David and I had an interesting diversion this morning. We had befriended Marty Soholt who is the Trainmaster of the American Orient Express. The AOE had tied up at the New Orleans Public Terminal and Marty extended an invitation for us to tour the train which we immediately accepted. It was fascinating to tour such a beautiful train which is fitted out much more finely than any American passenger train of the glory days of US railroading, save for some private varnish. After the tour, we headed out for our train and Marty came along to see 745.
We steamed her up for the last time today. I decided to tie the stuffed ‘possum “Dumplin” on top of the headlight for the trip home. We’d adopted her at the Cracker Barrel Restaurant in Shreveport. The train was opened up to the public for the last time this morning and closed this afternoon. We started backing up on the lead around 16:45 this afternoon. The weather was nice and it was great to have the trip both begin and end with such beautiful weather. KCS MOP Ted Wax was with us again for the last trip and said that he was sad to see it coming to an end and we certainly agreed with him. Ted was a major part of all the test runs and also started and ended the grand adventure with us and it was sad to say goodbye to him at Lambert Junction.
While we were waiting for the NOPB to pick us up, the NOPB 2001 went by with the office car City of New Orleans in tow and General Manager Jim Bridger and a number of guests were on the back platform when it went by. I radioed to 745 and Keith Bonnette did a nice job with a whistle tribute when they went by. It was also nice to end our trip by waving to Jim since the NOPB had done so much to support us as well. They pushed us onto the LASTA lead and then cut off and backed away. I pulled forward around the 16-degree curve and had a little problem with the drivers slipping due to grass that had grown over the rails. As soon as I got the engine through the gate, I got off of 745 and turned her over to Bill Morris so he could bring her into the yard and finish the trip.
Some of 745’s many fans came out to say goodbye as we headed through the Kansas City Southern’s New Orleans Yard on the way to the LASTA yard and the completion of the trip.
We said goodbye to KCS MOP Ted Wax at Lambert Junction. Ted had played a vital part in our testing and regular operations of the trip and it was sad to see such a great adventure coming to an end for both of us, as well as the rest of the crew.
We closed the event with a gathering of the crew and a final prayer which included thanks and prayer for Gregg Dodd who had done such a marvelous job of restoring the locomotive. We rounded up a few final pieces of equipment and David and I hit the road to start the long drive home. As we were leaving, one of the crew blew a goodbye to us on 745’s whistle as we headed down Jefferson Highway. We drove to Mobile, AL and stayed the night in the Comfort Suites just west of town. The hardest part of our trip was saying goodbye to all our wonderful friends and teammates!
Most of today was spent cleaning the remaining tools and packing everything up in the Suburban. The train got a good cleaning for a reception that was held in the Jefferson car this evening. Jefferson Parish President Broussard visited with us for a while and a good number of the crew were present as this was the last time that many of us would be together.
It was one month ago today that we made our grand departure over the Huey Long Bridge and took 745 for her first trip on her old home rails. In one way it seems like we left a year ago and in another only yesterday. Today the 745 and the LASTA crew turn toward home.
David ran the engine today and I took the day off to chase the train and experience 745 from the perspective of the thousands of folks who have seen her over the past month. It felt a little strange to drive slowly away from the train as the final departure procedures were being performed, but it also helped me start the adjustment toward returning to real life.
I drove over to Perkins Lane and waited in a driveway to a bridge contractor. I heard David and Willy making the brake test over the radio and heard them talk about departing. I have to admit that my heart was feeling a little empty and strange to not be a part of the operations, but in another way, it felt good to think that 745 was in good hands. It seemed to take forever and then I finally saw the plume of smoke, heard the whistle, and 745 came rolling by.
There truly is something almost spiritual about a steam locomotive in motion. The motion of the drivers, the plume of smoke, and the sound of her “breathing” as she passed by was truly a sight to behold. I got caught up in the rush hour traffic so I got onto I-10 to try to catch up to the train further down the line. I came to the KCS overpass just after she passed underneath and the traffic slowed on the Interstate because of the smoke. I was able to leapfrog the train several times and really enjoyed watching it roll by and it also gave me a chance to visit with some nice folks along the way.
As the train approached Mays Yard, I heard MOP Ted Wax on the radio trying to get a ride to the KCS New Orleans Yard and the yardmaster told him that there may be quite a wait for a ride. I got on my radio and offered Ted a ride which he accepted. I drove over to the tower at Mays Yard and pulled in just as the train was arriving. Ted got in the Suburban with me, the CN/IC pilot boarded 745 and we went our separate ways. It was nice to have the opportunity to visit some more with Ted as he’s been just a super individual with which to work. Ted shared with me that he was really sad that the adventure with 745 was coming to an end and I certainly commiserated with him. I dropped Ted off at the KCS New Orleans Yard Office and headed back for the train.
