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RyPN Briefs March 6, 2007
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WW&F Locomotive Number 9 Restoration Begins

With the construction of the new boiler well underway at the Boothbay Railway Village, work has begun in earnest to disassemble and rehabilitate the various components of locomotive Number 9. We will be making great efforts to retain as many original components of the locomotive as possible, and installing new parts in a manner representative of the way repairs were made in #9's era.

WW&F No. 9 was built in 1891 by the Portland Co. in Portland, Maine. It is on long-term loan to the Wiscasett Waterville & Farmington Railway Museum in Alna, Maine. The disassembly of the locomotive over the winter is the next step in restoring it to service with a new boiler. A careful look at the photo shows that the engine and forward frame is attached directly to the firebox, making the boiler in integral part of the locomotive. Photo by James Patten.

The original design of the frame involved using the boiler and firebox as an integral part of the frame, an antiquated design even when it was built by the Portland Company in 1891. A new steel casting is being made to carry the main frame around the firebox; this piece was designed after one that was on Bridgton and Saco River #5, the last engine built by the Portland Company in 1905. While this design is a deviation of #9's original configuration, we felt the most respectful approach was to use the same remedy that the locomotive's builder settled upon once they realized the same problem some 14 years later.

The locomotive was built as Sandy River Railroad #5, and ran on the SRRR until the two foot gauge railroads in Maine's Franklin County (the Sandy River, Kingfield and Dead River, Philips & Rangeley, and others) consolidated into the Sandy River & Rangley Lakes Railroad in 1908. SRRR #5 became SR&RL #6, the number it is best known as. #6 operated until 1923, when it was transferred to the Kennebec Central Railroad in Kennebec County as that railroad's locomotive #4. The KC closed in 1929, and that might have been the end of it.

The Wiscasset, Waterville, and Farmington Railway (WW&F) purchased the KC's idle locomotives in 1933 and KC #4 became WW&F #9. The WW&F had used #9 for approximately 4 months when in early June, engineer Earl Keef discovered that the engine's rear frame had a critical break. This caused the crew to choose #8, which ran for a day and a half before derailing in Whitefield and effectively ending the life of the original railway. With #8 being scrapped on the spot four years later, #9's broken rear frame probably saved it. The break, and subsequent repair by Frank Ramsdell, became very apparent when the deck was removed a few weeks ago.

In January, members of the WW&F Ry. Museum removed the cab and tank from the frame of no. 9. Photo by Stephen Hussar.

The rear frame is badly deteriorated, and most of it requires replacement. This fact, along with those described above, led us to the idea that the original boiler, complete with the attached rear frame, will be set up as a display. This display will show several things: the only remaining original boiler from a Maine two-foot locomotive; a portion of an engine frame open to view, which is rare in locomotive displays; a frame design that was common only in very early Forneys and similar engines (including the deficiencies of this design); and finally, the break in the frame that caused the locomotive to be pulled from service and saved. The display will be under an open-sided canopy at Sheepscot Station. We hope that it can someday be the centerpiece of a museum in a visitor center.

As mentioned, the repairs made to the locomotive will be as historically appropriate as possible. This is why the new frame crosstie will be cast steel, instead of welded up from common stock. The new rear frame will nearly replicate the original, including being hot-riveted together. The original smokebox will be used, and will be riveted to the new boiler.

The engine and forward frame separated from the boiler. Photo by Josh Botting from NERAIL.

The new boiler will be built nearly the same as the original, not only in dimension, but also in method of construction. The staybolts will be threaded and riveted, this being not only more historic, but also easier to replace. All inner and outer firebox sheets will be flanged; the mud and door rings will be riveted, and the pinned diagonal braces will be riveted.

While the basic shell is welded, the folks at Boothbay have been wonderful to work with us to get this boiler as old-fashioned as practical. Recently, several regular volunteers from the WW&F took part in hot-forming the backhead for the new boiler. This was a fun and educational throw-back to methods used by the Portland Company on the original boiler more than a century ago. We are most grateful to Brian Fanslau and the others at Boothbay Railway for all the extra effort, including being so open to our members.

The first very important step in this rebuild was to document the present condition of the locomotive. This was done with many hundreds of photographs of every component, both prior to disassembly and as each was removed. As the only remaining all-original Maine two-foot locomotive, we felt it was very important to have a detailed record of the state of repair, and of the methods used by the original railroad at the end of its operation. This record will also help greatly during reassembly, to ensure the locomotive remains as much the same as possible.

Disassembly began in October, with the last Saturday of the month being set aside to work on #9. It began with removal of the stack, cab (intact), rear tank, domes, decking, and various accessories. An attempt was made to separate the boiler, smokebox, and rear frame from the cylinder saddle in January, but it quickly became apparent that the smokebox was firmly attached to the saddle with tapered dry-fit bolts an obvious attempt, probably by the Sandy River, to deal with problems resulting from the design of the locomotive. By the end of the day, the smokebox finally came away from the saddle. In future months, the running gear will be disassembled and the forward frame will be inspected and prepared for the new boiler and rear frame.

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A portion of this article was extracted from a WW&F Museum newsletter article authored by Jason Lamontagne, with additional information added by James Patten.