Mike Condren Photos
St. Louis Southwestern
4-8-4 #819 Rebuilding

The following images were taken on May 28, 1985 inside the Cotton Belt shop in Pine Bluff, AR where the engine was originally built.
A friend took me for a ride on the overhead crane for the next few shots.

I was not of much help in rebuilding of the SSW 819, living about 150 miles away and having limited skills. I was given one job which I could do, cleaning the piston rod of the power reverse, see below.
However, I took the opportunity to do things I had never done before, nor would I ever have the opportunity again. I crawled into the firebox. I climbed into the smokebox. I climbed down the ladder into the water tank of the tender. I went into the inspection pit under the engine. WHAT A BLAST!

The following was written by Bill Bailey,Chief Mechanical Officer in charge of the 819 rebuilding project.
I hope this information and comments on Mike Condren's photos of St. L. S-W steam locomotive in the Dec. 1983 rebuilding stage are useful to you.  These photos confirm what a team effort combined with the original blueprints and a railroad shop building to perform the labor in can contribute to finish the objective.
In the 1980's, there were available skilled people with Cotton Belt Railroad mechanical departments and cooperating railroad staff that worked on the preservation of the last 800 L1's built in the Cotton Belt locomotive shop at Pine Bluff, AR.  On Dec. 13, 1983, I was named project director and Darrel Cason, assistant director.  Four major tasks confronted the rebuilding team.  At that point, locomotive 819 was inside the railroad shop building that the Cotton Belt R.R. had not used in four years.
First, how to remove and dispose of the asbestos insulation from the boiler, steam piping, and cylinder covers.
Second, the Cotton Belt/S-P Railroad engineering offices had discarded all operating boiler records, I.C.C. reports, and builder records required in the 1980's-90's by F.R.A. authorities.
Third, cleaning the interior tender five thousand gallon steam heated oil reservoir that had 8 inches of congealed petroleum substances in the tank bottom.
Fourth, inspection and testing of the locomotive and tender axle roller bearings after non-operation for 28 years.
The engineering boiler records were the major challenge of the four tasks.  Federal forms no. 1, no. 3, and most importantly form no. 4 had to be reproduced before a class 1 railroad and the F.R.A. would OK 819 operations on the interstate track system.  To regenerate federal boiler form no. 4, all the calculations of riveted boiler stress had to be recalculated in writing with all related boiler construction details, hydrostatics test details and results, and safety values to certify assurance.  These boiler documents required notary public approval and were checked by an outside firm registered by professional engineers to be stamped for approval.
The required boiler new form no. 4 was approved Jan. 4, 1986.  This took 4 months of my spare time and put my engineering skills to the test.  In Dec. 1985, I was named Chief Mechanical Officer and Darrel Cason, Mechanical Officer and Locomotive Fireman in Training.
The restored Cotton Belt 819 locomotive was moved out the R.R. shop building under steam pressure in April 1986.  The locomotive 819 and car consist's first trip was from Pine Bluff, AR to Fordyce, AR, April 26, 1986.
The Timken roller bearings met all test runs in Nov. 1988.
The restoration was all volunteer effort done with volunteer labor, contributions, and donations.  This was part of the task of rebuilding a 4-8-4 class Cotton Belt locomotive that traveled 804,600 miles after being placed in service Feb. 8, 1943 and then placed on non-active service July 14, 1955.
Aside from the historical aspect, steam locomotives are fascinating from the mechanical viewpoint.  Between operational control and knowledge of its construction, safety and perfection are created.
Bill B. Bailey, retired
Little Rock, AR

This page was designed and is maintained by Mike Condren.
Earlier issues of Recent Trains are available through the indexes.
If you would like to receive the next issue of Recent Trains,
request that your email address be put on the distribution list
by emailing me at mcondren@cbu.edu.