The LASTA train had pulled about a mile down the lead from the Mays Yard wye and I had problems locating it. I spent about 20 minutes listening to communications on the radio but couldn’t locate where they had gone. I finally found the train just as they were pulling up to Mounes Avenue and this is where the train tied down for the night.
Bill and Marie Morris, David and I decided to get a late dinner and went to four restaurants before we found one open. We ate at Denny’s on Clearfield which is right next to the approach to the Huey Long Bridge. It seemed a little strange that we had taken the steam train over that bridge just a month ago. We all had a good visit and then David and I headed back to the Quality Hotel on Causeway which has about become our second home.
I had to get up early this morning so we could move the train. We needed to do a final spot on the train so that the entrance ramps could be set up. We then uncoupled the locomotive, pulled ahead about 3 car lengths, and backed the engine onto the southeast leg of the wye track where it was displayed for the day. After tying down the locomotive, I was talking to one of the local law enforcement officers who told me that their 911 call center had received at least 3 calls the night before about a southbound train that was on fire. One of the callers was a Louisiana State Trooper. They were seeing the flame coming out of 745’s firebox draft door. The firebox in 745 really throws out the light to the sides making an almost strobe-like effect when she’s working on the mainline after dark.
We got back to the train in the mid-afternoon and spent time visiting with the public who were visiting the train. About 5 pm, we moved the engine back onto the cars and did our inspection and air brake test. It was decided that we could leave a little early as long as we could clear up before a southbound hotshot got to us. We pulled to the electrically locked switch and they were unable to get the switch to operate. We had to back into the clear and let the southbound get by us and then we tried again. The switch worked this time so we pulled onto the main, backed past the Hammond, LA depot to the signal north of the connector track, then pulled through the connector onto the line to Baton Rouge.
The branch to Baton Rouge was about 43 miles long and had 129 public grade crossings! We had the bell and whistle going almost the entire trip. The western end of the line took us through even more congested areas and we were at 20 mph through most of this part of the line. We pulled over the interlocking with KCS and proceeded to the wye where we turned the train. We pulled back to the KCS interlocking and pulled onto the connector where we said goodbye to our CN/IC pilot Leon David. KCS Manager of Operating Practices Ted Wax was there to pick us up as our pilot and it was like a reunion since Ted had been our pilot for all the test runs and for the first KCS segment of our journey. We pulled the train down the main to the KCS yard office and tied down for the night. David and I headed for the Comfort Suites off of I-10 and College where we stayed the night.
Friday, April 29 and Saturday, April 30 – I’m tying these two dates together because of the kind of “day” we had. The Suburban’s developed a bad miss so I decided it give it a tuneup in the hotel parking lot this morning. It’s running a lot better but has a really rough idle. I’ll have to check on this later. We headed to the train and arrived about 20 minutes before our scheduled departure time.
All the rods were back in place and Mike and Levi had the locomotive all greased up and Keith had everything else checked out and ready to go. I did the daily inspection, we did the air brake test, our pilots for both KCS and CN/IC were on board and we pulled about ¼ mile onto the main. Jerry Brown was our CN/IC pilot for the day.
Keith spotted problems in the rod immediately and we checked and found that it was already excessively hot. We backed into the office car track from which we had come and worked on it some. The next time we pulled onto the main, the temperature was elevated but nothing like the previous time. We backed a considerable distance to the IC yard and checked the rod pin temperature before we headed out and everything was looking great. We ran about 8 miles down the line and the rod was again getting hot. We pumped grease into it and it cooled down and we headed south. We elected to go into the siding at Terry to check on the rod. It was still getting excessively hot, so we pulled to the depot to work on it. Unknown to us, a large crowd was gathered at the depot just to watch us roll by. Instead, they got to watch us work on the engine for over 4 hours.
Friday, April 28 – Today was our scheduled layover day in Jackson. I ran over to the train and watched Mike Hankins, Levi Coulter, Jerry Lynch and the guys from Mason & Overstreet removed the rods from the engine. By about noon, they had the rods removed and Jerry Mason and his guys headed for their shop to machine some pieces for the rod. We stopped by this evening and checked on the progress and they had the machine work completed. They’re going to bring them back to the train early in the morning.
