CNR 3737 :: Feedwater Heater

CNR 3737 - feedwater heater
(Well, that’s looking very different…)

It’s been a while since Andy Malette and I worked on our CNR 2-8-2 brass-bashing projects. It’s just that time of year when other commitments get in the way. But last Friday, we got back at it by installing the Elesco Feedwater Heater on each engine.

The prototype S-3-a class did not come equipped with these. According to Canadian National Steam! – an essential resource for anyone modelling The People’s Railway in the steam era – shop forces in Battle Creek, Michigan added the appliance to CNR 3737 in September of 1940. I’m assuming that this was done as the Grand Trunk Western prepared to sell this locomotive to parent CNR – which occurred on February 18, 1941. CNR 3737 would retain its Grand Trunk Western livery at least until December 1948, when the Canadian government settled the duty, sales tax, and War Exchange Tax.

(As an aside, at the same time as they fitted the feedwater heater the Battle Creek shop forces also swapped in Boxpok main drivers – third driving axle from the front. Thanks for that, guys! I’ll have to retrofit that in a future work session. Andy and I are still discussing how to approach this work.)

A close look at our collection of prototype photos shows that on the engines that Andy and I are modelling, the feedwater heater was installed by cutting into the top of the smokebox and adding a platform. Side-on photos show that daylight can be seen in the lower corners, between the feedwater heater and the smokebox. With the aid of the flashlight on my phone, I’ve tried to capture what that looks like on the model:

CNR 3737 - feedwater heater - close up
(BTW, the boiler is set loosely on the chassis for these photos so there are gaps that will disappear when it’s properly screwed together)

Following Andy’s lead, I measured, marked and then cut the smokebox top to accept the feedwater heater. (I can admit that taking a cut-off disc in a Dremel tool to the top of a brass steam engine was a bit of a brown trouser moment, but I did not slip. There are no nasty gouges to fill.) I finished the hole with some careful filing. I then cut a platform out of a piece of brass sheet and soldered it into the hole. Andy and I considered building arched side walls for this platform but in the end we decided that they would be completely obscured by the feedwater heater, so there was no point.

The feedwater heater itself is a brass casting provided to us by our friend Simon Parent, who created them for his 2-10-2 models. He also provided us with the spoked pilot wheels. (Thanks, Simon!)

For our models, Andy and I had to slightly modify the connections. As provided, they have two small pipe connections on the back, at the edge, that run parallel to the handrail, one above the other. I had to remove the upper connection and relocate it to the front, pointing down. This involved clipping away the unneeded connection, filing the end to shape, then drilling a hole for the new connection, soldering in a piece of brass rod, and then soldering a flange to it.

CNR 3737 - feedwater heater

Finally, I tinned the mounting plate and the bottom of the feedwater heater, and Andy hit it with a propane torch – in and out, quickly! – while I held everything in place with pliers. That casting needed a lot of heat…

I need to clean up a bit of solder on the end cap – easy enough to do – and decide whether I want to fill the vertical notch. The prototype had a solid cap, but the mass of this casting will make it difficult to fill without unsoldering the new pipe connection and flange. I might just leave it. It adds character, and the caps could certainly be swapped from engine to engine – or even left off: one of the photos of Andy’s prototype (3702) shows it left bare.

With its new pilot and now a feed water heater, the model is really starting to take on some CNR character. There’s still a lot to do, including reworking the face of the smokebox and adding the water pump ahead of the air pump – a modification that will require us to chop the running board and elevate a portion of it. And of course, there’s that nasty Boxpok driver!

I’m not sure what we’ll tackle next, but we’re returning to Andy’s shop in just over a week. I can hardly wait!

6 thoughts on “CNR 3737 :: Feedwater Heater

    • Hi Bruce:
      I don’t think there’s an easy source. I suspect we’ll machine new centres – or, at least, overlays to provide the correct look. We’ll see. It’s in the future…

  1. Looking good! I think you are better at soldering and cutting on brass that you think. I’m learning a lot about this locomotive and the CNR through your efforts, an unexpected pleasure. Thank you for sharing this and your journey into model railroading. Really love the spoked pilot wheels in the leading truck they are exquisite.

    • Thanks Leonard. And yes – the spoked pilot wheels are great, aren’t they? I’m so glad that the CNR used them… and that Simon made them available in 1:64.

  2. Trevor,
    Really nice work on the loco. You’re doing a great job of capturing the railroad-specific and engine-specific details that identify a particular loco, and, most important, speak to time and place.

    A small point about the Elesco fwh – to my knowledge, the inlet and outlet feedwater connections on the left end should both be on the same side of the split head. Luckily, in the photo 3737 appears to have a one-piece head cover, so you can just fill the split.

    I noticed the steam line coming out of the front of the dome running to the pilot. What’s with that? Perhaps steam for de-icing switch points?

    Eager to see the next episode,
    Jack Mullen

    • Thanks Jack.

      Good point about the two pipes. I guess I’m filling that split after all.

      Yes, the steam line you mention is for a rig that was used to de-ice switch points in a yard where this engine was assigned. My prototype photo is from August, but of course the pipes would remain in place year-round. It was this interesting and attention-grabbing feature that made me decide I wanted to use my 2-8-2 to model 3737.


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