires are interference fit on the driving centers which means the steel tire rings are actually smaller in diameter than the wheel centers. When heated, the expand enough to fit over the driver center and then when they cool, they shrink causing the interference fit. Occasionally shims are used to get a proper fit.

In our case, we need to first take off the old tires to allow for the driving centers and axles to be reworked before we install new tires. To do this, a propane gas “ring of fire” was constructed by our Steam Department volunteers to allow for even heating on just the outside of the tire during the process.

‘Ring of Fire’ constructed from proper steel tubing being fed by a propane tank.

Our second challenge is that #1744 uses Stephenson valve gear. This type of steam locomotive valve control uses inner eccentrics attached to the center of one of the drivers. This makes it harder to deal with such a driver set since usually the plain axle center itself can be set on a stand to allow free access to the driving wheels themselves. With the eccentrics attached to the center of the axle, the alternative here was to stand the axle on end and allow gravity to aid in the removal of the tire.

Driving set with the Stephenson valve car cams sitting vertically to allow for the driving tire removal.

Once in place, the ring of fire was lit and the removal process started; first allowing the tire to expand and be ‘helped’ off the driving center from some volunteer driven sledge hammers.

Here is a gallery of images that steps through the removal.

After what amounted to about 20 minutes of heating and persuasion from the sledge hammers, the tire dropped off. Mission accomplished! Now only 5 more to go across the #1744’s three sets of drivers.

Mission accomplished!

We want to take a moment to thank the Candelaria Fund for providing a $30,000 grant to us to purchase the new tires for the #1744. We still needs funds for the driving center and axle work. Would you please consider a donation today to help fund this critical work to ensure #1744 has solid running gear for many years to come?

Thanks and please look for more updates soon!

Heating the driving tire with the ring of fire.
Dropping that tire like it is hot! Well, it was hot!

Historic Locomotive and Railroad Roundhouse to Move from Santa Clara County to our Niles Canyon Railway

The California Trolley and Railroad Corporation (CTRC), based in San Jose, will be relocating the former Southern Pacific Railroad steam locomotive, number 2479, and the Lenzen Roundhouse structure and turntable to the Niles Canyon Railway, operated by the Pacific Locomotive Association (PLA).

The California Trolley and Railroad Corporation (CTRC), based in San Jose, will be relocating the former Southern Pacific Railroad steam locomotive, number 2479, and the Lenzen Roundhouse structure and turntable to the Niles Canyon Railway, operated by the Pacific Locomotive Association (PLA).

Built in 1923, Locomotive 2479 finished its active career pulling commuter trains between San Jose and San Francisco for the Southern Pacific Railroad. 2479 retired from service in 1956 and was donated Santa Clara County in 1958.

Since 1989, the volunteers of the Santa Clara Valley Railroad Association (Now named CTRC) have averaged over 5,000 hours per year on the restoration of SP 2479. This amounts to approximately twenty-five person years expended. To date it is estimated that 80% of the restoration effort has been completed to the locomotive.

The San Jose roundhouse, constructed in 1899 at Lenzen Avenue in San Jose, was used to house and maintain steam locomotives. Included with the roundhouse structure is a large water tower and an 80’ turntable used to rotate locomotives. The roundhouse and adjoining structures were used to maintain Southern Pacific locomotives and trains up until the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake when the roundhouse structure was deemed structurally unsound. The Lenzen Roundhouse was donated by Southern Pacific in 1994 for a proposed museum.

“Moving these important historical artifacts to the Niles Canyon Railway enables our organizations to better preserve the rail history of the Bay Area and to honor the thousands of hours donated by our volunteers. This partnership is an ideal opportunity to preserve these irreplaceable resources for future generations,” said Ken Middlebrook, CTRC president. “We greatly appreciate the vision of the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors for helping CTRC and PLA to realize a regional approach to the preservation of our shared history.”


