Long Island's

Rich Railroading


4th Street at the Tracks  • Greenport, NY 11944 • 631-477-0439

Griffing Avenue at the Tracks • Riverhead, NY 11901• 631-727-7920

The LIRR G5s Steam Locomotive #39's whistle hasn't felt the rush of hot steam since October 1955 when she performed in the LIRR's End of Steam Ceremony at Hicksville, NY.  This past week, on September 15 and 16, the RMLI had the opportunity to make her sound again, after fifty seven years of silence!  The RMLI thanks the Long Island Antique Power Association for allowing the whistle to be played on their 1929 Buffalo Springfield Steam Roller at the Hallockville Fall Festival.  RMLI's Steam Project manager and LIAPA member, John Golden, runs the Buffalo through her paces.

Click Here to read about Engine 39 in the Riverhead Times - Review

Update: May 24, 2012

Due to the lack of funding for Engine 39, all work has ceased on the boiler as of December, 2009. The Railroad Museum of Long Island is active pursing grants and other sources of funding to bring the dream of running Engine 39 to a reality.

Strasburg Update: June 11, 2009

Staybolt Sleeves

Are the staybolt sleeves shown in the photos a standard PRR Design?

They do not look familiar compared to older photos.

If this is a revised design, is this being done to resolve a 1920's era staybolt size/spacing design that no longer satisfies FRA requirements?

I thought I read that this was the last straw for 1361 - that the staybolts were spaced too far apart for the thickness of the firebox sheets. Going to larger bolts, and a sleeve that supports a larger area under the staybolt head, is a logical technique for reducing the stresses and getting back to a design that could be certified.

Has the LIRR/RRMofPA team found a solution that could help 1361?

At the same time, all of those caps look possible future water leaks. After a number of thermal cycles, if water can get into the space around the bolt (which is supposed to allow movement, which to me means it is not permanently sealed), then repeated boiler thermal cycles will force the trapped water, as it changes to steam, to find a way past whatever sealant is used on the threaded joint. Once the seal is broken, then water may leak out whenever the staybolt is not fully seated (e.g during cold fill and pressurization, especially the pressure test). Obviously I am an amateur - can anyone explain? Or do I have it backwards - staybolts often leak when cold and the boiler is full? And then seal themselves when heated and pressures rise?

Inquiring minds want to know....
Dave Evans

Hello Dave and Gentle Forum Members,

After talking with Brendan Zeigler and Rick Musser yesterday at the Strasburg Railroad Company Shops, I have some answers to your questions.

The staybolt sleeves are not duplicates of any PRR design.  They are actually “industry standard” design staybolt sleeves used by Strasburg on boiler rebuilds/restorations as well as work on their own engines.  The size of our sleeve is relative to the G5s’ firebox dimensions. 

This design staybolt sleeve has nothing to do with the pitch/spacing issues of the staybolt to roof sheet thickness calculations on the #1361 and the #39.  There are no extant PRR designs for their old staybolt sleeves and to try and duplicate such a sleeve and make the dies necessary for reproduction would be costly – money best spent on the work at hand.  Please remember that almost all of these flexible staybolts are covered with insulation and sheeting and are not seen while the locomotive is in operation.

Strasburg’s solution to the pitch/spacing issue on #39, using thicker roof sheet material, would conceptually work on the #1361 – but each engine is different and calculations would have to be made to determine the specific “fix” for #1361.  In other words, for a K4s the roof sheet thickness might have to be greater than ½” relative to her staybolt spacing and pitch to conform to the working pressures and current safety values.

You are correct in your observations concerning leaks around the flexible staybolts following heating/cooling cycles.  The solution to such a problem is the insertion of a gasket in each staybolt assembly.  The PRR historically used copper gaskets.  Today, with space age science, the industry uses Teflon gaskets to seal the staybolt sleeves.

Here Brendan is holding a brand new flexible staybolt.  In our case, since the firebox is still together, the staybolts will be inserted from below, up through the staybolt sleeve as shown.

Once the staybolt has been properly tightened into the tapered crown sheet hole, a shaped head nut is tightened onto the staybolt in the sleeve from above.

Here is one of the Teflon gaskets:

The Teflon gasket is inserted into the sleeve, surrounding the shaped head – effectively sealing the assembly.

The final product.  This assembly will be duplicated many times over during the restoration of #39’s firebox.  We are very pleased with the expert engineering and craftsmanship going into #39 at Strasburg.

Again, thank you to all for your continuing interest in this project,

Don Fisher,  President RMLI

RMLI Report from Strasburg Observations, April 2009

On Monday, April 8, 2009 I had the pleasure of meeting with Rick Musser, Shop Foreman and Linn Moedinger, President & CMO at the Strasburg Railroad Company.  Work is progressing on the firebox of Engine #39.  39’s new roof sheet has been fabricated and work continues to prepare it for installation.

