Winter 2017/2018

With 2017 in the rearview mirror, The T1 Trust continues looking ahead to the many exciting things we have in store for 2018. Bundle up in front of the fire and enjoy the latest issue of The Trail Blazer.


Progress Report

by Jason Johnson, General Manager PRR T1 Trust


It is not often a dream starts to really take shape and you can see the momentum building and that dream becoming a reality before your eyes. This report will show how far we have come and give you a hint of what the next couple years will look like.


We often hear comments such as “I won’t believe it until you build the boiler” or “I won’t support it until they have a frame built”. Much of the past couple years has been doing the research to make it happen. Thousands of hours from volunteers all over the world have stepped up with their time to make this build happen. Many more have stepped up with their pocket books and supported the project.


Two of those volunteers are stepping up in a big way and supporting the project. Wolf Fengler, a Mechanical Engineer out of Colorado (and a familiar face with Santa Fe 4-8-4 #3751 crew) has been working on converting the boiler from riveted construction to all welded construction to meet todays ASME standards. He has had help from Dave Griner, Gary Bensman, Scott McGill and myself, but he has been spearheading the design and you will see from his report below, he is well underway.


Jeff Kinsberg, president of JAKTool in New Jersey has taken upon his company to tackle the job of building the highly complex frame in CAD software (Solidworks). This is an extremely time consuming task, but a necessary one. His team has done an outstanding job to date and we always look forward to his updates. You will see from his report Jeff and his team are committed to making this a reality, so in a short time we can start cutting steel. The frame will be mostly a weldment with some cast components fixed as well. Once frame has been drawn, it will be run through a series of testing to show that it is strong enough to support the locomotive. Only after rigorous testing in the software will construction begin.


If you run into any of these individuals or their team members, thank them for the work they are doing. It takes a village to achieve success, we are very thankful for those members that have stepped up and for the new ones joining every week. If you don’t have the time or skills to give to the project, consider becoming a monthly donor so we can continue to make big parts and we can see the 5550 screaming down the rails!


Boiler Report, submitted by Wolf Fengler

The game is afoot! Since being asked to join the boiler design team in late October of last year, much time has been invested in coming up to speed on what has been accomplished to date, understanding how the boiler fits within the context of the overall design approach for 5550, and pouring over blueprints and other reference material. 

Some folks may assume, incorrectly, that with blueprints in-hand, it is simply a matter of sending those off to a boiler shop along with a check and a 300 PSI pressure vessel appears a number of months later. In reality, the blueprints are information dense and require a good bit of detective work to understand the original intent of the design engineers. That intent is often masked in that designers of the era would take certain details for granted and leave them to the standard shop practices of the boiler makers.

In addition to fleshing out the original proportions from the blueprints, the decision was made to use welded instead of riveted construction. This means that the original design must be altered slightly, but in non-trivial ways. Of course, translating the design into 3D models allows the boiler to be fit up with other components in the computer to make sure everything lines up properly as even minor changes need to be tracked to minimize problems later in the build.

The process involves breaking the design down into individual components and simultaneously calculating their stresses while creating the 3D model. The stress calculations, per the ASME code, are compiled in a report and are entered into a spreadsheet which will ultimately generate the Form 4 report as required by the FRA. The spreadsheet is being setup such that once completed, at subsequent 1472 day inspections, the team will simply need to enter ultrasound data and the Form 4 will automatically be updated to make the process much easier.

Per the direction of the Trust, calculations are underway for the First Course and Rear Flue Sheet, which will be the first components to be fabricated. Soon to follow will be the Front Flue Sheet and Second Course. The Belpaire firebox and combustion chamber will be the last components designed and fabricated. Exciting times ahead as this significant component comes together!

The image below is still a bit primitive, but shows some of the first CAD models of the boiler beginning to take shape. Visible are a weld seam for the First Course, a washout plug opening, a feedwater inlet connection, the steam dome opening in the Second Course, the lower portion of the Combustion Chamber, and a first attempt at the Belpaire Roof Sheet:




Frame Report, submitted by Jeff Kinsberg


What’s New

With 200-man hours of drawing review, modeling, and reverse engineering to date, JAKTOOL has nearly completed the frame from cab to the #2 set of cylinders.  To capitalize on details fresh in our head, we have worked on the frame for the #1 and #2 drivers.   As the larger sections of the frame are finalized, placement of spring mounts, brake pivots, and auxiliary accessory mounting points are confirmed, and the design is frozen.


No physical artifacts or 3D representations are at our disposal to understand section views on the original PRR drawings and how they relate to one another.  The creators and industry for this technology have passed leaving us devoid of people of ordinary skill in locomotive frame design to help interpret the “industry standard” details, this is like resurrecting a dinosaur. 

