• The story of the Locomotive 1361, the infamous K4-S

  • Pertaining to all railroading subjects, past and present, in Pennsylvania
Pertaining to all railroading subjects, past and present, in Pennsylvania

Moderator: bwparker1

  by bwparker1
This was sent to me via the Rochester NY Chapter of the National Railroad Historical Society, of which I am member. An interesting read!

At the steam team meeting in January, a discussion on boilers and mechanical engineering came up. I had mentioned that a couple of months before I had been forwarded a "report" supposedly composed by a mechanical engineer involved with the steamers at Steamtown. The guy who sent it to me is very tied into the reaI railroad world and is quite a historian as well. He has 34 years in the rail industry and was around Altoona when the K-4 came off the curve. The K-4 story is almost beyond belief!

I was asked by some folks to forward this on. I cannot remember who asked. It is much easier to send it to the entire listserve of the museum. Delete buttons are great tools to quickly eliminate messages you do not want.

Jerry Bertoldo

I have been doing the mechanical engineering for the locomotives at
Steamtown since 1996. To answer a few questions and bring everyone up to
speed, here is what is going on:

1. Locomotive 29, the little Baldwin 0-6-0 is getting a new firebox. This
is a "keyhole" style firebox, originally put together with riveted
construction. To get this style firebox into the wrapper (outer shell of
the boiler), it is normally done by separating the barrel from the
wrapper. Loco 29's original firebox had gone past the point of being
repairable by pad welding and partial sheet replacements. I was retained
to design a welded construction firebox. I did this using "flanged"
sheets, but with full penetration butt welded construction. This enabled
the firebox to be brought up from underneath the foundation ring of the
boiler and assembled, fitted & welded in place. The boilermakers at
Steamtown did a fine job of laying out! and flanging the new inner door
sheet and new rear flue sheet, as well as braking the side sheets and
crown sheet to the required radii. The firebox is inside the wrapper,
fitted and should have been welded out by now. I also designed a new front
flue sheet for this boiler, which has been made up.

The first barrel course had some bad wastage, but was still within
acceptable limits to be repairable with pad welding.
Repairs to 29 have dragged out over several years as federal funding
(Steamtown is part of the national parks) varied and nearly dried up.

I predict 29 will be back in steam, possibly for the 2007 season.

2. Locomotive 1361, the infamous K4-S. This engine got me started with
Steamtown. It is a saga or horror story. This engine was placed on outdoor
static display up on the Horseshoe Curve outside Altoona, PA in about 1957
or thereabouts. rainwater got into the boiler insulation! and the wet
insulation severely corroded and wasted the rivet heads on a lot of the
boiler seams from outside the boiler. The engine was moved down off the
Horseshoe curve sometime in the 1970's or early 80's for its first
restoration. This was done, and the engine was put in steam and used to
make a few runs over the Conrail or Amtrak mains. On one of those runs,
the engine derailed. This got the attention of a number of entities and
the s--t hit the fan, big time. Aside from problems with how the wheel
treads and flanges were machined, there were major issues with the boiler.
Suffice it to say, the engine got a hard looking-at and a number of
parties and entities wanted to know exactly how and where the bear s--t in
the buckwheat. The engine wound up in the Altoona shops of Conrail. It was
stripped down and the FRA, amongst others, asked that a Professional
Mechanical Engineer be brought in to look over the boiler and make an
assessmen! t. I go t the call and went to Altoona in October of 1996. I
spent two full days climbing and crawling over and in that boiler as its
flues had been removed. What I saw convinced me that the boiler had been
put in steam in an unsound condition and caused some wonder as to how it
had held together. Places on the backhead were so thin you could have
busted through them with a slag pick.

I prepared my report with repair recommendations for the boiler. These
included making an entire new backhead, flanging it to meet the lines of
the wrapper and roof sheets, then tying it in with full penetration welded
seams. The front and rear flue sheets were also to be replaced as was the
inner door sheet and partial side sheets and the foundation ring.

