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Topics - Rick Rowlands

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A couple of years ago CSX donated a 50' plug door boxcar to the J&L Narrow Gauge.  In trying to figure out what to do with it I came up with the idea of converting it into a single stall enginehouse for the 58.  Although a bit narrow, it is probably the sturdiest and most economical structure that could be had for this purpose. 

The car was delivered by CSX to the shortline that I work for and we stuck it in a siding until it was time to move it by truck to the J&LNG.  Meanwhile, I proceeded to cut everything off the bottom of the frame, brake rigging, brackets, etc., anything that would stick down lower than the centersill and cross members.  We also installed 24" gauge rails inside the car, bolting them to the steel floor with crane rail clips.  Last Thursday it and our Erie bay window caboose (itself destined to become the general offices of the J&LNG) were loaded onto trucks and hauled to our site. 

At our site I had poured a 9' x 50' concrete pad to set the boxcar on.  We backed the trailer into position, lifted the boxcar off and set it down on the pad.  With the boxcar in place, the next phase of the project can begin.  The top of rails in the car is 20" above the pad, and with a bit of excavating I can fit a 35' transfer table that will allow us to access the boxcar, lead to the main and several other storage tracks for our equipment.  I am still working on the design of the transfer table.  I did find some 1913 era 18" I beams with beautiful JONES & LAUGHLIN roll marks to use for the table (rolled in the same plant that operated our Porters).  Once money becomes available in the summer we will start pouring concrete for the pad and perimeter walls. 

The boxcar is destined to be insulated and kept climate controlled year round so as to protect 58 from corrosion and freezing in the off season as well as provide us the option of year round operations.  I just bought an 8' x 10' insulated roll up door to install in one end of the car.

Its an odd solution to a problem, but it fits into our theme of using standard gauge equipment here.  In addition to the aforementioned caboose, we also have an 8,000 gallon tankcar to use as a water storage tank and a GE 70 ton center cab locomotive that serves as a central power house.

The attached image shows the boxcar in it's new home on the concrete pad.  The transfer table will be located in the foreground.  Our main track climbs the hill on the right and the switch into the engine facility is behind the boxcar.

US Two Footers / J&L Steel Porters 57 and 60 Arrive in Youngstown
« on: September 24, 2021, 06:04:07 AM »
Yesterday two additional Porter 0-4-0Ts arrived in Youngstown from Canada, the culmination of about two years worth of planning and fundraising.  Both locomotives are complete with the exception of saddle tanks which were scrapped before the locomotives were exported in the late 1980s. 

As time goes on we will be restoring both locomotives most likely to operational status. 

To view the full photo album, go here:

Museum Discussion / Geotextiles Under the Track
« on: May 07, 2021, 07:20:38 AM »
How has using geotextiles under your trackage worked out?  Do you put anything under the fabric or lay it down directly on the roadbed?  How much ballast is between the fabric and the bottom of the ties? 

I have a rather soft area to build a track on and am considering using fabric to stiffen the subroadbed, and want to see how it works in practice.

US Two Footers / J&L Narrow Gauge Snowplow
« on: December 24, 2020, 09:12:20 AM »
Several years ago I bought this snowplow that had been listed on Discover Live Steam.  It was moved to Davenport, Iowa to a friend's farm, and last week it was moved again to a different location for storage.  My plan is to eventually get it back to Youngstown, however since we do not get massive amounts of snow here, it really wouldn't be used for much beyond inhabiting the end of a spur track. 

The story I was told is that it was originally used at a tie treating plant somewhere in Wisconsin or Minnesota. The wheelsets are much older than the car with dates cast into the wheels of the 1880s, cast by a foundry located in Minneapolis (of which I cannot remember the name right now). 

I am not sure how the various Maine NG operations are set up for snow removal, but if one of them may be interested in a well built HEAVY two foot gauge plow with full width wheels and an adjustable height plow blade, I am the guy to talk to.  Otherwise, it will eventually get moved to Youngstown, painted and set out to pasture to wait for that freak blizzard that dumps enough snow on the railroad to make it worth our while to run a plow extra. 

General Discussion / EBT Couplers vs. 3/4 size Sharon Couplers
« on: April 05, 2020, 07:29:00 AM »
I have heard that the EBT couplers and the 3/4 size Sharon couplers such as what Irwin Car sells are not compatible.  Is that true?  I am curious as to what the major differences there are between the two. 


And now for some Good News!

One year ago today the J&L 58 operated under steam for the first time in over 60 years. An amazing accomplishment that all of us are very proud of. Today we are announcing that we have reached an agreement to purchase the two identical sister locomotives in Canada and bring them to Youngstown to be reunited with the 58.

This plan includes restoring one of these locomotives to operating condition and having TWO operational locomotives on the J&L Narrow Gauge Railroad!