Our Process

Think Sudoku Puzzle… 2D wireframes are created on multiple planes.  The wireframes are extracted into solids and surfaces in the computer, not always developing into the anticipated geometry on the first attempt.  Historical photos and other frame details are compared through reference texts such as the Locomotive Encyclopedia that help us confirm placement of final details, working to the Eureka Moment.  After bulk shapes are understood, details are then re-scrubbed to confirm placement.

Next Steps

#1 and #2 Cylinders are next up.   We expect economies of scale as many of the datils are the same and once the #2 set of cylinders are complete the #1 cylinders should be well understood.  Our team is working with other T1 technical staff to comb through the drawings.


An Interview with Don Wolf – Part II

– Our autumn issue saw the beginning of a three-part interview with former Pennsylvania Railroad engineer and Trust supporter Don Wolf.

The T1 Trust: So let's see here. You were there at the twilight [of the PRR], how would you describe the Pennsylvania Railroad's corporate culture during the final days?

Don: Well, there was a lot of pride in the corporate culture. They had growing pains with computers in the office, but as for the trains, they were a bit run-down. The Penn Texas was alright. One of the things that I remember about riding the Penn Texas, it had a full-length, 48-seat dining car married to a full-length, commissary kitchen car, and I thought that was pretty amazing. Up until that time, most of the dining cars I'd been in, the galley and the dining car were all just one. So there was still some amazing equipment out there in decent condition that was being used. Some of it was a bit run-down, but it was still worthwhile. They were still doing a decent job filling trains, people still wanted to travel that way in the '60s. Of course the interstate highway system was making inroads, and jet aircraft travel was also beginning to... It made a lot of sense. I flew home a lot of times when I was in the service, but it was still a very gracious way to travel. You could have a very nice meal served on linen tablecloths with bone china and sterling silver, and the food was done very, very nicely in the '60s and... But I think the railroads were getting to the point where they had to replace a lot of equipment then.

Even the post-war equipment was starting to get to be 20 years old, and I think that's what caused the creation of Amtrak, and that the losses involved in it and the fact that they had to make vast amounts of money and capital expenditures to replace the passenger equipment, they just proposed the creation of Amtrak. So that's my recollection of it.

The T1 Trust: Ah, let's see here... During your time on the Pennsylvania, do you recall being aware of any sort of consensus among the employees that you knew regarding the relative value of passenger traffic versus freight traffic?

Don: Yeah, it was clear that freight was very important to the Pennsylvania Railroad, and that was... Of course, we still had a lot of industrial might at that time also. Passenger travel was important to the public, but it was such a money loser by the 1960s, the mid and late '60s when I was there, that they really... They wanted to find a way to get out from under it or do something with it. They did not spend the money with upkeep on equipment any longer, not so much motor power or passenger rolling stock. The stations were getting a bit run-down also, and that's the way I remember that. It was a going concern, to be sure, and it was big, and it moved lots of people, but the infrastructure needed help.

The T1 Trust: And as you said, it was a money loser as well. It just... It was not profitable for...

Don: Right.

The T1 Trust: The trains never paid for themselves, is what you're saying.

Don: Yes, that's right, that's right.

The T1 Trust: It's unfortunate when you have a service like that that people use and enjoy, but it just... It kind of almost... Not really collapses under its own weight, but it... I guess that you could say that, if you wanted to.

Don: That's a good way of putting it, yes.

The T1 Trust: Let's see... When Con-Rail split, the Pennsylvania was still alive, at least in the accounting sense, and many of Con-Rail's PRR-allocated assets went to Norfolk Southern. At the time of your retirement, was there a sense at NS that it was the current corporate embodiment of the PRR?

Don: Not particularly. A close... An embodiment of the PRR? Well, in some ways it was. In some ways, to the extent... How would I say it? Railroads tend to be a little bit militaristic in the way they're set up and, to that extent, the PRR was very much... You addressed people with the word sir when you spoke and this sort of thing. I think Norfolk Southern, maybe it's part of the Southern culture as well, is somewhat that way also, from the top down. To that extent, I would say the embodiment would be somewhat typical, but I think that tends to be true of the railroad industry, especially since a lot of it came out of the Civil War in the 1860s, with people who had been in the military. Once the war was over and the expansion of railroads began in earnest, it was military people who were called upon, I think, to do that, and I think we can trace that sense of corporate culture, the railroad culture, back to those times. So the embodiment, it would be... In that sense, I think it's always been that way on all railroads, really.