Wednesday, April 27 – Our fuel delivery problems continue to plague us. The oil truck had broken down the night before and we weren’t able to get any #4 oil. We elected to buy 1000 gallons of off-road diesel fuel filling up the generator car tanks and putting the rest into 745’s tender. We pulled the nut from the problem rod and the cast insert around the bushing was now cracked, so it looks like we’re not going to be able to make it beyond Jackson without making a new shim and insert.
During the night, the Mississippi Queen riverboat had tied up at the levee next to the train. As we began our departure about 20 minutes ahead of schedule, we backed down the lead next to the riverboat. The Captain hit his whistle and the calliope was playing “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad”. I answered back with both whistles on 745 and the Captain and I spent the next couple of minutes trading whistle blasts.
We backed through the KCS yard until we could go through the crossover and over the switch that they would line to put us on the mainline to Jackson. The switch was lined and we started our pull up the 1.8% grade up out of the river bottom. 745 had no problem with the grade and I was really wanting to let her cut loose and walk up the hill, but prudence prevailed and I elected not to subject the problem rod bushing to any excessive pounding. We went up one more long grade and then stopped so that the “pit crew” could hit the rod with grease. We did this several times as we headed east and we soon entered the west side of Jackson. We heard a loud noise and discovered that a press helicopter was hovering right over the top of the locomotive. The helicopter stayed with us for about ½ hour as we made our slow 10 mph trek into downtown Jackson.
Amtrak’s “City of New Orleans” was sitting in the station as we passed by in the yard. We then crossed over the IC mainline and headed to Pearl, MS, a Jackson suburb, where we tied the train down. Jerry Mason from the machine shop showed up and the crew began pulling rods. We, along with some more of the LASTA crew and Jon Stern, our videographer, headed to town to find a motel and a place to eat. We got to town and checked into the Econolodge and then walked to Shoney’s for dinner. We were all pooped and called it a night.
I was exhausted and fell right to sleep. I was awakened around 12:45 am by the phone. The desk called to say that the hotel was on fire and we needed to evacuate. I quickly got dressed and went out to the parking lot and the hotel was indeed on fire and I later found out that the flames were shooting higher than the roofline of the building. Fortunately, there was a fire station across the street and they were able to knock down the fire quickly; however, it was quite sometime before we were allowed to return to our rooms. The fire department had to confirm that the power was off to the damaged area but didn’t have any way to determine this. I showed the Chief my Electrical Contractor’s license and he put me to work running down and disconnecting the electrical circuits in the damaged part of the building. As he was having some of the firefighters open up a wall so that I could disconnect some wiring, we discovered that the interior of the wall was still burning. They gave it a quick shot of water and the remaining fire was soon out. I ended up disconnecting about 8 electrical feeds so that the damaged part of the building would not have any power available to the damaged wiring.
After that, we were all permitted to return to our rooms and the hotel owners thanked me for my help and refunded our credit card charges for David and I for the two nights we’re staying here.
Tuesday, April 26 – The skies turned ugly and we had a couple of nasty thunderstorms with brief periods of heavy rain roll through. In spite of this, the mechanical crew got to work. Ken Cotton, Jerry Lynch, and Mike Hankins pulled the nut off of the rod so we could get a look at it. As soon as the nut was removed, the news wasn’t good. The brass bushing had approximately 3/16” of its outer circumference worn away. We had a discussion about our options and we elected to see if I could find a machine shop in Jackson and we’d nurse the injured rod there so we could hopefully get a new bushing and insert made and installed during our full day layover there. I got busy on the cell phone and found a machinist that specializes in large equipment repairs. We pulled out of Delhi an hour behind schedule due to traffic on the line.
Despite the nasty weather in the morning, the afternoon turned out to be a beautiful day. We were traveling at a leisurely 30 mph most of the way so that we wouldn’t overheat the problem rod bushing. We had another large group of chasers and also folks coming out of homes and businesses along the tracks. When we got to our “whistle stop” in Tallulah, LA, there was a large crowd waiting for us. We stopped for about 45 minutes and then we resumed our eastward trek.
We were within a half-mile of the Mississippi River bridge when a bunch of folks came out of a bar that was close to the tracks. The engine got about 2 car lengths past the bar when we heard a loud report. Mike Hankins later told us that one of the bar patrons had gotten so excited that he discharged a pistol into the air and that was the report we heard. We crossed over the river bridge which was really interesting and entered a tunnel on the Mississippi side of the bridge. There was a large number of people at the overlook over top of the tunnel. We wound our way through the Vicksburg KCS yard and parked the train on a spur track right next to the old brick depot building in downtown Vicksburg. We stayed the night at the Horizon Casino Hotel.
