H.K. Porter locomotive steaming

This text is a summary of an article by Jussi Tepponen and Teemu Virtanen published in Finnish railway magazine "Resiina". It will go through the renovation of Äänekoski-Suolahden Railway steam locomotive number 1, a 1901 H.K. Porter locomotive. The renovation which finally took almost 30 years to complete.

You can read more about the history of this Porter locomotive over here.

From a paper mill to the museum railway

Narrow gauge operations of the Äänekoski paper mill of the Metsäliiton Teollisuus Oy were closed down in 1966. After that the last running steam locomotive of the mill, the H.K. Porter locomotive number 1 (called also as "the Big Ram") was protected for possible future use by building a lightly constructed wooden shelter on top of it.

More than five years the locomotive was waiting for better times at Äänekoski. In June 1971 a group of three representatives of the Museum Railway Forssa-Humppila (MFH) visited Äänekoski to negotiate with the management of the paper mill about possibility to get the remaining narrow gauge equipment of the mill for the newly established museum railway.

A positive response was received at the end of year 1971. Metsäliiton Teollisuus Oy decided to donate to MFH the Porter steam locomotive, a Orenstein&Koppel fireless steam locomotive, a Schwartzkopff diesel locomotive and a passenger coach built of a box car.

The donated rolling stock was loaded on a freight train at Äänekoski on the 5th of July 1972. Two days later the train arrived at Humppila. The three locomotives and the coach were lifted by crane on the rails of Jokioinen Railway and was towed at first to Jokioinen where they were stored on Ferraria industrial spur. Later that same year they were towed by the newly renovated Hyvinkää-Karkkila Railway steam locomotive number 5 to Forssa.

Restoration starts but fades into obscurity

In the beginning the restoration of Porter was run by Ilkka Hovi and PTJ Koskinen. At first the cabin of the locomotive was dismantled and the water tanks removed. After that the boiler was sand blasted and the whole locomotive primed with red paint. The boiler was also inspected and a hydro test was done. At the time it was thought that a full boiler renovation would be needed to pass the inspection.

Over the years PTJ Koskinen repaired numerous small parts of the locomotive at his home workshop in Vantaa. These include for example coupling (side) rods, connecting (main) rods with their grease cups, builders plates, bell, and a hydrostatic lubricator.

The starting up museum railway got in serious crises when the operation of Jokioinen Railway ended in the beginning of April 1974. Dismantling of the track started almost immediately from Forssa, so the volunteers of the MFH had to quickly evacuate all their rolling stock from Forssa to Minkiö station.

After leaving Forssa behind the renovation of H.K. Porter did not proceed much, because there were no workshop facilities at Minkiö.

The museum railway started regular museum train traffic between Minkiö and Jokioinen in summer 1978. The Porter locomotive, stripped and covered with tarps was stored under the open sky north of Minkiö station on the old main line towards Humppila. The renovation work faded into obscurity for almost twenty years.

New beginning of the renovation work

A decision was made in spring 1992 to restart the renovation work to avoid a situation where all the bits and pieces of the locomotive stored on various locations would be lost for ever. Closer inspection of the locomotive showed the locomotive frame needing a partial rebuild. At the rear part of the frame a serious fatigue failure was found. Also one of the wheels had a damaged tyre, which finally had to be totally replaced.

The ongoing renovation project was ran by the chief mechanic of the museum railway Juha-Pekka Viitanen and later also PTJ Koskinen who had been involved in the renovation from very beginning of the project.

In 1993 an agreement was made with a local machine workshop Virtanen of the reparation work of the locomotive frame. The frame still having wheels and cylinders attached was taken to that workshop on the last day of March 1993.

At Virtanen workshop the frame was repaired by rebuilding about 80 cm of it. A workshop from Forssa, Teräshelmi Oy manufactured new steel wedges for the rear journal boxes. Also cross equalizer of suspension springs was fully rebuilt. The springs were repaired at Vallilan takomo in Helsinki. One spring assembly had to be fully rebuilt.

