With the last workday being cancelled due to rain, a special workday was called to get the club back on schedule with spring meet preparations. With the spring meet so close, it was all hands on deck to get a massive amount of gravel put down on the new tracks. Due to some great teamwork, the track crew was able to complete about 85% of the gravel work that was needed. Work will continue at the next workday this upcoming saturday.
Crews were hard at work Saturday installing new lights for the Steaming Bay area. There is still more work to complete before the system is fully ready for the meet but good progress was made!
The Spring Meet is rapidly approaching and there are several projects being worked on simultaneously to get the facility ready for everyone's enjoyment. Mike Bassham has been working hard on two projects involving the steaming bay over the last few months. Project #1 was the removal of the wooden retaining wall around the bays and the installation of a new a concrete wall. Project #2 was the complete re-flooring of the entire steaming bay area. The old gravel and debris was removed and the entire area got a level coat of new gravel. Note, there is a lot of rock dust on the tracks but that will be cleaned before the meet.
During the last meet, the club asked Ted and John Norcross if they could take the Mid-South Live Steamers wooden sign back to their shops for a professional restoration.
The sign was originally displayed on the turntable in the steaming bay and was moved to the side of the storage building at some point during the 1990s. The sign was beginning to show signs of damage from all the years outside in the elements. From the photos below, you can see the dramatic transformation of the sign back to its former glory. Many thanks to the Ted and John for all their hard work on this project.
The newly restored sign will be reinstalled on the storage building during the Spring Meet.
With the Spring Meet on two months away, the track crew was hard at work getting the facility ready. The inner most track leading to the passenger station had seen over a decade of very heavy use and was in need of replacment . The entire loop was removed, roadbed leveled, and new track panels were installed. Additionally, several other members were around the facility taking apart old panels and repairing various issues that had been observed.
There is a lot that goes into the preparation of a MSLS meet. There is track work, facility management, and merchandise production. MSLS member Michelle Irwin was kind enough to take a time lapse video of her work making the amazing Mid-South Live Steamers hats. With her skills and amazing abilities, the club has been able to expand our color selection and improve quality many times over versus what the club did before. Below is a video of how the new club hats are fabricated.
If your Live Steam Club is looking for Hats or Shirts like this, Contact Michelle for more Information! https://www.etsy.com/shop/CreatedByMI
Finally the weather in Tennessee is being nice so it was time to get a little track work done. Bill Gardei and Michael Haywood went out to the track to get a few projects completed. The first task was to complete the work from the February 3rd workday. The switch was rehabilitated and some missing ties were installed. Before the Spring Meet, work crew will level and ballast the area.
The major project for the day was the removal and replacement of one of the trailer unloading tracks behind the sheds. This particular track is also used to load the gravel cars, so it has seen some heavy use for many years. Within a few hours, the brand new track had been installed and will be leveled and ballasted in the coming weeks.
With cloudy skies and a high of 45F, the crew arrived and began to survey the track for sections to repair. Members noticed that a section of main line track near the steaming bay was in need of replacement. The track crew removed and replaced about 170 feet of track. While this section was not on the winter repair list, it shows how routine inspections of the layout can identify problems areas that need to be addressed before the next meet.
The club has made it a goal to re-deck most of the bridges around the layout. Most of them have been in service for over two decades and need a little refurbishment. The next two bridges to get some attention is the Conner Siding Bridge and the Shop Yard Bridge. The day before the workday, members came out to the track and removed all the old wood decking and bolts. They also repainted the metals support beams underneath the old decking. This was important preparation work so crews could start first thing Saturday morning installing all the new wood decking.
Crews arrived early on Saturday to being installing the new decking. While the high for the day was 55F, the morning started out at 35F and the area was slick with frost. After many hard hours of work and a lot of drilling, the new decking was installed on both bridges. They both look really good and the work crews were proud of their work. Sometime in the future, the track and ties on the Shop Yard Bridge will be replaced as well to complete the repairs.
