As the smile of the Halloween pumpkins fades and our thoughts turn to the coming holidays, The T1 Trust continues to carve out 5550’s future.
Frame Work Continues – T1 Trust corporate sponsor JAKTOOL continues to demonstrate their dedication to the Trust’s cause in their tireless work to bring the T1’s massive frame into the modern world. Modeling the frame as it was originally designed as a single, cast piece, JAKTOOL is testing the frame to see where the stresses travel through it as the locomotive runs. Using this information, they will determine where best the frame can be divided to allow fabrication using modern weldment techniques.
A Small Piece Finds Its Way Home – As the original T1s continued to vanish through the mid-1950s, the late Art Audley, then a young man, found himself exploring #5543 as it awaited its inevitable date with the scrapper’s torch. While photographing the locomotive, he noticed a front marker light hanging loose by its wires and decided it would make a great keepsake.
Following Mr. Audley’s passing, the marker light found its way into the hands of a T1 Trust member and joins the whistle as one of the few original T1 parts left in existence. The marker’s red color is appropriate given its intended use on the PRR which was only when the locomotive was facing in reverse on the rear of a train.
Above: One of Mr. Audley’s photographs showing the prow of 5543 on the scrap line. The marker light that he removed can be seen just at the edge of the frame with the lens hanging loose.
Following page: A PRR technical drawing showing the design of the lamp housing and lens for the marker light.
5550 Metal Signs Now Available – In a partnership with EM Metal Works of Towanda, Pennsylvania, The T1 Trust is proud to offer a limited run of these artistic signs that show your support of the 5550 project. Available in silver or red, this eye-catching design is sure to stand out no matter where you put it.
Call to Action–Help the T1 Trust take the next step in boiler construction for T1 #5550. The Front Flue Sheet shown above has a complicated array of braces and stays which allow for the 300 psi super-power boiler pressure needed for the T1 to meet and exceed its epic design requirements. Able to pull a 1000 ton train at 100 mph, the T1 was just what the PRR needed to get passengers from Pittsburgh to St. Louis and Chicago quickly. Now the T1 Trust needs your help to finish the job we’ve started on the boiler. The Front Flue Sheet is made of 92” diameter, 5/8” thick boiler plate with an estimated weight of 3,000lbs the cost for construction of this essential boiler piece is $15,000 with your help It Can Be Done! Please visit https://prrt1steamlocomotivetrust.org/station/index.php?route=boiler/boiler and become a member of the T1 Trust’s Boiler Club today.
An Interview with Ron Gawedzinski – In October, the T1 Trust had a chance to speak with Ron Gawedzinski, former President and current National Representative of the St. Louis Chapter of the NRHS.Ron was lucky enough to tour Continental Fabricators and got a chance to see 5550’s boiler up close and personal.
The T1 Trust: Alright. First of all, I want to thank you for taking the time to speak with me today.
Ron: You're welcome.
The T1 Trust: First of all, why don't you walk us through where you grew up and how you first got involved in trains.
Ron: Well, I grew up here in St. Louis, Missouri. And for most of my life, I spent here in this area, though there was a time that I was in North Carolina for three years for a military service and eight years in Dayton, Ohio. And my interest in trains came about sort of late in life. I mean, I did have trains when I was a grade school youngster, an American Flyer train set that my father gave me and another one later on. But I got interested in, shall we say, the big trains, full-size ones in, let's say, about 1997 or so, and I was already a member of the National Model Railroad Association, which I got into back in 1975 when I lived in Dayton, Ohio.
There, model railroading was considered a very hot hobby. So, I got introduced to the details of that... When I moved back here to St. Louis, and I found out about the National Railway Historical Society and the programs they had and what they offered you, I decided to join them. Therefore, I could enjoy, shall we say, the benefits and advantages of working with small trains, as well as working and riding big trains.
The T1 Trust: Would you say your professional career led you to this, or was this just something that kind of found you later on?
Ron: This was something that found me later on. It had nothing to do with my professional career as such. And so, I enjoyed it. And some of my close high school friends were also into the hobby, so, from talking with them and visiting them, I learned more about the hobby. I can see it and enjoy it. And as I said, when I get back here to St. Louis and rode on several of the train excursions that the St. Louis Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society sponsored, then that increased my enjoyment of trains to the big sized.
The T1 Trust: How did you first find out about the T1 Trust?
