April started well for #18 when it received its first 31 service day FRA inspection. A couple days later on the 4th it successfully operated a work train. On April 9th #18 departed Durango with over 100 paying passengers, including 15 students from Independence High School who had traveled to Colorado to ride behind #18. As #18 walked up the steep 2.5%, grade 15 miles out from Durango, with 4 full coaches in tow, a series of bangs was heard. Engineer Bill Colley quickly stopped #18 and upon inspection it was found that #18 had shattered its right piston and cylinder head. #18 was subsequently pushed back to Pinkerton siding by diesel #11 and set out for the night. #11 hauled the train full of passenger back to Durango. The following day, #18’s piston rod and the last bit of shattered piston were removed and D&SNG locomotive #482 hauled our lame #18 back to Durango.
The cause of the failure, although difficult to determine with absolute certainty, appears to have been caused by either ring or piston failure in which a piece broke loose and lodged in one of the port openings in the cylinder bore. The piston had previously been repaired by the SP. Repairs will likely consist of new rings, pistons, and piston rods on both sides of the locomotive to assure there is no future chance of failure for the same reasons on the left side.
Moving ahead, the D&SNG and CCR are both committed to making all of the necessary repairs in a proper manner so that #18 will again operate on the D&SNG prior to its return to California later in the year. The timing of this is less than ideal in that the D&SNG is currently busy preparing its own fleet of locomotives for the upcoming season. To keep from putting any undue burden on the D&SNG mechanical staff charged with performing the repairs on #18, the May 18th and 19th excursion have been postponed until a later date.
Updates on the repair process will be made as they begin to transpire. The D&SNG and CCR apologize for any inconvenience caused due to changes in the #18’s operating schedule. Again, both organizations will be working together to make all the repairs to #18 and have it steaming again in the very near future. In the meantime please keep those donations to the CCR in mind as we move forward and keep #18 going strong!