January 2017 stormed in with SNOW like we have not seen in years. As if making up for the past two mild winters when we rarely got the plows out, it started and just keeps coming. Fortunately we have the 721 Case loader for moving it back, but as soon we do, another dump comes. Our volunteers from Anchorage and Eagle River still hit the highways to come work on 557, even on days I would prefer they stay home.
Progress continues with Maurice “Rod” Hansen welding sleeves for the flexible stay bolts on the exterior throat sheet area. Rod, who is a welder for the local ENSTAR natural gas company, just came in from an emergency job patching a leaking below ground gas line in the middle of a swamp at 25° below zero. We greatly value his expertise in getting the job done. Only about 307 more to do.
Jerry Cunnington is doing the quality control on rebuilding 6 of the 8 Duff Norton Air Motor Jacks we have obtained. The last two have become parts sources as the result of water damage. Ken Elmore is removing the old water contaminated grease. Tamara and Allen at the Duff Norton Air Motor Jack Co. in Billings Montana have been most helpful in providing bearings, gaskets and occasional new parts as needed for the Job. These jacks will come back into play when we install the rebuilt trucks under the tender and the drivers, driving boxes and running gear under 557. Dean Sawyer is helping Jerry at the 50 ton press gently inserting the cylinder for the air motor back into the case.
Engine 557 Restoration Company is pursuing a path toward establishing an operational plan for the Palmer Branch between Matanuska and downtown Palmer. We hope to recreate a scene captured by John Henderson on September 5, 1959 with 557 setting at the Palmer Depot with the first Alaska State Fair Special.
Special Use Permit Contract #20207 provides use of the ARRC R-O-W from Inner Springer Road to the Depot in Palmer. Rehab of this short section which has not seen a train since 1987, is expected to cost between $300,000 and $500,000 primarily for re-laid ties using the old 70 pound rail. The track is heavily overgrown with grass and some trees. A self guarded frog turnout leads off to the Palmer airport spur. The second step is a Resolution currently before the Palmer City Council allowing use of the Palmer Industrial Spur to the Airport which is 90 pound rail on good ties. The future goal will be a Steam tour trip between Palmer and Matanuska Junction resulting in a 13 mile round trip. Here we will need to work around gravel trains in the summer. I believe there is provision within FRA regulatory structure to allow up to 4 trips a day without PTC. With a shop terminus in Palmer and future PTC compliance either through waivers or as yet undeveloped new technology, 557 would be ready to charter beyond at the request of the Alaska Railroad Corporation.
The Saturday crew on January 28, 2017 braved the winter weather to be here with Gypsy. Left to right Pat Durand, Jerry Peters, Rod Hansen, Ron Dudley, Dean Sawyer, Jerry Cunnington. Everyone in the Mechanical Department contributes time when they can, be it one, two, three or even four days per week.
Terry Douglas provided this view of the Hurricane turn train, North bound past the 557 Engine House in crisp 7° air about 9:30 a.m. on a Thursday. Just a reminder that we are in Alaska, and thankful for a warehouse work space that can maintain 40° temperatures.
We welcome visitors at the engine house so when in the area stop by in Wasilla. A call in advance at 350-4340 will assure we are available to host a visit.
Patrick J. Durand, President
President Engine 557 Restoration Company
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An Alaskan 501(c)(3) Nonprofit Corporation, EIN 46-2663256
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