Monday, April 25 – Today really started early. Willy Meyers, David Bartee and I left the Residence Inn at 2:30 am and headed to the train. When we arrived in Bossier City, Ron Larson and the crew were putting the final touches on the air compressor installation and 745’s original compressor was placed on the tender on top of the water tank and behind the fuel tank. I had picked up 3 heavy-duty nylon ratchet straps the day before and they were used to secure the old air compressor.
We started shoving back out of Bossier City Yard at about 4 am. It was a clear night and the moon was almost full. Ron Larson later told me that 745 shot out a perfect smoke ring that circled the moon from where he was standing. We backed out onto the bridge over the Red River far enough to clear the switch lead and then started our trip east in the dark. We triggered an alarm on the next three defect detectors, all #5 on the fireman’s side which is the usual place for the detector to report a problem. We figured that it’s probably triggering on the atomizer line to the burner. We also stopped and checked the rod that had been running hot. It was doing okay but was a little elevated in temperature and we just stopped every 10 miles or so and pumped some grease into it.
This subdivision was the first experience I’ve ever had with tone lined switches. The territory is DTC (Direct Train Control) but doesn’t have ABS (Automatic Block Signals) in between the DTC control points. Instead, each switch for the siding must be addressed by transmitting a series of keyed tones over the radio to the switch. When properly addressed, the switch either shows a green indication on its signal and give a verbal confirmation over the radio that the switch is line normal or gives an approach (yellow) indication and gives a verbal confirmation that the switch is lined reverse (diverging). It worked well except for one switch which wouldn’t respond to a tone so we had to stop and hand throw the switch before proceeding.
Just before Simsboro, LA, we overtook a rail grinder. When we got to the west switch at Simsboro siding, we took siding and backed the train onto a rock company spur so that we were completely clear of both the mainline and the siding. There was a tie gang working on the mainline ahead of us, and since we had left late from Bossier City, we had missed our opportunity to get past the tie gang before they started their work.
Since we had a long way to go and we were concerned about our hours of service limit, it was decided to park the train and have Willy Meyers, David Bartee and I take a 4 hour rest period. We headed over to a country store called Magnolia Corners and had a big breakfast. I took a nap in one of the rocking chairs in the store and David took a nap in the back seat of the Suburban. Just before noon, we headed back to the train. Keith and Bill had everything ready to go. Fire Chief Charlie Edwards had driven his 1928 Ford Phaeton over and it was nice to see an old car. We visited for a few minutes while Jon St. Vigne got us authority to enter the line and then we were on our way. As we were leaving Simsboro, we passed the school and all the kids were out on the lawn to watch the train travel by and cheered as we passed.
This is when things started to get complicated. The rail grinder had passed us by while we were parked in Simsboro. One of the high rail vehicles accompanying it broke down and fouled the mainline approximately 6 miles in front of us. In addition, the tie gang was also still working a little further east and had the main shut down. We had four eastbound trains behind us and three westbound trains that we had to meet. The rod bushing on #2E was still running hot and we had to attempt to keep our scheduled speed so we wouldn’t further complicate an already dicey situation. Thankfully, the high rail was able to get into the clear and we continued past the tie gang who had gone into a spur track to clear up.
There were a large number of folks present as we arrived in Ruston, LA. There was an overpass near Louisiana Tech that was absolutely packed with people and you could hear them cheering from overhead as we passed by. As we pulled up in downtown Rayville, the area was packed with people. We did another quick greasing on the problem rod bushing and were soon on our way.
We took siding at Calhoun, LA near a school that had all the kids turned out to see the train and met the three west bounders before proceeding east. We also gave the problem rod a shot of grease while we were stopped. Ron Larson had been shadowing the train and we said our goodbyes to him as he was heading home to Austin after being our savior with the air pump.
As we entered Monroe, we passed through another defect detector and this time we triggered two alarms, the usual 5F but also 3E. Since we were about 1 mile from our “whistle stop” in downtown Monroe, we elected to keep going and do our inspection in Monroe. We were crossing the big truss bridge over the Quachita River in downtown Monroe when I noticed a videographer set up at the other end of the bridge. He had his tripod set squarely between the rails. As I got closer, I gave a few warning toots on the whistle and he wouldn’t move. I got within about 50 feet of him when I opened up on both whistles and he finally got the message and moved clear just in time.
