WW&F Locomotive No. 9

Newly restored WW&F locomotive No. 9 December 5th, 2015 at Alna Center, the first day No. 9 travelled under steam over our restored Railway. It was a first test run, in anticipation of a public debut during Victorian Christmas later that month.  Stephen Hussar photo.

WW&F locomotive No. 9 was built in 1891 by the Portland Company, Portland, Maine, for the Sandy River Railroad in Maine’s Franklin county.  It was the 622nd locomotive built by Portland and one of ten two-foot gauge locomotives built by that manufacturer.  It is the only surviving steam locomotive from three of the five historic Maine two-foot gauge common carrier railroads:  The Sandy River & Rangeley Lakes; Kennebec Central; and Wiscasset, Waterville & Farmington.

What follows is a history of the locomotive, followed by the work required to return her to service after last steaming in 1933/4.

On the Sandy River Railroad
Sandy River Railroad No. 5 moving past some early Sandy River Railroad boxcars, probably during the 1890s. WW&F Railway Museum archives.

The Sandy River Railroad received its first Portland Company locomotive in the fall of 1890, builder’s number 616, which became Sandy River No. 4.  Sandy River’s management must have been pleased with No. 4’s performance, as they accepted builder’s number 622 in the spring of 1891, which became Sandy River’s No. 5.

The Sandy River was a busy railroad, connecting with the two-foot gauge railroads Franklin and Megantic (F&M) at Strong and the Phillips and Rangeley (P&R) at Phillips, and providing a standard gauge connection with the Maine Central at Farmington.

No. 5 performed adequately during its years of service but was damaged in several accidents and roundhouse fires.  The locomotive briefly bore the name N. B. Beal when it first arrived in honor of Nathaniel Beal, an officer of the Sandy River for many years.

On the Sandy River & Rangeley Lakes Railroad
SR&RL No. 6 in January, 1908 (right after the SR&RL consolidation), hauling an F&M flanger and at least two cars out of Strong Station. The two men are (l-r) fireman Charles French and engineer Dan Cushman. Photo courtesy of the Boothbay Railway Museum archives.
SR&RL No. 6, on the roundhouse tracks at Phillips. This picture clearly shows the newly painted engine. Photo courtesy of the Walker Transportation Collection.

In 1908, the Sandy River merged with the Franklin & Megantic and Phillips & Rangeley railroads to become the Sandy River & Rangeley Lakes, thus formalizing a union that had informally been in place since their beginnings.  With the consolidation, Sandy River No. 5 became SR&RL No. 6.  Business was very good, and the newly numbered 6 was kept busy.

However, as the years progressed and larger and larger motive power arrived, the smaller engines started to get put aside.  The 0-4-4’s couldn’t compete with the 2-4-4’s and the 2-6-2’s for tonnage hauling.  Eventually business began dropping off as well. Finally, in November of 1924, No. 6 was sold to the Kennebec Central Railroad, ending almost 35 years of service on the SR&RL system.

Years later, we see No. 6’s days on the SR&RL are numbered. Here she is stored cold, on a side track some time prior to her sale to the Kennebec Central. The date is unknown. Photo courtesy of the Walker Transportation Collection.
On the Kennebec Central Railroad
The engine has been sold to the Kennebec Central, and now carries the number 4. We see her here spotted at the turntable in Randolph Yard. It’s between 1924 and 1929. Photo courtesy of Dick Bolt.

On the KCRR, the new arrival was given the No. 4.  Her task on this railroad was hauling the coal from the docks on the Kennebec River in Randolph to the Old Soldiers’ Home in Togus, a distance of a little over five miles.

Unfortunately, the coal contract was awarded to trucks in 1928, and the KCRR could not last long on the meager passenger income.  The KCRR shuts its doors that year, and its two engines, Nos. 3 (also a Portland Company product) and 4, lay dormant until 1933, when the railroad was purchased by WW&F owner Frank Winter.  Winter’s goal was the two operational engines. Both locomotives were hauled by flatbed truck in mid-winter overland to Wiscasset, the first such move of flatbed trucks in Maine.

On the Wiscasset, Waterville & Farmington Railway

KCRR No. 4 was renumbered to WW&F No. 9 and put into service.  No. 9 operated intermittently over the road until early June 1933, when she was sidelined with a broken frame member.  Sister locomotive No. 8 (the former KCRR No. 3) derailed on June 15, 1933, closing the railroad.  No. 9 is thought to have operated one more time, in 1934 from Wiscasset to the Top of the Mountain in Alna to show prospective buyers the railroad.

