428 and ashpan (bottom center). Photo by Rick Miller.
The steam department is responsible for over 25 Steam Locomotives in the collection. The department also maintains two running locomotives according to Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) requirements. The volunteers come from all walks of life. Their vocations include lawyer, speech pathologist, salesperson, systems analyst, teacher, fireman, chemical engineer, welder, machinist, and bus mechanic. Only one person has worked for the railroad in real life. The department head is a salesperson with no professional railroad experience. However, he has over 25 years of experience maintaining and restoring steam locomotives from volunteering at the museum. The department is structured with a department head, an engineer qualifier, a fireman qualifier, and a crew caller.
Facilities and Equipment
John Skinner uses a lathe to make a pattern for a casting. Photo by Victor Humphries.
While the department may not have the expansive facilities and machinery that the railroads once
had, its facility is better equipped than most museums in the country. The department has all
the tools and machinery needed to maintain and restore locomotives. The department's machinery
includes a shaper, lathes, a drill press, welding equipment, a drop table and a 90-inch wheel lathe.
The drop table, currently under restoration, will allow us to drop locomotive wheels/axles from a
locomotive. The wheel lathe, also under restoration, can accomodate a locomotive's wheel up to
84 inches in diameter.
Long Term Plans and Projects
The department has several long term plans/future projects. One plan is to add an addition
to the current shop building which includes an overhead crane. Another long term plan is to put
in a turntable and to construct a roundhouse to better display the collection. A future project
is to complete the restoration of the wheel lathe to operational condition.
Engine Crew of the 1630. Left to right, Tim Jurek, fireman and Dan Paulissen, engineer.
Volunteers can come out as much as they would like or are able to. Whether
you can come out once a month or every Saturday, we are happy to have you.
No experience required! Most of the department's volunteers have no mechanical
or railroad experience. Some volunteers started out with only a basic idea of
how a steam locomotive works. New volunteers will have the opportunity to
expand their knowledge of how a steam locomotive operates by working with
veteran volunteers. You will have a chance to meet new people with similar
interests. We are all interested in preserving the steam locomotive for future
generations. After a period of time working in the shop, volunteers have the
opportunity to become part of the engine crew. A volunteer can become a Student
Fireman after passing the Operating department's rules test, eventually qualifying
to a Fireman. After a few years as a fireman, a person can become a Student Engineer,
eventually qualifying to an Engineer. While these are some of the benefits to
volunteering in the Steam Department, being a member has other
advantages. If this interests you, fill out
the membership application and become part
of the "Steam Team". Since safety is the museum's number one priority,
steel-toed shoes, gloves and safety glasses are a must.