I was happy to meet one of the young craftsmen who work for Strasburg.  Mr. Brendan Zeigler has been spending many hours working on the firebox restoration.  Brendan is a frequent contributor to the Railway Preservation News Forum and has the ability to explain complex mechanical/engineering concepts in a way the layman can understand them. 

Repair work continues on the backhead.  Overall, the backhead is not in bad condition.  Welded repairs to those areas showing too much erosion are being performed to build those areas up to full thickness.

The crown sheet on the other hand is another matter.  Upon close inspection it was found that steel around many of the staybolt holes in the center of #39’s crown sheet had been badly eroded.  Since so many areas had been affected it was deemed most efficient to cut out the bad section and replace it with a new crown sheet section.  In the following photo, the red marks outline some of the worst pitting and steel erosion surrounding the staybolt holes.

Looking upward from inside the firebox, we see that much of the crown sheet has been removed.  The remaining steel does not exhibit the erosion and pitting seen in the center of the crown sheet.  (Note the supporting rods for comment later in this report.)

Here is the new crown sheet section, resting on the floor, awaiting installation into the top of the firebox.  Note the tabs welded around the perimeter of the steel.  These tabs are located to hold the steel section in place while welding is performed.

Brendan holds one of the many flexible staybolt sleeves that will be welded onto the roof and side sheets of the firebox. 

In the following photos we see the sleeve set upon the sheet;

a staybold is passed through for demonstration purposes;

and finally the cap is placed over the staybolt into the sleeve. 

These flexible staybolts are located in areas of the firebox that must be allowed some movement while expansion and contraction of the steel occurs during firing and cooling.

Following are three photos taken the week of May 8, 2009 by Rick Musser at Strasburg. 

The roof sheet is held in place by braces and the new flexible staybolt sleeves have begun being tack welded into place. 

Work is progressing at a rapid pace.

This is a brand new staybolt not yet finished.  It awaits machining to place the threads on the end and the taper.  This is critical work as the threads at both ends of the bolt must start together to maintain the correct distance between the inner and outer sheets of the firebox.

Here we see two NEW support rods.  These rods were manufactured to replace the two broken rods located below the roof sheet and above the crown sheet as shown in earlier photos.

Since our inspection trip on April 8, we have shipped #39’s whistle valve and bridge pipe valve (turret valve) to Strasburg for locating and mounting on the roof sheet.  In June we will move the steam manifold to Strasburg.  Following is a photo of #39’s bridge pipe valve prior to shipping.

Respectfully submitted,

Don Fisher, President

Video of RMLI's Engine 39 Boiler at the Strasburg Railroad Engine Shop!

Courtesy of


Railroad Museum begins $1 Million Fundraising Campaign –

Partners with Strasburg Rail Road Company to Restore and Operate LIRR G5s Locomotive #39

Friday, March 15, 2013 Greenport L.I. NY

On Thursday, March 14, 2013 - Mr. Linn Moedinger, President of the Strasburg Rail Road Company, Railroad Museum of Long Island President, Don Fisher and Vice President and Counsel Dennis DeAngelis, signed an agreement to restore and OPERATE the LIRR G5s Steam Locomotive #39!

RMLI’s Board of Trustees voted unanimously on Tuesday, March 12, 2013 to partner with the Strasburg Rail Road Company. The agreement culminates five and one half months of talks and negotiations between the two principals.

Terms of the contract provide for the Railroad Museum of Long Island to raise $900,000.00 in FY 2013 and transport the G5s locomotive to the Strasburg property, the Strasburg Rail Road will add $1,086,861.00 to the project, complete restoration of the steam engine in three years and then operate the locomotive on their property for a period of forty-eight years.

Fisher stated that “this partnership is the best way to get the locomotive restored and into operation. After thirty three-years of trying, New Yorkers and others living in the Pennsylvania Railroad region may finally ride behind this historic steam engine. We need to complete this project with a grass- roots effort. I believe the interest and support for restoring this locomotive will be there.”

The Railroad Museum of Long Island officially begins efforts to raise $1,000,000.00 for the move and restoration of the locomotive today. Tax-deductible donations may be made to “RMLI Engine 39” at P.O. Box 726, Greenport NY 11944-0726.

Engine 39 Restoration Project featured on WLNY TV 10/55

LIRR/PRR Engine #39 Wall of Honor Donors

Donate to the Engine 39 Restoration Project!

The “Steam up LIRR 39” Fund breaks $150,000.00!

Here’s how they’re doing it . . . . .

by Don Fisher

Let’s look at the Railroad Museum of Long Island’s “Steam up LIRR 39” efforts over the past few dozen months.   Our fundraising efforts have reached $161,512.00    The Museum is working toward raising an additional $838,488.00 in 2015!