We went about 3 more blocks and spotted the train. The rod pin was completely dry and we pumped some more grease into it, but it was now so hot that the pin grease just turned to hot oil and ran right back out again. We elected to go a little further down the line to Magenta where we could stop next to a siding in case the dispatcher needed to run another train around us. The pin had cooled a little more, but now we couldn’t get the grease pump to work and the reservoir can was stuck on the pump. We pulled out the Alemite gun and were able to pump some grease onto the rod.
Ray Duplechain and I had a brief discussion that it looked like we probably wouldn’t be able to make it to our overnight stop at Delhi, both from the standpoint of the hot rod bushing and the Hours of Service 12 hours for David and I was drawing near. I did some quick mental calculations and thought that there was a possibility that we could still make it. I found that if I kept the locomotive at around 30 mph, the rod wouldn’t get too hot as long as we stopped regularly to inject grease. However, we still had a “whistle-stop” at Rayville to make along with some grease stops and I knew it was going to be tight.
We headed east and made it to Rayville where we doubled up on a “whistle-stop” and put another shot of grease on the rod bushing. We headed down the line until it was about time to make another grease stop. I was running time calculations in my head and knew that we were now on an extremely tight window. I radioed back to Conductor Meyers and told him that we needed the grease crew to hit that rod like a NASCAR pit crew and t we had to clear up and be rolling in 5 minutes. They hit the rod with the Alemite gun, got a charge of grease on the bushing, and we met our time mark. We got within three miles of Delhi and I could sense that the rod was again getting hot. I did another quick calculation and radioed back that they would have 3 minutes to shoot the problem rod.
By golly, the guys pulled it off and it now appeared that we could make it to Delhi mechanically, but would David and I run out of time? We had been doing a double spot at most locations to unload the ramps for the train and I radioed back that we’d only have time to get the train parked and would not be able to do the second spot. We pulled by the switch in Delhi, the switch was lined and the derail was taken off, and we backed into the siding and stopped the train right on the minute of our 12 hours – much too close for comfort!
We loaded our gear into the Suburban and staggered to a local eating establishment to get a quick bite to eat and then went to the Best Western for the night. After the long, stress-filled day, I was really ready to crash and really slept well.
Sunday, April 24 – Jerry Lynch, Mike Hankins, and Harry Abbott had been spearheading the compressor mechanical situation. They partially reassembled the air pump so we wouldn’t lose any parts and stripped the connections from the compressor and loosened the mounting bolts. We made an arrangement with a boom truck operator to arrive at 5 pm, approximately the same time that Ron would be arriving with the loaner air pump.
We made a supply run to Harbor Freight Tools and picked up three large ratchet straps. We decided that we’d crate 745’s compressor in the new compressor’s box and then load it on top of the water tank on the tender just behind the oil tank. There are steel brackets under the walkway that will provide structural anchoring for the tie downs.
The boom truck arrived about 20 minutes early so we got him into position.No sooner had he gotten his outriggers set and his boom extended, than our angel of mercy Ron Larson pulled up with the loaner compressor. We quickly determined that the lifting eye that we had wouldn’t fit the 1 ¼” threads in the top of the compressors. Ron and I took off for the KCS shops and we found some hardware that would suffice.
We hooked up the old compressor to the boom truck and the bolts holding it to the locomotive were removed. The compressor swung free and was temporarily placed on the bed of the boom truck so more fittings could be removed. Jerry, Harry, Mike, and Ron were in the process of doing this when David, Willy and I had to leave to meet our compliance with hours of service law. As of this writing, they’re still working on the compressor change out which had a bit of a challenge in that the steam supply line attached at a different place on the compressor and we have a very limited supply of pipe fittings on board and it’s Sunday night. We’re hoping that they’ll be successful in getting everything hooked up.
Saturday, April 23 – The day started out with beautiful weather. A cold front had gone through early this morning and the air was cooler and dryer. This was quite welcome since we’d be sitting in the hot cab for a while. We performed our daily inspection and air brake test, our pilot, Jon St. Vigne (actually a Manager of Operating Practices) climbed aboard, and we started our shove back out of the yard.
We made it down to the throat of the yard and had to wait for a northbound train to pass so I used the opportunity to attach the grease gun to the problem rod pin and put a little positive pressure in the grease fittings to force more compound onto the pin. Thankfully, the center pin started feeding grease to the pin so we now have lubrication reestablished through both grease fittings. While I was preoccupied with the pin, Bill Morris, who was firing the engine, noticed that the air pump didn’t sound right and was laboring. I checked the pump and found that the secondary piston wasn’t moving and the compressor was no longer delivering air.
