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In my previous posts about the Grapevine Vintage Railroad (see Part 1 here and Part 2 here), I mentioned that Puffy, their 1896 Cooke Locomotive Works built 4-6-0 was in the shed undergoing major repairs. I have now managed to find out the full story.
Puffy has been owned and operated by the GVRR since 2000. In Regular Service the GVRR ran its iconic engine on a weekly basis between Grapevine and the Fort Worth Stockyards before it suffered major damage to the cylinder walls. The original cylinder damage was repaired during 2010. Puffy was on its final test run to Fort Worth on October 31, 2010 when the piston broke, resulting in damage to the cylinder and the rod. Brent Villard, Trainmaster for the GVRR, was there when the breakdown occurred. “We filled buckets full of metal pieces from the cylinder, rod and piston,” he said. “We towed her back to Grapevine with our GP-7 diesel and assessed the damage.”
The City of Grapevine was not willing to give up on Puffy and charged Villard to locate the necessary parts for a repair, if possible. The alternative was to custom-make new parts copied from the originals – an expensive process. After combing the country for static engines with interchangeable pistons and rods, he discovered the parts in Paris, Arkansas. Paris is located in western Arkansas between Fort Smith and Little Rock, 339 miles from Grapevine.
The 20-inch-diameter, 350-pound pistons and a four-foot-long connecting rod were acquired from the Missouri Pacific #2522, a 4-6-0 locomotive on static display in the Paris City Park since 1962. That Missouri Pacific engine was also built by Cooke Locomotive Works in October, 1898, so it was a perfect match.
Villard and his crew carefully removed the parts they needed from the “parts donor” locomotive for use in rebuilding the GVRR steamer. According to Villard, rebuilding an old steam locomotive is almost a lost art, so he turned to experts at Portable Machine Works of Baton Rogue, LA, to do the work.
The casing was welded in several places and carefully bored out with manual tools brought to Grapevine to perform this precise, meticulous work. The cylinder sleeve was then replaced, the piston put back into place, and the rod re-attached.
At the time of my visit Brent and his team were still doing the painstaking repair and reassembly work on Puffy in the hope of having the venerable locomotive back in service for the upcoming tourist season.
Puffy was formerly owned by the Texas State Railroad, which operates excursion trains to and from Rust to Palestine, TX. Puffy originally served as a Southern Pacific engine and was bought by Walt Disney for service at his first theme park, Disneyland. But the train was determined to be too large for the park and was moved to the Texas State Railroad.