Friday, May 09, 2014

Ex-C&O Mallet joins super power steam revival

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Yet another fine example of the peak of American steam locomotive technology is emerging from retirement to delight fresh generations of railroad enthusiasts. Ex-Chesapeake & Ohio 2-6-6-2 1309 has been acquired from the B&O Railroad Museum for overhaul and operation by Western Maryland Scenic Railroad.

It will be the largest Mallet design locomotive operating in North America, with two sets of cylinders and driving wheels under a shared boiler. Erected by Baldwin Locomotive Works in 1949, the locomotive (photo below) was the last the company built for a domestic railroad. It toiled only seven years hauling mountain coal drags before being stored by C&O.

In 1972 it was donated to the B&O Museum in Baltimore. An inspection by WMSR mechanical staff found the articulated engine to be in good condition and ideal for the 16-mile line's tight curves and steep grades.

The restoration will be performed by Western Maryland's own steam shop, which since 1991 rebuilt and maintained the railroad's existing steamer, ex-Lake Superior and Ishpeming Railroad Consolidation-type 734. The 1916 Baldwin 2-8-0 is due for its federally mandated boiler rebuild at the end of the 2015 operating season.

The locomotive operates 100 days a year, with a 96% availability rating. The near-centenarian Consolidation often requires diesel assistance to haul more than eight passenger cars between Cumberland and Frostburg.

“Our goal is to have 1309 operable for the beginning of the 2016 operating season,” said WMSR General Superintendant Michael Gresham. “After that, 734 will begin a well-deserved rest before being rebuilt to supplement 1309 in WMSR’s stable.”

The much bigger 1309 will manage even the heaviest trains without help, said Gresham. “The 1309 is a compound articulated, or 'Mallet', meaning it can operate in either simple mode with high-pressure steam going to both front and rear sets of cylinders, or in compound mode in which high-pressure steam is fed to the rear set of cylinders and then sent to the front set of cylinders where it is re-used, conserving energy and water," said Gresham.

“Being articulated, it is also expected to be easier on the track," Gresham said. "Finally, as what we believe will be the largest Mallet operating in the country, 1309 will bring many new and returning friends to the WMSR. In short, 1309 will save money and build ridership with a minimal additional cost in maintenance.”

The 217-ton locomotive will fit the existing turntable at Frostburg. A wye will be used to turn the engine at Cumberland.

The Allegheny joins three other “super power” generation steam locomotives currently under restoration for main line operation. Union Pacific's Big Boy 4014, built in 1941, has arrived at UP's steam shop in Cheyenne, Wyoming, where it will be rebuilt to join UP 4-6-6-4 Challenger 3985 and 4-8-4 Northern 844 in active excursion service.

Ex-Southern Pacific 4-8-4 Daylight 4449 is in the middle of a mandatory boiler inspection at the Oregon Rail Heritage Center in Portland, and is due to return to duty by the end of this year.

Ex-Norfolk & Western “Spirit of Roanoke” is undergoing restoration at North Carolina Transportation Museum. The 1950-built 4-8-4 is to be the star of Norfolk Southern's 2015 steam program.

COsteam bw