“Our master plan has always included a roundhouse facility in Niles,” said Henry Baum, president of the Pacific Locomotive Association. “Both the roundhouse and locomotive are natural additions to our historic railroad collection. We will immediately begin to develop our Niles site focused around these incredible assets. A topological survey of our Niles site will be undertaken to allow design work to commence. PLA volunteer and Architect Randall Ruiz will be leading this design effort, assisted by Architect Marvin Bamburg who oversaw the deconstruction of the roundhouse when it was originally donated to Santa Clara County. The PLA will begin to aggressively search for the necessary grants and corporate sponsorships necessary to get this development project completed. We are also grateful to the CTRC Volunteers (most of whom are also PLA members) who will continue to work on returning this locomotive to being fully operational.”


To aid in these efforts, Steam Services of America, a national recognized steam locomotive contractor will manage the complexities of dismantling, moving, and reassembly of the 150-ton locomotive. The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors has funded the moving costs to occur over a three-year period. Once received, all of these Santa Clara County owned historical assets will be transferred to the Pacific Locomotive Association. Also included in this historic transfer of assets from CTRC are a 65-ton diesel locomotive acquired from Kaiser Permanente Cement, and necessary tools and equipment to complete the restoration and maintain the SP2479.

About the organizations

Pacific Locomotive Association
The Pacific Locomotive Association, an IRS 501(C )(3) community-benefit non-profit organization, is celebrating its 60th Anniversary in 2021. From a group of 6 friends who formed together to preserve the last aspects of steam railroading back in 1961, the PLA has grown to an organization that boasts almost 1000 members and many historic railroad artifacts that have been rescued and restored over the years. The PLA is an all-volunteer organization and has no paid staff. The PLA owns and operates the Niles Canyon Railway.


www.ncry.org


California Trolley and Railroad Corporation
Founded in 1982, the 501(C)3 non-profit California Trolley and Railroad Corporation is dedicated to preserving the historical railroad legacy of the Santa Clara Valley for the educational and recreational benefit of current and future generations. The CTRC currently operates vintage trolleys and a historic display of railroad equipment at History Park in San Jose.

www.ctrc.org

Take a look inside – #M200

We have a lot of really unique preserved railroad equipment, and we also realize that we do not use some of this equipment very often. Thus it is hard for people to see all of the hard work our volunteers put into this equipment. So we are trying some new methods to share some of these great pieces virtually as ways to augment on online roster.

We have a lot of really unique preserved railroad equipment, and we also realize that we do not use some of this equipment very often. Thus it is hard for people to see all of the hard work our volunteers put into this equipment. So we are trying some new methods to share some of these great pieces virtually as ways to augment on online roster.

Recently we moved our restored California Western #200 motor car / doodlebug in Brightside yard; putting it in a great position to try this new 360 degree technology out.

So please hop aboard our M200 and take a look around by dragging the image with your mouse.

Inside the #M200

We hope you like what you see. We will be adding more to our online roster. We are also sharing some of our Niles Canyon Railway Facebook page which has great 360 image support.

You can also learn more about the M200 here.

GN Ranch Car – Matching Grant Challenge

Generous donors, the Farwell Family, have provided a matching gift opportunity to raise money to restore our GN ‘Hidden Lake’ Ranch Car #1242 to full service on our Niles Canyon Railway. All donations through May 31, 2021 will be matched dollar for dollar up to $30,000.

The ‘Hidden Lake’ in our car shop on 4/30/2021 with roof steel replacement actively underway.

Generous donors, the Farwell Family, have provided a matching gift opportunity to raise money to restore our GN ‘Hidden Lake’ Ranch Car #1242 to full service on our Niles Canyon Railway.

All donations through May 31, 2021 will be matched dollar for dollar up to $30,000.

