Brian Ratliff's
Heisler Repair

You asked if we had a story to any of the pictures you've just posted (see miscellaneous pictures), I guess I do...

January fried chicken and grits Run 2003. Saturday, mid day...

That's me fiddlin' with the valve gear on my Heisler, Pomona South Riverside & Elsinore #8. She was the only steam out on Thursday. The first engine out on Friday, I love the vapor show of cold, clear mornings. She developed a knock Friday afternoon and upon examining found that the packing gland had backed off causing the crosshead to hit the gland before the crankshaft was at top-dead-center. A simple fix to tighten the packing gland on a steam engine - unless it's a Heisler.

The gland is enclosed inside the crosshead guide with only a 3/4 inch hole on each side for access and it is also between the frames of the engine, too. Having crawled all over the Heisler at Roaring Camp, I have noticed that the prototype repair is at best difficult, being one eighth that size makes it improbable, and the fact that the engine is hot doesn't add to the ease of things. Being one that doesn't let a small problem such as the one just described ruin a whole weekend of fun, diassembly commenced. The cylinder must come off, the supply and exhaust lines must come off, and valve linkage removed from its proper alignment. After an hour or two had passed and the dinner bell ringing in the distance, progress was halted for the day.


The day was to dawn a crisp, clear, January "Chamber of Commerce" morning. But first it needed a steam whistle to peirce the calm. Dad's engine, PSR&E #27, a leggy Harriman Atlantic, beaconed the call and she was the first engine to grace the rails of Bitter Creek that morn. Having had my fill of running the fast freight, the throttle duties were passed on and it was off to the round house area. Disassemby was completed, an adjustment of the packing gland performed and the fun part of reassembly started. A mid-day steam up was performed and a SWAG (Scientific Wild Assed Guess) method of valve gear timing was layed upon the reunited parts. The picture was taken about the time a few movements were attempted towards the yard as fine tuning was performed and both sides of the engine were timed as to go the same direction in unison. A grin of accomplishment was across my mug as I just completed a project that could have easily taken up a greater part of a week at home in the shop, or like the current project being done on the old 8-ball, now going on five months. The Heisler went on to be the first out again on Sunday and Monday, too, before having had to load up and come home after having yet another enjoyable time at Bitter Creek.

Tell everyone up that way hello,

Brian Ratliff

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