As the world slowly emerges from lockdown, The T1 Trust, like all of us, seeks a safe and speedy return to normal. But throughout the past few months, supporters like you have continued to donate and with that generosity comes positivity and progress. Take a break from whatever your routine has become over the last few months and let our good news brighten your day. And boy, do we have some good news for you!
Boiler Smokebox Completion
At the end of June, Continental Fabricators built and attached the twelve-foot-long smokebox to the boiler that had been previously fabricated.
This is the boiler from the front of the smokebox, looking rearward. And for a bit of scale, this opening measures 8 feet (2.4 meters) across!
Seen here and on the following page are some closeups of Continental’s gorgeous welding work.
Smokebox Bolt Ring
But wait…there’s more! Once the smokebox was attached to the boiler, Continental then welded the bolt ring into place which will allow the T1’s signature streamlined prow to be attached.
Here’s a great shot showing all three sections (boiler, smokebox and bolt ring) welded together. All of the welds are X-rayed to ensure perfection, and everything is stress relieved once welding is complete.
This is the rear of the boiler, facing forward. The steam dome is also visible inside.
Smokebox Extension Complete – Fabricated in Ohio by Gemini Industrial Machine, the smokebox extension will be shipped to Saint Louis to be attached directly to the bolt ring that was welded to the front of the smokebox itself.
Frame Update – From the beginning people have wanted to know how we’re tackling the frame and the good news is, we’re getting closer and closer to making that happen. With long-time sponsor JakTool doing the CAD work for us, we are looking to get started on the frame in earnest once the boiler is complete.
The decision has been made to cast the frame in pieces, the shape and size of which will be determined by the work being done by JakTool. They have modeled the original, single piece cast frame and are working to determine the best way to weld the segments of the new one so that the amount of rigidity and flex are virtually identical to the original.
The T1 Trust: Okay, so why don't you go ahead and kick us off by introducing yourself?
Wolfgang Fengler: Well, my name is Wolfgang Fengler, I'm a mechanical engineer. I was contacted by the T1 Trust some years ago to see if I could help out with some of the design work, particularly around the boiler, and I've got a background. So a lot of things in my career after graduating from UCLA with a master's degree, done everything from work on fuel cells to a high-tech weapons in a process called physical vapor deposition, to... For the last ten or so years, to work specifically in the rail industry. Everything from doing some passenger car work to working on some advanced alternative fuel concepts, including natural gas and hydrogen projects. And as part of the natural gas work, I get to serve on AAR committee that put together the standards for fuel testers for natural gas car trains, and that was kind of an interesting experience to be part of and really got me involved in some of the behind the scenes details, and a lot of folks don't realize they're so critical to how the rail system works, being able to interchange cars and locomotives and other equipment for railroad derailment.
T1 Trust: There's definitely a lot of stuff and everything going on in the background that you know people don't know is essential to it. Let's see, so getting into railroading, was that something that you were kind of interested in as a child, or was it just something you kinda just fell into later on?
WF: Well, that's kind of an interesting story. Like most kids, my dad got me an HO Scale Train Set when I was six or seven, and my dad was into train since he was a boy, and I was fortunate that my parents' house is a couple of blocks off of a harbor subdivision, which is in the Los Angeles area, used to be part of the Santa Fe route to port of Los Angeles. Back when I was a kid, we got to see a lot of trains going through everything from the early days of intermodal to the circus train coming by once in a while. But that was kind of my early start, and then my dad... I obviously checked out as many train books from the local library as I could, and then when my dad opened his car repair shop, he had a machine shop, a certain equipment, with that a milling machine, a lathe and some welding equipment.
WF: Then when I was about 12 and in the Boy Scouts, I was working on my photography merit badge and stopped by a place a called Train Museum. It was just maybe five miles from my dad's house and... Anyway, I was there in part because of the company next door, which is called Little Engines, which made castings and parts for 1/8 scale live steams. I started bugging my dad about it, and he thought long and hard about it and he said, "Well, tell you what, if you agree to put in... Get a job and put in a portion of the money towards the parts and you agree to diligently work with me, I will teach you how to do milling and machining, and these other things that you need." That we can build it 'cause we couldn't afford to just go out and buy one, we didn't really have the tools to take the rough castings and such. So three years later, we had a live steamer ready.
T1 Trust: Wow.
WF: That was a lot of fun for the kids, kind of an interesting way to grow up. Right about the time we got our live steamer running, was about the time that Santa Fe 3751 was taken out of the park and over to the steel mill in Fontana [California] for restoration. So of course, all of us being guys have a big interest in that restoration, it was the closest big steam in the LA area that we could get excited about. My dad and I were able to go out and visit a couple of times to the facility in Fontana, but that was about a two hour drive from where we lived, so it wasn't convenient at that time to really get involved too actively in the restoration, but of course, I still had an interest in it. And another interesting part of that story, which is kind of fun if you don't mind me taking the time to tell it...
T1 Trust: No, go on.