Over the next hour, we tried every quick fix that we knew. We were able to get the piston to move, but it wouldn’t go it’s full stroke and wouldn’t deliver air. Since we were clogging up the entrance to the yard, it was decided that the most prudent course of action would be to call yard job 132 and let them take us to Bossier City. They did a great job of handling us and I still worked 745 some so that we’d have the steam admission to lubricate the steam chests.
We crossed the Red River into Bossier City via the old Illinois Central bridge. This bridge is a curiosity in that it was originally built as a swing span drawbridge. Since its construction, the river has moved slowly away from Shreveport and toward Bossier City and the center pedestal for the bridge is now slightly inland from the shore. We were dropped off at the yard and there was a good-sized crowd waiting for us when we arrived. This was especially nice of them to hang around since we were delayed by the air pump problem and also by having to wait for two trains to pass. Upon arrival, I caught a ride in a KCS van with a Trainmaster and our MOP Mr. St. Vigne. They said that the delay from the air pump had caused some inconvenience to one train but didn’t delay it much and 132 didn’t have a lot of work, so I breathed a little easier. After picking up the Suburban, I immediately drove back to the train.
One of the friends I called while we were doing diagnostics was Ron Larson. Ron was originally going to be my fellow crew member on the 745 run and work commitments kept him from getting loose from work. We now think that it was divine intervention because this set up a chain of events which final result was Ron getting the Superintendent’s job at Austin Steam train. I called Ron back to tell him that I’d found the problem and had talked with Bernie Watts about some possible repair options. However, it wasn’t looking good that we had any field repair options. Ron called back in about an hour and asked me if we’d be interested in a loaner air compressor. It seems that 745’s sister MK-5, 786, has been undergoing a heavy rebuild and had a freshly rebuilt compressor still in the crate. I’d already borrowed some grease fittings from Ron from the 786 and it seemed that she once again, with Ron’s patient assistance, be coming to the aid of her disabled sister.
Ray Duplechain called all the crew into the Jefferson car and had a group meeting to discuss the situation ahead of us and to make a go – no go decision regarding our 3:30 am departure on Monday morning which was now looming about 29 hours away. We decided to go for it.
Friday, April 22, 2005 -We finally got to sleep in a little and get some much-needed rest. We headed out to the train and started the fire around 11:30 this morning. While building steam, we dealt with a number of additional maintenance items, fueled the locomotive, and Keith Bonnette pressure washed the locomotive.
We finished moving our tools and other supplies out of storage in the crew car and back onto the locomotive in final preparation for our departure tomorrow morning. Mike Hankins finished greasing the locomotive and we attempted to pump more grease into the problem pin. The top grease fitting accepted grease fine, but the center fitting on the pin took a lot of pressure but wouldn’t feed grease to the pin. We surmised that the passageways were blocked with carbon from the earlier rod incident south of Leesville and I’m in hopes that my treatment compound will break up the carbon and open the passageways.
Thursday, April 21 -Today we focused our attention to other maintenance issues. First, we had to meet the fuel truck. I repacked the air pump and we also tried to back off the nut on the rod pin that got hot. We were able to back it off some, but it was really tight. We treated the rod pin with a compound that I had mixed up in Lexington before I returned to Shreveport. We also started moving our tools and other equipment back onto the locomotive in preparation for the next leg of our long trip. The locomotive was greased, the air pump serviced and topped off with lubricant, and the mechanical lubricator was filled.
We ran to the grocery store and picked up steaks and other supplies and had a cookout next to the train. We closed out the evening with a couple of rounds of golf inside the Jefferson Car before returning to the Residence Inn and calling it a night.
Wednesday, April 20, 2005 -It was another early morning. I left the Residence Inn at 4:45 am to get to the train in time to do press interviews with Channel 4 the local ABC affiliate.Mr.. Richard, a 90-year-old retired locomotive engineer who had actually operated 745, was on hand for some interesting discussions and interviews. After wrapping up the TV work, the yard job was notified and they came to return the train to track 454 so we could commence our 31-day inspection. During the move, I was interviewed by John Prime of the Press.
After being moved back to our temporary home on track 454, we started preparing for the inspection. This included removal of the sight glasses and associated piping and running a gun cleaning brush through them. All the washout plugs had to be removed and we hooked a fire hosed up to each washout plug opening to flush accumulated scale and sediment out of the boiler.
