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Climax Restoration Project
Summary of the January 5-6, 2008 Work Session

The year started off with a very productive weekend.  The Terry House was very full, due to the fact that this weekend was also a MSR&LHA Board meeting weekend, which we normally try to avoid.  If there had been more people on Friday night, some of us were going to be FORCED to sleep in a CABOOSE parked in front of the depot that was all decked out with Christmas lights.

Some of us were disappointed that a few more did not show up.

The following report will bring things up to date, but this is not to imply that all work discussed was completed this particular weekend.


The back end of the deteriorated frame has been prepared  for weld repairs. The flanges of the frame channels were wasted to sharp knife-like points, instead of being rounded, due to being worked on by acid and moisture for almost ninety years.  The old flanges were removed by cutting the old flanges off with four inch diameter "zip wheels" powered by a hand held grinder unit.

Climax locomotive frame workClimax locomotive frame work
Working under the lomotive frame to cut away badly deteriorated parts of the frame.  This was difficult and tedious work despite being able to lay down on the job.  (Photos by Walter Scriptunas II).

Removing the upper flanges was not fun, but working on the bottom side of the frame was pure torture, and nothing but drudgery.  A scaffold plank was placed under the frame so that the operator of the grinder could lay on his back,  reach up with the grinder, and  judiciously grind along a line carefully scribed  on the bottom of the frame for guidance. Try working on one's back with your arms up in the air for hours at a time.  This process went on for several weekends, all day long.

The worst part of the job was the grinding debris: steel slivers, rust chunks, and grinding wheel chunks that were continually trying to get into one's eyes, ears, shirt, and regions lower!  It was found very quickly that common face shields were useless on this job.  The solution to the problem was for the lucky grinder operator to recline, and don the welder's face shield with a clear lens.  This garb was in turn draped by a 2 by 3 foot piece of fireproof canvas with a small rectangular opening cut into it to fit over the lens opening of the face shield.  The operator then reached up and around the canvass, and grasping the grinder, went to work, but for not long periods without interruption as moisture from breathing would coat the inside of the clear lens, and make seeing where to cut impossible.   With luck, two or three wheels could be destroyed before the operator would have to roll out from under the frame, clean the hood (both internally and externally), clean his face, eyebrows, ears, and shirt collar.  This process was repeated over and over and over, seemingly without end.

In removing in excess of 80 lineal feet of wasted flanges, close to 100 zip wheels were consumed, at a cost of close to three bucks each.

The person grinding was supported by two very necessary helpers:  one person to maneuver the trouble-light and drape the canvass, and another person to keep new zip wheels on the three grinders that were being used, and feed these to the operator.  Wheels lasted less than five minutes each, but in this time the grinder motors would become very hot, necessitating the use of three grinders to allow for cool-down time.

All the time that the above was being done, another team was band-sawing the replacement flanges that will be welded onto the frame by contract welders. This sounds good, but nothing happens easily, it seems.  Previously our old band-saw, donated by a very generous firm, worked well for light cutting, but was soon found to be seriously in need of bearings.  When the heavy cutting started, the smell of burning rubber soon developed, as the drive belt was slipping.  The offending belt was tightened, but then the unmistakable sound of sand-filled bearings filled the air!   It was found that the problem was greater than simply the bearings needed to be replaced: the bearings were loose in the aluminum pulley. Brass shims had been smashed into the gap in an attempt to hold the bearings in place, unsuccessfully. Now things are really getting complicated: the pulley needed to be bored and bushed to properly retain the new bearings.  To make a long story short, one volunteer drove to Elkins to pick up the replacement bearings, while others secured a piece of 2-inch, schedule 80 steel pipe from the Cass Shop, and fixed the pulley.  Three hours later the band-saw machine was back in operation, running perfectly.   About mid-afternoon the real job could finally proceed.


