The photos below don't show everything, but she now has:

New tubes (the only planned item)
New firebox
New staybolts
New smoke box
New dry pipe
New throttle poppet valve
New accessory steam manifold
New steam dome seal (liner)
New insulation (asbestos abatement was done in Phillips)
Reapplication of boiler jacket and all the other "stuff" we removed in Phillips.
and a bunch of lesser stuff.


We started with a $25,000 budget on a $18,000 quote for retubing and the necessary inspections. We've spent over $140,000 (November 2015 estimate). We don't owe any money, but we don't have enough for coal even if the engine was running.

You can make a PayPal or credit card donation to our Steam Fund right here. But, please note that if you are one of those who is blessed to be in a position to make a donation of $1,000, or more, we would rather have a check to avoid the 2.2% PayPal fee per transaction.
This fund is for items relating to the care and feeding of Monson #3 (leased from the Maine Narrow Gauge Museum). This includes such items as boiler rebuild and maintenance, running gear overhaul, coal purchases, water & coal handling facilities and equipment.

Due to the difficulties and huge costs outlined here - we desperately need money. Many other projects are on hold due to the funds diverted to this locomotive.
To direct your donation to the Steam Fund, click here:

If you wish to make a donation by check, please send it to:
Attn: Steam Fund
Box B
Phillips, ME 04966

And please add a memo designating "Steam Fund Donation."


This is what Monson #3 looked like as built in 1912. While we won't achieve this exact appearance, we hope to cosmetically backdate her to close to her "as built" condition.

The remainder of this page is a history of the work over the last 8 years.


We had hoped to complete this project in it's entirety over the winter of 2007-2008. However, one does not undertake an invasive and expensive task such as this without a lease agreement that is satisfactory to both parties. On March 15, 2008 we signed a lease agreement with the owner, Maine Narrow Gauge Museum, that places this locomotive in our hands for 15 years from that date. The lease requires us to pay for the boiler work (estimated $25,000) to bring the locomotive to FRA ready status (Form 4), and to perform certain running gear and general maintenance (an additional $10,000).

This view through the smokebox shows a tube being cut free of the flue sheet at the firebox end. If you look closely, you can see that all of the tubes have already been cut from the smokebox end.

To the apprentice steam engineer go all the nasty jobs. Here is Noah MacAdam cutting tubes from inside the firebox. The grates and ash pan are still in place.

Have you ever seen the inside of a steam dome? The big round object is the throttle valve. It's linkage has been disconnected and can be seen laying on top of the cut tubes. The pipe on the right side is the steam feed to the auxiliary turret in the cab (injectors, blower, generator, steam brake, lubricator).

Noah has come up for air. Here he models the latest boiler rat apparel consisting of a blacksmith's leather frock worn over well sooted denim. Note the absence of most of the plumbing and appliances. Those are tube ends sitting on the pilot deck.

Sorry, no picture, but the asbestos abatement team arrived on May 8, 2008 and had the locomotive divested of all it's asbestos by the next day.

Finally, on 8/23/08 the stripped down engine was shipped off to the shop at Boothbay Railway Village for the actual boiler work.

On 3/14/09 the front tube sheet was all polished up, ready for the new tubes. On the same day, 82 of the 96 tubes had their ends polished before we ran out of the specialized sanding disks.


Boothbay called on 4/6/09 and informed us that they found a large flaw in the casting from when the dry pipe was originally cast. Unfortunately it will not pass inspection. We have given them permission to build a new one, which they have already designed. It is a setback but we will be better off with a new updated drypipe. The engine may even perform better with the new design. For those not familiar with what a "dry pipe" is, it is the piece that runs through the boiler between the throttle (see photo above) and the firebox. Since it runs through the boiler, any failure of this piece bypasses the throttle and applies the full boiler pressure and steam flow capacity directly to the cylinders. A possibility to be carefully avoided!

A 6/13/09 visit to Boothbay revealed that they have not been able to work on the crown sheet problem that was reviewed with the boiler inspector late in April. It is the common weakening at the point where the crown sheet rolls over to mate with the firebox tube sheet (i.e. the junction between the top of the firebox and its front). The repair method has been agreed with the boiler inspector, but the shop forces have been distracted by breakdowns on Boothbay's own equipment and the usual demands of now having entered the tourist season.

Webmasters note: I hate to put this much text on a web page, but in this case these edited emails are the best way to convey just what happens in projects like this.

