The mighty 819: some repairs needed


Engine 819

Engine 819, restored in 1986 to original operating condition and put into service for special steam locomotive rail trips lies idle in the Arkansas Railroad Museum in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, after a partial dis-assembly for a Federal Railroad Administration inspection, it fell victim to rising metal prices and a shortage of funds to complete the necessary repairs.

In its heyday, the 819 pulled trains with the best of them. It is one of the last steam locomotives built for main line use and was absolutely the last steam locomotive built in the Cotton Belt St. Louis and Southwestern Railroad (more popularly known as the Cotton Belt), shops in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. To get a few more details about the life, times, and a picure of the restored 819, visit the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer dot com, where this story started. Click here to go there. We’ll wait here.

High prices, dwindling experts

The 819, once proudly restored, fell victim to ballooning metal prices and a dwindling pool of knowledgeable volunteer labor. The restoration effort started in 1983 and was completed by 1986, led by current and retired employees of the Cotton Belt, many of whom worked in the steam locomotive area of the Pine Bluff shops.

engine 819 driver wheels

The driver wheels on the 819 are about shoulder high to my 6'-3" frame.You can probably see some faint chalk lines in a checkerboard pattern on the side of the boiler. These are to facilitate the ultrasound inspection. See the next picture below for details.

By 1993, when the engine was sidelined to undergo its mandated 15-year inspection, the number of steam-experienced volunteers had begun to shrink. At the same time, world metal prices went through the roof. To make matters worse, a short time thereafter, the Cotton Belt changed hands and some of the shop facilities which afforded help to the 819 volunteer corps were relocated or shut down. Not a good thing when you have a 212-ton steam locomotive lying around in parts.

Ultrasound test grid on engine 819 boiler

The chalk grid on the side of the 819 boiler are to facilitate the ultrasound test of the boiler plate. The ultrasound test is completed by the square foot. If an anomaly is detected in a given square foot, that square foot must be divided into square inches and retested to isolate the anomaly. None of the square feet on the 819 boiler required the square inch trick. Not to shabby for a 67-year old boiler. Disregard the appearance, the old girl is in good condition.

Members of the Cotton Belt Rail Historical Society, caretakers for the 819, tell me that as far as the inspection went, it went well and the old girl passed with flying colors. After the inspection was nearly complete, their ultrasound machine went on the fritz, so in addition to everything else, they are waiting on that repair to materialize.

Joe Btfsplk not welcome here

Despite some daunting odds, don’t look for long faces in Cotton Belt Rail Historical Society, They know what they are up against and know it is up to them to do something about it. That being so, they never stop looking for sources of help and support to get the 819 back where it belongs … pulling cars of happy people over the railroads of America.

But wait, there’s more!

See all of this week’s Weekly Grist and Corndancer pictures, plus a few not published, in glorious, high resolution color. The collection includes a couple of T-Model Ford shots and a freshly painted diesel locomotive seen at the Arkansas Railroad Museum. Click here to go there.

Thanks for dropping by,

Joe Dempsey
Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind
http://www.joedempseycommunications.com/
http://www.joedempseyphoto.com/
http://www.corndancer.com/joephoto/photohome.html

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Winchester, no cathedral


This sign is the last vestige of fomer retail activity at Winchester, Arkansas. Winchester is not by itself. Thousands of other small towns have suffered a similar fate. Others, not yet so afflicted will follow. It is the way of our times.

This sign is the last vestige of fomer retail activity at Winchester, Arkansas. Winchester is not by itself. Thousands of other small towns have suffered a similar fate. Others, not yet so afflicted will follow. It is the way of our times.

If you breeze through the intersection of US Highway 65 and Arkansas Highway 138 and think you’ve just passed through Winchester, guess again. What you’ve passed through is the eastern most suburb of Winchester. Had you made a right turn on 138, in a quarter mile or so, you’d see Winchester.  Winchester has a post office, a fire station and a city hall. And a still standing Sinclair sign. And folks.  And their domiciles.

A good place to click

A lot of folks wind up here as a result of visiting the Photo of the Week page on Corndancer dot com. Now that you know about Winchester, click here to find out about Chester and Lester as well, at the photo of the week page.

The best laid plans …

Winchester was not a part of the plan for this post. Some magnificent cypress trees about another 45 minutes south were the intended target. However, at about Winchester, the pickup engine began some obnoxious behavior and I decided to do a 180. The guages were all happy, so one presumes, it’s a sullen microchip somewhere. So I figured a whirl through Winchester (the western part) would be OK. I was rewarded with the Sinclair sign. Probably, the former station had a social function as well as its utilitarian destiny. Most small town filling stations did.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch

Blooming Bradford Pear trees frame the Jefferson County Courthouse on Main Street in Pine Bluff, Arkansdas.

Blooming Bradford Pear trees frame the Jefferson County Courthouse on Main Street in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. These trees line both sides of the street.

Now returned back to minutes from home, there’s a fast-fading opportunity, to wit: blooming Bradford Pear trees. Our home-town downtown is lined with those suckers. They are peaking out now. In 24 to 36 hours, the trees will transform from white to green as the new leaves take hold. The time to shoot is now.

Bradford Pear Blooms at the Arts and Science Center for Southeast Arkansas on Main Street in Pine Bluff AR.

Bradford Pear blooms at the Arts and Science Center for Southeast Arkansas on Main Street in Pine Bluff AR. It's late Sunday. The parking lot is usually not empty.

Last, but certainly not least

Old Glory and Bradford Pear blooms greet visitors to this drive-in branch bank just off Main Street in Pine Bluff AR. The tree is not actually as high as the flag. The view is from a service lane looking up. “Forced perspective” makes you think the tree is taller than the flag.

Three cheers for the red white, white, and blue.

Three cheers for the red white, white, and blue.

Update on the pickup

March 4, 2009 — Nothing serious. Some ignition components showing signs of age. Joe Webb, 12th degree master mechanic,  diagnosed the issues and did the fix. Well, after 210,000 miles, what can one expect. It is now hauling booty again!

Thanks for dropping by,

Joe Dempsey

Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind