Engine 557 Restoration Company
Progress Report July 2017


July, 2017 turned into a month long reunion of 557 supporters coming home for a tour and visit with Gypsy Rose. This expanding cadre of supporters validates the effort of our volunteers and sponsors. There are far to many to mention here but they are all welcome with just a call in advance at 907-350-4340. So much action, that the July Report has turned into a draft for a short story with 557 as the lead character.

Cris Caulkins of Garage Doors of Alaska, brought his parents Lonnie and Everett to the engine house tour. Cris was one of our first in-kind donors when he installed the 14’ shop door.

Erica and Aren Schurosky dropped in on July 1st for an update tour. Aren designed and then arranged for a crew from Vanoy Electric to come and install a 45 KVA transformer and a full panel to expand electric service in the shop nearly 5 years ago. They provided all the materials at cost as well. They are also my neighbors.

Tom Mosley purchased two “Engine 557 Returning” numbered and signed prints over a year ago. He sent one off to his Brother, Jerry, that called for a visit to 557 when Kristie and Jerry joined Tom and Alice on July 8th for the Tour. They left a nice donation to further the effort of restoration.

Dana Jones is doing a travel blog while touring Alaska this summer. After a trip with “Warren” on the Hurricane Turn she came by the 557 shop on July 8th. Dana recently retired as the Capital District Superintendent of California State Parks. Among her charges were the Sacramento California State Railroad Museum and the Jamestown (Railtown 1897 State Historic Park). She is very well versed in Railroadiania, bordering on Ferraeqrineosis. Our 10 man crew was fully into a three day Stay Bolt Blitz so she saw lots of action in support of 557. Dana’s follow up comments,” I really enjoyed the tour and the train conversation.  The work of volunteers is truly amazing.” I just finished my blog post about visiting the restoration shop and riding the Hurricane Turn.

Three generations of the Posey family, Grandson Elijah, Grandpa Jim and his son Paul called on Gypsy July 8th. Long time “Live Steamer” Jim has built two 1.5” scale steam locomotives over the years and contributed the wheels for the cart that supports our welder.

A three day Stay Bolt Blitz was held July 8, 9 and 10 with the crews managed by our CMO Jeff DeBroeck. The regular volunteers turned out to provide 10 men on each day. The goal was to install as many regular stay bolts in the 7” 8” and 9” lengths as the crew could manage. A total of 211 bolts were installed with the fireman’s side showing these results before and after the Blitz. There was more production on the engineer’s side. The backhead got special attention from Tom Walker, Jerry Cunnington and CMO Jeff DeBroeck, and was fully populated with stays when the Blitz ended.

Don't forget to sponsor a stay. To sponsor a rigid stay like those that were installed during the Blitz, send a check or make an on-line donation of $98 each. To sponsor either style of flexible stay assembly, make your donation for $245.00 each. Donation instructions are at http://www.557.alaskarails.org/support/donate.html or at the "donate" button found at the end of this report.

Roundhouse stew or lunch is provided on these occasions. Art Chase supplied Cold Bay King Salmon that we baked for the main course on Saturday July 8th. Left to right around the table are Art Chase, Mike McKervey, Jeff DeBroeck, Ron Dudley, Jerry Cunnington, Jerry Peters, Tom Walker, Jeff Wade, Stewart Sterling and Pat Durand took the photo. Volunteers, Lynn Willis, Ken Elmore and Gene Augustine filled out the crew on the other two days. You missed out on Sauerkraut Soup on Sunday and Alaskan Goulash on Monday. Roundhouse stew is actually whatever is around the house on Friday night.

July 20, Michael Blackwell and Matthew Thompson, both Motive Power and Equipment Inspectors for the FRA came by to see how the 557 is progressing since their last visit. They are looking forward to the day we can call on them to witness a Hydro Test of the boiler. They were complementary of the progress being made on the firebox installation and all the stay bolts.

Tom Simpson our local SNAP ON dealer has been very supportive. The dirty nature of our work in the engine house is hard on tools!