11/15/2009: The first thing is that Boothbay could not get it done before the end of November. As I wished to have #3 back by early December so we could have the winter to put it back together, I told them not to turn the drivers this year. [Webmaster's note: as part of the lease requirement "Turning the driver wheels, re-arching the springs, and repairing the water tank shall be completed by the Operator no later than December 31, 2013".] On Tuesday [Boothbay] called ... they had found more cracks and pockets in welds when they cut out the rest of the corners. In addition, more bad or broken stay bolts were found. These could not be seen until removal of the firebox corners. [Boothbay] placed calls to The State and Federal inspectors and [the MNGM and SRRL steam program leaders]. [MNGM and SRRL] agreed to the plan put forth by [Boothbay]. The Federal inspector did not wish to make a special trip so he said to do what ever was needed. [The State inspector] decided he needed to come and see the boiler himself. [Boothbay] started cutting into the firebox to find clean metal. Unfortunately they found more cracks and pockets in a longitudinal weld. They also found severe cracking in the stay bolts that they removed. [The State inspector] showed up while they were doing this. He was not happy with the situation. He ordered that all welds that the law covers be x-ray-ed. If they are found to be bad they are to be ground out and re-welded. Also if they could not prove that the stays had good welds all the stay bolts have to be replaced. This is between 200 and 300 stays. So far every weld that they have cut open has failed. It has been decided that the fastest and most economical way to accomplish this is to remove the boiler from the frame and place it on the shop floor. Also all flat sheets and the crown sheet will be cut out and replaced. The reason for this is that all of the stay bolt welds would have to be ground out and filled in. It is faster to install threaded stays and heat treatment is not necessary. The curved sheets will be ground and filled, as it will be faster and cheaper. The crown sheet is marginal so it is safer and smarter to replace it now.
11/22/2009: On Friday [Boothbay] called and said that all of the welds had been x-rayed. All of the welds passed except on the backhead of the boiler. There were six roughly two-inch long bad spots. These were ground out and re-welded and re-tested. The stay bolts are still all bad. We will still go ahead with cutting out the flat sheets and crown sheets and replacing them to speed things up and save money in the long run. ...
2/5/2010: ...recently spoke with ... Boothbay about #3(MNGRR). [They] said progress was good. They have finished with all of the cutting out of bad metal and are preparing the boiler for welding in new metal. They are ordering the metal and building the forms they will need. Later this month they will begin heating and beating the new metal to shape it. ...

Trevor Hartford photo taken Feb. 4, 2010. Somewhat scary image with the whole firebox gone! Not just the inner shell, but the outside of the waterlegs too. This is described above as "all flat sheets and the crown sheet will be cut out and replaced."

Trevor Hartford photo taken Feb. 4, 2010. Similar to above shot, but with the 3/4 view you can see that the curved sheet has been preserved and work is being done on the stay bolt holes.

Eric Hinkley photo taken March 3, 2010. Notable here is the new smokebox welded on. You can also see the old backhead (inner and outer walls still stay bolted together) leaning against the boiler.

Noah MacAdam photo: November, 2010. This is the new firebox flue sheet all ready for its edges to be rolled over. Though not visible in the photo, all but the outermost row of flue holes have been cut into the sheet. The outer row is drilled later so the sheet will not deform when the edges are rolled.

Noah MacAdam video: November, 2010. Here is the actual process of rolling over the edges. The overall heating is to avoid temperature stresses on the sheet.

Noah MacAdam photo: November, 2010. The "finished" product. Excess material will be trimmed to fit the crown and side sheets.

In February, 2011 we finally see some serious progress. Here, the right side sheet and backhead have been welded back in place.

On Nov. 7, 2012 she returned to Phillips. No, clearly not finished. We ran out of money to finish the work at Boothbay. But, the boiler work was done, including a preliminary hydro test, so we brought her home with the intent of doing the rest of the plumbing and reassembly in Phillips. But again, lack of funds, and labor prevented the successful completion.

By late in 2014, it was clear we were not going to get the job finished in Phillips, and we had built up a bit of money to spend on her. So, we loaded her up in the snow and sent her off to a privately owned shop in Alna with an expected completion of May, 2015.

In early May, 2015 we got notified that a problem found on Maine Narrow Gauge Museum's B&H #7 was going to delay the return of Monson #3 to Phillips that was planned for that month. Specifically, the steam dome liner failed during annealing of #7's boiler. The liner is that donut shaped reinforcement of the boiler shell opening under the steam dome. It was found that the original welding done on the replacement boiler, circa 1960, was not done properly. A quick check verified that Monson #3 also suffered from the same inadequacy. In order to satisfy the FRA, both boilers had to have tests done on their boiler shells to prove the metal had not been compromised by the additional stress. The testing delayed progress through the summer of 2015. Then a new liner was fabricated and properly welded in place.

A view of the cab plumbing. The new auxilary steam manifold is the cylindrical piece at the top left. The lubricator lines have not been installed. Neither has the insulation and jacketing leaving an unusual view of many of the staybolts that secure the firebox.

8 years and 16 days after her last day under steam in Phillips, the engine got her first test firing at the shops in Alna where the work was completed.


So, where does this leave us? Frankly, with no money at all! The lease agreement with Maine Narrow Gauge Museum calls for us to spend up to $25,000 for the boiler work and another $10,000 for the running gear work. Well, we have deferred the running gear work. The boiler work was originally expected to be a "simple" re-tubing with the asbestos abatement and inspections that come with that. But that scope of boiler work was only estimated at $18,000. As of October 2015, the SR&RL has paid about $140,000.
We need any financial help that steam lovers can give us! Please send whatever donation you can!

To direct your donation to the Steam Fund, click here:


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Copyright 2008-2015 Sandy River & Rangeley Lakes Railroad

Revised: 11/24/2015