Ron: Well, it was through mentioning by some fellow members of the St. Louis Chapter that this particular endeavor was going on. Plus, we were beginning to receive flyers, or shall we say, information in the Railroad social media that this was happening. But in the beginning, some of us thought that this was a tremendously large undertaking that would involve many hundreds of thousands, if not over a million or two or so of dollars. And while we were very happy, or proud, that this group was taking this on, we also knew that this was going to be one heck of a challenge for them to achieve.
Well then, as time went on, we were receiving little bits of progress information in the Railroad social media, as well as word-of-mouth, that little by little, they were making steady progress. This was good to hear. Our chapter was having its monthly meeting on Wednesday, September 5 and Brad Noble gave a PowerPoint presentation on the latest status of the T1 Trust progress. And it was a very informative and enjoyable presentation, quite impressive with what they had to go through, particularly in gathering the hundreds of drawings to even begin the process and all that that entailed. And then from the drawings, trying to figure out the process of where do we begin, where do we go, and then how do we get some of these parts built, and who were we going to have working on it, etcetera, etcetera.
It was a very informative, educational, and enjoyable presentation. Yeah. Coincidentally, at that time, Trains Magazine came out with an article, and let's see, I think it was July of 2018. Yeah, somewhat July, where they said The Pennsylvania Railroad T1 rises in St. Louis, and that was an article written by Steve Smedley. And it went into some detail about the boiler courses are coming together for the lost duplex.
Well, and I get Trains magazine, so when I read that, I got the idea of this would be a great joint group tour between the two railroad groups that I belong to, the St. Louis Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society and the Gateway Division of the National Model Railroad Association. So I was able to arrange a tour of Continental Fabricators here in St. Louis for members of the two groups to enjoy. That turned out to be a big success. We had 30 members, and the members of the Continental Fabricators were a great hosts, and particularly, Fred Steinkuehler, if I pronounced his name correctly, who is the Vice President of Plant Production, was a great informative tour leader.
We were able to walk around the site, see many details of how they begin to roll boilers from flat plate. And besides, the T1 that was being manufactured as a new boiler, there was also a new boiler being manufactured for the Mid-Continent Railway Museums former Chicago and North Western 4-6-0, number 1385. And there were a couple of others that were going on, and even one of them was a small miniature steam locomotive boiler that was being rehabilitated for the Wabash, Frisco and Pacific miniature tourist railroad. I gave you a lengthy answer. I'm sorry if I gave you a lot more than you wanted to hear, but...
The T1 Trust: No, this is fine. It's always great to hear, I love... It's not possible for me to be everywhere the Trust is, 'cause as you know, I'm in Portland [Oregon], so I have to live vicariously through other people's adventures. [chuckle]
The T1 Trust: But going back to what you were saying about extracting the documents, about close to three years ago, when we were still in the middle of that, I got sent to Pennsylvania for some face-to-face interviews, which we do from time to time. And I got to meet up with Kurt Bell, who runs the Pennsylvania State Archives. And these videos will see the light of day at some point. I'm not entirely sure what he plans to do with them, but we did the interview with Kurt in one of the conference rooms, and then he took me back into an area that is off limits to the public, and I got to see all of these original drawings.
Ron: Tell me the first word you said was, "Wow!"
The T1 Trust: It may have sounded like something else. [laughter] He said, "Yeah, they're stacked on shelves, floor to ceiling and protected from humidity changes by plastic." And then he said, "These here, from here to here, and here to here, these are all T1." And so we picked a box at random and took it into the reading room and unrolled one of them. I think it was like a bracket for a lubricator or something like that, and it was this piece of paper was nearly the size of a queen size mattress. And I asked him, I said, "Who else looked at these?" He said, "You guys were the first to touch these since they were rolled up in 1947."
Ron: My goodness.
The T1 Trust: It just blows your mind, and right there at the bottom, a superintendent signed off on it, I think it was close to the end of 1947, if I remember correctly, but just the amount of detail and work that went into these drawings, and the fact that so many of them survived have saved us a tremendous amount of work. I mean, they've effectively kept us from having to design the locomotive all over again.
The T1 Trust: So that was my kind of... I've always known that this is special but that was when it became ‘real’. I learned about the T1 accidentally about eight or nine years ago. I got caught on Wikipedia, and you know how you get into an article, and you click on a link in that article, and you fall down the rabbit hole. And I don't remember how I got there, but I remember landing on the page for the T1, which at the time was quite short. And I saw that picture, I thought, "My goodness, what is that?"
