Rebuilding WW&F #9’s tank and cab

One of the steam highlights of this month was the first steaming of Wiscasset, Waterville & Farmington 2-foot gauge 0-4-4T #9. A most unlikely survivor, the little engine last ran in 1933. This post reprises two articles from the latest WW&F Railway Museum newsletter, describing the rebuilding of #9’s tank and cab.

Restoring Number 9’s tank

By Brendan Barry

After Number 9 arrived at the Museum, and the necessary restoration agreements had been made, it became obvious that extensive work was needed in several areas. The tank, thought to be original, was one of those areas. Having some experience and interest in metal working and welding, I agreed to take on this part of the Number 9 restoration project.

With assistance from some other volunteers, Wayne Laepple tested the tank and found that it had several leaks. To get a closer look at the tank’s condition, the water fill and sediment bowls were removed from the tank. The bottom sheet and coal bunker area were then needle-scaled. Examination and repair of the interior required an access hole be cut in the tank top and removal of the interior braces.

Upon entry to the tank, the wall thickness was tested and found to be adequate. The tank was constructed of wrought iron sheets and angle iron riveted together. The angle iron holding the bottom sheet to the coal bunker sheet was badly corroded and thin. The corroded area of angle iron was welded back up to proper thickness and the rivet heads in this area were seal-welded.

Once welding was completed, the tank was sand-blasted inside and out. ZRC cold galvanizing compound was used to coat the interior and bottom sheet. New interior braces were manufactured and cold galvanized, as the originals were badly corroded. A replacement cover for the water fill was also manufactured, as the original was lost at some point prior to the locomotive’s arrival at the WW&F. The Copeland Lumber Company, a frequent Museum contributor, donated some nice oak boards for the coal bunker wall. The final steps have been several coats of paint and varnish that will make the tender match the rest of the locomotive.

Moving #9's tank. Stewart Rhine photo.

Moving #9’s tank. Stewart Rhine photo.

Restoring Number 9’s cab

By Marcel Levesque

The original plan for restoring Number 9’s cab was to create four wall subassemblies, install them on the locomotive deck, connect them together, and lock them down by lowering the roof onto the four walls. This method was adopted early in the planning stages, and it worked out very well. The final step is shown in the photo at left.

The cab was composed of three woods: oak for the framing, structure and moldings, poplar for filler panels, and spruce for the roof slats. Only five pieces of lumber needed to be totally replaced─three in the cab walls and two pieces in the roof. Wood suffering from moderate rot or compression damage was repaired in one way or another. Most of the wall damage was where you would expect to find it, on the lower end of each post. Some posts were damaged more than expected and others less.

Each wall unit was disassembled, inspected, and repaired appropriately. Rotten wood was removed and new, clear lumber spliced into its place using the original lumber, templates, and sketches as patterns. Marine grade epoxy with appropriate structural fillers was used to bond the new and old together. Some repairs were more involved than others and needed three gluing cycles to complete each individual repair. There was some insect damage from being in storage, and that was easily repaired. Each mortise and tenon joint was strengthened with epoxy and sanded to fit. This idea was used not only to solidify the old lumber, but also to snug up each joint to be as tight as possible without splitting the surrounding lumber. I was very pleased with the results, and this made for a very strong, solid assembly.

Fitting the cab roof. Don Sanger photo.

Fitting the cab roof. Don Sanger photo.

The roof section had its own share of aches and pains. Most of the damage stemmed from wood rot around metal anchor points and from compression. The anchor bolts that held the roof to the walls were one of the biggest areas needing attention. The outer edge slats on each side were too rotted to salvage as a single piece, but were salvaged into smaller pieces spliced together. I moved these reconstructed slats to the center of the roof, not only as a cost-cutting measure, but also to retain as much original material as possible. By doing this, only the outer slats were replaced with clear, straight-grain Douglas fir. Each piece was planed to the correct thickness, tongued and grooved, and given the correct underside edge beading to match the rest of the slats. This proved to be an excellent choice when reassembling the roof onto the walls, as each anchor bolt seated solidly.

Another area needing attention was the front header, which had two torn, compressed mortise holes, one large crack, and several unused bolt holes along the lower front edge. Also of concern was the fireman’s side front corner. This area proved to be a great time consuming challenge, but the results came out beautifully.

The final step of roof restoration was the application of marine-grade Dynel® cloth to cover the entire roof. This material is often used to restore wooden boats, and is designed to flex a bit after being fully cured. It locks the roof together to form a semi-rigid unit, makes the roof watertight, and has the texture of canvas. The canvas appearance is appropriate, as the cab’s roof was covered with canvas when the Museum received the locomotive, but it was not always that way. At some point, the locomotive had tin roofing material. During the removal of the roof anchor bolts, a circular piece of tin-like material was discovered under each bolt washer. It was an interesting discovery indeed.

Overall, the biggest challenge was to repair the cab structurally and cosmetically without losing any of the character and history that the locomotive has accrued throughout its life. Each gouge, hole, and wear pattern has a story to tell, and I think a good balance has been achieved. Most importantly, no wood was harmed by using fiberglass or Bondo®.

I would also like to take a moment to thank Museum member and volunteer Galo Hernandez III for all of his help. His knowledge and expertise in the repair and restoration field was an invaluable source of information and inspiration, along with answering a myriad of questions at all hours of the day. I would also like to thank Eric Shade for his expertise with Dynel® cloth application. Thanks guys!

All in all, it was a great, challenging project and an honor to work on such an important piece of Maine narrow gauge history.