In and Out of the Shop in Two Weeks

Nichols-Shepard flue-sheet

Nichols-Shepard flue-sheet. In smokebox end.

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R. R. #13, Box 209, Brazil, Indiana 47834

We would like to believe that the boiler on Granddad's engine is as good as the day it left the factory, but rust and corrosion have taken their toll. Many of our boilers are now 70 or more years in age. Some of the needed repairs may be minor but few boiler repairs are 'quick fixes.'

Many of us do not have the facilities for boiler repairs or to do hot riveting. I would like fellow steam hobbyists to know that there are a few boiler shops around that still make repairs. Some of you may think this article is going to be an advertisement, but that is not really my intention. My intent is let everyone know that there is no reason to operate an unsafe boiler!

The boiler shop I am most familiar with is B&B Steam Restoration Shop at Greensburg, Indiana. The owners are Berry Moorman and Bob Gold; (hence the name B&B). Brian Vaughn and Sam Ertel work along with Bob and Berry in the shop.

My story begins in October, 1994. My father and I planned to steam up our 20-75 Nichols & Shepard double rear-mount, to pull it on the Baker fan and put it into the shed for the winter. At 135 lbs. of steam pressure we heard a steam leak in the smokebox. We were not lucky enough to have blown a hand hole gasket; instead we had a leak in the front flue sheet. The hole was large enough to stick a baling wire in and was in the bend of the flue sheet below and to the side of the front hand hole plate.

I borrowed an ultrasonic tester from work and after a series of test spots I discovered that the front flue sheet was less than 1/16 inch thickness in a few places. This meant that you could not build up around the leak with weld, as it would likely start leaking somewhere else shortly. The proper repair would be to patch the front flue sheet.






Labor-tube sheet




Labor-smoke box patch




Labor-install flues



Subtotal-nontaxable items


3/8 boiler plate



3/4 rivets



1/4 boiler plate



Indiana Sales Tax





Detail of charges from B&B invoice.

I phoned B&B Steam Restoration to get an idea of guidelines they used to determine the size of the patch and what the repair might cost. The original flue sheet was ' or .50 thick, and in order to do a proper patch we wanted a minimum of .330 or approximately 21/64 thickness on the old flue sheet to weld the patch to. One other factor was the condition of the rivet heads, as we wanted to remove all rivets where the head was deteriorated. I proceeded to cut out all but the top two rows of flues, as they would be above the new patch. The top of the patch would actually be between the third and fourth row of flues but in order to weld and grind at the patch line, the row of flues above the top of the patch needed to be removed.

After moving the engine to B&B's shop, the bad part of the flue sheet was removed and we decided to replace the lower part of the smokebox, as the bottom was very thin. This was the perfect time to replace the smokebox bottom, because with part of the flue sheet removed, the new bottom could be welded in without leaving any signs of welding.

B&B hand-formed a new flue sheet patch complete with flange, welded in the patch, put in 19 new rivets, replaced the smokebox bottom, put in the flues (which I furnished) and cold-water-tested the boiler all in a two-week period.

I was well pleased with the work quality and appearance, also I appreciated getting my engine back home in such a short period of time. B&B doesn't do this work for free, but I do feel that their repair charges are reasonable, as the copy of my invoice will show.

If you should find yourself east of Greensburg, Indiana, or close to the New Point exit on 1-74, stop in at the B&B Steam Restoration Shop and talk to Berry, Bob, Brian or Sam. You will get to see a variety of repairs in progress and many different makes of steam engines. To reach B&B by telephone call 812-663-4531.