By Richard Melvin, Operations Manager
The 765’s first revenue trips of her third career are now history. Operationally, these trips could not have gone any better. We got first class treatment from Norfolk Southern on the deadhead moves to and from North Judson, while the Chesapeake and Indiana also rolled out the red carpet for us. We then worked with a very dedicated group of folks at the Hoosier Valley Railway Museum to operate the excursions.
Personally, these trips were a chance to re-acquaint myself with an old friend, but one who had undergone an extreme makeover. The 765 is not the same locomotive that we put away in 1993. Today it fires easier, steams better, sounds better, runs smoother and overall is in the best mechanical condition it has ever been since it was new. When under way, the running gear is totally silent, with no rod slap, no clanking and banging; there is no sound at all from the running gear. Even so, nothing runs hot and all the bearings run at about the same temperatures.
The running gear may be quiet, but the sound that the 765 makes at the stack is plenty loud and is really something to hear. The 765’s valves are set absolutely dead-on square and the sound from the exhaust demonstrates that on every exhaust beat. Whether going forward or backing up, the exhaust beats are all equal in volume and perfectly timed. And of course, when working hard the 765 still has that characteristic Lima “shotgun” exhaust. She rides so well now that some of the crew have commented that the 765 now rides better than the tool car.
The most serious problem we had with the 765 in more than 10 days of operation was the little air motor that swings the clapper in the bell quit. A few drops of oil fixed that in short order.
The 765’s new crew is an interesting mix of old heads like myself and Chief Mechanical Manager Steve Winicker, and a lot of young, eager-to-learn rookies. But what a crew of rookies we’ve got! The North Judson trips gave us an opportunity to let almost every “new guy” get some time in the left-hand seat learning how to make steam. Over on the right side of the cab we also had a new engineer learning how to run the 765. Things worked out very well on both sides of the cab with our slate of major league rookies, so well that on one trip on June 21 on one of the North Judson trips, the oldest man in the 765’s cab was only 32 years old! Us “old guys” have to get prepared to pass the torch to the younger folks and we’ve got a great young crew to pass that torch on to.
Steve Winicker and the guys and gals that put so many hours of their personal time into the overhaul of the 765 should be tremendously proud of what they have accomplished. I have had the honor of running the 765 well over 30,000 miles all over the eastern part of the country on a dozen different railroads, and I can honestly say that the 765 has never run better. The 765 is as close to new as it could possibly be, poised for many more years of successful operation in her third career.