WF: In the mid '80s, of course, I was, besides building a live steamer, I was subscribed to a couple of rail fan magazines, and at the time, Ross Rowland had taken 614 and outfitted it with sensors and such for the ACE 3000 project. And so I remember the particular issue of one of the great magazines, had a spread about that whole program where they were doing in-service speed testing of that locomotive hauling freight trains in the middle of winter. But in that same magazine was also an article about David Wardell's work with the Red Devil in South Africa. My dad came of age in the '50s, so he was a bit of a hot rodder at heart. Obviously with the car repair shop, it kinda makes sense. Anyway, he and I both read through that, and we're like, "I wonder if we can apply some of this advanced steam technology to do a live steam locomotive." So, we started playing around with that on our little live steamer, which is just a tiny little coal fired one, but it ended up having thermic siphon and super-heaters and a triple venturi smokestack...
T1 Trust: That's awesome.
WF: Steam passages, all that stuff. And another funny little sidebar from that conversation. We finished our locomotive and we would kick around between the two of us, what other locomotives we might want to build sometime in the future. And the T1 was actually very high on the list because we both thought it was a really amazing bit of engineering and styling, of course. So fast forward a few years, I was in college working on my engineering degree and particularly in grad school at UCLA, being one of the... Basically, the starting point to the Internet. We had access in our labs to the World Wide Web, with decent interconnect speeds and... So that got me in touch with folks in South Africa trying to get more information on David Wardell's work and eventually got me in touch with David Wardell himself and then Dante Porter later. So even though I wasn't as active in my college years and seeing the steam world, I did keep up on the technology and start to make some interesting contacts.
08:05 WF: After I got done with college, the year I got my Master's degree, actually the year before, it was 1999. They moved 3751 from San Bernardino to the Los Angeles area, and that was finally within a reachable driving range for me. Into the following summer, just before I got my degree, started volunteering there. I cut my teeth on big steam and learned the ropes, actually bruising my knuckles, getting cuts and other things, actually turning wrenches, and I happened to be there at a good time where I could help with the Form 4 that was new at that time. At that point, there hadn't been too many of the big steamers that had gone through the new Form 4 process, so it was a big learning curve for all of us trying to work our way through all the calculations, figuring out what was required and, of course, gaining experience as a fireman and that sort of thing.
So fast forward a few years beyond that, then I really wasn't working in the rail industry at that point other than my volunteering with the San Bernardino Railroad Historical Society. But beyond that, my career went from fuel cells into physical vapor deposition stuff. And that company that I had been working for on that side, basically I had a long, long story there, but I ended up leaving that company for a number of reasons and I was out of work at the time. And to take a very long-winded story and bring it full circle, I responded to a call from Ross Rowland on one of the rail fan forums, basically looking for information on locomotives that would help support 614 in the Greenbrier Presidential Express project that he was working to put together. So, he and I got to talking and which is, like I said kinda funny, because that Railfan Magazine, fifteen years prior and had kinda come full circle at the time. I ended up working with Ross on natural gas projects as well as the Greenbrier Presidential Express. And what what was funny about that is our offices were there in Pottstown and the chief mechanical officer for the T1 project were to add one of the other factories, literally like two blocks from where our offices were.
T1 Trust: Wow!
WF: So that was my first real exposure to the project beyond just the checking out the website level, was talking to Scott and with Ross, and I had lunch with them. And from there, I got contacted some years later by Jason when the boiler work started to get serious, and that's the long-winded version of how we got here, so...
T1 Trust: That's a really neat story. I like how you guys added the advanced steam technology to a live 0-6-0. That is just never something I would have thought of. That's really cool. Really, really cool. 'Cause I've seen those, there's a gentleman here in Portland who's got a warehouse in the old Northwest Industrial District, and it's basically a huge model railroad, and it runs in and out of the building, he's got doors he can open, and it's got tunnels and bridges. And I've seen some of those live steamers and they're just amazing.
WF: Yeah, it was a great, great learning experience for me just... And a great thing for my dad and I to connect on, because your teen years are always just a little bit funny as you're growing up and kinda figuring out what adulthood would look like, but that's something that my dad and I have always been able to do. To connect with and obviously, set me up very well for a career in engineering is that hands-on reality of components and moving from the design on blueprint into actual hardware and how hardware performs in real life.
T1 Trust: So, let me see here... So I know you kinda touched briefly on this, but maybe just go into a little more detail. How did you first learn about the T1 Trust?
WF: I learned about it through a couple of the online forums. I forget which one, but about the time that it was being organized and really made public. And to be frank, a lot of my early thoughts were, "Wow, this is a really cool project, but it's also really ambitious." So, I had my concerns about how real it was gonna be. And then, when I started talking to Scott and to Jason, I just realized the depth of thought and the ability of the people behind it, and I was like, "Hey, this really has some legs."
T1 Trust: Yeah, that was my first thought. I think I found out about it in late 2013, early 2014, and I thought, "Who is running this? Is this some 11-year-old kid in his mom's basement with a PayPal account... " [chuckle] And I just sat there, and I watched for the next probably three or four months, as you said, more and more people with some clout in the steam world and I remember when Ross Rowland gave it his blessing. I thought, "Alright, well, if it's good enough for him, it's good enough for me." [chuckle] And so I got in touch with Brad, and we had about an hour-long phone conversation, and he finally brought me on as a kind of a media relations type guy. He asked somebody to come up with the newsletter, I volunteered to do that, and I've just been, as I said, in the email yesterday, I'm just grateful to be a part of this, it's just an astonishing thing.