 DONATE and DOUBLE YOUR IMPACT

Your donation will help fund the following work

Roof line steel replacementInterior cement subflooring replacementElectrical generator and trainline head-end power installation
New leather/cowhide seatsNew historically correct patterned linoleum floor.Exterior painting into the historic 1951 GN paint scheme
New rubber window sealsNew interior paintRunning gear repairs

MAKE YOUR DONATION TODAY

To make your contribution online, please click here to donate.

We gladly accept donations by mail.                    

Please make checks payable to:
Pacific Locomotive Association (PLA)
P.O. Box 515
Sunol, CA 94586-0515

Add a note on the check where it says “Memo” in the bottom left corner “GN Ranch Car 1442”.

If you have questions or need any additional information, please contact us.

The Pacific Locomotive Association owns and operates the Niles Canyon Railway.


We are incredibly grateful for your consideration-and for our wonderful benefactors, the Farwell Family, for this opportunity.
Thank you for being a part of our heritage railroad community.


Progress to date of funds donated to be matched.
Update 5/23/2021

The first PLA ‘Club Car’ members newsletter?

Recently there was a question by one of our members as to what was the first issue of our Pacific Locomotive Association member newsletter, ‘The Club Car”. Since we will be celebrating the PLA’s 60th anniversary (founded in 1961) this year, this seemed like a great question to research, and some of our crack members …

Recently there was a question by one of our members as to what was the first issue of our Pacific Locomotive Association member newsletter, ‘The Club Car”. Since we will be celebrating the PLA’s 60th anniversary (founded in 1961) this year, this seemed like a great question to research, and some of our crack members were on the answer quickly.

It appears the first issue to be called “Club Car” was actually the 10th Members’ Bulletin of the then fledgling Pacific Locomotive Association. It was a simple two page typed document published in December 1962. Of interest, it did highlight the PLA taking ownership of steam locomotive Howard Terminal #6 (Built as Sierra Railway #30). The issue is shown below as images for your interest.

We have an online archive of recent issues of the Club Car available at this link if you would like to see what is going on recently with the PLA and our Niles Canyon Railway. We do plan to add more of our historic archive soon so please stay tuned.

Steam in Maintenance-of-Way Service…

On Saturday, February 27, 2021, our Niles Canyon Steam Department teamed up with our Maintenance-of-Way Department to use Robert Dollar Co. #3 in concert with our Burro Crane to help move some track panels that were stored just east of Verona Road to the end of track where they will be used to further extend our railroad into Pleasanton.

On Saturday, February 27, 2021, our Niles Canyon Steam Department teamed up with our Maintenance-of-Way Department to use a train powered by Robert Dollar Co. #3 in concert with our Burro Crane to help move some track panels that were stored just east of Verona Road to the end of track where they will be used to further extend our railroad into Pleasanton. With public steam rides upcoming starting in mid-March, this was a way for the Steam Department to check out the #3 while helping the MOW Department move their panels.

In the end, it was a great day out on the railroad for our volunteers and the #3 with lots of great teamwork. Here is a set of images from the operations across the day.

All photos by: Christopher R. Hauf – Used with permission.

Some photos from our past – Castro Point Railway

Recently on Facebook, we found a set of photos taken in 1984 by Mr. Jim Maurer of a visit to the Pacific Locomotive Association’s Castro Point Railway. Before the PLA came to Niles Canyon to start rebuilding a portion of the original Transcontinental Railroad in 1987 and formed the Niles Canyon Railway, the PLA operated …

Recently on Facebook, we found a set of photos taken in 1984 by Mr. Jim Maurer of a visit to the Pacific Locomotive Association’s Castro Point Railway. Before the PLA came to Niles Canyon to start rebuilding a portion of the original Transcontinental Railroad in 1987 and formed the Niles Canyon Railway, the PLA operated a piece of railroad on US Navy property in Richmond, CA, and it was called the Castro Point Railway. Ultimately, that piece of railroad in Richmond was no longer available for the PLA to operate on, and all of the equipment was moved to storage and then to what is now our Niles Canyon Railway.