Now I know that this is the absolute worst time to launch a fundraising campaign given the current crisis and economic downturn, but we WILL emerge from this crisis and when that happens we will begin promoting this project. Heck, at this time we cannot even go to Canada to inspect them! But we didn't want to wait to make this announcement as we are very excited about this and feel that everyone out there needs something to cheer them up!

So stay safe and wish us luck!

US Two Footers / J&L Narrow Gauge Railroad
« on: June 23, 2019, 07:17:41 AM »
Now that the J&L 58 has returned to service and operating on a regular schedule, we are turning our attention to several other projects to enhance the operation. 

House Track.  Currently the only track that we have is the main, which is about 600 feet long.  One switch has been installed leading to the new site of the enginehouse and eventually into a proposed extension of the Tod Engine building.  This building extension will have a 20' x 45' area for a backshop complete with a 25 ton overhead crane. 

Standard Gauge Rail Cars.  We have three standard gauge cars coming in to serve the narrow gauge.  The first is a wooden bay window bobber caboose body that will be used as a crew room and bunkhouse for volunteers.  This car was built by the Lake Erie Franklin & Clarion Railroad and has been at a campsite since 1968.  It will be moved to Youngstown later this summer.  The second car is an EL bay window caboose donated by CSX.  It will be used for our main office.  The third is a 1920s era 10,000 gallon GATX tankcar tank.  Also being donated by CSX, it will be cleaned out and used for boiler water storage. 

Eastern Extension.  The mainline will be extended approx. 800 feet to the east, thanks to a deal struck with a neighbor to purchase a 30' wide strip of land extending about 700' eastward.  Once a new turnout is installed and grading done we can commence with the laying of track, and speaking of track I also made a deal to acquire enough 90 lb. rail to construct this extension.

Due to the weight of our locomotive, we are consigned to using rail 85 lb. or heavier for most of the railroad.  While it makes it a bit more difficult to build mainly because frogs and points are not designed for the short closure distances of 24" gauge, it is actually rather easy to find rail.  Older 90 and 100 lb. rail can still be found in abandoned sidings and industry tracks. 

While the type of narrow gauge railroading that we do here in Youngstown is a far cry from what is practiced up in Maine, I do look to the WW&F for inspiration and ideas.  You set the standard which we strive to emulate. 

The photo is of a recent operating day when we moved topsoil from the new site of the enginehouse to the fill at the western end of the main track with the side dump car. 

US Two Footers / Jones & Laughlin Steel 58 Returns to Service!
« on: May 17, 2019, 07:25:14 AM »
J&L Steel 58 returned to operation on May 4, 2019 with her first revenue runs on the J&L Narrow Gauge Railroad at the Youngstown Steel Heritage Museum in Youngstown, OH.   She ran again on May 11 for our own "Last Spike" ceremony that officially ended the five year initial construction of the railroad and commenced regular operations. 

This group of Porters built for J&L Steel were the heaviest and most powerful two foot gauge steam locomotives built for American service, a third larger than SR&RL 23.  However, until we began this project not many people knew about these locomotives due to their use behind the walls of a steel mill where no photography was permitted. 

We plan to run the 58 on a regular basis over our initial 600 feet of track.  Property is being acquired to extend the mainline another 800 feet.  Our first passenger car is a Crown riding on two Carpenter Steel flatcars. 

Work and Events / Bullard Vertical Turret Lathe Available
« on: June 02, 2017, 06:39:38 PM »
There is a 36" Bullard vertical turret lathe available for sale cheap ($2,200) in western PA.   It runs and I'm probably going to use it to machine the treads of the wheels on our 5 ton Brookville.  After that job is done its destined for scrap unless someone takes it. 

With all the future work to be done on the 11 project, a VTL would come in handy machining the drivers, pistons, cylinder heads etc.  $2,200 is roughly scrap price for it.  Don't know if you already have one or access to one. 

US Two Footers / Designing New Two Foot Gauge Trucks - Need Advice
« on: December 09, 2016, 10:04:36 AM »
Due to the scarcity of available two foot gauge trucks we over at the J&L Narrow Gauge Railroad have decided to design and build our own.  Since our railroad is set up to represent heavy duty steel mill railroading, our truck design is quite heavy and is based on a standard gauge ingot mold car truck.

The truck is based upon an 18" wheel, simply because we have an 18" wheel pattern with a profile nearly identical to the profile of the drivers on the J&L 58.  The pattern is from the Wilkes Barre Iron Mfg. Co. which built narrow gauge mine cars and equipment in the 1920s.  The pattern makes a spoked wheel, which wouldn't normally be found in steel mills but I will overlook that.  

I am trying to figure out some design elements without having any other two foot gauge trucks to look at.  For a standard freight car truck, such as those found under Box Car 67, let me ask a few questions.  What is the wheel diameter?  Axle diameter?  Journal diameter and length? Wheelbase? Back to back distance of wheels?  