In the early part of 1997, 1361 was moved to Steamtown on depressed center
cars and work began using an outside contractor. The work progressed, and
a new backhead was made up to my design. Work continued for perhaps
three years. I was out from time to time to do isolated engineering
matters, but I was not retained to look after the job. One matter which
did surface was the condition of the dome course of the boiler. The steam
dome sits on the "Belpaire" course of the boiler, a uniquely formed
section. The dome base rivets were badly corroded and heads wasted as I
had noted. I directed these rivets be removed and re-riveting done. That
is when it got interesting. As the rivets were removed, it became apparent
the dome was under some strain and never had seated properly on the boiler
barrel. I ordered the dome removed for inspection. Sure enough, there were
cracks radiating from every dome rivet hole in the dome course of the
boiler. The dome flange had never "saddled" properly onto the boiler
barrel and that had put the rivet sin a bending condition form day one
(1918 or so). We found cuttings from the original reaming of the rivet
holes in the dome flange & boiler barrel jammed between the barrel and
dome flange! This should have been good bearing contact. We did some
additional NDT and determined the extent of the cracking. This resulted in
a section of the dome course of 1361's boiler, including the dome manway
hole, being cut out. I designed a patch. This is known as a "flush patch".
Since it was to go into an "unstayed surface", it required thorough
submittals of drawings, weld procedures and similar to the FRA for
approval. I detailed what was to be done, and a separate welding engineer
qualified welding procedures for welding new A 516 boiler plate steel to
the original boiler plate. We went with a double vee groove weld, open
root, using E 6010 electrode for the root passes, back grinding, and then
GFCAW with E71T1 flux cored wire for the stringers and cover passes.
Boilermakers were certified to this weld procedure for all positions. A
patch was made up of new A 516 grade steel plate, rolled to the contour of
the boiler. I ordered the patch be full furnace annealed prior to final
fit up and installation. The patch was fitted and welded in per the
procedures. The patch and a band of the surrounding boiler were then
stress relieved by resistance heating. We then had Radiographs ("X rays")
shot of the welded seam on the patch, one set "hot" and one set "cold"
after the stress relieving. We had a good, sound seam weld and should have
been on the way from there.

Instead, an unauthorized party decided to do some additional welding on
the cover pass of that seam weld. This party was neither certified to the
procedures, nor had he any business welding on a seam which had passed
visual inspection as well as radiography. This party took a GMAW welder
("solid wire MIG") and proceeded to slobber on some additional passes onto
the cover pass of the accepted seam weld. He then took a helper and they
proceeded to heat the seam and his additional welding with rosebuds, then
attempted to peen the snot out of it with riveting guns. They then
finish ground and polished their handiwork.

I was notified of this development by other parties involved with work on
the 1361. I notified the FRA of this development. Their first impulse was
to ask that the entire patch be burned out. I was able to get FRA to agree
to a procedure for non-destructive testing, investigation and repair of
the cracking. When the nature of what had happened became known, the party
responsible was terminated from work on 1361 and removed from the
property. If the s--t didn't hit the fan previously, it did after that
development. Suffice it to say that there was an investigation and I was
asked by official entities to prepare an engineering report of what went
on and the condition of the boiler. This meant a few days of inspection.
What came out of it was worse yet: the discharged party and his helpers
had driven over 900 bad rivets. They had driven rivets improperly heated
and improperly bucked. They had attempted to cov! er thei r tracks with
deft maneuvers using the infamous solid wire MIG and a rivet set, amongst
other tricks. I had detailed partial replacements of the outer wrapper
side sheets (firebox area of the boiler). I had called for vee groove full
penetration welds using E 6010 root and E 7108 stick electrode. I took a
look at the weld seams this party had run and knew he had simply butted
things together with no bevel or root gap and fired up his MIG machine. We
cut out windows and this was confirmed. The foundation ring of the boiler
had become an abortion in its own right.
In short, I wrote my report, got with FRA on the repairs to the dome
course flush patch seam weld, and waited for reviews and approvals. All
this took a year or so. Somewhere in this process, another boilermaker
contractor was retained and set to work.

