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Climax Restoration Project

Summary of the January 6-7, 2007 Work Session

This first work session of 2007 was very well attended by eleven volunteers who were kept busy from early morning until late Saturday evening, and until well after noon Sunday.  There was activity on several areas, some machine-tool related, some locomotive related.

Donated Machine Tools: Radial Drill Press

One three-member family team from Maryland left home at 6:00 AM to pickup a rather large radial drilling machine being donated to the Association by a company in Bridgewater, Virginia.  The top-heavy machine was quite heavy, and they arrived in Cass about 2:00 PM, after a very slow trip. 

Radial drill press arrives in Cass
The radial drill press as it was being unloaded from its delivery trailer.  Unloading was not trivial since the small fork lift could not get good access to the press on the trailer.  (Photo by Water Scriptunas, II).
Unloading the machine was quite an ordeal. During the loading process, to balance the weight of the machine properly on the trailer, a quite large fork truck had been used to push it to the middle of the trailer.  At Cass only a 8,000 pound capacity lift was available for the unloading process.  There was no way that this lift’s stubby forks could reach the machine from the rear of the trailer, so our only recourse was to slide the drilling machine to the very back edge of the trailer.  The first act of unloading was to block up the rear corners of the trailer so that the weight of the heavy drill would not flip the pick-up attached to the front of the trailer. 

Next the fork lift was chained to the drill to see if it could be simply pulled to the back edge of the trailer.  NOT!  The trailer scooted, but the machine stayed put on the deck.  The solution was to have five stout guys with pinch bars put a strain on the drill, and then have the lift operator drag the offending machine, little-by-little, to the rear of the trailer deck.  From there it was a rather simple matter to pick the machine up for unloading and eventual final placement in the shop. 

Our old radial drill (three foot arm, #4 MT spindle) was moved out of the way to make room for the newly arrived machine (five foot arm, #5 MT spindle).  Before the day was over the new machine was leveled, and wired. After some initial fuse problems, how to run it was figured out. Sunday a few members cleaned and oiled all the external sliding members of the machine, and checked all fluid levels in the various gear boxes. After we buy a few fuses, we will be ready to make holes.         

Donated Machine Tools: Engine Lathe

On another machinery matter, our newly donated Reed Prentice 18 by 84 inch engine lathe received some attention.  New plastic was applied to three oil-level ports, and oil was added to bring the levels up to the proper levels.   The machine was leveled end-to-end and front-to-back.  A brand new L1 backing plate was attached to the headstock spindle in preparation of machining it to fit the back of a nice 12 inch four-jaw chuck, which will be done as soon as the machine is wired.  The electrical conduit was run from the breaker panel to the machine, but no #6 wire was on hand to complete the job.  This task most likely will be finished at the next work session, January 20-21.

Smoke Box Saddle Repairs

moving the smoke box saddle
The rebuilt smoke box saddle being placed on the bed of the recently installed radial drill press, where six broken studs will be drilled out.  (Photo by Water Scriptunas, II).
The poor old smoke box saddle casting was in terrible shape, due to the fact that it operated in a high acid/temperature atmosphere its whole working life, and then sat open to the elements of nature for thirty years after the Cass shop fire, in 1972.

The two flanged stand pipes that the "Y" pipe fastens to were eroded, corroded, and cracked beyond salvage.  In fact, the bases of both stand pipes had been half way repaired by brazing, sometime in the past before the locomotive was removed from service in 1959. The solution to these problems was to make a pattern, cast two new flanged tubes, and Oxy-acetylene cast-iron weld them to the otherwise structurally sound smoke box casting. As yet, the bolt holes in the new stand pipes have not been drilled or tapped for studs.  This can only be done after the new "Y" pipe has been fabricated.

The saddle casting was returned to Cass on the trailer along with the radial drill.  After the saddle was unloaded, the haulers removed all but six severely deteriorated studs, without breaking any off, and without stripping the threads in any hole.  Good fortune was smiling on them.   The remaining six studs are the ones that hold the exhaust nozzle in place, and are located  right smack dab in the middle of the top of the thing.  These studs are broken flush with the surface of the casting, so they will need to be carefully drilled out... not a fast job for someone with little or no patience.   This will be a great job for the new radial drilling machine. In fact, the saddle has already been set onto the drill for doing this very job.

Locomotive Crankshaft Lathe Work

The crankshaft of a Climax locomotive is a built-up unit….basically a machined central shaft with a pressed-on gear in the middle, and crank discs pressed onto each end.

The crankshaft of Climax CN 1551 has been condemned by the project manager because of  the discovery of undercut welds holding the central gear in place.  To weld on such a piece is very suspect: non-heat treated welds on heavily stressed shafts will eventually be the cause of the shaft’s structural failure.  Shafts such as this never break when setting still. Things always come unglued at the worst possible time, such as when the locomotive is working to the maximum on the final grade to Bald Knob.  If this crankshaft would break in such circumstances, the collateral damage to surrounding engine components could be devastating.  This, in a nutshell, is the reason for scrapping the old crankshaft.