All six fusible plugs had to be removed from the crown sheet and inspected and reinstalled. After doing a few other procedures, we buttoned up the boiler and filled it with water. Keith Bonnette got stuffed into the firebox so that all the stay bolts could be hammer tested. The FRA inspector passed the locomotive but we had a few minor things that needed to be done to the cars.
After a hard day’s work, we all went to an area Mexican Restaurant where it was dollar margarita night. Thank goodness they didn’t have karaoke like the Iron Horse Pub did in DeQuincy!
Tuesday, April 19 – The day started at 5 am. David and I flew back on an early flight to Shreveport on a day that was quite nice. When we got to the Residence Inn where we had made our reservations, we were told that we had no reservations and that they were full. We were finally able to ascertain that they had my name in the computer wrong and that was the problem. After we checked in, we received a phone call that the train would be moved this afternoon to a piggyback yard for media sessions tomorrow morning and wouldn’t be returned to track 454 until 2:30 tomorrow afternoon at the earliest.
This has thrown us into a panic since we’ve scheduled our 31 day FRA inspection for tomorrow and the FRA inspector is already in town. This means that we won’t be able to do the 31 day tomorrow since we can’t do a boiler wash at the location where they’re moving the train. After a number of phone calls, we got it worked out where the train will be moved back at 7 am tomorrow morning. We worked on the locomotive to begin preparations for the 31 day.
Monday, April 11 – Ray Duplechain held another pre-trip briefing and we got on board and headed to the main. We ran along for a couple of miles and hit an absolute CTC block and had to stop for the signal. While we were stopped, we checked the rod and it was beginning to gain in temperature. We greased it and finished just as the dispatcher gave us a high green. We stopped two more times to put grease in the rod before our water stop in Zwalle, LA. While the engine was being watered, the sky started getting dark. I ran over to a Western Auto store next to the tracks and bought some powdered graphite which we pumped into the rod. About halfway through the process, the skies opened up and we found ourselves in the middle of a pretty severe thunderstorm.
Because of the cool rain hitting the glass, all of our windows started fogging up inside the cab and Bill Morris ran through the rain over to the Western Auto and the nice lady there gave us a squeegee which really helped. We departed during the storm and didn’t get but a mile or two and the rain picked up even more. We had to drop our speed to 5 mph because we were having problems seeing through the heavy rain. Thankfully, after about 15 minutes the rain eased up and we were able to get back up to speed. We observed a lot of lowland flooding and found out later that 4 inches of rain had fallen. I certainly believe it and will insist that Bruce get us lifeboats in case this ever happens again.
on Engineer’s Journal – April 11, 2005
We had to take siding in Mansfield so we decided to hit the rod with grease one more time. The temperature was slowly coming down on the rod pin as we were working lubrication in more and this was the last time we needed to grease it before the 40 miles to Shreveport. It looked like we shut down most of the town in the area of the railroad as folks were coming out of businesses to see the old steamer. We’d also built up a pretty good contingent of chasers by now.
By the time we got to Shreveport, the weather turned colder but the sun came out and it turned into a nice day. Rail traffic got more congested as we arrived and we followed a rock train for a pretty good distance most of the way into Shreveport Yard. Once we got near the yard, we backed through a crossover onto the parallel main and worked our way into the terminal. We pulled into the roundhouse lead and onto track 454 which would be our new home for the next 10 days.
We’re still about 3 miles from the KCS Demarcus Yards, but we’re already into the congestion getting to the yard. We’re passing one train and slowly following a rock train into the yard.
It was a particularly emotional moment for me to pull the old historic steamer into the Shreveport shops as this is where my good friend J.K. Byrne had worked. We lost J.K. about 8 years ago and I had the hat he had given me on the dashboard of our escort Suburban so he could be along in spirit. My inspection hammer is an exact duplicate of the one that J.K. used to carry and I had gotten the dimensions off of it when he came to work with us on ex-Reader #11 in Paris, KY in the late 1980’s.
All tied down and put to bed in Shreveport. 745 will now be allowed to go cold and the crew will do her 30 day FRA inspection upon their return in a week. Excepting the one minor rod problem, the faithful old steamer has done a super job of getting us to the halfway point of the tour. Unfortunately, she’s parked in an inaccessible secured part of the KCS shop complex and won’t be seen by the public until she makes her move to Bossier City on April 23rd.
