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Atlantic Coast Line Steam Locomotive 1504

Atlantic Coast Line 1504
In 1906, the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) was empowered by congress to set maximum shipping rates, in an effort to curb what the public (or rather, the shippers) considered price gouging. The reality is this was a period of economic inflation, and, hamstrung, railroads had a tough time meeting rising costs. By late 1915, 1/6th of all railroad trackage belonged to railroads in receivership. That is, the railroads were bankrupt, yet allowed to continue to operate under strict financial controls as they reorganized. This was exacerbated in 1916 by the threat of a strike, with railroad workers seeking shorter days. To avert the strike, Woodrow Wilson signed the Adamson Act, shortening the work day to 8 hours.

Although World War I started in 1914, the United States did not enter the war until April 6, 1917, after the British showed the US an intercepted coded telegram from German Foreign Minister Arthur Zimmermann to Germany’s ambassador in Mexico, Heinrich von Eckhardt promising US land to Mexico if they joined the war. This telegram is known as the Zimmerman Telegram.

As you can imagine, US Railroads were not in a position to fully support this new war effort, resulting in heavy delays, so the ICC recommended nationalization of the nations railroads under the auspecies of the United States Railroad Administration (USRA). Among the changes the USRA implemented were standard designs for locomotives and rolling stock.

The USRA designs utilized mostly state-of-the-art designs, commensurate with the material shortages common during any war. The designs were so modern, that even after USRA control ended in 1920, railroads continued to order copies of the designs, applying evolutionary changes to keep the design current.

Among the original USRA locomotives were a series of Light Pacifics for passenger duty. The Atlantic Coast Line (ACL) received 45 of these locomotives, classed P-5-A, and went on to order an additional 25 copies. This brings us to ACL 1504, one of the original USRA Light Pacifics.

ACL president Champion Davis wanted a locomotive on display in front of the new ACL General Office Building on the banks of the St. John’s River in downtown Jacksonville, Florida. He and John W. Hawthorne, head of the ACL Mechanical Department, selected 1504 as the best candidate among remaining steam locomotives. In 1960, after being in storage since her retirement in 1952, the engine was given a thorough mechanical overhaul and placed on display in front of the then new ACL General Office Building in Jacksonville.

The locomotive stood proudly there until 1986, when the locomotive was moved to its current location in the parking lot of the Prime Osborne convention center, the former Jacksonville Union Terminal.

ACL 1504 Move.mpg

In October, 1990, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers designated her an Engineering Landmark. However, ACL 1504 now tops the National Railway Historical Society‘s list of Top Eight Endangered U.S. Railroad Landmarks.

So how bad is it? Last night, I attended a meeting of the North Florida Chapter NRHS. ACL 1504 had been surveyed in July to determine the extent of the damage resulting from unprotected storage for all these years, and the recommended remediation to preserve and protect this important landmark. Mark Frazier provided the following report:

Atlantic Coast Line Steam Locomotive 1504

Named the NRHS most endangered Railroad Landmark in the Nation

1)       Events leading up to the inspection

  1. NRHS Announces Top Eight Endangered U.S. Railroad Landmarks

i.      Widely considered one of the Southeast’s most important railroad resrouces, no. 1504 represents the plight of park locomotives accross the nation left exposed to the elements, whose maintenance needs outpace the allotted resources.

ii.      It has been on display outdoors for over 50 years and is rapidly deteriorating

  1. Strategy meeting

i.      Inspection date set ffor July 13, 2013

ii.      North Florida NRHS agreed to be the agency for receiving and dispersing funding.

2)      July 13, 2013 inspection of 1504

  1. Inspectors

i.      Jay Boggs

ii.      Steve Arrington

iii.      Mark Frazier

  1. General appearance

i.      The display is in a place where few people see it.

ii.      The grey paint has faded and flattened out from the exposure to the elements. (When at display in front of the ACL building, and when first moved too the Prime Osborn center, the locomotive was painted black. I’m not sure when the locomotive was painted grey).

iii.      The locomotive is complete with all the “jewelry” (headlight, bell, whistle, safety valves, number boards, builder plates, marker lights and gauges all still on the locomotive).

iv.      Security is almost nonexistent depending on video surveillance from in the Prime Osborn Center.

  1. Visual inspection, reading the artifact

i.      Access t the display is from the rear and inspection started at the tender from ground level.