WF: It really, it really is. I have some contacts over in Britain. And as amazing as the Tornado project, this is somewhat modeled after... Just the scale for me is impressive, and just the ability to hold together the design and manufacturing wherewithal to basically recreate what I think a lot of us feel is an important piece of industrial history. To me, even just the process that we're going through to recreate it is an incredible learning experience that's gonna bear fruit for the steam preservation world for many decades to come.
T1 Trust: I think it's also kind of the flying in the face of that idea that we can't build things in this country anymore. I'm not saying that's a widespread belief, but there are people out there that they think we have no industry or no steel or anything like that, and everything comes from China or India, but we've proven that you can still design and build things here.
WF: Yeah, absolutely.
T1 Trust: It's interesting, I had dinner with my parents last night, and my mom, we kinda got to talking about this, and she confided in me when I first started, she thought ‘That seems a little ambitious, but you do what you want’ and she never really thought it was gonna get to where it is, and to be honest with you, I had my doubts as well. But she said last night, she goes, "There's some good juju over this project." [chuckle] Those were her words, not mine. [laughter]
T1 Trust: So anyway, so compared to your initial thoughts, how do you feel about the T1 Trust now?
WF: I'm really excited. Again, the team that's been assembled is top-notch, and it's not just dreamers, it's people that have been in trenches for years and seen a lot. Obviously, you need a little bit of both, but with the organizational skills behind it, and even the sequencing of what's being built first and the more I've been involved, the more impressed I've been with the team and the approach.
T1 Trust: My observation is that it has been very methodical and just very logical, for lack of a better term.
WF: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah.
T1 Trust: So, I see. Let's see, what do you think are the greatest challenges the Trust faces, and how do you think they might best be overcome?
WF: Probably the biggest challenge to me is keeping people's interest over the long haul. Even though we've been able to take some steps, like acquiring the long-haul tender, so we don't have to build that from scratch, that will definitely shorten the timeline. I think being able to maintain people's interest over time is probably the biggest challenge. And I think The Trust so far has done a great job of dealing with that, as we were talking about by intelligently staging the different construction parts of the project. Right now, we're hard at work on a boiler, which piece by piece people can see it being built, and it's just like starting with the wheel and the prow and things that, these are small, achievable, tangible goals that just continue to build excitement in the project and keep people's interest over time. I think we're doing the right thing in taking that approach.
T1 Trust: I totally agree with you. I haven't seen the boiler in person yet, but I remember seeing when we had the first wheel cast back in 2016, I was heading out to Ohio to meet with some friends, and I kinda thought to myself, "Wait a second," and I texted Brad, I said, "Wait a second. Jason lives in Ohio, doesnt he?" And he said yes, and I asked him where. And it was literally the next town over from where I was staying.
WF: That sounds cool.
T1 Trust: And I had planned... I said, "I'll drive across the Buckeye State, to get my hands on this wheel for just a few minutes." I wanted to see it. And so, Jason met me after I landed and took me to his shop, and it was just sitting there on a pallet, and I remember just saying something to him and I clapped eyes on it and I lost if you’ll pardon the pun, I lost my train of thought. I was just floored. So, to see the boiler and all of that together is gonna be something else entirely.
WF: Definitely another level. [chuckle]
T1 Trust: Yeah, I'd say so. Let's see. You've already kind of touched on this briefly, but what do you see as the Trust's greatest assets?
WF: Honestly, the people. As I mentioned, and you mentioned just a moment ago, the team that's been assembled, really has that experience. You look at Gary Bensman and Jason himself, and some of the others that have been around the industry for a while, have turned wrenches and shoveled coal and all this stuff, keeping steam alive, just the brain trust, the bond, just the kind of people you need to actually make it happen.
T1 Trust: Yup.
WF: And not only just the construction part, but the operational side afterwards. 'Cause a lot of people who try to get into this type of work of steam preservation, they see an engine in a park and then say, "Oh, let's restore it." But they don't really think long term. The first question you should ask is, "What are you gonna do with it? Where are you gonna run it, once you restore it or build it?" in our case. And those are things that have been addressed early on in one project and a lot of people still ask that question even though it's already been answered. A couple of short lines that have already agreed to give us some rails to run on. But the fact that the team anticipated those sorts of things ahead of time, just further adds to the depth of that asset. And thinking through the entire program, not just, "Oh, let's build it. Oh, let's restore it."
T1 Trust: Yeah, you can get started, but you gotta see it through. Alright, last question, is there any other advice that you would give to the Trust?
WF: Oh, golly. I'd just say keep on keeping on. The Trust has been... I thought has handled itself well. Dave, just keeping those goals going and keeping the communication going with the supporters. Because as long as they keep going as they have been, we're gonna get it over the goal line.
T1 Trust: I think so. Alright, well, Wolf, I appreciate you taking the time to talk to me. Do you have any questions for me that I can try my best to answer for you?
WF: No, I think I'm good.