Before we collectively hold our heads and shake them, understand the RMLI has a fifteen (15) year agreement with the Strasburg Rail Road Company to raise the money necessary and begin work on #39 at Strasburg.  You may see all the documentation at     Everyone connected with this project understands the challenge of raising money necessary to getting the job done, we are in this for the long haul and we have set our sights on a multi-year process to get it done.

So what insights might I share with you, interested reader?  Read on . . . . . . .

Grant writing and Foundation resources are not what many of us in the preservation field raise them up to be.  We have found Foundations in general are not interested in industrial history.  Their focus is on the here, now and future of education, art, youth, health and medical research.  In the past twenty-six months, we have written ten grant applications to Foundations and Corporations. 

Of the ten, five grantors were considered “railroad interest” specific. 

Three grantors, (one railroad specific), failed to even acknowledge receipt of our application! 

Six grantors sent kind letters of rejection giving varied explanations as to why they could not support a locomotive restoration project. 

Two grantors showed very high interest in the Railroad Museum of Long Island and asked us to submit future applications for historic preservation of railroad subjects.  (Grantor “A” would not support the #39 project because, “they do not provide money to steam projects due to poor performance from past experience.”   Grantor “B” “could not support a project that would ultimately be removed from Long Island.”)  We sincerely thanked both of these grantors for their consideration and the RMLI will be working with both Foundations in the future for non-steam projects that will remain on Long Island.

One railroad specific grantor wished us well but admitted they would only support steam projects within their area of operation.

One Foundation is pending and we are hoping they may look favorably on a three year schedule of giving toward the project.

Prior to applying, we first research prospective Foundations.  We find that many limit the amount of their grant.  Further, they look for a specific timeline of thirty-six months or less for successful conclusion of the funded project.  These two “givens” further limit the possibilities for our #39 project as we need much larger sums of grant money and the project cannot be guaranteed to be complete within thirty-six months of granting the funds. 

We are not perplexed by this Foundation and Corporate response.  It is an ongoing education and we continue to search for grantors that may be interested in supporting a truly American Industrial success story.  If you, gentle reader, have any suggestions for corporate funding, please pass them along and we will diligently investigate them:

Direct mailings, brochure enclosures and print articles have been sent to members of the National Railway Historical Society, the Pennsylvania Railroad Technical and Historical Society, the Massachusetts Bay Railroad Enthusiasts and “The Mutual,” the Benefit Fund Newsletter for trainmen and engineers in the Northeast Region of the United States. 

To date, Chapters of the PRRT&HS have donated $ 4710.00, the Camden and Amboy Rail Historians have donated $1000.00 and Chapters of the NRHS have donated $850.00 to the #39 restoration fund.  Many, many individual members of these organizations have donated to the fund in amounts from $5.00 to $500.00.  These donations are most valuable to the effort and cannot be diminished!!  At the beginning of our efforts in 2013 I stated that this will be a “grassroots” effort by people interested in preserving live steam in America.  We appreciate their interest and support of #39.  If everyone donates something, whatever they can, to the engine of their choice, Steam in America will survive!

Merchandise.  The “Steam up LIRR 39” committee embarked on a number of merchandising projects to raise funds for #39.  Christmas Tree ornaments, decorated railroad spikes, tee shirts, staybolt caps and sleeves and a book are all for sale at “meet ups,” and at the Museum Gift Shops.  To date $4024 has been added to the restoration fund by the sale of “merch!”  By far the most successful item is a book written and donated to the #39 effort by retired Long Island Rail Road engineer Mark E. Smith.  Mark’s book, “My Life on the LIRR: Memories of a Steam Locomotive Engineer” has contributed $2275 to the fund through over the counter sales and web sales on

The committee recently gained approval from the Museum Board of Trustees to design and market a Lionel Collectible “O” Gauge Car to raise funds.  The toy train car will be unique, “made in America,” and highly valuable to toy train collectors.  It will highlight the #39 restoration effort to a new demographic of railfan – the model train lover. 

Point of sale merchandise is not only a way to raise money, but an opportunity to spread the work of the restoration effort . . . . look for our soon to be announced Engine #39 three season jacket, wearing it in puts the face of our G5s in public where ever you go!!

Social Media.  The “Steam up LIRR 39” Facebook page has 2671 friends and followers and that number grows every day.  Steam rail aficionados from around the world are watching and following the progress of #39.  You can reach us at

Dean Walker, one of our friends and followers on Facebook from Great Britain has created wonderful art that will be featured on “Let’s get rolling!” tee shirts this summer.  Without the worldwide connectivity of social media we would never meet these like-minded people who in their own way support the “Steam up LIRR 39” efforts. 

