2018-08-09 / Living

Huckleberry Railroad 1920 steam engine restoration creates excitement

By Tanya Terrry
810-452-2645 • tterry@mihomepaper.com

The Huckleberry Railroad Shop staff did the majority of the work recently done on engine #152. Photo by Tanya Terry The Huckleberry Railroad Shop staff did the majority of the work recently done on engine #152. Photo by Tanya Terry BURTON — Excitement spread across the county when Genesee County Parks and Recreation recently announced the restoration project of the Huckleberry Railroad 1920 Baldwin steam engine 152 was finished. On August 4, as the annual Railfans Weekend kicked off, a crowd of people had the opportunity to take a ride behind engine #152. The train had been out of service for 10 years.

Tanner Wykes, 13, has been a regular train rider at Huckleberry Railroad about three years, frequenting it once or twice weekly.

“After all of these years of it being down, it my first time actually riding behind #152,” Wykes said. “I found it to be very enjoyable due to hearing so much about this engine and seeing pretty much the entire restoration process.”

The #152 was used in World War II to help build the Alaskan Railroad and was found in a pile of tires years later.

The restoration and inspection process that took place for the Baldwin #152 is required on all steam locomotives after every 1492 days of service or 15 years of operation.

“The Federal Railroad Administration established the rules on restoration and inspection so the steam boiler itself can be completely taken apart and the thickness of the steel measured in the boiler because steam erodes steel,” said Barry June, acting director for Genesee County Parks.

“The boiler operates at 180 pounds pressure,” June added. “So, if you go beyond that time, and you operate it, it could explode.”

The process requires that the engine be completely disassembled, the boiler removed and inspected and every piece, part, nut and bolt scrutinized. The lengthy process would not have been possible without the support of the C.S. Mott Foundation. To complete the repair and restoration of engine #152, in December 2015, they granted the Genesee County Parks $1.1 million.

The project started by removing all exterior plumbing from the boiler, then lifting the boiler from the frame of the locomotive. Measurements were taken and complete CAD drawings were developed, many of them with the help of two U of M-Flint engineering interns. Drawings had to be created for all the engine parts and assemblies. The largest and most expensive part of this project was the boiler work. The boiler was sent to the legendary Strasburg Railroad in Strasburg, Pennsylvania for reworking. The major work included replacement of the door sheet and crown sheet of the boiler.

“Initially, when we started, that was a shock,” said John Hewlett, railroad maintenance worker.

“It was like, ‘oh my gosh, what are we doing?’” Hewlett added. “As we got into it, it kind of became alright. It’s slow. It moves at a snail pace. But, every day you’re doing a little something and over time it adds up to a big something.”

During Railfans weekends it was all about trains, from model trains throughout the village to a hobo village and August 4 the train was pulled by both the #152 and the #464, which had only happened twice before at Crossroads Village.

Denise Bowles, Crossroads Village manager, said she felt the community realized the day and Crossroads Village itself was historic and magical.

“I can remember when it was just engine #2 with my other grandson years ago, and the engine looks really nice,” said Arnold Wykes, 78, who is Tanner Wykes grandfather.

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