Today’s update features a very special milestone in the rebuilding of the Maud L. into the Ward Kimball. I originally wrote this piece for the Burnsland.com discussion board, which is primarily patronized by Disney train fans, and so I did not spent a lot of time explaining some of the more-complicated procedures. I have tried to explain some of the going's-on without using too much jargon, but if you have trouble understanding something, let me know, and I'll try to simplify it. But before I get to the milestone, let me briefly bring you up to date on what’s happened so far.
The Ward Kimball’s restoration is rapidly nearing completion. A couple weeks ago, it was transported from its primary restoration facility to Disneyland, under cover of darkness. Most of the major rebuilding had taken place, but there still remained plenty of work to do to get the engine ready for its shining moment. That work has been going on for the past two weeks in the Disneyland roundhouse, and the engine looks vastly more complete than the last time I saw her.
The engine is essentially complete, but there are still projects to accomplish. As I mentioned last week, a new spring still remains to be constructed and installed on the trailing truck. One cylinder has been completed, and is now covered in shiny brass, with red covers. Both the steam dome and the sand dome have been attached, and the whistle surmounts the steam dome. The bell has also been installed, and its tone is very pure and clear.
The engine now bears it official number—5—on a number plate cast from the same pattern as was used on engines 1 and 2. The orange-red of the plate’s background is the same as the engine’s pin striping, tying all the colors together. The headlight has been affixed, including the artwork which adorns the light’s sides. I will not describe that artwork here. There should be at least one surprise when the engine takes to the rails, right?
The yellow stars have just been affixed to the drivers, but remain to be painted on the pilot wheels, and by the time you read this, the pinstriping of the pilot should have been completed. The engine will feature more pinstriping than any other engine on the line.
Much of the pneumatic piping has been completed as well—the small-diameter copper tubes that use air pressure to operate things, like the sanders and parts of the brake system. This piping has been expertly applied, and really adds to the engine’s look.
But I opened this update speaking about a special milestone that was accomplished Saturday, and that milestone deserves special attention. For on Saturday, April 30th 2005, for the very first time since Disney acquired the engine, it came to life.
The fire was started in the engine in the morning. An air line was connected to a fitting in the locomotive to operate the things that normally would operate on steam, like the blower and the atomizer (which the fireman uses to control the fire). The burner itself was also operated on air, and the fire roared to life in the belly of the beast around 10:00 am. Two hours later, the flanks of the engine were warm to the touch, but the needle in the pressure gauge had not lifted off its peg. A slight diesel leak was discovered on the burner, and around lunch time, the burner was extinguished.
A couple hours later after lunch, the leak was fixed, and the fire re-lit. The process to heat the water to boiling was done very slowly. The engine was started dead cold, and every effort was made to bring the heat up slowly and methodically, so as not to “shock” the boiler.
Around 2:30, the needle on the pressure gauge came to life! First, it moved imperceptibly slowly—1 pound…2 pounds…5 pounds… But after it reached about 10 pounds of pressure, the gauge began to climb rapidly.
While this was all going on, preparations were made to fill the hydrostatic lubricator (a device in the cab that feeds steam oil to the air brake compressor). A leak in the device was discovered and soon fixed. The pressure continued to rise: 25 pounds…30 pounds…35 pounds…
The decision was made to get the engine to 100 pounds of pressure, and then remove the umbilical air supply that was supporting the engine.
The pressure continued to climb. The freshly-applied graphite-and-oil on the smokebox began to “cook,” giving off smoke as the paint hardened onto the surface.
Seventy-five pounds…80 pounds…90 pounds…100!!
The steam pressure gauge showed 100 pounds of pressure in the little teakettle. The air line was removed, and when it was, the engine became suddenly quite. There was no fire; the blower was silent. One could hear a cotter pin drop.
Then, the main header valve was opened—the main valve that allowed steam into every pipe on the engine—the steam that would operate everything that the locomotive depended on for life. Pipe joints creaked and strained under the pressure as the steam filled the pipes; wisps of white steam escaped connections and curled into the air. Water sizzled on hot surfaces. The engine yawned and creaked to life.
Now the locomotive would be operating on the steam she herself had created. The atomizer, blower and burner would now operate on that steam. The fire was re-lit with a soft thud, and showed a golden yellow in the firebox. The blower shot a jet of steam up the stack to aid the engine’s draft. A nice, clean fire was created, with a very slight haze of smoke rising from the stack in into the exhaust vent in the roundhouse's roof. The fire rumbled and pounded in a deep bass that could be felt in the pit of one’s stomach.
Slowly, the engine’s air compressor was started. It was operated very slowly at first, allowing hot steam to warm the moving parts of the device. The compressor’s exhaust was piped under the engine through a bypass that would soon be closed, creating a gentle panting sound with each exhaust.
After a few minutes, the compressor rate was increased. About the same time, the exhaust bypass was closed, allowing the spent steam from the compressor to exhaust up the stack.
And what a sound it made!! With each stroke of the compressor, loud, sharp blasts went up the stack, sounding like cannon shots! Boom!! Boom!! Boom!! The sound was incredible, and sounded far different from the relatively soft compressor exhausts that the other engines featured. With each exhaust of the compressor up the stack, the fire was almost sucked out!
Boom...Boom…Boom!! went the compressor, while the blower jets and rumbling fire created an absolutely beautiful symphony of noise! Up went the pressure…125…135…145…
The two safety valves had been tagged at the factory as being set for 170 and 175 pounds. But as the gauge approached 149 pounds, trails of steam were seen rising from the devices. At 150 pounds, the instantaneous ear-splitting blast of the open safety valve caught everyone’s immediate attention! The sound level was amazing, frightening and awesome all at the same time! Roundhouse crewmembers wandered close to see the excitement.
The engine was now truly alive, a self-sustaining creature that depended on man only to feed and water her. Her own steam would take care of the rest.
The pressure in the air tank rose like the steam pressure did—quite rapidly. When 80 pounds was reached, the compressor was turned off. Successful tests were made to the brakes and the sander lines.
The fire continued to rumble, and the blower jet continued to raise smoke through the stack. But the day was getting late. The little 1902 Baldwin had gone though her very first steam-up as a Disneyland Railroad locomotive. With that suden blast of the pop valves, she was “born.” Soon, the little locomotive will be traveling down the Disneyland Railroad main line, with happy guests in tow.
Much has been accomplished. But there is still much work that remains. While we may not see the engine on May 5th, it’s a sure bet that we won’t have to wait much longer. And maybe that’s better—after the hoopla of May 5th has subsided, we will still have the Ward Kimball’s debut to look forward to. And I can assure you, you will not want to miss the sight of this little locomotive, so old, and yet with so much new life invested in her by folks that are truly passionate about steam.