Eventually, FRA accepted my procedures for investigation and repairs of
the cracking in the dome course flush patch seam weld. More radiography
was done! and th e seam weld- what had been a good, sound weld- was full
of cracks thanks to the unauthorized welding, heating and peening. His
cracks were "dentally excavated" with die grinders, and dye pentrant
checking was done to be sure we were down to sound metal. Repair welding
using the old tried-and-true E 7018 stick welding was then done, little
stringer beads and dye penetrant testing of each pass. We got good repair
welds. The entire seam was then radiographed and found to be sound- again.
It was then fully stress relieved- again. It was then radiographed when
cool- and found sound.

FRA came out to Steamtown in October of 2005 and I met with them. We spent
half a day reviewing records and on and in that boiler. They accepted the
repair job on the dome course flush patch seam weld. The steam dome,
having never fitted right, was sent to an outside heat treaters and
full-furnace annealed. It was then saddle onto the boiler and the dome
base flange was locally heated and worked down so it saddled properly
onto the boiler. Finally, the dome was re-riveted.

Meanwhile, back at the firebox end of things, the degree of bad
workmanship was such that the inner and outer side sheets (firebox side
sheets and out wrapper side sheets) had to come off. Temporary shoring,
made from wide flange or I beam was put in place to support the crown
sheet and roof sheet.

1361's boiler is coming along slowly. It is a function of funding and
manpower. Concurrently, the contractor is working on the frame, spring
rigging and brake rigging. The tender is pretty well back together with a
mostly new body.

A new smokebox is on 1361's boiler as is a new front flue sheet. A new
foundation ring has been made up and this is one heavy hunk of steel. The
new inner door sheet and backhead were being hung on the boiler to allow
fit up of the side sheets.

Over 900 rivets, including the bad ones the previous contractor had
driven, were removed and re-riveted. In some instances, it was
necessary to go oversized. The mud leg washout handholds were an abortion,
courtesy of the Pennsy shops last efforts. These were replaced with new
ASME code forged handhold rings and handhold plates.

1361 had been rushed out of Pennsy's Juniata shops when she was built.
Forget what you heard about old time craftsmanship. The attitude was
something like: "get the thing done, steam tested and out the door and
into revenue service". One such matter was the throat sheet of the boiler.
Inspection of the throat sheet revealed the surface had very fine, shallow
cracking. Most of this was very shallow and could be polished out with no
significant material loss. This brought up the matter of how the cracking
occurred. The throatsheet was heated to a red or orange heat and hot
flanged over dies when it was made. Putting my mind in a 1918 mindset, I
came up with a possible explanation. The Pennsy probably had coking ovens
at the Juniat a shops and made coal gas to fire their heat treating
furnaces and flanging furnaces. Coal gas has a very low heating value and
is mostly carbon monoxide. If a piece of steel plate were put
into a flanging furnace fired on coal gas and the flame were run slightly
rich, to avoid scaling the plate, it would also be capable of carburizing
the surface. Once the plate was at temperature in that fire, it likely
soaked up a load of carbon from the coal gas flames. The plate was taken
out of the furnace, thrown into the flanging press and formed into a
throatsheet. That done, it was likely put aside in the boiler shop to
cool. If the boiler shop was like most old shop, and it was winter, it was
cold and drafty. A cold draft hitting the hot, carburized throatsheet
would produce a localized casehardening. This resulted in the fine
cracking we fund. The Pennsy likely was not going to take any more time
than necessary to make the boiler sheets, so putting them back into the
furnace to soak up heat and letting them at least normalize was not in the
work plans. They saw no reason for this extravagance, probably figuring
the service life of a locomotive boiler was such that they would be
reboilering the engine before the throat sheet cracking was ever an issue.

