I want to write something – anything – or I will become more depressed than I am now. That is because writing , for me, is a kind of safety valve, a way of releasing the emotions that occupy my mind when I am not doing something which requires my full attention. Yesterday, I went out to the museum with a friend who I am working with in an effort to improve his already considerable machining skills. I had some time ago agreed to rebuild the valve for the mechanism that controls the flow of steam into a very large Lunkenheimer whistle that was formerly mounted on the SPRR Taylor yard power house and was the whistle which announced the beginning and end of the yard shifts. The valve seat and the valve itself were in very poor condition. The plan was to resurface the valve seat in a lathe and make a new valve as the old one was steam-cut too deeply to be resurfaced. We set-up the valve seat body in the 16″ Axelson lathe and used an indicator to true it up. We then set about the task of re-surfacing the valve seat surface. It was our intention to remove as little metal as we could and still have a good seat area. We were pleasantly surprised at how little metal had to be removed to apparently achieve this. However, upon a close inspection of the new surface, we discovered what appeared to be a small hole. We removed more metal which revealed that we had opened up a hole in the valve body casting. We decided to remove more metal – we did not have any real choice as the hole was in the center of the valve seat area. Fortunately, the hole closed before we ran out of metal.

Even though the existing valve was not usable, I decided to resurface the seat to see what I would end up with – miracles do happen you know. As I was resurfacing the seat, the valve snagged on the tool-bit and jumped out of the chuck with a disastrous result. The valve was now broken into two pieces. Since we had already decided a new valve was needed, nothing was lost, except a little of my pride as a machinist.

My friend had asked previously asked me to machine a flat surface on a piece of rail that he wanted to use as an anvil. He also wanted to gain some experience on our 24″ shaper machine. Since the job seemed simple enough, we set-up the piece of rail in the shaper and I installed a suitable tool bit made of “high speed” steel. Well, that piece of rail was harder than a w—-‘s heart and the “high speed” tool bit did not make it through the first cut! I replaced it with a carbide bit and it promptly broke! Obviously, the job saw not as “simple” as I had first thought. So, I went to the toolroom and selected a carbide tool bit and fashioned a “proper” tool that would do the job. I had already yielded up all of my pride that I was willing to that day. I also paid more attention to the “speed and feed” settings of the shaper. After that, things went well and the job was completed without further injury to my pride.

I have included a picture of a “diamond” being constructed by the track gang. The name “diamond” is given to track assemblies used to permit one line of track to cross another. This one will be used to permit an extension of the narrow gauge (3′) the cross the standard gauge mainline (4’ 8 1/2″).


I am 89 years old and was married for 66 years. My wife passed away in 2016. I am a retired engineer and spent 35 years developing INS gyroscopes. I was a High School mentor in physics, a mountaineer, a model builder, a machinist and I have a degree in Physics. My interests include railroad history and photography, science history, cosmology, interesting people, and old engineering drawings. I place a high value on my friendships. I enjoying my life and I try look forward with a sense of anticipation and curiosity about what my future has in store for me.



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