The only two possible reasons for these welds to be on the shaft in the first place are 1) to keep the gear from migrating: or 2) to keep the gear from migrating FARTHER.  Upon close examination, the latter reason seems to be the case.  When looking very closely at the area adjacent to the gear hub, two distinctly different degrees of corrosion are present, as if an area about 3/8 inch wide was not always exposed, and thusly corroded to a lesser degree than the rest of the shaft.  The best guess is that the gear has indeed migrated.

Why worry about the gear being a little out of place?  The crankshaft gear has migrated AWAY from its mate.  This means that the meshing gears are not engaging as deeply as they are supposed to.  Translation?  Excessive, and premature gear wear.

The fact that the gear moved in the first place means that the gear was/is too loose on the shaft to stay put. What is the solution?  Make the fit between the shaft and gear tighter.  Either somehow shrink the hole in the gear, or produce a new shaft slightly larger than the present shaft, so that many tons of pressure are needed to assemble the pieces in a condition that is known as “an interference fit”.  In other words, shove a big pin into a littler hole.    

Until the present shaft is removed from the offending gear and end-plates, it is not possible to state what the diameter of the to-be-machined crankshaft will be in the area of “the fit”.  There is a great chance that the gear hub will need to be slightly bored oversize, to ensure that it is both smooth and round.  This very situation was encountered during the machining of one of our new locomotive axles.  One of the axle gear carriers was discovered to have a scored and gaulded bore that we chose to machine out to a new and true surface prior to machining the axle to its press-fit diameter.

Lifting the crankshaft stock into the lathe
Lifiting the new crankshaft in preparation for placing it in the Loge and Shipley lathe. (photo by Andy Fitzgibbon).
The steel for the new crankshaft was purchased from Ellwood Crankshaft and Machine, Ellwood City, Pennsylvania.  This firm made the new crankshaft for Shay 11, and recommended that we use alloy steel 4130, heat treated for the new Climax crankshaft.  A bar 6 3/8 inch diameter would have been sufficiently large enough to make the shaft, but the smallest Ellwood stocks is 8.5 inch diameter, better than two inches oversized!  Enough material to make the main shaft, plus the two crankpins, cost $3,000, delivered to Cass.  Ellwood explained that it would be financially better for us to turn this shaft down to make the piece, if we have a lathe big enough, rather than to pay them thousands of extra dollars to forge and heat treat a one-of shaft of the requested smaller size.

This weekend our too big shaft was chucked in our antique lathe, and the production of hundreds of pounds of useless shavings began.  The 1,300 pound rough turned steel shaft was maneuvered into the 20 inch Lodge and Shipley engine lathe with the fork truck.  One end of the piece was grasped by the four-jaw lathe chuck, and indicated for being centered in the machine.  The tailstock end of the piece was temporarily supported by a steady rest large enough to easily swallow the 8.5 inch shaft.  Next the tailstock spindle was moved very close to, but not touching the work piece.  The adjusting screws of the steady rest were then used as jacks to shift the end of the rough shaft, measuring with a six inch scale to average out tailstock spindle/shaft offsets at 3, 6, 9, and 12 o’clock positions.   Once the shaft was centered on the tailstock spindle, a tailstock center was installed into the spindle, and used to lightly mark the center of the shaft.  This mark is where we drilled the 60 degree countersunk “center hole” ,  by using an air-powered drill motor to spin the bit.  The drill motor was guided and pushed into the work using the lathe tailstock.  Normally the work piece rotates to do this task, but in this case,  with so much heat treat scale and shaft weight involved,  rolling of the shaft would have injured the jaws severely.

Reducing the crankshaft diameter
Cuttings produced as the diameter of the crankshaft was cut down from 8.5" to 7.5".  The final diameter will be about 6.3", but the intermediate size will allow use of an additional steady rest.  (Photo by Andy Fitzgibbon).
Once the center hole was drilled, and this end of the shaft supported by the tailstock spindle, the big steady was removed so that metal removal could begin.  The game plan was to reduce the right hand end of the shaft to a diameter small enough that our smaller steady, about 7.5 inches, could be used to help support the work.  For a long while we experimented with various feeds (rate of tool movement per rotation), speeds  (RPM), and  depth of cut.  After a while it was determined how hard we could push the old lathe before chatter would occur.  Once the end of the piece was reduced in diameter small enough for the smaller steady rest to be applied, the strength of the machine setup increased by a great deal.  We found that we could push the machine to take deeper cuts, at more RPM’s.   Eventually we were taking cuts 3/8 inch deep, and reducing the diameter of the stock by 3/4 inch per pass.  The shavings were peeling off, like tightly coiled springs about three inches long, and turning metallic blue by the time they landed on the floor.  Pretty impressive cutting for a lathe approaching its 94th birthday.  A few weekends of this type of rough turning will get the shaft relatively close to its finished size.

This process will continue at the next work session, scheduled for January 20-21, 2007.   New volunteers are always welcomed.  If you are interested in getting involved please check the "Getting Involved" section on the Climax Restoration Project page.

Andy Fitzgibbon, one of the Association's volunteers, has posted some excellent pictures of the lathe setrup on the Web site.  There are also some interesting comments about the work being done.  Go to to see the photos and discussion.

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