Once we tied the engine down and dropped the fire, we had a trackside meeting with the local officials so we could discuss the procedure in case they had to move the equipment while we were gone. We stowed our oil cans, cab battery and tools and got ready to depart for our break and a welcome trip home. We got a good laugh out of the guys in the Shreveport Shops when we asked them if they could please service our traction motors while we were gone for the break.
Two carloads of us left to find a good place to eat and we decided that we had gotten too used to not having a steering wheel as we made about 4 wrong turns trying to get to the restaurant. We had a great meal at a seafood restaurant that served huge portions and this was the first time that David and I couldn’t finish a meal. We found a room for the night at the Residence Inn near the airport.
Sunday, April 10 – David and I both didn’t sleep well and woke up pretty congested from the smoking rooms. We went over to the train early this morning to move the train from the roundhouse lead onto the main line so the museum/theater cars could be opened up. The KCS RR had us spot the train on the mainline just south of their depot and then ran trains around us on the #1 yard lead! This is the first time I’ve ever seen this happen. After doing some maintenance, Bill Morris, David and I went to get some lunch since none of us had any breakfast. We had a good meal at the Wagonmaster Steak House and then we took Bill Morris back to the train and David and I headed to the Landmark Hotel and checked in. We both got some badly needed naps.
Afterward, we headed back to the train and worked some Teflon compound into the bushing on the rod that got hot and ran the engine back and forth in the yard to run the lubrication in. We kept pumping grease into it and forced out nothing but carbon – no metal flakes, so we’re hoping we’ll be in good shape for the long run tomorrow.
The KCS Railroad had us park the train on the main and ran trains around us in the #1 yard lead. This is the first time I’ve ever tied up a train on the main, but it made for a safer setup for the train because visitors to the exhibition/theater cars didn’t have to cross over any tracks.
The real crisis is that I’m now out of clean underwear and socks. I decided to wash out some in the sink and then brilliantly decided that I could dry them out quickly with the microwave oven in the room. I’ve now made the discovery that one can set underwear on fire in a microwave. It kind of makes the term “hot pants” take on a whole new meaning!
Today started out with an early phone call from the motel telling us we had to leave our room. After getting this problem worked out, we headed over to the train. We had to get the train ready to move so that we could go into the yard and let the local from Mossville pass over the wye. We’d had difficulty with the replacement radio toning the dispatcher the day before and I decided to try another loaner radio which wouldn’t power up.
I put the other radio back in and determined that we could tone okay with the one we have by using a slightly different procedure. After the local passed by, we backed to the station and put the train back on the south leg of the wye. That concluded our operations for the day and we were able to see the rest of DeQuincy’s sights during the day.
We had a snafu with the fuel truck delivery the day before and David spent about 3 hours on the phone this morning trying to find someone who could deliver fuel to us. A recycling company brought the proper spec. fuel to us so we now probably have enough fuel onboard to make Shreveport.
Today’s trip left from the KCS Mossville yard where the train stayed overnight. We backed out of the Calumet track and onto the yard main. We traveled through the yard, bypassing some cars and a yard engine on the same lead and headed for the north end of the yard. After getting authority from the dispatcher, we entered KCS CTC territory. We had to stay at about 10 mph for a little over a mile past the yard because of an interlocking (crossover) with another railroad. We had a red block at the interlocking, which our pilot Dennis Edwards said almost never happens. When we got on the circuit, the signal changed aspect to an approach and we proceeded to cross the other railroad. Once we got clear of a switch beyond the interlocking, it was up to road speed which was 35 mph.
The jointed rail on the line was pretty rough and we did a good bit of pitching around in the cab. We went through the defect detector and it alarmed on #2 L so we stopped to inspect the engine. A thorough check with my infrared thermometer showed all bearings and rods in great shape. I was able to stop the train just short of the next ABS signal, so we were able to resume road speed pretty quickly. The “new” 26 air brake stand in the cab is extremely tight and it’s quite difficult to get in and out of the engineer’s seat. Unbeknownst to me, when I got back into the seat, my bib overalls caught the front sander button and pulled it out. Consequently, I sanded the whole KCS main from the defect detector all the way to DeQuincy.
There’s another interlocking with the UP just south of DeQuincy and we had another red block there that we had to stop for. Mr. Edwards got off the engine to walk forward to the signal box to key the signal when it went approach, so he got back on the engine and we started across. We immediately entered DeQuincy and took the diverging leg of the wye and stopped the train right next to the old DeQuincy KCS passenger station. Later in the evening, we all went across the street to the Iron Horse Pub and had a few celebratory brews. Tonight we’re at the Red Oak Inn in DeQuincy.