The Engine 557 Restoration Company is now registered with AmazonSmile. This is another method that you can financially support the Engine 557 restoration at no cost to you. By making your Amazon.com purchases through the address below, the AmazonSmile Foundation donates 0.5% of the purchase price for eligible purchases to the Engine 557 Restoration Company. There are no differences in prices or the items available and your account information from Amazon.com is brought forward. You can verify that you are using AmazonSmile by a "Supporting Engine 557 Restoration Company" notice on the page. You can also tell how much of your purchases are being forwarded to support the 557 restoration.  Please bookmark this address and support 557. https://smile.amazon.com/ch/46-2663256

We had two VIP visits on Thursday, July 27. The first was by Alaska Railroad Corporation President and CEO, Bill O'Leary, marketers Meghan Clemens, Sasha McGinn, and Heather Dudick, and Vice President Marketing & Customer Service Dale Wade. They took a complete tour of the shop and restoration and all were highly complementary. The smiles tell the story as it is well expressed by a follow up email from Sasha.  “Thank you and all of the other gentlemen, for your time this morning in sharing the journey that you all have invested so much in, while restoring Engine 557. All of your enthusiasm and passion was seen, as we walked through the shop and saw all of the different components that it takes in restoring a memorable piece of history. I cannot wait to see the day when it runs down the track again and we hear the bell ringing….

Mr. O’Leary added, “Thank you, Pat; great tour today – informative and enjoyable. You and your team continue to do great things. See you soon, Bill

We appreciate them taking the time to make the trek to Wasilla for a visit with 557.

Our second VIP visitor on July 27th, was Joe Alutius, who showed up first thing that morning and introduced himself. Joe had been a chaplain at Ft. Eustis, VA, but before he joined the Army he had been a fireman and engineer on steam locomotives. His past steam experience allowed him to operate one of the S160s at Ft. Eustis, including serving as engineer on the next to last operation of their last steam locomotive. He brought several photos with him and the locomotive, an audio tape of it operating, and some good stories. We will share more of this material in the future.

July 31, 2017 brought more VIP action. At 11:00 a.m. Linda Menard representing the Matanuska Electric Association Charitable Foundation arrived with a grant check for $2,500. The foundation funding comes from the MEA Roundup Program and represents some 48,000 rate payers. This brings the home town support from the foundation to a total of $22,500.00. We thank everyone who ROUNDS UP!

557 has been blessed with providence over the years, when people with vision and a passion for history enabled her future.  First Monty Holm saved her from the scrap line, then Jim and Vic Jansen purchased her from Monty’s estate and offered her to the Alaska Railroad for restoration. Retired 557 engineer Weaver Franklin was with Chris Aadnesen, President and CEO of the Alaska Railroad Corporation, when he  took up the challenge and accepted the gift.   After securing a $350,000 Rasmuson Foundation matching grant, he ushered in the Engine 557 Restoration Company to do the job.    

Chris Aadnesen is now Executive Chairman with GREX (Georgetown Railway Equipment Company) and he continues to promote the 557 restoration from his home in Texas.   GREX  (pronounced GeeREX) has made direct cash grants totaling $15,000 to Engine 557 in addition to personal financial support from Chris.   William “Wiggle” Shell, President &CEO of GREX and Mr. John Kenner, Vice Chairman of their board accompanied Chris to the engine house for a personal tour on Monday, July 31.  They brought along  Mr.  Mr. Phil Homan, President and CEO of LORAM Maintenance of Way, Inc. and Wendy Lindskoog, Chief Administrative Officer of the Alaska Railroad Corporation.    Wendy is our official ARRC liaison for Engine 557 Restoration Company.  

Wiggle Shell of GREX and Phil Homan of LORAM each presented $5,000 donation checks for Engine 557. Our volunteers hosted them to a tour of the restoration facility as a meager thank you. CMO Jeff DeBroeck described modifications of the tender to Chris and Tim. Patrick Durand describes the flexibility of the shop floor with everything mounted on pallets or wheels. Show and tell of various machining projects. Volunteer crew of July 31, was on hand to assist with the tour. Katie Stark an Intern reporter with the FRONTIERSMAN covered the events in an excellent article.

In summary, it has been a whirlwind month, balancing the three legs of support that keep the 557 restoration moving forward. Volunteers, bless them all. In-Kind donors are our partners and finally the generosity of those who fund the cash side of the equation. Large or small, local or international they are complementary and validate the mission of Engine 557 Restoration Company. We will see 557 steam again on the Alaska Railroad.

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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