The T1 Trust: And I just distinctly remember saying, "I’ve got to see one of these." And I scrolled down, and there it was, fifty-two produced, all scrapped. And I thought, "What a travesty that is. What an absolute travesty." I thought, "That would be really neat if we could do... " 'Cause that was right about the time Tornado had come back in Britain. And I thought, "That would be pretty cool." Once things started picking up steam, and I offered my services to the Trust and been doing the newsletters and these interviews ever since. And it's... Occasionally get to travel, but it's really an honor. And I'll tell you what I told Brad, I said, "When this thing is done, you're going to have people beating down the door, wanting to be a part of this. And I want to be able to say I was there, and I believed when nobody else did." And I...
The T1 Trust: And I still believe that.
Ron: And that's what I think is very important for people to understand. You need a core group who is 100% dedicated to the belief that this can be successfully accomplished, and then continually work towards that goal to bring it about. And through their dedication, through their hard work, through their communication, they could spread the word and the belief to others and thereby, increase the supportive base for the entire program to something successful.
The T1 Trust: Exactly, and you never know who you'll reach that can take you to the next level.
The T1 Trust: Well, I've got a couple of other questions for you. Your answer to my last question was beautifully segued. You knocked out three with one, so don't worry about how long it was, it was perfect. And so, regarding your Continental Fabricators tour, what was the most impressive thing that you saw there?
Ron: I wish... Have you been there?
The T1 Trust: I have not, unfortunately.
Ron: Hopefully, you might be able to get a chance to get there, at least while they're working on the T1 boiler, or at least see some pictures. When you speak later with David Huelsing, president of our St. Louis Chapter, he was on that tour, and he took a bunch of pictures that he put on to our website. I might suggest that you follow up with him.
The T1 Trust: Okay.
Ron: To get the website's address, and thereby, see the many, many pictures that were taken by him. Now, included in the pictures are of tools and machinery, and even some other things that Continental... Because Continental's prime reason they're in it is manufacturing boilers and special vessels for industry, such as chemical, oil, and gas, etcetera. And the story that I got from Fred Steinkuehler, it was about 15 years ago, they got a call from the Monticello Railroad Museum in Monticello, Illinois seeking some assistance on rehabbing the boiler for their steam locomotive. I apologize, I don't remember the number on the wheel arrangement of it, but you can maybe look that up later at your convenience.
And so they were looking for some new things to do and try, and this was certainly something brand spanking new that they hadn't done before. And they took it on, and it took a number of years to get things accomplished, but the quality of the end product was very acceptable to Monticello. And then by word of mouth, the quality of their work was starting to get around to others who had steam locomotive boilers to either be rehabbed or brand new ones. Now, this is a, shall we say, small but growing niche market for them. And there's new challenges in each one. For example, you look at the wide assortment of machinery that they have to accomplish this. You say okay, well, how do you begin to make a piece of a boiler or a boiler? Well, you start with flat steel plate, and what I remember on the three, I want to say, pieces of the T1, that was one and a eighth inch thick steel plate.
Well then, they say, well, how do they begin to roll that? And here is this humongous machine, an oversized roller on steroids, if you wish, that they showed how they did that, and the maximum thickness that that machine can handle is 4 inches thick.
The T1 Trust: Oh my goodness! [chuckle] That's incredible! I don't...
Ron: Exactly. Exactly. And I think, as I said, if David is able to forward you some of those pictures, you might be able to see that in one of the many pictures.
The T1 Trust: Four inches thick…
Ron: Anyway, so Fred was an exceptional, informative, well-versed tour leader that held the attention of our group of 30 people throughout the tour. It took a couple of hours, and he showed how things began from the beginning and proceeded. We were able to take pictures as far as that is concerned. No videos, but pictures we were allowed to take. And they were a very wonderful group of people. Him, Tom Gerstenecker, if I pronounced his name correctly, he's the VP of Sales and Estimating, and the secretary, Michelle Buenaventura, was even helpful. Just to walk in that huge shop to see some of the... Well, there's one large... Oh, I can't think of it right now...
