Steam Locomotive Engineer


One of things on my “must do” list was to drive a large steam locomotive. This past week at The Essex Valley Railway in Essex Connecticut I did just that.

I operated the locomotive for 2 hours. The total round trip distance was about 25 miles.

Because I booked two hours, we went north to the end of the line. I am the first person to operate a steam locomotive over the last 5 miles of track since the 1950s.

Engine #3025 is a large locomotive used on main-line railroads in the 20s, 30s, & 40s.  The locomotive and coal tender together weigh 150 tons.

Steam locomotives are complicated machines to operate and maintain. #3025 has “Trofimoff” steam control valves which require setting. Each time you stop, change direction, or when a novice “engineer” allows the steam pressure in the valve to drop too low, it must be re-set.

To conserve steam (water + coal), the stroke of the Trofimoff valve is reduced once the engine is moving.

The law requires the railroad to use coal with low sulfur content and low volatiles. It is metallurgical coal used in steel making. At $250 per ton, the cost to “steam” these locomotives is very high. The Fireman shovels all the coal by hand!

It was a fantastic experience!  I highly recommend it to anyone with an interest in large machinery of any kind.

Regards, Jon (Student Steam Locomotive Engineer)


Hamworthy 4550 Mk2 Air Compressor

Very interesting air compressor sold recently at auction.
The correct model number is Hamworthy 4S50-MK2.

This multi-stage compressor pumps to 6000 psi!
Manual available –  request manual via a “Comment” on this blog.


Galvanic Corrosion

Galvanic Corrosion - Stainless Steel and AL

The photo shows a small amount of aluminum that was transferred to the root of the third thread on this 1/2″ x 1″ stainless steel bolt. The bolt was threaded into an aluminum extrusion that was submerged in lake water for about 5 months. The pH of the lake water is approximately 7.7.

This small amount of aluminum was enough to bind the bolt and make it very difficult to un-do.

The following link to Wikipedia provides an explanation of the process.

Riveting and Safety Wiring for Aircraft Repair

I had the opportunity to learn the basic skills of riveting aircraft aluminum material and Safety Wiring Screws.

Riveting: The single lap splices are cleaned, sharp edges removed and the rivet holes are drilled.  All burrs are removed and the material is prepared for riveting. Holes for countersunk head rivets are countersunk with a hand tool and the rivets are installed and “driven”.   100 degree heads are standard. A complete explanation is available in FAA AC-43-13 starting on page 4-14

IMG_4041 IMG_4042

Safety Wiring: In this example the safety wire is routed through the hole in the head of the first screw, twisted at 6-8 twists per inch and then one of the wires is threaded through the hole in the second screw, and so on.  The wire is arranged such that each screw prevents the next screw from coming undone. The wire is also arranged so that the wire looping around the outside of the screw-head is held down by the wire passing through the hole in the screw.  A complete explanation is available in FAA AC-43-13 starting on page 7-19


“Walter Mikron” Inverted 4 Cylinder Aircraft Engine

This aero engine is installed in a Czech-built motor-glider called an L13-Vivat.

It is an inverted design, pistons point down, dry oil sump, 75 hp/55 kws.

The engine has one carb and two magnetos.



Caterpillar D11R Dozer


The Cat dealer just south of Tampa Florida had this dozer on display in the yard adjacent to i75. I have run D10s but never been close to a D11, a very impressive machine indeed.  I was on this outing by myself and didn’t have a “photographer” with me to take a good picture of me standing beside it.  The picture below of me standing beside the drive sprocket was taken by me holding my camera at “arms-length”.


Engine – 935 Horsepower

Weight – 230100 Pounds

Drawbar Pull – 337,000 Pounds

Blade Capacity – 44.99 Cubic Yards.

Complete Specifications are published by Cat at:


“Train Wreck – The Forensics of Rail Disasters” written by George Bibel


I have always had an interest in trains and my interest peaked after visiting the “Folkston Funnel” in Folkston Georgia.

This book is a very interesting and informative read for rail professionals, rail-fans, those who are mechanically inclined, and those who are fascinated by the process of analysing complex problems and events. It includes examples of train wrecks and discusses the root causes of them.

It delves into many of the challenges of operating today’s long, heavy freight trains and the challenges faced by operators of lighter but much higher speed passenger trains.

Just a few of the subjects covered include collisions, derailments, mechanical failures, rail and road-bed deterioration, to name just a few. The book is a great read and I recommend it, written by Dr. George Bibel.   (Disclaimer: I have no monetary interest in the sale of this book and no relationship with the publisher or the author except that the author provided the PDF of the book cover.)