We hope you enjoy these photos from our past, and we thank Mr. Maurer for granting us permission to post his photos here on our blog.

Robert Dollar Co. #3 in service with Engineer, Lacy Sparks.

We were contacted by Mr. Tim Staten in 2020 who shared these great images with us. These are of his grandfather-in-law, Mr. Lacy Sparks, who was a Robert Dollar Co. locomotive engineer through the time he started with them until the time he retired. These are images of #3 and of Mr. Sparks. We hope …

We were contacted by Mr. Tim Staten in 2020 who shared these great images with us. These are of his grandfather-in-law, Mr. Lacy Sparks, who was a Robert Dollar Co. locomotive engineer through the time he started with them until the time he retired. These are images of #3 and of Mr. Sparks.

We hope you enjoy these. We certainly do! Thank you Mr. Staten for sharing them with us!

You can learn about Robert Dollar Co. #3 via our online equipment roster here.

Saving a cow on our railroad…

The Niles Canyon Railway winds through the canyon on a right-of-way first constructed in the late 1860s as part of the Transcontinental Railroad.   The volunteers, who operate and maintain the railroad, appreciate the scenic rural beauty and the freedom from high density living, just minutes away.  The railroad passes by very few homes and a …

The Niles Canyon Railway winds through the canyon on a right-of-way first constructed in the late 1860s as part of the Transcontinental Railroad.   The volunteers, who operate and maintain the railroad, appreciate the scenic rural beauty and the freedom from high density living, just minutes away.  The railroad passes by very few homes and a lot of ranch land.  Because of its isolated nature, the railroad volunteers are the first to observe and report hazardous conditions on adjacent properties such as fallen trees, power lines, plugged stormwater culverts, and the occasional backyard brush fire.  They also encounter stray sheep, goats and cattle that have snuck through fences and wandered onto the right-of-way. 

On Sunday, January 17th, 2021, two volunteers were working out in the canyon to clean up a very large oak tree that had broken in two, creating a fire hazard.  On their way, they spotted an adult cow that had slid down a hill, under a barbed wire fence and lodged itself between a couple of solid rocks at the base of the slope, 15 feet from our railroad tracks.  The animal was alive, alert, and laying on its side, but because of its position, was unable to get itself up.

NCRy volunteer, Doug Vanderlee, comforts the exhausted cow while waiting for help to arrive.

Using a list of neighbors’ contact information maintained by our museum for such an emergency, the railroad volunteers were able to locate the correct cattle rancher and direct him to the site.  The ranch foreman arrived to assess the situation.  It was a cattleman’s worst nightmare; a downed (and possibly injured) animal weighing 500 to 600 pounds in a place inaccessible to trucks and trailers or horses and cowboys to deal with the scenario using the traditional methods.  Short of air-lifting the cow using a helicopter, there were no easy solutions to the problem.

Luckily, the railroad’s General Manager, and professional heavy equipment operator, Stephen Barkkarie, happened to be at home in nearby Sunol enjoying a well-deserved Sunday off.  He was contacted and arrived on scene with the railroad’s Caterpillar backhoe, which is specially equipped to be able to travel on railroad tracks.  Minutes later, the cattle owner and a crew of 4 cowboys arrived.  Two of them were wearing rowel spurs.  These guys were the real deal. 

In short order the ranch hands threaded a couple of nylon soft slings provided by the railroad under the cow, and attached them to the bucket of the backhoe.  The cow was hoisted onto a railroad maintenance “pushcar”, then transported on the tracks 1/4 mile to an access gate through an adjoining neighbor’s property where it was hoisted off onto an awaiting trailer.  It was very lucky that the neighbor happened to be working on the property at the time to permit access.  All indications are that the cow was not severely injured by the accident and will make a full recovery and will be suckling little calves of her own in the late Spring.

With the ranchers having applied the slings, NCRy GM, Steve Barkkarie, begins the lift with the backhoe.
Up and toward the waiting MOW trailers.
Set down and secured on the Maintenance-of-Way trailers for the short ride to where the cow could be transloaded to a waiting trailer.

