Friday, September 26, 2014

Bertha: "Take Two Aspirin..." (Updated)

"Take two aspirin and call me in the morning!" A worn-out bromide that recommends a cure for a common headache.

But what is the cure for a US$80 million Earth Pressure Balance Tunnel Boring Machine (TBM), stalled 60 feet (18 m) below the surface between South Jackson Street and South Main Street in downtown Seattle?

On December 6, 2013, Bertha stuck when she chewed into an 8" (20.3 cm) 191-foot (58.2 m) pipe. The pipe driven into the ground by the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) to monitor effects of ground water on the Alaska Way Viaduct, damaged by the 2001 Nisqually earthquake.


There followed a heated exchange between Seattle Tunnel Partners (STP), and WSDOT. WSDOT claiming STP had been warned of the existence of the casing.

"The well site was listed in reference materials provided to bidders as part of the contract specifications. I don't want people to say WSDOT didn't know where its own pipe was, because it did," said DOT spokesman Lars Erickson. However, Chris Dixon, project director for contractor group Seattle Tunnel Partners, said the builders presumed there would be no pipe in the way, because casings are customarily removed after use."
(Seattle Times, Jan. 3, 2014)


When Bertha choked on the pipe, she had only completed 1,019 ft (311 m), a mere 11%, of the total 9,270 ft (2,830 m) length of the tunnel. Coincidentally, the warranty on the machine expires at 1,300 ft  (396 m).

On January 28th and 29th, Bertha crept forward a measly 4 feet (128 cm).  She overheated and has been shut down since, at 1,025 feet (312 m).

On February 11, Chris Dixon, Project Manager of Seattle Tunnel Partners (STP) and Todd Trepanier, Program Administrator for client Washington State Department of Transportation, WSDOT, discussed the possible causes and solution.


Last word is (2.21.2014) that STP will excavate a retrieval shaft to remove the 887 st Cutterhead to access the main bearing.  I give a detailed example of a similar retrieval shaft in the following segment.

Digging a retrieval shaft will be a costly time consuming episode, which will impact the completion date, and multiply contruction costs.

History Repeats Itself

Bertha's "condition" is not the first time TBM operators have been faced with the challenge of accessing and repairing machines mired beneath the surface.

Canadian National railroad commissioned a tunnel in 1993, to replace the St. Clair River tunnel, to allow passage of double-stack rail cars.

Completed by the Grand Trunk Railroad in 1891, it was the world's first submarine tunnel connect, connecting Sarnia, Ontario, under the St. Clair River, to the boy-hood home of Thomas Alva Edison, Port Huron, Michigan.  And in doing so, established the first interchange between Canada and US.

The replacement tunnel was bored parallel to and approximately 27m north of the original tunnel.

CN self-funded their Earth Pressure Balance Tunnel Boring Machine, cleverly named "Excalibore." The TBM was manufactured by Lovat Tunnel Equipment, Inc., located in Toronto. (Later purchased by Caterpillar, who shut the plant down.)

In late 1993, difficulties were encountered with the TBM. Like Bertha, the main bearing faulted,  necessitating  removing the Cutterhead to replace the main bearing.  Fortunately, the TMB broke down berfore diving beneath the St. Clair River.

Complicating the repair, the TBM was 95 feet (29 m) beneath an oil refinery!

The TBM Cutterhead was 31 feet (9.5m) as compared to Bertha, 57.5 feet (17.45m). This required a retrieval shaft 33 feet (10.0 m) by 12 foot (3.7m) to access the Cutterhead.

To replace the main bearing delayed the project by 7 months, costing US$4.2 million.

This paper details the design and construction of the retrieval shaft from the viewpoint of the specialist contractor and consultant charged with its execution. This is what will take place to repair Bertha.

The Saint Claire River Tunnel was successfully completed in 1994. Here we witness a northbound CN freighter descending into the tunnel, next to the original tunnel portal. I still get upset at the lack of a caboose. The caboose was like a period at the end of a sentence.


When we refer to Bertha as the "World's Largest Tunnel Boring Machine," we mean it! This High Definition video, released in December 2013, produced by TunnelTalkVideos, takes us inside Bertha. It is absolutely awesome!

And observe the "mine field" Bertha has to navigate in the early phase of her 9,270 ft (2,830 m) length. The "Railroad Tunnel" is the Great Northern Railroad tunnel (now Burlington Northern Santa Fe.)


Don't forget, to enjoy videos posted on Oil-Electric, click on the "Full Screen" icon on the YouTube toolbar. To return to "normal" screen, merely tap the "Esc" key on your computer keyboard.

Type "Bertha" into the Blog Search Engine in the right hand margin, to access all articles posted thus far.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Complete Practical Railroading

Pictured here are six of eight volumes of the Complete Practical Railroading Standard Brotherhood Edition, published in 1911.


The books were given to me in 1960 by a family acquaintance, Jim Walker.  Jim attended Victoria High, where he befriended my Mother. Since my grand parents lived in Victoria, we journeyed there often from Seattle.