This locomotive was serendipitously saved from the scrapper’s torch through the actions of a group of railroad enthusiasts in 1937, along with WW&F flatcar No. 118 and boxcar No. 309.  It was brought to the farm of Frank Ramsdell in West Thompson, Conn.  First Frank, and then his daughter Alice, cared for the locomotive until her death in 1994.

No. 9’s Restoration to Service

Our Railway’s Chief Mechanical Officer Jason Lamontagne shared the chronology of No. 9’s restoration from this point forward in our March/April 2016 WW&F Newsletter, which is presented here:

1970s: WW&F Railway Museum founder Harry Percival befriends Alice Ramsdell, offering to perform light maintenance on No. 9 at her farm in Connecticut. He does so until Alice’s passing in 1994.

1995: Alice’s nephew and No. 9’s new owner, Dale King, offers to allow the locomotive to return to the WW&F Railway.  No. 9 returns to home rails just in time for the centennial celebration of the first revenue Wiscasset & Quebec Railroad train February 18th.  We have the honor of several guest speakers, including Dale King and then-governor (now Senator) Angus King (no relation).

No. 9 in the process of being loaded onto a trailer at the Ramsdell Farm in early 1995, in preparation for its return trip back to the WW&F.  WW&F Railway Museum archives.

1996: Initial efforts at restoration are undertaken, including rehabilitation of the rear truck, fabrication of several small components, and hydrostatic testing of the boiler. Ultimately the locomotive is prepared for, and operated on, compressed air; this operation continues through 1997. These early efforts are led by Harry Percival, with help from Keith Taylor, Roscoe Woodman, Jason Lamontagne and several others.

No. 9 runs under compressed air in October 1996 with restored flatcar No. 118.  She is seen near Brook Crossing curve, pointed southbound, within sight of Sheepscot Station.  WW&F Railway Museum archives.

1998: The boiler is given an ultrasonic test by Jan Bihower and found to be unsuitable for service.  Our Museum decides to work with owner Dale King to arrange a suitable long-term agreement to rebuild the locomotive with a new boiler.  Museum President Larson Powell leads the effort to iron out these details.

2000: The agreement is finalized and fundraising begins.  Research is started on potential boiler builders.

2004: Fundraising has progressed to the point where we are confident we can fund the entire restoration.  A request for bids to construct a new ASME-code boiler is sent to three potential builders.  The lowest bid is obtained from Boothbay Railway Village; their close proximity and good working relationship allow us to have a close hand in the fine details of design and construction of the boiler, while keeping costs under control.

2005: Physical construction of the new boiler begins.

2006: The new boiler reaches 50% completion.  With this, No. 9 is dismantled in preparation for close mechanical evaluation and restoration.

2007: A myriad of locomotive components are cleaned and inspected.  The forward frame is stripped, and preparations made for repairing several areas of concern thereon.  We conclude that the front and rear frames’ connection via the boiler, an unsafe practice abandoned in later steam locomotive design, is not suitable for our restoration.  Plans are made for a new steel casting to connect the frames; research is made for a supplier of this component.

2008: Work continues on the forward frame.  Components of a new rear frame are cut out, assembled, and riveted.  The frame connector casting is ordered.  In an effort to reuse as many original parts as possible, Ed Gilhooley spends great effort on removing the smokebox from the original boiler.

2009: The frame connector casting is reviewed and found to be faulty.  We arrange for and procure a replacement, and the original finds a role as a crane counterweight.  Work commences on carefully machining the new unit’s fit to the forward and rear frames.  Boothbay Railway Village completes the new boiler; it arrives at Sheepscot Station in late summer.  After studying the now-freed original smokebox, we conclude that it’s not salvageable.  A replacement is ordered.

2010: The new smokebox is fit and riveted to the new boiler.  We gather a good team for this including Dave Crow, Leon Weeks, Dana Deering, James Patten, Wayne Laepple and others.  The cylinders are sent to Machinery Services of Wiscasset for boring and sleeve installation.  After great difficulty in repairing the forward frame, we conclude that repair isn’t feasible.  We design and order a replacement.  Zack Wyllie fits and installs the original sand dome and steam dome castings on the new boiler.

2011: Having received the new forward frame and the bored and sleeved cylinders, we begin erecting the frame.  This begins with carefully aligning and joining the frame casting to the rear frame.  Ultimately the forward frames and cylinders, along with numerous other parts, are added the same year.  This is careful, precise work, aided greatly by Jonathan St. Mary, though many volunteers had their hands in.  Thanks to John McNamara for the laser sight used in aligning the frames.  The Amherst Railway Society awards a $1,500 grant toward No. 9’s restoration.