The #39 committee members have created numerous video segments that appear on YouTube and on our Facebook page:

The “Steam up LIRR #39” team continues in 2015 with progress on a documentary: “Number 39’s Journey to Paradise:”

In addition to publicity the committee generates regarding Engine 39, local newspapers, television and radio, Trains eMagazine, Lionel’s eMagazine and many Forums and websites pick up and reprint stories about the Railroad Museum of Long Island’s efforts.

Our active presence on the World Wide Web is our most visible vehicle to get the word out about the #39 project.  It is my belief that it will be through “The Web” that we will meet our strongest and most valued supporters.  Someone may see these projections and say “hey, this is where I want to put my efforts to get one of America’s industrial success stories back on track!”

Outreach.  All the work of the “Steam up LIRR 39” committee is a form of “outreach,” whether it be social media, video or print.  But nothing can substitute for face to face contact with the public.  To that end in 2014 the Team had two “meet ups” at Strasburg Rail Road and worked a three day “Steampunk Unlimited” event in September.  Displays at the Riverhead Railroad Festival and Wooden Toy Train Play Days at RMLI were held in 2014.  This year, meet ups at Strasburg and Horseshoe Curve have been held.  We look forward to more exhibitions and visits in 2015.

Our partners, the Strasburg Rail Road Company, have been invaluable in allowing us to work at their site, holding the meet ups with steam fans and fans of the Pennsylvania Railroad, appearing at their events and shooting video for documentaries and publicity.  Their cooperation in placing Engine 39’s whistle on their regularly scheduled steam trains has added to the awareness of the Engine 39 restoration effort.  We are honored to be working with such a fine organization!

Planned giving.  A source of funding that had not occurred to the Board of Trustees or the Steam Team was a bequest from someone who died!  In August 2013, Walter H. Milne, a past member of the Museum died and left the RMLI his entire estate.  Although he did not specifically state that funds were to be used for Engine 39, the Board voted to place 20% of his estate, or $103,109.00  into the restoration fund.  On June 9, 2015 the Board of Trustees acknowledged receipt of another bequest from Mr. William R. Lee of Falls Church, VA to be used for “the restoration and preservation of railroad equipment.”  The Board voted to apply 33% of the bequest, or $32,954.20  to the “Steam up LIRR 39” fund.  Revenue from other bequests may be forthcoming but we have no idea when or from whom.

When considering the solicitation of planned giving from our members and friends, we ask them to please be specific where they wish their funds to go, the #39 Restoration Fund, the RMLI Endowment Fund or the Museum’s General Fund.  This is very important information necessary to guide the Board of Trustees in their function as administrators of the various Funds. 

This sums up the work that we have been doing over the past two years and hints at the continuing efforts of the Museum and the Committee to “git ‘er done!” 

Fundraising on this large a scale for industrial preservation is a challenge.  Lacking the deep pockets of a successful commercial Long Island class one railroad with an interest in its steam history, with the fluctuating state of the economy, the lack of Foundation and Corporate interest in America’s industrial past and the public’s love-hate relationship of the railroad on Long Island it is an interesting quest that we are on. 

Restoration donations by year are:  2013, $11,499.00;  2014, $114,502.00;  and 2015 to date, $35,511.00  As you can imagine, Walter H. Milne’s and William Lee’s  bequests make up 84% of the funds raised to date.  Large, single-grantor donors will make this project come to fruition quickly.  Until that or those people or entities are found, every single dollar is important and counts toward a living, breathing Pennsy Class G5s locomotive running on the East Coast!

I want to take a moment to thank the members of the “Steam up LIRR #39” committee for all the hard work they are performing for this effort.  Jordan Torregrosa, Ronnie Schnepf and Art Christian are to be congratulated for working with the Museum Board of Trustees and guiding the effort to grow the Fund and get the word out about Engine 39’s restoration.  Thank you to Art Single and Byron Babbish for all their work on producing Mark Smith’s book for the #39 effort!  Welcome to new member Gerard Jewells with thanks for his video work today and going forward.   And thank you to everyone who has donated to the “Steam up LIRR #39” project!!

Don Fisher, President

Railroad Museum of Long Island

Riverhead: Saturdays 10 AM to 4 PM Beginning April 7

Greenport: Reopens May 26 at 11 AM

Joe & Stephanie Acri, PA

Action Photos and Computers, PA

Russ Allan, VT

Anonymous, DC

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AXA Advisors, NY

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Mike Bartley, NY

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Mike Boland, NY

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Josh Bowman, Canada

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Michael Bruckart, PA

Jennifer Buschkowsky, UT

Camden & Amboy Rail Historians, NJ

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Delaware Valley Chapter NRHS, NY

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Thomas A. Doyle, PA

Arthur Edenfeld, OR

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Dave Fisher, NY

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Long Beach H.S. Faculty, NY

L. I. Antique Power Assoc., NY

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