As the cold weather starts to become more frequent, workdays have to be completed when weather permits. Bill Gardei & Michael Haywood were at the track Thursday completing work on Conner Siding. The area is now ready for ballast and final adjustments this spring. The next step is replacing the track on the other side of the bridge as well as installing new decking on the bridge. This will be completed in the next month as the weather allows.
The track crew was hard a work today rebuilding Conner Siding. The rebuild went very smoothly as the area had already been leveled and the switches were ready to be installed. Most of the panels for this section had also been pre-built during the previous months in anticipation of this project. The crew was able to get all the tracks connected and all that is left to do is secure some remaining ties to the rail.
Bill Gardei, Jon Sproat, & Michael Haywood were hard at work today rebuilding switches. Over the next few weeks, additional switches and track panels will be built, in preparation for the Conner Yard rebuild that will take place in the coming weeks.
Continuing the work from the November 4th work day, the next step was to re-level Conner Yard before the new yard tracks are installed. The roadbed for the yard needed to reduced in height by 3 inches so it will match the mainline on the left. Since the area has not been disturbed in 30+ years, a little heavy equipment was needed to move the compacted gravel. Huge thanks to Mike Bassham for getting us a Skid Steer to complete the job.
On Saturday, November 4th 2017, a small group of members met at the track for our first ever 'learning to run steam' day. There were 7 students, 3 instructors, and 2 coal-fired steam locomotives present for the event. We began at 9 AM. First the instructors went around introducing ourselves and giving some of our background. The three instructors were Bob Auchenbaugh, Alan Woodyard and Scott Reedy. The three instructors combined have over 100 years of experience with large-scale live steam.
We then had about 45 minutes of 'classroom' type training. The design and the functions of the locomotive boiler were discussed, along with the nomenclature for some of the most important parts. Emphasis was placed on keeping the water level right to protect the boiler. Some of the physics behind the boiler operations were explained. We then explained the order of importance when it comes to actually operating a steam locomotive. That order is (1) water level, (2) Track conditions/Traffic, (3) Fire, (4) Lubrication. A lot of emphasis was placed on safety first.
The group of students then split up into two groups and accompanied the instructors to the steaming bays where the two locomotives were fired up from a cold-start. Students then took turns running the locomotives around the lower loop of the track for the next several hours. Students typically got at least 4 or 5 laps on a locomotive to try to hone their throttle skills and learn to add coal and water while on the move. The day's lessons ended at about 3:30 PM when the last of the two steamers was blown down.
During the November 4th workday, the track crew started on one of the larger track projects that were slated for this winter. The first project is a complete rebuild of Conner yard. This yard was the club's passenger station until the new one was completed in 1999. The track will all be replaced and the yard slightly redesigned. Once completed this spring, it will once again be an amazing yard and provide additional storage during the meets.
With the Winter Meet only a week away, track crews were hard at work today getting a few projects completed. First task was to reconnect all the track going to the high bridge. All that is left to in that area to complete is to ballast and level the track. The second task was to remove the decking from the smaller bridge located near the high bridge. Since there was extra time today, the crew removed all the old bolts and repainted the bridge. On Saturday, the goal will be to install the new decking and track.
The track crew was hard at work on Saturday getting the new decking installed on the Upper Loop bridge. The final task will be getting the track back in place before the Winter Meet in a few weeks. There is always more to do at the track so any help is always welcome at work days.
After 34 years, the Upper Loop Bridge supports needed to be replaced. John, Ted, and Kyle Norcross were in charge of the project and began work as soon as the Fall Meet was concluded. They fabricated new steel supports and transported them to the track for installation. With some heavy machinery, planning, and hard work, they were able to install the new supports within 2 days. Many other members came back to the track several times after the meet to assist in any way they could.
During the Fall Meet, it was discovered that the track outside the tunnel had sustained some damage. While this damage did not cause too many issues during the meet, it needed to be repaired. After closer inspection by the track crew, the decision was made to replace all the track and ties in the tunnel, as this had not been done in a long time. The track crew worked very hard and the results look amazing.