It was during one of our visits that Jim learned of my interest in railroading. He had acquired these volumes while serving as Road Foreman of Engines on the Canadian National in Victoria, British Columbia.


Published more than 100 years ago - 1911 - the volumes are are scrumming to old age. Some bindings are loose, and leather separation is evident.  Titles include:

•  Locomotives:  Their Operation, Care, and Management, 509 pp.
Preface: The science of railroading is still in a state of evolution. This proposition will apply to all departments connected with the operation of railways, but to none more forcibly than to the Mechanical department, and in an especial manner to that division of the mechanical department which controls the design, construction, and operation of the locomotive.

Many of the older engineers., shopmen, and machinists can recall the days when the throttle, reverse lever, gauge cocks and steam gauge constituted the entire outfit of cab equipments, while upon the outside the principal features -were hand-rails, bands, and casings of polished brass upon which the fireman was compelled to lavish much time, and hard work in order to keep it burnished.

Today the locomotive engineer finds in his cab, within the radius of his arm, a multitude of levers, cocks, and valves, the proper manipulation of which sets in motion complicated mechanism, each of which performs some necessary function in the movement of the train.

Originally the engineer's control was. limited to his engine ; now he is master of the entire train, from the electric head light on the front end of his engine, to the- last truck on the rear end of the train.

•  Westinghouse Air Brake Practice, 478 pp.
Preface: As an element of safety and also of convenience, in the operation of railway trains, the air brake stands at the head of the long list of appliances which have come to be considered necessary in railroad practice.

The importance of the air brake as a factor in the handling of trains may be understood, to some extent at least, by stopping to consider that it is even more powerful in results attained than is the locomotive that pulls the train ; as, for instance, dynamometer car records show that a locomotive ordinarily requires from five to ten minutes1 time and several miles' distance of travel to bring the speed of the train up to say sixty miles an hour, from which speed the air brake will bring the same train to q full stop in approximately twenty-five seconds of tirne and a distance of 1,200 feet.

While this comparison may at first appear startling, it is nevertheless true, and it should serve, in a measure, to emphasize the necessity of a thoroughly practical knowledge on the part of engine men and train men regarding the construction and operation of the air brake, including all the new appliances and improvements which have recently been introduced.

Although the art of train control by means of the automatic air brake has been and is at present up to the highest point of perfection necessary to meet existing conditions, still it is well to remember that the requirements.

•  Standard Rules, Car Heating and Lighting, 638 pp.
Preface:  The proper administration and operation of the train department of railways is one of first importance in modern American railway practice. It is the department which comes in closest contact with the general public.

Passenger trains must be safely run and on time. Freight trains are of nearly equal importance and freight must be handled without causing friction with shippers. Intelligent, skillful, well directed effort and harmony of action is necessary to ensure this.

The operating forces, particularly in the train department have shown an improvement equally as marked as the improvement and progress in railways, and this forward movement continues. Railway men are on the alert for information, they now seek reasons before coming to conclusions. The result being that railway men of the future will have a far wider range of knowledge than railway men of the past ever dreamed of possessing.

Those in whom this spirit of inquiry has been awakened will not rest content with knowledge gained through personal experience alone, instead, while continuing to profit by experience they will supplement it with observation, inquiry and study.

The editors have endeavored to meet in this particular volume the needs of just such men. Compiled from many sources it contains the essence of numerous standard works by noted writers of authority, to whom grateful acknowledgment is made. Being largely a compilation no claim to originality is made. Doubtless some omissions have been made, and possibly some redundant matter may be found, but, even so, it is believed it will .prove a work of much value and interest to those for whom primarily it is designed.

•  1st, 2nd, and 3rd Year Progressive Examination with Answers, 628 pp. 
Preface:  This volume of the modern American railway practice series is comprised in two parts. The first treats of important details of locomotives, including the evolution and development of American locomotives; compounds; combustion; traction and adhesion; the locomotive boiler; injectors and lubricators; link motion; valve setting, etc.

Most of these subjects are followed by a catechism designed to lead the student along to the examinations for promotion contained in the second part of this volume. The catechisms are from the pen of Mr. W. L. French, and they, as well as 'the colored plates of injectors and lubricators, are by permission, reproduced from the Locomotive Firemen and Enginemen's Magazine, through the courtesy of its editor.

The examinations for promotion contained in the second part comprise the Standard Examination questions formulated by the Traveling Engineers' Association. Each question is followed by its answer, but, in learning the questions and their answers, in preparation for promotion examinations, students should also master the fundamental principles involved in each.

Written answers may be perfectly correct, but not so the oral answers. The oral questions and their oral answers are intended to disclose whether or not students have a knowledge of the whys and the wherefores of the subjects, and an understanding of the underlying principles.

•  Practical Repairing of Everyday Breakdowns, 591 pp.
Preface:  The importance and value of education cannot be overestimated. The time has come when men must learn to profit by the knowledge and experience of others in their own particular field of endeavor as a supplement or complement to their own observation and experience.

