With money, 1309 is six months from completion

Contractor on 2-6-6-2 locomotive says the work remaining is clear
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Boiler tubes ready for installation on Chesapeake & Ohio 2-6-6-2 No. 1309 in June 2017.
Kevin Gilliam
CUMBERLAND, Md. — Once funding is in place, Chesapeake & Ohio 2-6-6-2 No. 1309 can be in steam in about six months, says the contractor working on the engine for Western Maryland Scenic Railroad.

In an interview with Trains News Wire, Gary Bensman of Diverisified Rail Services says major boiler work moved the project forward in 2017.

“This year, we changed almost 800 staybolts, applied eight firebox patches, and installed a new rear flue sheet,” Bensman said. “A lot of that stuff was completed so the tubes could be put in during July and August. We’ve gone from a boiler with some 2,300 holes in it in June to none in November.”

Bensman says that once Western Maryland Scenic raises $530,000 needed to complete the engine, a crew of 4 to 6 people could complete the engine in less than half a year. The engine is on the cusp of being ready for its federally required hydrostatic test of the boiler. There should be no surprises ahead for this project that has been on again and off again in a melodrama of funding and to a lesser degree, running gear issues that were recognized late.

“Everything has been looked at and the work had been laid out. The course is pretty clear as to what’s needed next and to the end,” Bensman said in a telephone interview.

The railroad ran out of money for the project in November and idled the much-anticipated restoration, except for wheel work that had already been started using specialized lathes at Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum in Chattanooga, Tenn. There, Bensman is truing the axles and crank pins. He’s also installing new rod brass.
When completed No. 1309, the last steam locomotive Baldwin built in 1949 for domestic use, would be one of the largest operating steam locomotives in America, and the only Mallet type in operation east of the Mississippi.

That impressive pedigree and the bragging rights that come with it carry a steep price. So far, the task has cost about $1.8 million, including at least $800,000 in funding from the state of Maryland.

That has brought the engine extremely close to having two major milestones completed: the boiler and wheels.

“We got the boiler done, had it full of water, and had pressure on it, but did not finish it 100 percent to have the FRA witness a full hydro test,” Bensman said. “With little more work, it can be ready.” About a dozen old staybolts need to be replaced to call the boiler fully complete, he said. Once the hydro test is done, the grates and superheaters can go back in and a test fire up performed. Additional running gear work, necessary for the engine to enter service with in a reliable state and which was not expected until last summer, is a big part of the additional time and cost of the restoration.

Railroad Executive Director John Garner released a 1309 video update in early December, breaking down the $530,000 estimate to complete the engine. In an email Wednesday, Garner said the railroad is committed to finishing the project.

“The drive is still there to bring steam back to the Western Maryland Scenic,” he said, adding that the railroad operated a diesel-powered fund-raiser in November for No. 1309. He reminds everyone who is interested in moving the project forward that year-end donations help the locomotive and can be counted on 2017 taxes.

A donation page is available on the railroad website at www.wmsr.com.

NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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