ESRM 23 at Kingston, New York, Photo by David Benkart, Jr., December, 1987.
The Engine 23 Restoration Project
Engine 23 was originally built for the Lake Superior & Ishpeming Railroad in January 1910 at Alco's Pittsburgh plant. Weighing in at 189,360 lbs., this 2-8-0 "Consolidation" type spent most of its career working the iron ore mines of Michigan's Upper Peninsula. When steam operations ended on the LS&I in the early 1960s, their fleet of small locomotives were sold to new owners, mostly destined for new "tourist" and "nostalgia" operations popping up all over the country. Engine 23 was sold to Michigan's Marquette & Huron Mountain Railroad in July 1963 where it hauled tourist passenger trains, and the occasional freight. In 1984, Engine 23 was sold to the Empire State Railway Museum and moved to Kingston, New York. The new Catskill Moutain Railroad was in the process of evaluating and expanding its operations, and the steam locomotive owned by ESRM was envisioned as the centerpiece of a new attraction. The restoration is overseen by a small group of volunteers whom contribute their time and skills to the project. Considerable steps were taken in the early 2000's as the tender was completely rebuilt, lengthened and strengthened. Evaluation and planning the next steps for Engine 23's boiler and tubes continues at present.
Your donations will go towards the evaluation and restoration of Engine 23. Please send your contributions to:
Empire State Railway Museum
Attn: Engine 23 Restoration Fund
P.O. Box 455
Phoenicia, NY 12464
Spring 2016 Progress Report:
The Catskill Mountain Railroad had allowed us to store Engine 23 and have our volunteers work on the locomotive inside their fenced-in yard located at Cornell Street in downtown Kingston. When their lease with Ulster County ended in May 2016, we were forced to partially dismantle and relocate the steam locomotive to our property in Phoenicia. The move was done in three parts, the first moving the rebuilt tender, the seond moving the boiler, and the third moving the frame and wheels. The move was completed by the end of March, and Engine 23 is now stored safely inside our new restoration carbarn. This is the first indoor storage for No. 23 in more than 30 years.
February 2002 Progress Report:
Progress on Locomotive 23 has been happening over the past 10 months or so since the last writing. There were a few diversions along the way. Notably, the Steam Team has gone up to Phoenicia for various jobs. Notably, the Steam Team finished mechanical repairs to Catskill Mountain Railroad Locomotive Number 1, aka: "The Duck." The Duck was in bad shape; it had eaten a load of ball bearings in its transmission and chewed the bearings and journals on its front axle. We redesigned a new front axle and had it built by an old time machine shop. We also reverse engineered the guts of the transmission and got it back together. It was a close race to finish the Duck and get it running to pull ESRM's Christmas train for the public. The race was a squeaker with a final surprise, some low life had gone and stolen a brake beam from the parts piled up from the Duck. We fabricated a new brake beam at a dead run and got the little locomotive up and running. Then, there was work on Catskill Mountain's locomotive 29 to start the 2001 season.
Intermittently, Steam Team members also worked on the restoration of the passenger coach up at Phoenicia. When all else failed, there were a few weekends where various members were off running Susquehanna's steam locomotive 142 down in New Jersey. But, work on 23 did continue. It is kind of like watching a house get built. A new homesite looks like a muddy field, a hole in the ground and a heap of materials- things seems to take forever and all of a sudden, the rough frame and shell of a house appear. Perhaps it will be that way with the restoration of locomotive 23. This is a project which started "behind the eight ball," no shop, no equipment, a few tools and a few volunteers. In order to get into the game, the volunteers had to come out from behind the eight ball and establish a "shop."
We now have a machine shop! We thought we were pretty well equipped with Earl's crane, and the 16" engine lathe and the big Brown and Sharpe milling machine. Thanks to the generosity of a friend with an old-time machine shop it suddenly seemed to be raining machine tools. We now have a 24" Niles vertical boring mill. This is a vintage 1920 machine tool in good running condition. Just the thing to remachine steam locomotive drive boxes and tender brasses on. We also have a second lathe, a "War Production Board" Monarch 18" swing x 72" engine lathe. This is a lathe we could machine an axle or piston rod upon if we had to. Both machines are now in the boxcar shop. Some deft trucking and rigging by The Great Pardini got them in there. Along the way, we also got a surface grinder donated to us. This is a precision grinder and may well wind up grinding valve plates, hardened steel shims and similar work. We are also going to put in a big Cincinnati horizontal milling machine- vintage 1930's. A geared head monster upon which we will be able to remachine the shoes and wedges for 23's running gear. The shop is kind of a cross between the machine shop in the engine room on a large Naval vessel, Fibber McGee's closet, and some portions of a 1930's railroad backshop. We were hanging on an old woodstove to heat our machine shop.
ESRM 23 at Kingston, New York, Photo by David Benkart, Jr., July 4, 1989.
This was okay, and did make the boxcar habitable. However, on a cold winter Sunday, by the time the woodstove got the machinery warm enough to work on, it was almost time to go home. Brian Mason, a tool and die maker by profession, joined forces with his son Dave to work in our machine shop on the 23 Project. Brian donated an oil-fired hot-air furnace to the shop. Now, we can warm the shop up a day ahead of time so the machine tools will be ready to work. We are talking about geared head machine tools weighing a few tons apiece, a lot of cold iron and stiff gear lube otherwise. About all we lack is a couple of drill presses, but we are running out of room in the boxcar. When the Steam Team wasn't off dragging home machine tools or shoehorning them into the boxcar, they did get some work done on 23.