2012: Having completed erecting the basic frame, we separate it into two halves to be moved and reassembled under the boiler.  This work is led by Rick Sisson during Spring Work Weekend, with help from many.  We then carefully make the permanent connections between the smokebox, firebox and frame.  We are then prepared to “tram” the locomotive, with many thanks to Keith Taylor’s friend Don Micheletti for the great “whirly gig” tramming fixture idea! With tram measurements in hand, we proceed to machine and install shoes and wedges.  Part of this process is turning the main driver journals, replacing one crown brass, and truing the remaining driving boxes and brasses.  The drivers are installed late in the year; an attempt being made at side rod installation.  With this we discover that the crank pins are very misplaced in the driver castings, due to various hastily-made historic repairs over the years.

2013: After studying the crank pin problem and considering alternatives, we decide to design and build a portable crank pin lathe.  Construction of this machine consumes several months, interspersed with other efforts.  Once completed, however, it makes short work of correcting the crank pins late in the year.  The side rods are readily applied once the pin correction process is completed.

2014: The first part of the year sees all rear-frame work completed, such as brakes, grate shakers, blow down apparatus, rear truck swing links, and paint.  After the rear frame decking is completed, focus shifts to preparing for a boiler steam test, which will occur prior to the installation of lagging.  Harold Downey and son Alan perform a spectacular restoration of No. 9’s face, reproducing the pilot and a myriad of accessories associated with it.  Most final plumbing is installed, culminating in a steam test in November.  Alan Downey makes patterns to reproduce No. 9’s original whistle.  It is cast by Nashua Foundry late in the year, after which Eric Schade performs most machining and finish work.

2015: The year begins with a major effort to insulate and jacket the locomotive.  A few years prior, Leon Weeks had made jacket standoffs upon which to mount the new jacket.  Wes Carpenter had also spent substantial time preparing plastic sheet templates of the various jacket components; he also insulated most of the boiler after its 2014 steam test.  Planning on our reproduced American Rolled Iron jacket, we begin the process of polishing iron sheets we procured from England, only to resign ourselves to hiring this out.  The jacket pieces are CNC-waterjet cut, polished, black-oxide treated, and installed during the summer.  The National Railway Historical Society had provided $5,000 to help fund the boiler jacket research and fabrication through a 2013 National Railway Heritage Grant.  Thanks to their support, we document the work and produce this PDF report on the results.  We also proceed with driving gear; Bruce Mowbray kindly re-machines our pistons and rods.  Gordon Cook devises and prepares new piston rod packing; we finish our drive rod and crosshead fitting in-house.  After Leverett Fernald of Cianbro Corporation surface-grinds our slide valves, Randy Beach gets acquainted with them while lapping them to their seats.  Brendan Barry sandblasts and coats the tank, while Marcel Levesque concludes a many-year and very meticulous restoration of the cab, with help from Galo Hernandez.  Eric Schade becomes a proficient blacksmith as parts for No. 9 were needed, and Jonathan St. Mary provides great assistance for fine machine work.

After 80+ Years, Back in Steam!

WW&F locomotive No. 9 is seen at Alna Center December 5th, 2015, ready for the return trip on its first test run.  Stephen Hussar photo.

Eric Schade documented the December 5th trial run in a YouTube video.

Over the next two weeks, minor adjustments and additional tests were made to the restored locomotive so it could be ready for its debut in public train service during our 2015 Victorian Christmas December 19th.  WMTW’s Hometown Maine featured our planned debut of No. 9 during the holiday event.

WW&F No. 9 leads a full southbound train across Humason Brook trestle during our 2015 Victorian Christmas December 19th.  The locomotive made 6 round trips between Sheepscot and Alna Center this day; its trains that day carried over 750 passengers in total.  Stephen Hussar photo.

Railroad photographer Kevin Madore documented our 2015 Victorian Christmas featuring No. 9 in a Flicker photo album.

Since that successful debut, No. 9 has become our primary locomotive for public trains and special events, and has seen frequent use in work trains, including construction of our Mountain Extension.  No. 9 is the oldest of the remaining Maine two-foot gauge engines and is one of two surviving Portland Company locomotives.

After 86+ years, WW&F locomotive No. 9 crossed Trout Brook again on Sunday, October 13th, 2019.  Her last trip across the brook had been in 1933.  Our new Trout Brook bridge had been put into place a year earlier, and rails on our Mountain Extension were laid across the bridge the previous day.  Stewart Rhine photo.

Additional details about No. 9’s restoration can be found here on our Discussion Forum.

Rebuilding Maine History