Dianne Best Personal Web Page 2018
Re-Fitting the  American

Having run the American for a number of years now, there were a number of improvements and/or changes I wanted to make.

The gauge glass is not plumbed properly and can not be "blown down". This is very important if one is unsure whether the water level is above the top of the glass or off the bottom. Off  the bottom is VERY serious and can result in destruction of the boiler or even an explosion! The glass is oriented vertically and down in the shadows, both of which make it  VERY hard to see the water level.
    The plumbing and orientation of the water glass needs to be revised.

It leaks a bit - not a big deal but a waste of steam.
Disassemble the valve & re-seat.


Make it is easier to open and close.
Remove and replace the firebox door latch.

The crosshead pumps don't keep up with the demand for water when running.
Clean the crosshead pumps and valves to ensure they are working properly

Need a way to add water without having to use the hand pump every time around the track. Also need to reduce the piping 'mess' between the engine and tender - TOO MANY lines & fittings!

Add the piping for a duplex pump (to be built later) to further increase the water supply.

To accomplish all this, I removed the existing water piping (to be replaced with new since each side gets an extra feed), removed the cab, and removed the plumbing from the turret so I could take it out and drill/tap for two more valves.

Kind of scary seeing my much-loved little engine looking like a scrap yard picture! But it is a start.....

The turret is drilled and tapped for 3 more valves (one for future use) and reinstalled.

After considerable head-scratching, I decided to mount the injector between the drivers using an existing hole in the right running board - unfortunately the hole was plugged with the toughest piece of steel (next to a ball bearing!)
I made a brass bushing for the hole to act as a feed-through for the 1/4" steam line and support the injector.
The previous feed water line was shortened and re-bent to end at the injector delivery port.

To accept the cold water connection (at atmospheric pressure) I machined a piece of brass stock to attach to the rear beam of the engine as an anchor. It is drilled through and tapped to accommodate an elbow to feed water up to the cab for the injector valve and incorporates a T fitting to deliver water to the crosshead pumps and (future) duplex pump.

Trying to fit all the piping under the cab turned out to be a chore! I think I rearranged the plumbing THREE times to fit everything in.

After revision, there are three lines between the tender and locomotive.
#1 - Tender water, atmospheric pressure, to feed the injector water valve, the crosshead pumps (one on each side)
#2 - The propane line to the burner
#3 - The water bypass line to allow water from the pumps to be returned to the tender. This line is also fed by the hand pump in the tender for extra water when needed.

There had been FOUR lines and all 4 were folded in a U shape to allow the tender and locomotive to shift/turn relative to each other but the amount of slack was FAR in excess of what was required. This is what the plumbing looked like before revision.

Before finishing up underneath, it was time to service the crosshead pumps.

 Getting the pumps off is a P.I.T.A.!!! They are bolted to the frame in locations that are almost impossible to get at and pinned to the crossheads (which requires taking the crossheads apart to get the pumps off!).
After getting the pumps off, they were dismantled and soaked in vinegar to remove any deposits from the water, cleaned, new packing, re-assembled, and re-installed - a job that took a full day. Putting the pipes back on took another half a day when some shoddy workmanship caused a fitting to break! A new fitting had to be made and the pipe "encouraged" back into shape.

A new latch was made for the firebox door, a longer one with a loop in the end to make it easier to open with a poker. Also found that one of the hinge pins was gone so a new pin was fashioned with chrome wire.
A re enforcing bracket was also fashioned  to align and stiffen the left hand foot board and a proper hose barb was made for the brake line.

Not being happy with the way the water return line (pump bypass) was arranged with copper tubing and having to add a branch for the (future) steam pump, I decided to re-do it with scale plumbing parts. Also, the crosshead pumps are free to float on the locomotive frame but the plumbing connection between the pumps and the return line was far to stiff to allow the pumps to move - that was changed with a short length of flexible tubing.

When completed that was a strange, convoluted piece of pipe!

While fabricating the return line, I needed some 'close nipples' (very short) and needed to make a mandrel to hold the nipple while machining the second end.

Objective #1 for the re-fit was to revise the water glass plumbing to make the gauge glass easier to see and to allow it to be blown down properly (which means being able to blow steam from either the top of the glass of the bottom out the overflow to ensure the passages are clear). The top valve (in the next picture) closes off the bottom connection from the boiler and the valve underneath opens the overflow.

In replacing the water glass, the existing 3/8" diameter glass tubing broke. (Don't know if it was brittle from age and heat or if I did it!) I didn't have any 3/8" glass tubing but I have plenty of 1/2" Pyrex tube so I decided to replace the small tube with the larger tube. I tried modifying the 3/8 fittings for the 1/2" tube but it didn't work  very well so I decided I would have to make my own pieces for the new water glass.

3/4" squares were cut and machined from 3/8x1" brass stock. After drilling, the blocks were centred on the rotary table and a recess milled to accept the end of the glass tubes and a washer.


Tie rods were cut from 1/8" diameter brass rod and threaded #6-32 to hold the whole assembly together.

Finished the water glass, except for the top pipe.


That should be a whole lot easier to see and can be blown down properly.

After all the new plumbing underneath, it  was time to pressurize with air and check for leaks


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