Over the years, some of Pennsy's designs were such that things like
feedwater check valve pads could never be kept steam tight. The boiler is
deeply grooved in places from attempts to recalk areas that would stay
steamtight. Pennsy did repair welding into he 40's and 50's and it was
real bird s--t welding. This all had to come out. Add the efforts of the
first restoration and the next contractor and this engine had seen some
brutal workmanship.

OK: with all the boiler work that needed to be done, why wasn't a new
boiler made ? Look at a big locomotive boiler and you will see why. To add
to this, the K4S used a Belpaire type of firebox. It required the forming
of the roof sheet in a four-post forging press with special dies. These no
longer exist. So, the alternative was to repair the boiler.

When will 1361 be in steam again ? I do not think in the spring or
summer of 2007.

3. Other works in progress at Steamtown: The Boston & Maine Pacific. This
restoration is getting started. Thus far, I have the drawings in my shop.
A longitudinal crack in the liner (double plate) around the steam dome
manway hole was found; as was evidence the Boston and Maine had attempted
repairs. I have proposed some investigation and done some design
calculations for welded repairs. This engine is in otherwise better shape.
Its boiler is getting new stay bolts and some fairly predictable repairs.

If anyone has ridden on trains pulled by the 3254 and the 2317, they rode
on engines that I did the boiler evaluation and calculations on.

As far as "doing more with the rolling stock they have there now":
remember that Steamtown is part of the US National Parks. They are at the
mercy of whatever budgeting processes go on in Washington. With the war in
Iraq doing a good job of ballooning the national debt and other more
essential matters to be dealt with, it would seem that the National Park
Service is not a high budget priority.

I hope this clears up some of the questions as to what is going on in
Steam town's back shops.

Joe Michaels

  by kevikens
When reading this description of the work being done on 1361 I am scared to death for this country. How rare it is to find the kind of metallurgists and engineers with the expertise to do this work. I do not think our schools or shops (if they still exist at all) still teach these kinds of skills. What will our country do when these people are no longer around ?

  by Richard Glueck
What will we do? We will have a steam explosion and then all active steam locomotives will be retired by the Feds, and there will exist nothing but cold boilers.

  by pennsy
Hi All,

As a fellow Engineer, I am not particularly surprised. I once had the displeasure of reviewing and passing judgement on a unit that had all sorts of reject notices attached to it. My comment was Do I read these requests for correction or do I weigh them ? Looks like #1361 was such a "hard luck" unit. Whatever could go wrong in its construction, maintenance, etc. DID.

To get # 1361 back on the tracks, in operable condition, will undoubtedly cost more than it did to build her, in 2007 dollars.

  by Warren Thompson
Richard Glueck wrote:What will we do? We will have a steam explosion and then all active steam locomotives will be retired by the Feds, and there will exist nothing but cold boilers.
Wasn't there a boiler explosion on the Gettysburg Railroad a few years ago?

  by blockline4180
Wasn't there a boiler explosion on the Gettysburg Railroad a few years ago?

It happened several years ago! I would say it occured in 1994 or 95.

I actually had the pleasure to ride behind the 1278 at Gettysburg in the spring of '92 so it had to be after that.

  by JhnZ33
Warren Thompson wrote:Wasn't there a boiler explosion on the Gettysburg Railroad a few years ago?
The report

I believe this particular incident caused the FRA to "tighten" the rules and guidlines for operating a steam locomotive.


  by jayrmli
Actually, at the time of the Gettysburg incident, the FRA was working with tourist railroads to have the rules modernized to suit the requirements of steam engines that no longer work in every day revenue service. The rules that were on the books were unchanged from the days of steam when these engines were used in everyday work as diesels are today.

For example, the big ruling in question was the 5-year teardown rule. This simply meant that the flues had to be replaced every 5 years, and major (read costly) work had to be done to the locomotive. it didn't matter if the engine was used once in five years - it all had to be done again.

While rules like this were going to be relaxed, the Gettysburg incident held up everything. Eventually, the rules were modernized to go by runtime hours rather than a fixed calendar date.