By Railfan & Railroad Staff
The operating restorations of two different steam locomotives on either side of the country will benefit from parts of a third steam locomotive in the middle of the country. This week, the Pacific Railroad Preservation Association, the non-profit that maintains Spokane, Portland & Seattle 4-8-4 700 in Portland, Ore., announced that it would be receiving the hot water pump off of Chesapeake & Ohio 2-8-4 2716 in Kentucky, which in turn will get one from Santa Fe 4-8-4 2912 in Colorado.
The parts trade began in 2022 when the Kentucky Steam Heritage Corp. and Pueblo Railway Foundation announced a collaboration to swap components between 2912 and 2716. In the early 2000s, the Pueblo Locomotive & Railway Historical Society began an operational restoration of Santa Fe 2912, a Baldwin built in 1944. By 2001, the group decided not to pursue an operational restoration, but a few key components had already been restored.
Meanwhile, back east, the Kentucky Steam Heritage Corp., the non-profit restoring 2716, realized that the air compressors on their locomotive were going to need a lot of work, costing anywhere from $50,000 to $70,000. That’s when Chief Mechanical Officer Jason Sobczynski remembered the 2912 restoration and reached out to the Colorado group, now known as the Pueblo Railway Foundation. Sobczynski suggested trading the air pumps between the two locomotives and the Pueblo group agreed. Amazingly, the air compressors on the two locomotives are identical. Additional parts were also swapped.
Fast forward to this year and FMW Solutions, which is helping with the restoration of 700 in Portland, discovered severe cracks in the 700’s hot water pump, rendering a repair economically impractical. Now, thanks to a three-way agreement, the 2716’s original hot water pump, originally destined for static display with 2912, will be repaired and replace the disabled pump on 700.
“We were aware that the pump from 700 had been reportedly damaged in the past, but the extent of the cracks in its cast iron block was unknown until we began a detailed assessment,” said Shane Meador, vice president of mechanical at FMW Solutions, in a press release. “Our crews initiated repairs utilizing a combination of weld preheat and silicon bronze TIG weld, but each time we made progress repairing one crack, another opened up, revealing the extent of the damage to the cast iron pump body. We knew that our client would be better served sourcing a new casting, and that’s when we turned to our friends in Pueblo.”
Like all steam locomotive manufacturers, locomotive parts suppliers were either absorbed by competitors or rendered obsolete by the late 1950s, but in the 1900s companies like Worthington had the art of mass manufacturing appliances down to a science. The Worthington feedwater heater system on 2716 is referred to as a “5-1/2SA” model, which corresponds to the hourly feedwater rate for the system. Convenient for the PRPA, the Worthington company utilized a hot water pump from the larger “6SA” system on this system, ensuring a commonality of parts for use with the larger SP&S steam locomotive.
“Restoring a steam locomotive in the 21st Century requires that organizations be nimble and creative, and we appreciate that the established partnership between Pueblo and Kentucky Steam will now also benefit a third locomotive”, said Jim Vanderbeck, project manager for PRPA. “All of us involved in this swap are excited to see 700 and 2716 back in operation again someday.”