Monday, May 1, 2017

Texas two-step: Specialist who helped restore famed locomotive does a walk-through

(Photos courtesy of Atlanta History Center)

The restored Civil War locomotive Texas returns to Atlanta this week and Steam Operations Corp.’s Max Sigler and Nathaniel Watts, who spent 16 months at the North Carolina Transportation Museum on the project, will move on to other tasks. The pair got to show off their work this past weekend at a major event at the museum in Spencer. The Picket spoke by phone with Sigler about the 1856 locomotive, which was restored to an 1886 appearance and will be showcased at the Atlanta History Center.

Texas (No. 49) before its restoration. (Picket photo)

BACKGROUND: Danforth, Cooke & Co. manufactured the locomotive (53,000 pounds). Except for the frame and some aspects of its power system, most of the locomotive was replaced over the years because of wear and tear and technology gains. The tender (20,000 pounds) was not the original used with the Texas.

SMOKESTACK: The stack is new. Historian and artist Wilbur Kurtz first, who saved the locomotive from potential salvage, restored the Texas in the mid-1930s while it was housed in Atlanta’s Grant Park.  “We found some drawings that Kurtz had made of some of what new he put on and what he took off,” Sigler said. Basically, Kurtz had returned the Texas to a Civil War appearance. The Atlanta History Center has aimed to show the engine in its modified, postwar career. The new stack was built in three sections and is lighter than the original one (the locomotive doesn’t operate).

(Courtesy of Atlanta History Center)

BOILER JACKET (replaced, above): This part of the restoration also took extensive research by the AHC. The boiler produced the power necessary to move the train and is the longest part of the locomotive. The new blue color on the boiler was painted to resemble the finish on Russian iron, historically pressed in the Ural mountains. “It was cheaper and easier to maintain as an alternative for their jackets. It would not oxidize as quickly as a regular piece of pressed iron,” Sigler said.

BOILER BANDS: They are four inches wide, fastened with copper rivets. A patina effect dulled the color.

BELL: Besides the warning whistle, the Texas carries this picturesque bell. While likely not the original, it’s been on the Texas since at least the Kurtz restoration. The metal component or bracket that holds it is believed to go back to the Great Locomotive Chase in 1862, Sigler said. “Of the original pieces, that is one that made it on with all the changes.”

HEADLAMP:  The main purpose was to warn people ahead to clear the track. By the Civil War they had been standardized in the form of a box with a glass front. Sigler said the one on the Texas is probably from its last few years in service, around 1903-1907. The history center, he says, is still looking for one that would have been in use in 1886. “If an old and better thing comes along, it can be swapped out.”

 No. 212 at the end of its life (Courtesy of AHC)

NO. 12: The numeric designation is a bit complicated. The Texas carried the number 49 immediately after the Civil War as it continued service in Georgia for the Western & Atlantic Railroad. In 1870, it was renamed the Cincinnati and given the 12 number. It was converted from wood to coal power. In 1890, the Nashville, Chattanooga and St. Louis Railway leased the locomotive, and it was renumbered to 212, which it kept until retirement. Kurtz returned the number to 49 during his restoration and the new effort picked No. 12, to meet the 1886 history of the engine. Follow that?

(Courtesy of AHC)
COWCATCHER: The one put on by Kurtz is being retained for exhibit at the Atlanta History Center. The new one is hand-built. “We had a basic degree of angle we wanted off some Baldwin research on pilots.” It attaches to a horizontal pilot beam. The purpose is to deflect items on the track that might derail the train.


(Courtesy of Bob Kassel)

CAB: The roof and portions of the interior are painted in a deep red, which was found in paint samples. The back of the boiler that the crew would be facing is flat back.

SAND DOME/BOX: These carried sand that would be dropped on the track to gain traction to pull the engine forward. A cab lever was used to drop the sand from the dome and down tubes to the rail. Sand was delivered by gravity or a steam blast, depending on the engine design.

Smooth wheels on smooth rails are effective, but the sand helps during slippage.

(Courtesy of AHC)

LETTERING ON TENDER: The crew in Spencer turned to other specialists for some of the work. Sign painter Louis Brady of North Carolina did the lettering. “We based it on old photos of the Joseph E. Brown operated by the W&A,” said Sigler.


WHEELS: The Texas was a 4-4-0, meaning it had four leading wheels and four powered, larger driving wheels, and no trailing wheels. These were common in the United States before the Civil War. The pilot/leading wheels helped with guiding the train.

Sigler said the Texas was “rode hard and put up wet” when it went out of service more than a century ago. While Kurtz did an extensive restoration, Sigler and Watts had to remove rot and worn parts, especially on the tender.

Jackson McQuigg, vice president of properties for the Atlanta History Center, has emphasized how much of the Texas had been modified or changed out during its half century of service. He notes the discovery of an 1871 stamp on the boiler. While some have wanted the restoration to go back to the presumed Civil War appearance, the AHC said the engine was also important in building Atlanta as a railroad center in the postwar, and they want to tell both stories.

Scott Lindsay, who heads up Steam Operations Corp., said it was a privilege for his team to restore the Texas. Meticulous AHC research and detailed craftsmanship combined for the final product. “Everything is a custom piece. Nothing is off the shelf.”

Thanks to Howard Pousner of the AHC for the photos taken at the North Carolina event.

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