Oh, there was a huge gas-fired heat treatment oven, that was like a building in itself, that was amazing to look at. And he told us how much gas and the temperature that they had to reach, because that's the way they treated these full length boilers that went in there. And of course, we saw boiler fire boxes, boilers, the raw material. They were even working on rehabbing a 1916 65 horsepower Case steam tractor. And then, of course, we saw the boilers for the T1 locomotive. Again, it was quite impressive, and it tied in great with the presentation, and to me, just a short time earlier by Brad.
The T1 Trust: You're making me wish I had the chance...
Ron: Probably gave you a little bit more information than you really wanted, but I got on a roll.
The T1 Trust: No, it's fine. That it's better to have too much than too little. [laughter] Did you have a chance to speak with any of the staff while you were at Continental? And if so, what was their take on all the locomotive boiler work?
Ron: Oh yes. As I said, the two key people during the entire tour in their huge shop was Fred Steinkuehler and Tom Gerstenecker. They accompanied us during the entire two-hour tour. And in the TrainsMagazine article, they made mention of a gentleman by the name of Gary Bensman, okay, and I don't know if you are familiar with that name.
The T1 Trust: It rings a few bells, yes.
Ron: Because, let's see. I'm looking at the copy of the article. He is a key, I want to say, project manager.
The T1 Trust: Yes.
Ron: He owns Diversified Rail Services, and his article states, "Overseeing the construction of the pressure vessel, a three and a half course boiler and smoke box." I don't know if you get Trains Magazine, but if you want to look it up, the article in more detail, it's not a full page thing, but it's a full column with a picture. It's July 2018 issue, and the title of it is, PRR T1 Rises in St. Louis.
The T1 Trust: I'll look into that. Let's see. Alright, let's see. Was there any mention of how steel tariffs are affecting Continental in its day-to-day operations, and also the work that they do on locomotive boilers?
Ron: That point, I don't recollect being brought up. Unfortunately, with a group of thirty folks... Oh, that was one other thing I forgot to mention. We got this tour on a Saturday. This was the very first joint group tour that I've arranged, and I've been doing this for the two groups for a number of years, for which we were going through an actual work environment. That is, Continental Fabricators works 24 hours, seven days a week.
The T1 Trust: Wow!
Ron: That was most unusual to begin with. You could imagine, there was noise, well, banging on metal, to welding, to you name it, and so we had a group of 30, and we were not always able to stay together. In fact, I like to say, it's like trying to herd a group of cats.
Ron: Keep them together without them going here, there, and everywhere, and sometimes getting into trouble. But I do know this was discussed previously. For example, US Steel has a steel making plant in Granite City, Illinois, which is just across the river from us. Well, the tariff was greeted with the good news in a sense that they could open a line that previously was shut down, and they were calling back some over 500 people to come back and to staff the new line. On the other hand, there are some businesses that are being hurt and being even on the brink of being shut down. There's a small nail manufacturing plant, I think in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, who can't afford to get the imported, the special imported steel to make the nails, and this plant is already laying off people. There were a couple other instances where this was having an impact. So you've got advantages and disadvantages are going on.
The T1 Trust: Exactly.
Ron: And yes, again, I do not know the source of the raw material for the steel for the boilers for the locomotives.
The T1 Trust: Oh, that's alright. This is a modern world, and things come from everywhere.
Ron: Well, but I'm sure if you had contact with Gary Bensman, he could probably give you the details of that.
The T1 Trust: I may have to do that, and pick his brain.
The T1 Trust: Alright, I've got just a couple more questions for you. As I understand it, Continental Fabricators did some work on Wabash, Frisco and Pacific tourist railroad’s steam locomotive.
Ron: No, clarify. The WFP is a stand-alone non-profit organization. It has nothing to do with our St. Louis Chapter of the NRHS.
The T1 Trust:My apologies, let me refine that question. I'll just say...
Ron: They are a... What I would say, it's a 12-inch gauge, yes. I think it's a 12-inch gauge miniature train operation, and it has a little over a mile of track besides the Meramec River. And they're open to the general public several months during the year. But they also have a couple of steam locomotives, as well as diesels, to pull people around.
And I think, again, if you're able to get the pictures from David Huelsing, he might have taken a picture of the small versions. Here, you've got full-size T1 and 1385 and others, and here is this little miniature version.
Ron: Interesting contrast.
The T1 Trust: Certainly is, but variety is the spice of life, as they say.
The T1 Trust: Let's see here. Was there any mention or any evidence of this work for a live steam at Continental that you saw? Were they working on anything of that sort at the time?