In the late 1990s started also collection of information of the locomotive and its history. Original drawings were found after a long research on microfilm at the California State Railroad Museum library. Special thanks go also to very helpful staff of the library. Paper copies of microfilms were made and in addition to assembly drawings there are drawings of head light, smoke stack and snowplow.

Renovation work of the boiler started in the beginning of the 1990s at the same time when the frame was taken to a workshop. The boiler is saturated steam boiler, which does not have a superheater which would increase the power and fuel economy of the boiler. The boiler is not original. It was built by locomotive manufacturer Tampella in Tampere, Finland in 1932.

When the renovation progressed the boiler was found to be in much better condition than thought. The boiler was cleaned, tubes and water pipes were replaced with new ones. New water gauges (sight glasses) and injectors were installed. Also all the steam valves and pipes were rebuilt.

Also the steam pipes inside the boiler were replaced with new ones and the boiler passed the official hydro test in spring 1996. In the same year a new smoke stack similar to the original smoke stack was built.

Plenty of new iron

In summer 1998 a new cab was built by an external shop to replace the old rusted cab. A roof hatch similar to the one in the Porter locomotives of ex Jokioinen Railway was added to have easier access for maintenance work. The new cabin was also built to be 2 cms higher than old one.

The badly rusted water tanks were replicated with new tanks. After that the Porter project had to wait until all the work with Loviisa-Vesijärvi Railway steam locomotive number 6 had been completed.

In June 2000 the rebuilt and primed frame of Porter was taken by a tractor back to Minkiö. The frame was placed on temporary trucks, painted black and the already repaired boiler was installed on top of the frame. New bronze bearing surface plates were installed under the boiler and the fastening bolt holes were widened for metric system.

During the same year all the wooden parts of the locomotive were rebuilt: the cabin floor, the rear pilot beam. After this the cabin was placed on top of the frame.

At the same time started installation of boiler fittings. When the locomotive arrived from Äänekoski it was equipped with two different types of injectors. One of the was of original Buffalo type and second one was a Stenberg injector. Now both were replaced with two new Stenberg injectors, which both worked very well in tests, but were a little underpowered. In future they will be changed to original style Buffalo injectors.

In 2001 the project made rapid progress. In the beginning of the year the work on boiler fittings continued. After that the cabin of the locomotive was painted and the boiler jacket was installed. In 2002 the water tanks were painted black and the decoration lines and the original name of the railway "Äänekoski-Suolahden rautatie" was painted on the tanks. After this the tanks were installed on the locomotive frame and also the decoration painting of the cab was completed.

The decorations and lettering was at first done with white paint, but after that it was discovered on the original order documents of the locomotive, that all the markings were "gold leaf". After this all the white was painted over with thin layer of gold paint.

Repair work requires creativity

In early summer 2002 the Porter locomotive still without wheels was put on top of the transporter wagon (a narrow gauge wagon to carry broad gauge wagons) and transferred to the brand new Minkiö workshop building. During autumn 2013 the cabin doors were made and window frames were started. The doors are not of the original model but windowless wooden doors dating to post WW2 time.

The original brass bell was cracked, so a bell from one of the Jokioinen Railway Porter locomotives scrapped in the beginning of the 1950s was used instead. Also the original whistles had disappeared during the years so our Porter got the low pitch whistle is from VR Tv1 series steam locomotive and the high pitch from the Hv1 number 555 (named also "The Princess of Turku"). The stand for the pressure gauge was made of the leg of a grease cup of Tk3 class steam locomotive. The handle of the smoke box comes of a handle of a regulator valve of a Vr1 class steam locomotive.

The original "Wild West" style oil head light of Porter had been replaced at Äänekoski with a battery operated electrical light. Luckily a drawing of the head light was among drawings found at the California State Railroad Museum, so a replica headlight could be constructed by using an unidentified headlight found in the spare parts warehouse at Minkiö.