This fact is clearly and ably set forth in a forcible and interesting manner by Mr. Conger whose valuable paper has been incorporated in this volume. Hence the reason for gathering together from every available source the subject- matter in this book.

It will be seen that some of the topics are preceded by a regular series of questions and answers., some of which while not specifically treating of breakdowns lead up to and have a direct bearing thereon. In a few instances explanatory articles and descriptions with illustrations have been introduced. This has been done because questions and answers have their limitations.

The editors make no pretense to originality, and possibly the criticism may be made that in one or two cases the methods advocated do not now apply. This may be true on large and modern well-equipped roads, but it should be remembered that this work may be perused by men less fortunate with regard to modern equipment. It may be noticed likewise that nothing is said regarding troubles with Air Brakes. This is because in the volume devoted to that subject in this work, that phase of Air Brake operation is fully and thoroughly covered in question and answer style.

•  Practical Electricity for Enginemen, 919 pp. 
Preface:  This book is written principally for railroad men who are or may some day be in contact with the electrical machinery and apparatus, which is today installed on all steam roads, and with the machinery and apparatus which is being or will be installed by many roads with the intention of using electricity as a motive power on branches or even sections of their main line.

Nearly all roads use both telegraph and telephone in controlling train movement; all use telegraph and electric bells. Many roads are using electrically controlled block signals, and the use of automatic electric signals is rapidly increasing.

It will not be long before electricity will 'become the motive power in use by the roads entering the large cities on all their urban and suburban lines. The electric locomotive and motor car will supersede the steam locomotive.

No railroad man, engineer, conductor, fireman, baggageman, switchman, brakeman, towerman or any other, can afford to be ignorant of the subject of electricity. The men who know most about it will stand the best chance. The men who study will possess knowledge of electricity that can not fail to be of immense advantage to them in the next few years. It will make them more valuable to the companies, and keep them abreast of their, rapidly developing profession.

•  Portfolio of Colored Charts.


These books, encompassing more than 3,700 pages, present a body of railroading knowledge; a virtual treasure chest of locomotive maintenance skills and knowledge. Richly embellished with photographs, charts, tables and diagrams, this makes for interesting reading about a by-gone steam era.


This is a  tribute to the skills of boilermakers, machinists, electricians and train crews whose skills and knowledge are long gone to history.


Click on the eBay button to see this offering.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

McGiffert Loader

Purchased new in 1989, this is a stunning replica of a McGiffert Loader by Overland Models, Inc.

The "McGiffert" represents loggers ingenuity.


Self powered, chain drives move the loader to the loading site at a blistering 5 mph. On site, the wheel sets are cranked up, settling the loader onto skids. Once the wheel sets are stowed, empty log cars move beneath the machine and spotted for loading logs by the main boom.


This loader was manufactured by the Clyde Iron Works of Duluth, a company founded by C.A. Luster in 1899 under the name of Northwestern Manufacturing Company. The name "Clyde Iron Works" was adopted in 1901.


Trained as an attorney, with a passion for tinkering and invention, a Clyde company executive, John R. McGiffert designed and oversaw the erection of the first "McGiffert" log loader in 1902.


Preamble to US Patent No. 899,180, filed December 6, 1905:

To all whom it may concern: Be it known that I, John R. McGiffert, a citizen of the United States, resident of Duluth, county of St. Louis, and State of Minnesota, have invented a new and useful improvement in Log-Loading Machines, of which the following is a specification, the principle of the invention being herein explained and the best mode in which I have contemplated applying that principle, so as to distinguish it from other inventions.

The "McGiffert" was an instant success, and the company could scarcely keep up with demand. More than 1,000 units were erected.


In 1923 Clyde Iron Works merged engineering and sales with Willamette Iron & Steel, located on the western bank of the Willamette River in Portland Oregon.


In the 1920's efforts were made to power skidders, yarders and loaders by Direct Current (DC) power. This was an effort to make forestry safer by elimination of fire danger.  The photo below shows the first DC powered McGiffert loader under construction at Willamette Iron & Steel.


Willamette, as you may recall from the history of the Shay locomotive, was licensed to repair Shays working in the Pacific Northwest, thereby eliminating the necessity to ship locomotives all the way back to Lima, Ohio.


With the knowledge gained from servicing Shays, Willamette envisioned a "Pacific Coast" version, and in November 1922, the first Willamette Geared Locomotive was delivered to Coos Bay Lumber Company.

She was of course a Shay type, but the name "Shay" was owned by Lima.  From my collection, the brass locomotive above is Construction Number 25, Willamette Geared Locomotive, built for Eastside Lumber Company #107.  See my earlier posting, The Willamette Geared Locomotive.


Overland released this model in 1985, catalog number 304, was produced by Samhongsa. I purchased it in 1989, and it has been a static display ever since, as shown in the photo set.