Regulations outlined by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) mandate certain inspections of steam locomotives must be met to continue their operation. The largest of these inspections is commonly known in the railroad industry as either a “1472” or “15 Year Rebuild.” Within a 15-year period, certified steam locomotives may have 1,472 service days. A service day is defined as the boiler having pressure greater than atmospheric with a fire burning in its the firebox. If a locomotive does not operate more than 1,472 days, the 15-year mark is then used as the defining time stamp between when the last inspection of this magnitude was completed and when the next should take place. Having not operated close to this many days since its last inspection in 2001-2002, the 15-year mark took affect in late 2017 for 3751’s boiler – officially placing the locomotive out of service, pending recertification.
The process to re-certify a steam locomotive’s boiler like 3751’s is straight-forward but takes time. The ultimate goal of this type of inspection is to check the boiler thickness to assure that the pressure vessel will continue to safely hold the required 230 PSI working pressure. Besides visual inspections across every inch, special equipment is also used to examine the thickness of the boiler from the interior and exterior. The boiler’s two sheets, tubes, flues, staybolts, internal braces, rivets and doubler plates that serve to join sections together or reinforce around openings where valves pass through are some of the other areas besides the boiler shell itself that are thoroughly gone over. Areas not necessary to examine as part of the re-certification process include the locomotive’s valves, pumps, throttle, brake system or running gear. With so many pieces needed to be removed to access the full scope of the boiler’s shell, however, its not uncommon to see some of these mentioned parts removed. No matter if something is physically removed off the engine or not, everything critical to making 3751 operationally safe and reliable for future service is checked, repaired or rebuilt during this time even if not part of the mandated inspection. In order to accomplish all the mentioned work – 3751 must be stripped down to its bare boiler shell. This means every pipe, valve, piece of sheet metal or other item blocking any part of the shell is removed. Even the locomotive’s cab is almost fully stripped with items removed ranging from small gauges to the entire brake stand.
Now that you know a little background on this inspection, we hope you enjoy this pictorial walk-through of the first-half of 3751’s 1472 inspection in 2018. Our crew is proud of the work they’ve accomplished that would not have been possible without the support of people like you. With your continued support, we’ll have steam pressure rising once again in 2019.