  1. Wheels and trucks
    1. all 4 wheel sets have rim stamped wheels solid bearings and the rear wheel set has been welded to the rail. These things render them unserviceable. Journal boxes have been opened left exposed to  the weather at times and filled with rocks.
    2. The trucks have bolted side frames and would not be suitable for service.
    3. Tender cistern and coal bunker
      1. The cistern has suffered much corrosion and decay from the inside out. There are holes in the bottom top and sides, in the bottom near  the rear truck one is larger than a football. The top has 2 large holes at the rear of the bunker. The lower parts of the sides also have evidence of the same decay with several patches that indicate this was an issue while the locomotive was still in service.
      2. Cistern hatch doors are welded shut.
      3. The coal bunker still has the coal pusher and stoker auger in place but both have been exposed to the elements for over 50 years.
      4. The frame of the  tender, draft gear and brake system appear to be in good condition with no major problems or defects visible.
      5. The locomotive cab
        1. The cab is currently not secured in the past it was with locking Plexiglas doors.
        2. All guages and cotrols are intact
        3. The cab itself is in good condition lined with oak boards
        4. Cab windows have rotted and need to be replaced.
        5. Firebox interior
          1. Inspection completed by Jay Boggs
          2. Grates, sheets, and firebrick indicate that there has not been a fire in the firebox after shop work was last completed.
          3. There are no signs of water entry through the flues.
          4. All flues, tubes and super heaters are still in place.
          5. Hammer test detected no broken stay-bolts or scale dropping from the water side of the inner firebox sheets.
          6. Firebox exterior
            1. Visible areas of  the sheets show no signs of pitting or other corrosion or decay.
            2. All flexible stay-bolt caps are intact and in very good condition
            3. Rigid stay bolts that are visible also appear to be new
            4. Boiler Jacketing
              1. Boiler jacket is in sections pop-riveted together with signs of rust at the joints indicating water entry at these seams.
              2. The bottom side of the jacket has decayed and rusted through allowing it to drop down.
              3. It appears that the current jacket was a replacement after an asbestos abatement was performed in the early to mid-1980s.
              4. Looking through openings in the jacket the boiler shell is painted and shows little signs of rust.
              5. The jacket is spaced away from the boiler with spacer blocks.
              6. At this point the jacket is providing protection to the boiler from the elements.
            5. Plumbing and appliances
              1. All steam, water, air and sand pipes are stil in place and connected
              2. All appliances such as compressors, stocker motor, turbo-generator, injectors safety valves, whistle, bell, headlight, marker lights, lubricator and sanders are still on the locomotive and are complete.
            6. Smokebox
              1. Access through the smokebox door was not possible on July 13.
              2. The fireman’s side inspection plate was able to be removed to allow visual inspection behind the netting.
              3. There were signs of moisture entry into the smokebox.
              4. The stack is capped however it is unkown when the cap was placed on the stack. Moisture entry may have been through an ucapped stack at one time.
            7. Cylinders, saddle, valves and rods
              1. The biggest notable thing about this part of the locomotive are the plates installed on the back side of the crosshead preventing movement of the rods, pistons, and drivers.
              2. The cylinder saddle has reinforcement rods added around the valve chest.
              3. The rods and valve gear have machine tool marks still on them indicating little to no wear on them since the locomotive was last shopped.
            8. Locomotive wheels and running gear
              1. Access under the locomotive and between the frames was not possible on July 13 due to weather conditions; therefore inspection was from the outside only.
              2. All the locomotive wheels and tires appear to be in very good condition and still show tool mars from being turned in a wheel lathe.
              3. All of the axles are riding on solid bearings ith only the trailing truck having the bearings on the out end of the axle.
              4. Most of  the leaf springs appear to be in good condition however there were a couple of leaf tat did show some rust damage between the leaves.
              5. The trailing truck has had some modifications done that did look questionable and will need further evaluation.

3)      Over evaluation and grading

  1. Locomotive overall grade B+

i.      1504 for a display locomotive is in very good condition and is 99% complete

ii.      The appearance of the locomotive is not looking good to the general public due to the faded dull grey paint and the rust staining and streaking from the rust under the jacket seams

iii.      Mechanically it appears that 1504 has never run since a total rebuild.

  1. Tender overall grade D-

i.      The tender wheels, trucks and tank are beyond saving for any future use and only basic cosmetic repair should be considered.

ii.      The tender frame and draft gear appear to be usagle as a good base for a rebuilt tender if ever needed.

4)      Recommendations

  1. Set up one group or organization to oversee the 1504 in the future

i.      Come to an agreement with the City of Jacksonville for future control of the locomotive either through a lease or purchase

ii.      Establish an ACL 1504 brand

iii.      Plan what the future of the locomotive will be

iv.      These steps will take time and need to become the foundation for the future. This is not something that should be done in a rush and may take several months.

  1. Cosmetic work yet this fall

i.      Secure the bottom of the jacket back toether and pull it back into place.

ii.      Seal seams in the jacket.

iii.      Paint the entire locomotive and tender

iv.      Cosmetic work to tender only

  1. Remove loose rust.
  2. Stabilize rusted areas.
  3. Rill holes with sheet metal where necessary and smooth with body filler
  4. Paint and letter entire tender

v.      Secure cab.

  1. Make and install new cab windows
  2. Remove cloudy Plexigrall from between locomotive and tender
  3. Install see through barrier across  the rear of the cab that will keep cab area secure but still visible.

vi.      Consider that all work done this fall is for 3-5 years and is only stabilization move till the next phase can be planned.

5)      Final summary, the overall condition of the ACL 1504 and its historic significance indicate that this is not a locomotive that should be neglected in a parking lot on display. Therefore immediate stabilization measures should be taken as soon as possible. Long term planning for the future should also begin now. These plans should include taking necessary steps that would continue to prepare the locomotive for possible restoration to operation if the opportunity would present itself. This would include not doing damage to the locomotive or building obstacles in the way of any future restorations.

In recent years we have seen locomotives steaming that were to never steam again and are running under steam on railroads that said they would never run on. Union Pacific has recently announced the ultimate restoration of a Big Boy Locomotive something we  were told for years would never happen. It comes down to that never comes much sooner than many think it will and we must never give up.

This report was prepared with the assistance of Diversified Rail Services who also have done an inspection of 1504 and deemed the 1504 a rebuild able locomotive. They will also make themselves available in the future as contractors for 1504.



  1. joe murray wrote:

    i think that this locomotive should be restored to operational condition look at the revenue it could generate on steam excurons

    Monday, July 21, 2014 at 13:00 | Permalink
  2. Arved wrote:

    But therein lies the fly in the ointment. CSX has no interest in running excursion trains, or allowing them on its network.

    Wednesday, August 27, 2014 at 13:52 | Permalink

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