The T1 Trust: Alright, we're gonna get back to the Trust here. We got a few questions for you on that. How did you first find out about The T1 Trust?

Don: Well someone, I think it was one of my brothers, sent me an e-mail with a link on it, and he thought it was pretty nifty, he wondered if I would be interested in looking at it, and it took me a few days before I got around to it and I was really amazed when I pulled up your website and saw all that you're doing. And I hadn't heard of it prior to that time and had no idea anything like this was going on. I'm well aware that there are locomotives that are being restored, but to actually have a new one from the wheels up, that's not going to be something that's 70 or 80 years old that needs to be resurrected from rust and decay and so on, but really, an engine like this, that could be one of the fastest in the world, we don't know that but it sure is a fast one, and to have it brand new instead of a restoration is... It's really a nifty concept. I'd really like to see what this... What we could do with this.

The T1 Trust: Well, let's see... What... So you've been following the wheels, and the purchase of the tender, and the fabrication of the prow and the cab, and all that.

Don: Yes.

The T1 Trust: What do you believe is the Trust's greatest asset?

Don: I think the list of curators that they have on there. There's some really big names of people who've been doing this. You don't just walk out today and find people that know how to build steam locomotives or restore them on every street corner. These are skills, takes a lot of job knowledge and skills that are harder to come by, and especially as America gets away from being smokestack America. You don't find boiler repair people and boiler-makers and people that have knowledge like that. You can't even go to a factory to find people with these kind of skills and job knowledge. So I think the list of curators is probably the most important asset that they have right now.

The T1 Trust: So that would lead me neatly onto the question I was going to ask you before, basically with regard to our overall activities and trajectory, what would you add to our ‘to-do’ list?

Don: I would think that... One of the things that I've wondered about, if you're already doing it, are there... Do you have people at train shows? Even if they're model train shows, you would certainly find interest there. And I don't know, and you're in marketing yourself, but do people... Are there people that are going out with a table or a booth with videos of T1 locomotives, the PRR T1s, and are they offering to sell your videos, your coffee mugs, the hats, and that sort of thing and raise awareness? And maybe make some sales of retail items along the way, I've wondered about that.

The T1 Trust: We go annually to the Pennsylvania Railroad Technical and Historical Society meets, we've given lectures there and we've answered questions, and... But as far as train shows are concerned, Brad handles the on-the-ground marketing, I am kind of more or less interviewing people, and kind of trekking around and doing the things that he's a little too tied down to handle. I believe they have done some model train shows, but I couldn't say with any degree of certainty when the most recent one we did.

Don: Yeah, I wonder if there would be people who would be willing to volunteer to man the table or a booth for a weekend or a day or two, something like that, it might be that you could... That that would be a way to raise awareness. I was just surprised that I hadn't heard of it previously, actually. I don't... I'm not real big into it, but it's been my life for many years and I just heard of it maybe three weeks ago, really. Maybe a month ago.

The T1 Trust: Well, we're always finding new people who haven't heard of us and it's... We're just one at a time is how we're doing it and so far it's served us pretty well.

Don: Yes, that's it. Well, word of mouth is a good way to do things. Especially if you get the right people.

The T1 Trust: Exactly, and that's our eventual goal, [chuckle] is to get all the right people. But we do have some great people working for us, as you said, and some of the knowledge and the skills that we've found in these people, we couldn't do it without them. It's that simple.

Don: Sure.

The T1 Trust: Speaking of meeting the right people, a couple of years ago, I was going out to Ohio to meet up with a bunch of friends, we get together every year, and this was right... Shortly after we cast the first driving wheel...

Don: Yes.

The T1 Trust: And I mentioned to Brad, I said, "Where are you putting this thing?" And I kinda joked with him because he keeps the keystone in his basement, and I said, "You're not putting this in your garage, are you? I don't think your wife would really appreciate that," and he says, "No, Jason's holding on to it," and I was like, "Oh, okay," and then a few weeks went by and I thought to myself, "Wait a second, I think Jason lives in Ohio." So I sent Brad a text and I said, "Does Jason live in Ohio?" He goes, "Yes, he does," and I say, "Where?" 'Cause I'm thinking, "Okay, I'll drive halfway across the state if it means getting to see this thing," and it turns out he lives in the next town over from the town where I was staying.

Don: Okay.

The T1 Trust: So I got to see the wheel and it was... I'll tell you, Don, it was... It's an astonishing piece of metal. And the fact that it came out of the mold right the first time...

Don: Yes!

The T1 Trust: Because even the foundry told us, they said, "Look, this is a really complex casting. The chances are good that it might not work the first time out," and...

Don: Right.