The tender frame has now been repaired, strengthened and lengthened. New heavy structural steel was spliced in using riveted splices. As the Steam Team got more proficient at hot riveting, they moved into riveting the braces back into the frame and finally riveted the drawbar pocket back in. The centerpot casting, which the truck bears against, had taken a beating between corrosion and wear. It was a pleasure to be able to put the casting up on the big Brown & Sharpe milling machine and cut it flat and true. Joe Michaels had picked up a big carbide face mill cutter for days like this. Dave Mason and the Brown and Sharpe made short work of that job. With the casting remachined, it was then re-riveted back into the tender frame. Mac MacCreery and his forge blower got the rivets hot and the crew drove them home. The tender frame being back together, it was time to focus on the tender trucks. These are old style "arch bar" trucks. One had been wracked in a derailment of 23 years earlier in the Upper Peninsula. Years of firemen hosing down the coal pile, overfilling the tank at the waterspout or just plain rainwater or snowmelt leaching through the coal pile in the tender had also taken away a lot of steel from the structural members of the tender truck. The only thing to do was to take the trucks apart. Once this was done, a new crossmember was formed from 1" thick steel plate at Rothe Welding.
Charlie Rothe is equipped to bend heavy steel plate at his shop and we are fortunate to have him in close reach of this project. The bent members of the arch bar trucks had to be re-bent back to correct profile and match each other closely. Thanks to the New York Power Authority for the loan of one BIG rosebud heating torch, this was accomplished. Once again, The Great Pardini used backwoods engineering- a track jack and a hunk of chain- to hold and form the red-hot arch bars back to correct geometry. ordinarily, this is a job for a blacksmith shop with a big cast-iron bending "slab" and possibly a hydraulic press. But, with some imagination, the job was done right in the yard. The tender trucks are not long from going back together.
Meanwhile, over in Middletown, New York, the "new" tender body for 23 has been sitting for some time. In truth, it is an ex-New York Central tender which had been converted to an oil storage bunker and set on a flatcar. The fuel oil in the old tender has been donated to folks who have heated their depot and buildings for a few years now. It remains to get the tender body off the flatcar and headed towards Kingston. On the way, the tender body will be taken to an outside contractor for steaming out and cleaning. This will remove the residual oil and sludge, which they will dispose of as part of the job. It will also get the tender body safe for the Steam Team to start burning (oxyacetylene cutting), welding and riveting upon. The tender body, having been converted to a fuel oil bunker, has to have a new coal pocket fabricated. New baffles have to be fabricated and welded into the water tank and "wet bottom" (the water-filled space under the coal pocket floorplate). This will mean laying down a few hundred linear feet of seam welds. The Steam Team has no shortage of good welders now. John Dearstyne has complete his course of study at Modern Welding and become quite proficient. However, we had been limited to "stick" welding. This is fine for structural welds, piping and boiler repair work to some extent.
For long seams and bigger jobs where production rates are needed, stick welding is kind of slow and has the attendant problems of post-weld distortion. Earl Pardini and Ernie Klopping have solved that problem by getting a wire-feeder to run on their engine driven welding power supplies. This allows us to do state-of-the-art flux cored "MIG" welding. High production, sound welds with minimal post weld distortion are what is needed to put the tender body back into condition for holding a load of coal and water. Now we are set to do just that. The plan now is to get the tender frame back on its trucks, down on the track. That will then be ready to be sandblasted and painted. Once the tender frame is off the loading dock, the area will be cleared to receive 23's boiler and frame. The loading dock is poured reinforced concrete and is the closest thing we have to an erecting shop floor. We will separate 23's boiler from the frame. At that point, the drive wheelsets- drivers and axles- will be ready to be sent offsite for the wheel work. This will consist of taking the drive wheelsets to a railroad machine shop with a wheel lathe. There, the tires- forged steel rings which have the actual tread and flange- will be removed from the drive wheel "centers." This is done by heating the tires to expand them.
The tires and wheel centers were damaged when 23 was last in steam in the Upper Peninsula. Too many incidents of spinning the drivers on 23 got the tires hot enough to expand free of the wheel centers and let them slip inside the tires. This chewed up the wheelcenters and the good fit between the tires and wheelcenters was lost. This has to be restored. The wheelcenters will be turned true and to the same diameters in the wheel lathe. Then, the insides of the tires will be bored oversized to take a shim band. The tires will then be heated and expanded so they slip onto the wheel centers which will have the shim bands on them. When the tires cool, they will lock onto the wheel centers in a good "death grip." At that point, the tires will be remachined to correct tread and flange profiles in the wheel lathe.
Steam Team members will accompany the wheelsets to the RR machine shop to work along with the machinists there. With the frame up on the loading dock, it will be blocked and shimmed to level, and work will begin on the rebuild of the springs, spring rigging, brake rigging and running gear. This is where the boxcar machine shop will come into its own. Work has been done to separate 23's boiler from the frame.The actual lifting or "picking" of the boiler, frame and wheelsets will be done by an outside crane contractor.
So, like the proverbial house building site, a lot of materials and parts are on the ground. Like a house project, the most important part is the foundation. In the case of a steam locomotive, this means the frame and boiler. Having got ourselves into shape with the work on the tender and some boiler work, things are now falling into place to tackle the frame and boiler.
—Joe Michaels, ESRM Steam Team
The rebuilt tender for Engine 23 at CMRR's Cornell Street Yard in Kingston, NY, 2008.