At last on wheels

Finally Virtanen workshop in Jokioinen was not able to machine wheelsets. In autumn 2003 the wheelsets were transferred to Formet Oy workshop in Forssa.

At Formet Oy shop one new tyre was fabricated of Hardox 200 steel to replace badly damaged tyre. The steel is the same hardness as the old forged steel tires. This is important so that all the wheels will wear evenly. The profile of the wheels was machined to measurements of Finnish made PT 4 narrow gauge steam locomotives, because wheelsets on those locomotives have nearly same dimensions as in Porter. New brake shoes were taken from the spare brake shoes of the Move 21 diesel locomotive, because its wheel assembly is similar to PT4 steam locomotive.

After machining the wheels in a lathe and painting the brand new looking wheelsets were installed under the locomotive in the beginning of February 2004, when Porter could finally be lowered of the jacks back on the slim riles.

The coupling (side) rods and connecting (main) rods were installed in spring 2004. All the pins were replaced with newly machined ones. Also for example an expansion link was remade. For the first time for many years Porter was moving on the riles on the 5th of June 2004 when pulled by a switcher.

On the 8th of January 2005 tanks of Porter were filled with water for the first time for more than 40 years and the first hydro test was completed with 9 kg/cm2 pressure. The slide valves delivering steam to the cylinders were adjusted in May.

The locomotive has a old-style slide valves, which are very rare on Finnish operating steam locomotives. In addition to Porter you can find these valve only at Nykarleby Jernväg railway on their Ojakkalan-Olkkala Railway steam locomotive number 3. Newer steam locomotives have more efficient and easier to lubricate piston valves.

Back to life after almost 40 years

Porters first firing after about 39 years of standing finally happened on Saturday the 11th of June 2005. The fire was lit at 9.00 AM and the full pressure of 12 kg/cm2 was reached after noon.

The firing itself went fine, but problems were caused by a failing seals on the right hand side cylinder steam pipe connection. Because of that test drive was not possible to the disappointment of a large crowd of enthusiasts following the event.

There was a similar problem one hundred years ago when locomotive was assembled in Äänekoski. Then the problem was caused by "a cracked lug on the left hand side steam pipe".

The broken seal was fixed on following week and on Saturday afternoon on the 18th of June the locomotive was again fired. After a couple of hours the still warm boiler was up to 6–7 kg/cm2. This time everything worked and Porter moved for the first time under steam at about 18.30 hours!

Firing Porter locomotive

Test driving at Minkiö yard continued for a little bit more than an hour. The locomotive also got to pull a real train when a test was made for a short distance with the six car passenger train consist standing at Minkiö station. The locomotive worked quite fine. There were some minor steam leaks and one of the rear bearing got a little bit overheated.

The first test run on line was made to Jokioinen direction in the mid summer weekend and to Humppila direction on 3rd of July 2005. Officially the locomotive was taken in the rooster during the first ever Minkiö Steam Festival on the last day of July 2005. That very day Porter hauled a special train for invited guests from Minkiö to Jokioinen and back.

Operational experiences

More than 100 years old Porter is the oldest steam locomotive in Finland in operating condition. Although only about 30% of the locomotive is still original after a long and heavy usage at Äänekoski and tens of years standing.

Operational experiences after the first summer clarify that Porter cannot be used with the scheduled trains. The locomotive is very light and its running speed is relatively low and being saturated steam locomotive it is not very economical to operate. Also a very small firewood bunker and small water tanks limit usage of the locomotive.

The good point being that as it is a small locomotive it is very fast to fire up and get to the operating pressure. In that way it is ideal for small charter trains and a fireman does not need to arrive the evening before to fire up the locomotive but he can only arrive early the same morning.

Photos of the early part of the renovation project in the beginning of the 1970s

Porter loaded on a broad gauge car

Porter on rails in Humppila

Porter on Ferraria spur

Porter tallissa

Porter at Forssa shed

Porter in shed

Drawing of a blow valve

Connectin / main rods of Porter

Drawing of the break valve

Drawing of Buffalo injector