Lathe with gear mounting.    This arrangement allows the gear to be removed without damage by machining away the shaft. (Photo by Byron Waltham)
Lou Aprile operating lathe
Lou Aprile operating the lathe to cut out the center chaft from the horn gear.  (Photo by Byrom Waltham)
The pinion gears on the locomotive are all quite worn, but are to be salvaged for professional re-manufacturing. The old gears must be removed from their old gear shafts for this purpose.  Since the gears are “shrunk” onto these shafts, simply pressing them off presents a problem: the bore of the gears must not be damaged during the process of removing the shaft.  The quick and easy way to remove the shafts, and the main Cass shop has a huge wheel-press large enough to turn the gears almost inside-out, is to force the shaft out with brute force, but the trouble is that this would almost certainly produce galling or galding on the bore of the gear.  Galling describes the condition produced when two sliding (either linear or rotating) metal surfaces  basically weld themselves together, yet the relative motion continues due to an overriding external influence (such as a 400-ton hydraulic press).

When this happens, things get UGLY, quick.  For this reason, we choose to separate our gears and shafts in a slower, but practically fool-proof manner:  the center of the shaft is drilled/bored out on the lathe in order to give the shaft room to collapse, in essence eliminating the interference fit between the two mating members.  Once this is done, the shaft can then be bumped out using a 12- pound sledge.
This task sounds relatively simple, but, as usual, there is a catch: MSR&LHA was given a newer, by about 50 years, geared-head lathe that is not yet fully tooled.  While one team was using the new lathe to spade drill a 2 -inch diameter hole better than a foot deep, a second team, using another lathe plus a milling machine, was producing vital parts of a new Armstrong-style boring bar holder to fit our newly acquired big lathe. Neither person making the parts of the boring bar holder had  any prior machining experience, but were successfully coached thru the process, and greatly enjoyed themselves.   The big joke of the week end was that  the boring bar screw, if it was charged out at the billing rate by the maker’s real-world employer, would cost  more than $700!

By next work session the boring bar holder and home-made boring bar will be ready for use, and the gear removal job can be completed.   


The center or swivel plates are the pieces that attach to the truck and frame bolsters,  and act as bearings between the trucks and locomotive frame. The trucks must pivot as the track structure under the locomotive changes direction, which was quite often on a logging road, or the locomotive will jump the track.  With our Climax having logged more than 330,000 miles in its life, one can guess that all six swivel plates, three male and three female, are shot beyond repair.  To keep costs down, it was decided to hog the new parts out of large pieces of 3 and 4 inch thick rectangular plates.   To this end, one volunteer roughed out the 1-inch deep recess that allows the swivel plate to straddle the bolster.  The trash can of shavings from this process was very heavy.           

Andy Fitzgibbon posted several work session photos on the Practical Machinist Web site at  Click the link to view them.


We are running out of storage room in the shop, and quite some time was spent shifting things about in order to create more useable space.   An example was the placing of an entire pallet load of boiler lagging material onto overhead shelving for long-term storage.


The priming/painting of the completed coal bunker must be finished so that it can be moved outside for long-term storage.  This important job must be done as quickly as possible in order to create room for the assembly of the tender tank, which has a 9’-4” square footprint, and will scale at about 3-tons. 

Getting Involved

Volunteers are always welcome to help with the project.  There are normally work session about every two or three weekends.  Dormitory-style housing is supplied in Cass at no cost  and meals are provided by the Association.  Workers typically arrive on Friday evening, work a long day on Saturday and Sunday morning with an early afternoon departure for home.  Due to insurance regulations all volunteers must be current MSR&LHA members and everyone must sign a liability waiver for the Park.

If you are interested in volunteering please contact Grady Smith, the Climax Restoration Project Manager, at or 740-373-2895 to get the latest work schedule and discuss your interests and skills.

Check the Schedule of Upcoming Climax Project Work Sessions for upcoming work dates.

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Page last updated or validated on November 28, 2008