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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Traveler’s rest


The Traveler, opulence on wheels

Now 104 years old, the Traveler, once the personal rail car of the president of the St. Louis and Southwestern Railroad permanently resides on Pumpkin Hill Road south of Rison, Arkansas,

Now 104 years old, the Traveler, once the personal rail car of the president of the St. Louis and Southwestern Railroad, now permanently resides on Bob Abbott's place down Pumpkin Hill Road south of Rison, Arkansas,

Though her paint is a bit faded, for her age, the Traveler, formerly the private rail car of the president of the St. Louis and Southwestern Railroad is holding up well. She left active service in 1960 and has been here on Pumpkin Hill Road, south of Rison, Arkansas since. This story started on the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer dot com. To see more pictures of the Traveler, click here, visit the Photo of the Week page and get in on the start of the story.

What you saw as the Traveler pulled away from you. The door is open to the observation parlor. You see reflections in a large oval mirror over the rear facing parlor settee.

What you saw as the Traveler pulled away from you. The door is open to the observation parlor. You see reflections in a large oval mirror over the rear facing parlor settee.

At the back of the car, there is an observation parlor with the door opening to the rear platform. See a picture of the parlor here. If you think you see water in the background of the picture above, you are correct. It’s a toss upĀ  as to whether is a big pond or a small lake, but it is a beautiful impoundment, brimming with large catfish, bass and hand-size bream. Those who wet a hook there are normally not disappointed according to Bob Abbott, the owner.

The mahogany main parlor at the front of the car has a writing desk, a large table with six chairs and very comfortable aisle seating. The windows are large. The carpet, though aged, is lush.

The spacious main parlor served as a dining room, a place for business meetings, and for friendly card games as is evidenced by cards and other necessities in the open drawer,

The spacious main parlor served as a dining room, a place for business meetings, and for friendly card games as is evidenced by cards and other necessities in the open drawer.

Detai of the writing desk. Note the fine joinings and finish of the cabinetry, all in original condition.

Detail of the writing desk. Note the fine joinings and finish of the cabinetry, all in original condition. Notice the charcoal in the pan under the desk. It absorbs moisture and untoward odors.

The hallway would not be a comfortable fit for the average NCAA Division I or NFL defensive tackle. I wear a 46 long suit and when I stood squarely in it, my shoulders scraped the sides of the door.

The parlor pictures above were shot with flash. The picture below was shot from further toward the front of the car and shows more of the mahogany cabinetry in the upper foreground. The color has a different cast brought about by using only available light.

The main parlor from closer to the front of the car. Note the overhead storage and richly upholstered seats.

The main parlor from closer to the front of the car. Note the overhead storage and richly upholstered seats. Also notice my pickup in the left window, a no-no, but I did it anyway.

Though the Traveler is the star of the show on Bob Abbott’s Pumpkin Hill Road place, it is not the only attraction. In 2007, Bob had a small chapel built on the banks of the lake/pond(?). (your guess is as good as mine). Since then it has become popular for weddings and other church related events. Bob, being who he is, does not charge for its use.

The Traveler's new neighbor, the chapel, has proven to be nearly as popular as the Traveler. It could be Divine intervention.

The Traveler's new neighbor, the chapel, has proven to be nearly as popular as the Traveler. It could be Divine intervention. The chapel is particularly impressive in the early spring as Dogwood trees generously bloom.

Signs, signs, Joe Webb’s signs …

A Buick sign from "back in the day."

A Buick sign from "back in the day."

As promised on the Corndancer Photo of the Week page and in last week’s Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind, I am showing another of Joe’s signs. On this one, the Buick folks tout their valve-in-head engine configuration. In the mid fifties, Buick added a variable pitch impeller in their automatic transmissions which supposedly gave you neck snapping power on the low end and more economy on the high end. Such cerebral appeals have long since given away to more visceral appeals in this day and time. The facts are now, proper cup holder configuration is higher on the pecking order of consumer concern and awareness than valve configuration. And so it goes.

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