The T1 Trust: And it did, and just amazing, and they checked it and they heat-treated it and it's just astonishing.

Don: That they were able to get the right alloys of nickel, silver, and to not have known what it was, but, through metallurgy, to have been able to come up with that is an amazing story in itself.

The T1 Trust: Oh, absolutely, and I think it kind of... I think it flies in the face of this popular misconception that we can't build anything in this country anymore, and I think that we can if people are just given the chance.

Don: And that's an important point. That's one of the reasons I'm interested in doing this. We can do it and it's been done and we've got the people who know how to work through all this sort of thing to do it. I... People have asked me, "Where are they going to assemble it," and I don't know, I don't know that we're up to the point to make that decision, but I would guess at either Altoona or Strasburg would have the shop facilities, the job knowledge, and the skills and so on, would be in either one of those locations to do it. That would be just a guess off the top of my head, I don't know.

The T1 Trust: We haven't made any decisions yet. We do have a number of options on the table, so it's... But like you said, it's... We've got bigger fish to fry at the moment than that.

Don: Yeah, you haven't got a loco... You don't have all the puzzle pieces yet so you don't have to worry about whoever's going to lay it out, I understand.

The T1 Trust: Yeah. Let's see here. I've only got a couple more questions for you and then I'll cut you loose. [laughter] Why do you think all the T1s were all scrapped with not a single example saved?

Don: Why do I think what again?

The T1 Trust: Why do you think that all the T1s, the original T1s, were scrapped and not a single example saved?

Don: My guess to that is that they had a great idea in the T1s, but they dieselized... They didn't see that diesels coming... They didn't look over their shoulder to see the diesels coming. And when they came, they wanted to be modern and clean and sleek and all those things, and they... Before they had the T1s thoroughly tested and they got them operational and some of the initial bugs worked out of them, but I think they just... They just dropped them. They just figured that steam was on its way out, and there wasn't anyone nostalgic enough to have thought of saving one of them, which was a mistake. But it was just... I think it was just sleight of hand, I guess. One of those corporate decisions that... "Just get rid of them," so they get rid of the infant giants. That's my guess. That's all I can think of.

The T1 Trust: There was a very interesting... Something that somebody said about the duplex design in general, that had it showed up 15, 20 years before it did, and they had had time to work out the teething issues of having a new design, that the efficiency and the power and the speed that it offered would have... Would have possibly delayed the onset of dieselization by another 10 to 20 years.

Don: It may have. It really may have. I believe that's true.

The T1 Trust: And it's interesting, the... I was reading about the Norfolk Western... Norfolk and Western. They, as you know, were prolific steam locomotive designers and builders, and they... It was simply... The reason they were forced to dieselize, I think they dropped their last fires in 1960, they were the last ones to dieselize completely. The only reason they did it as soon as they did was because all the companies that made parts for these machines went out of business.

Don: That and they also burned what they hold, which is lots of coal.

The T1 Trust: Exactly. And I see...

Don: That's through the Pennsy, too. I'm sorry, go ahead.

The T1 Trust: No, it’s okay. I was simply saying, I seem to recall reading about... I don't... I never saw it with my own eyes, but there was a memo from the Norfolk and Western that said they planned to run and operate steam until at least 1975, and obviously that didn't happen, but I just thought that was... That was a very... It kind of goes back to what you were saying with how quickly the diesels came on. Nobody really expected them to take over eventually, I'm sure, but I don't think anybody really thought it was going to happen as quickly as it did.

Don: I think that's probably what happened. It just happened so fast, nobody thought. They were just so busy throwing the stuff out that they didn't say, "Hey, we need to save one or two of these," or anything like that. Just like that, yeah.

The T1 Trust: And they were new enough that nobody really... Really even thought they were that interesting. It'd be like somebody saying, "Well, we've got to save all of these GE Evolution Diesels." Say, example, something fancy comes out tomorrow and makes diesel irrelevant, which isn't going to happen, but the chances are good they probably wouldn't bother. [chuckle]

Don: Yeah, that's right. And that's another thing I think about. I read in Alvin Staufer's book on Pennsy Power, he had a... Was it a 4-4-0? The President of the Pennsylvania Railroad in the early 1900s had a favorite engineer called... His name was Martin Lee, and a fireman, and it's... The President of the Pennsylvania Railroad, it was Johnson Alexander Cassatt, he had to get to New York in a hurry. He would call his favorite engineer, and they would take a little steam engine with a man with a coal shovel. Now, this was before Penn Station was open, but they would get him to Jersey City in the same amount of time from downtown Philadelphia that... Or faster. A few minutes faster than today's Acela Express.