On our design we are of course going with the 18" wheel, 3" axle dia. turned down to 2 1/2"x 4" journals and a 36" wheelbase.  Back to back distance of 21 1/8" (this was arrived at by measuring the J&L 58 drivers. It was built to 23" gauge and had a 20 1/8" back to back.  Moving each driver tire out 1/2" to regauge to 24" gives me 21 1/8"). For springs I am using Barber B-296 springs which have a capacity of 2,060 lbs. each.  The spring window is wide enough for up to three springs, so I can build these trucks with either four or six springs, giving me either 4 or 6 tons capacity per truck.  The one part that I am unsure of is the journal diameter and if that is sufficient for the intended capacity of 6 tons per truck.   Oh that brings me to my last question.  What would a typical WW&F freight car weigh fully loaded?  

Attached is the first sketch of the truck design.  Several changes are being made today from that initial sketch.  Aside from the wheels the truck is 100% plate burnouts and structural shapes.  2" plate sideframes, 10" channel welded in a box shape for bolster plus another for a spring plank.  9" center bowl with 1" dia. center pin.  

Thanks for the help!

US Two Footers / J&L Narrow Gauge Railroad
« on: May 05, 2016, 08:33:13 AM »
The home rails for the Jones & Laughlin No. 58 will be the J&L Narrow Gauge Railroad, part of the Youngstown Steel Heritage Museum.  We only have about 1.2 acres of land, but that will be enough for the construction of a sizable steel mill demonstration railroad.  Our intent is to recreate the type of rail operations that would have existed in the cramped confines of a steel plant.  Narrow gauge was very common in steel plants of the early 20th century for moving ingots as well as charging the open hearth furnaces. 

The attached track plan shows the proposed layout of the J&LNG.  The track shown in orange includes what is already built plus what we hope to have completed by the end of the year.  At the extreme right at the end of the orange track is the single stall enginehouse for the J&L 58.  The existing track extends around the 40' radius curve and ends just shy of the grade crossing over the rear access road.  From that point we will excavate the top soil and put down a roadbed to lay track northward (left side of pic is north) to a No.4 turnout to the yard lead which will run along the fence line back toward the Tod Engine Building. 

The blue denotes tracks to be built in the future, including a switchback.  The property is on a hill so the land at the rear is higher than the main yard level.  The switchback will be on a rather steep grade, designed to give the 58 a chance to work hard going up the hill.  At the upper right we have three shipping containers for storage.  This area will be reconfigured, with the three containers rearranged to sit next to each other with a fourth container added to the lineup.  At least three of the containers will be set up with rails inside.  A 15' turntable is planned to be built in front of them. 

The rolling stock we intend to use will be heavy industrial cars.  We have two of the Carpenter Steel 4 wheeled flatcars so far, and plan to add a few more as funding allows.  We would like to acquire a couple of Koppel dump cars since the Koppel plant was not far from us, and also plan to build a two foot version of the Mon Conn cabooses that were homebuilt by the railroad.   An internal combustion locomotive is also being sought so that we do not have to fire up the 58 whenever we want to run trains. 

We have collected many pieces of steel industry equipment that would make interesting flatcar loads, including a 100 ton crane hook block, two very large steam engine connecting rods, three open hearth charging boxes, 36" scrap magnet etc.  Typical items that would be carried by a steel mill railroad operation. 

Track will be built of minimum 85lb. and up rail.  The first section is laid with 100RB, and we have 90AS and 100PS rail for this year's track construction.  We may build a section using 132RE just to show how ridiculous that will look!  That section would also include Pandrol clips because if you are going ridiculous you might as well go all the way!   

Work and Events / Track and Wheel Standards
« on: December 18, 2015, 09:40:42 AM »
Does the WW&F have a set of track and wheel standards that they follow?  I ask this because I am trying to devise standards for the two foot operation that I am building, and it seems that every piece of equipment that I find has different wheel profiles and of course track seems to be all over the map (no pun intended). Since the Maine two footers are some of the heaviest two foot operations, I would be well served to follow the standards that is used up there. 

The info. that I am mostly interested in is wheel profile, tread and flange widths, back to back distance of wheelsets, track gauge tolerance and distance from running rail to guard rails in switches.   Also curious to know what the coupler height is from the top of rail to c/l of coupler pockets.

HK Porter had two standard wheel profiles. The "light locomotive" profile is 5" wide and the "heavy locomotive" profile is 5 1/2" wide.  Our J&L 58 uses the 5 1/2" wide profile.  However, one of the Carpenter Steel cars that I bought recently has a very narrow wheel profile, which is a bit concerning since it will be operating over the same trackage as the wide wheeled 58.  I would like to standardize as much as possible.

Thanks for the help.

20151216_211539 by Rick Rowlands, on Flickr

US Two Footers / Jones & Laughlin 58 Restoration
« on: January 26, 2015, 12:18:27 PM »
We are making pretty good progress on the restoration of the 23" gauge Porter 0-4-0T at the Youngstown Steel Heritage Museum.

Here are a couple of videos of the initial inspection and dismantling:

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