Engine 557 Restoration Company
Progress Report June 2017


June 1, 2017 Emil Stancec of Willow visited 557 along with Eugene Huston of Palmer and brother Jim Huston of Willow. Emil is 92 years young and worked for the Alaska Railroad in the days of steam. He tended the section at Willow where he kept the boiler going to heat the water tower, and coal bunker. Living in a little shed next to the tower, he unloaded coal from open gons into the coal bunker with the stiff leg crane and clam shell bucket. The process was reversed when a locomotive needed to top off with coal. These facilities were all shut down by 1954 when 557 was converted to burn bunker C oil.

George and Mary Taylor of Valrico, Florida came to see “Gypsy” on June 3rd.

Stan Cohen and Blaine Cornelison attended a memorial in Dutch Harbor for the 75th anniversary of the Japanese attack on June 3 and 4, 1942. Stan is the author of the 4 volume series the “Forgotten War” (Pictorial Histories Publishing) as well as “Rails Across the Tundra”. The 18 month Aleutian Campaign and the defense of Alaska is what brought the 12 S-160 locomotives and the 714th Railway Operating Battalion to Alaska. Stan spent a few hours with our veteran 557 and found some old timers with Aleutian experience among our volunteers. We had a great visit and Stan plans on a follow-up to his book on Alaska Railroads to include reference to 557.

We do business with the Strasburg Railroad shops from time to time, usually on brake valve components. Shelly Hall, one of their boiler maker/welders, surprised us with a visit while she was here in Alaska to see her brother Jason who is an F-22 technician at Joint Base Elmendorf–Richardson. (certainly the extremes of technology represented) Shelly was complimentary of the work she saw on the flexi sleeve welds.. Nice to have some peer review by folks who are hands on in the steam restoration business.

June 8, we received a $10,000 donation from the Kahiltna Charitable Fund as directed by Mr. Paul Bates and Mrs. Leigh Bates. Purpose is to support purchase of materials for the 557 restoration. This is the second major contribution from the Fund by the National Philanthropic Trust for the USB Donor-Advised Fund. The funds will cover many of the materiel expenses related to the next visit by Mr. Robert Franzen, our Professional Engineer. Engine 557 Restoration Company board and volunteers are very grateful for this continuing expression of support for the project.

Five year old Osias, brought Elana Thomas and Matt Thorn from Westminster Co. and Troy and Rita Kau of Evergreen Co. to 557 for the tour on June 14, 2017. We diagnosed Osias with Iron Horse Disease right away and got him up in the fireman’s seat for some hands on time. This note followed shortly, "Thank you, Pat, for the tour yesterday for the Kau family. It was the highlight of a 10-day whirlwind vacation for the kids. Osias said it was 'stupendous.' Pretty big word for a 5 year old, huh."

Roger Nelson brought his family along with the Nick Terrell family for a visit with 557 on Friday June 16th. The photo tells the story.

June 21st Ken Morton shanghaied brother in-law Roger Eddings from Forest Grove, Oregon and pressed him into service cleaning and doing prep work on the back head before adding more sleeves to the wrapper. Roger made the trip last year and donated a day then.

Doug Brandon, long time friend of Gene Augustine, assisted with stay bolt installations when he joined Gene for a day on the job.

Other casual visitors during June included: Wally Smith, who’s dad operated S-160’s, Pat Ridgeway, Steve Mason, Betty and Steven Durand, Len Grau, Max Corey and Katie Stark of the Frontiersman news paper.

Bob Cole and his three sons visited from Pensacola, Florida June 26th. Bob purchased a print of “Engine 557 Returning” to support 557. This was Bob’s second visit to 557. His home base is the Western Florida Railroad Museum.

Donnie Dobrenz his wife and daughter call Sheridan, Wyoming home. They follow 557 on alaskarails.org and made 557 a must see destination during their vacation in Alaska.

Mike, Ian, Betty and William Romine toured 557 on June 21. William plans on pursuing a career in railroading.

Even in her current state of repose, Engine 557 is a catalyst for the imagination, bringing people of all ages and backgrounds together.

The original firebox is a teaching tool on display so the water side damage to the wasted sheets can be shown. The new sheets are all welded in place and are being fixed with new stay bolts. The corners are being left open at the mud ring until all the stays are in place. Then the preformed corners will be riveted and welded in place after cleaning the mud ring.

In May we started overhaul of the smoke box front as a fill in project. Once it was cleaned up repairs were started by replacing two missing rivets that held a strong back to the rear side of the sheet. We began by loading a few thousand pounds on top of the sheet to hold it down so we could use the air bucking bar below the sheet. The finished rivets before chipping represent 5 minutes work after several hours of preparation.

Creating the replacement for the distinctive S-160 lift ring included milling the 2-1/4” hole for the shackle pin. The distinctive smoke box front is now complete and back in storage waiting for installation.

Progress continues on the staybolt installation. All of the flexible sleeves are tacked in place and many have been finish welded. The door sheet is populated by many staybolts stabilizing the sheets. The backhead sleeves are in place in the outer wrapper that complements the door sheet.

The rear flue sheet is awaiting installation of flexible stay bolts in the throat. The sleeves are already welded to the corresponding bolt positions on the exterior of the throat sheet.

There is never a dull day in the 557 Engine house. Organizing to take advantage of the time volunteers generously provide is a challenge. Volunteers are always willing to shift with the demands of the task. When special tools are needed for boiler work they get 'er done. The tedium of drilling telltale holes in some 600 rigid stay bolts is shared by four guys who are “apprentice machinists”.

A three day stay bolt blitz is scheduled for July 8, 9 and 10. I look forward to reporting on that event. All progress is made possible by the continuing financial and material support from our sponsors.

Your financial support of 557 is what keeps the volunteers on task. Consider sponsoring a standard staybolt for $98.00 or a Flexible stay bolt for $245.00. If you feel extra generous do three or four or a row of 10. Gypsy will show appreciation when she is in steam.

Thank you for following our progress on 557.

Patrick J. Durand, President
President Engine 557 Restoration Company

Make all donations to: Engine 557 Restoration Company at the address below.
An Alaskan 501(c)(3) Nonprofit Corporation, EIN 46-2663256

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