And I tell people this. Yeah, probably with wooden cars or maybe they were the earlier steel cars even, but I tell them that all of this was done with a funny little man with a coal shovel, and it's... And people think, "Oh no, you're kidding." All they've got today that they didn't have before was air... They've added air conditioning, and I guess a plug-in outlet for your computer, your laptop. But we're not really accomplishing anymore today. When they all congratulate themselves on this Acela thing, and it's wonderful, and it works, I guess it's a fine thing but it's all we've got; it's not any better than we had a 110 years ago, however. Now maybe they didn't run all of the trains that fast as they did for the President, but, nonetheless. And they've had a lot of... They've got better signaling today, they've got... They've straightened out some kinky curves. But really, we really don't... We haven't come very far in 100 or 110 years, really.

The T1 Trust: Yeah, yeah, it's...

Don: And that's why I'm interested in this because I think it really could be a... Make a big difference.

The T1 Trust: Well, that leads onto my second to last question. The T1 Trust is obviously working towards building an operational T1. What would you say is the most important reason to rebuild this particular engine, and what would it mean to you personally?

Don: I think it has a... Something faster than we have right now would mean a lot to the nation. I think people would be amazed. I think people would... When I talk to people about it now, they, " Oh, well that would burn coal, wouldn't it?" Well, I said, "Well, yes, it would burn coal. The United States is the Saudi Arabia of coal. Where have you been?" [chuckle] And I think because of politics in Washington to clean the air and everything, the people... Most people will just, "Oh, we can't do this now, we can't do that, and this won't get here and that... " And they accept mediocrity, and it comes through Washington, unfortunately, that way. But I think it's important to develop this technology that was sent to the scrap yard before it should've. And it would mean a lot to me to get this thing operational, get it up to speed to its full potential, and let the American people see what it can do. And that would mean a lot to me personally. I think the railroads have great potential, and it's not realized and it goes untapped year after year. So it would mean a lot to me to prove that, and that's my answer to that question.

The T1 Trust: Alright. Well, Don I’d like to thank you for taking the time to speak with me. Do you have any additional questions?

Don: No, I don't at this time. You've answered my questions, and I hope I've answered yours satisfactorily.

The T1 Trust: Absolutely.

Don: And I appreciate the work you do for the Trust and for singling me out to ask me for my experiences with all of this, and I hope we get to meet each other sometime.

The T1 Trust: Well, I'm usually traveling at least once a year for the Trust. We'll see what comes down the pipeline next year. It's kind of up to Brad and what he decides is worthy of sending me across the country. So we'll a... But if I'm a... I'm usually in the Philadelphia area at least once every other year so if I happen to get out that way, I'll definitely give you a buzz.

Don: Yeah, do that. Yeah, even if it was Harrisburg, places like that, it's not that far away. So, certainly. Yeah. We'll leave it, go with that, and we'll get together one of these years.

The T1 Trust: Sounds like a plan. Thank you so much, Don. Appreciate your time.

Don: Thank you, Andrew.

The T1 Trust: Have a good day.

Don: You too.

The T1 Trust: Thanks. Bye-bye.

Don: Bye-bye.


Call to Action

What does it mean to bring back the Pennsylvania Railroad T1 steam our community of supporters, it means a great deal! The PRR T1 represents the pinnacle of steam locomotive design in the United States, she was wrongly accused, falsely convicted and gone too soon; not a single example was saved. The T1 Trust is righting that wrong.

2017 was an extremely productive year for T1 Trust. Hundreds of hours were spent converting original PRR drawings into a CAD model of the locomotive's frame. In addition, engineering and design work on the locomotive's boiler has been completed. In March of this year, the T1 Trust cast the second steel driver for 5550 at Beaver Valley Alloy Foundry in Monaca, Pennsylvania. By May of 2017, the locomotive's iconic prow had been completed. Then in July, the locomotive's distinctive cab was completed at Curry Rail in Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania. The year was still young, when the T1 Trust bought the last remaining 16-wheel PRR long haul tender in August. To top things off, in October 2017 the T1 Trust received a very special donation, the needed stoker trough, gearbox, coal crusher, 7x7 stoker motor and reversing valve; all of the parts necessary to complete #5550's tender stoker unit.

The T1 Trust is bringing back the graceful and powerful Pennsylvania Railroad T1 Steam Locomotive one piece at a time. Please join us in a concerted effort to make 2018 an even more productive year; take a moment and make a gift to the T1 Trust. To make your gift simply visit the T1 Trust's fundraising page: or mail your donation to:
The T1 Trust
PO Box 552
Pottstown, PA 19464