At a time when we are increasingly socially isolated from our neighbors, it is heartening to know that there are those who watch out for each other, and will take time out to lend a hand . . . or backhoe . . when the need arises.

Rebuild the #1744 – 2021 Fundraising

To begin to address the fabrication of the needed staybolts for the boiler and to start the running gear rebuild, the Pacific Locomotive Association is launching Phase II fundraising efforts now with the goal to raise $75,000 or more over the course of 2021.

The Pacific Locomotive Association and its Niles Canyon Railway would like to thank you for being a part of our heritage railroad community. Balancing operational expenses and reduced revenue due to Covid-19 restrictions since March of this year continues to be a challenging mission for our museum. Our supporters have helped bolster us greatly with financial support throughout this unprecedented time. The many hours of work from our volunteers have allowed us to continue some of our restoration projects while also allowing us to bring back train operations to Niles Canyon when we were given the appropriate approvals.

Before the Covid-19 pandemic, the PLA Board of Directors reviewed and adopted a long- term plan presented by the Steam Department to expand our fleet of steam locomotives for train operations. With lots of creative planning and logistics we purchased the Southern Pacific 2-6-0 steam locomotive #1744. This is another milestone for the PLA. We are committed to our goal for long-term sustainability of the Niles Canyon Railway as the premier all-volunteer west coast operating railroad museum for diesel and steam power. The historic SP #1744 is an exceptional fit with the PLA mission statement as it operated for many years out of Oakland on the SP Western Division and in California’s Central Valley.

This rebuild project is unique in that the locomotive was already disassembled and an extremely thorough restoration had been started by the previous owner. The #1744, however, still requires significant boiler work, mechanical work, and reassembly to restore it to operating condition.

Our NCRy Steam Department volunteers have already been busy starting to clean and prime #1744’s frame.

The scope of the project is outlined in a five-year restoration plan to spread out the impact on funding needs. We started a phased fundraising program with Phase I to complete the frame and tender transportation to our Brightside yard and the boiler trucked to Antonito, CO for contract rebuilding. We are now entering Phase II of the restoration plan that starts repairs to the running gear and boiler.

Did you know that main components for the boiler rebuild are 2000 staybolts of different types and sizes? The current staybolts are no longer serviceable and new staybolts must be custom machined and fabricated from raw stock. The average cost to create each staybolt is $60.00 for a total cost of $120,000.

Interior of #1744’s boiler shell after sandblasting and Apexior coating at Stockton Locomotive Works in Antonito, CO. This work took place on 12/1/2020.

To begin to address the fabrication of the needed staybolts for the boiler and to start the running gear rebuild, the Pacific Locomotive Association is launching Phase II fundraising efforts now with the goal to raise $75,000 or more over the course of 2021. The current rebuilding timeline has us budgeting to spend $75,000 each year until the rebuild is complete. If we can raise more than $75,000, we feel the five year rebuild timeline can be reduced.

Your donation will be essential for us to meet our goal of $75,000 to continue our work throughout the coming year. Would you please consider making a donation to help us kick off this phase of #1744’s restoration?

Checks are also welcome and may be made out to the Pacific Locomotive Association. Add in the memo section of your check that your donation is for the #1744 so we make sure to properly direct the funds. Mail to: Pacific Locomotive Association,SP#1744 Restoration,  P.O. Box 515, Sunol,CA 94586-0515

Your directed donations can only be spent on the project for which the donation was earmarked until the project is completed, or in other words when the SP #1744 is once again steaming on the Niles Canyon Railway.

Along with future mailings and articles in our newsletter, The Club Car, we will be posting updates to our website here and social media sites to mark our fundraising and restoration progress.

Thank you very much for your support, and we hope to hear from you soon.

SP #1744 on an excursion on the Knights Landing Branch of the SP – John West photo – Used with permission