Ron: Well, as I said, besides the T1, they were working on a new boiler for the Mid-Continent Railway Museums, former Chicago and Northwestern 4-6-0, Number 1385. Now that is the other project that Gary Bensman is watching over.
The T1 Trust: Okay, gotcha.
Ron: Now, besides those two, let's see. They were working on rehabbing the boiler for the Grapevine Tourist railroad locomotive number 1344. And they were also working on rehabbing the steam boiler for the US Sugar Company, number 148, I believe.
The T1 Trust: Lots of work going on there.
Ron: Yes, yes. You can also do a Google search on Continental Fabricators, which gives a more definitive explanation of the various kind of works, outside of steam locomotives, that they work on. For example, if I'm going into a lot of details, they're a leading provider of pressure vessels, towers, drums, etcetera, etcetera.
The T1 Trust:Alright. I've got just a couple of more general questions and then I’ll cut you loose. [laughter]
Ron: Well, if I'm not giving you...
The T1 Trust: Oh no, you're doing just... No, trust me. You're doing just great. Don't worry about a thing. This is great, this is great stuff.
The T1 Trust: So...
Ron: I was trying to prepare myself in advance, but then again, trying to guess what you’re going to be asking for and so on.
The T1 Trust: No, don't worry, it's not like a first date or anything like that.
Ron: Interesting comparison there.
The T1 Trust: What do you see as the Trust's greatest asset? Greatest assets, excuse me, plural.
Ron: The dedicated human beings that are behind this project, quite frankly.Because if you don't have a significant core group of dedicated, devoted people, who support this project, and not just verbally, but physically, it's not going to succeed, in my opinion. We've read numerous stories about folks wanting to bring back to life this steam locomotive, that steam locomotive, this thing, that thing, and the ones who succeed, first of all, they got to be, in my humble opinion, very, very dedicated to it. Of course, equal with that dedication of people, you've got to have a source of money to pay for these dreams that you want to bring to life. And if the group doesn't go out and beat the bushes and knock on the doors for large corporations or individuals to provide contributions to this program, and make these contributors believe in this program, then you're not going to succeed. I don't know if that makes sense to you or not.
The T1 Trust: No. That makes perfect sense. What do you think are the greatest challenges the Trust faces, and how do you think they might best be overcome?
Ron: Well, one of the things, if I heard correctly, made by Brad at the presentation was, and you double check this before putting it to your writing, that it was probably going to be about another 15 years before you actually saw the finished locomotive on the tracks. Well, for some of us, who are in our 70s [laughter] or and our 80s, I say, "Hmm, hope I'm around that time to see that." The biggest challenge to me is time, money, continued devotion to the goal over that many years. How to keep the group or parts of it from getting burned out and losing interest? Money, funding is a very necessary source for survival. A good example of that was the temporary stoppage of work on the Western Maryland 2-6-6-2.
The T1 Trust: Oh, 1309.
Ron: Thank you, cause hopefully, they were going to have it ready this year. Well, they ran into funding problems, and I think, maybe another problem or two, and so now, there's a delay. That, to me, is the biggest challenge facing the T1 group. Time, money, long-term devotion to the goals of the project.
The T1 Trust: Let's see, alright, last question. Is there any other advice that you would give to the T1 Trust?
Ron: Well, I am no rehabilitation expert, and the only rehab type of work I've done is on a voluntary basis and a very limited amount, bringing back the Wabash 573 Steam Locomotive here at the National Museum of Transportation in St. Louis, Missouri. I'd say, continue to make your volunteer group grow, continue to have somebody knocking on the doors, seeking funding from any source whatsoever, continue to keep the public and/or your financial supporters apprised of the progress that's being made on this tremendous project.
The T1 Trust: Alright. Well, sir, I want to thank you very much for taking the time to speak with me. If you have any questions, I'll do my best to answer them. But you've been a wonderful, wonderful guest, and I appreciate your time.
Ron:Well, thank you very much for considering to talk with me. I considered it an honor, and I hope I gave you sufficient answers to your questions, and if anything still seems puzzling or whatever, contradictory, don't hesitate to call me for a clarification.
The T1 Trust: I shall and, like I said, thank you very much for your time.
Members of the National Railway Historical Society, St. Louis Chapter receive a tour of Continental Fabricators, the birthplace of the boiler for PRR T1 #5550.