Saturday, January 05, 2008

What's a horizontal boring machine?

As a writer, I've always felt the need to describe the things I write about in accurate terminology.

So, it comes as no surprise to Sam, Keith and the guys at the El Dorado Western Railway that I'm always quizzing them on the proper terminology used to describe the parts of the locomotive and rolling stock.

This morning, I approached Sam, the railway's lead machinist, and asked him to identify the milling machine that he was cleaning after yesterday's big storm. The wind tore away a piece of the corrugated roof off right above one of the milling machines.

"I looks like a big drill press," I inquired, a logical conclusion when I look back on six years of junior and senior high school shop classes. The machine's three-inch horizontal spindle matches my memory of the drill presses in the school shops. It's just turned 90 degrees so it sets parallel to the floor.

Well, sort of, Sam answered. "It's a horizontal boring machine."

I continued shooting pictures of storm damage to the machine shop's rusted roof. After a dozen shots, I found the manufacturer's plate on the drill head of the boring machine.

I called out to Sam in my quest to speak the language of a machinist: "It's a 'horizontal boring, drilling and milling machine.'" The builder's plate backed up my claim.

"I've never heard it called a 'horizontal boring, drilling and milling machine.'" Call it a "horizontal" and everyone in the shop knows what you're talking about, Sam said.

"All I've ever called it is a 'horizontal boring machine,' or 'horizontal' for short," Sam instructed as he pushed a crumpled paper towel through the T-slots on the table. Sam was focused on rust prevention at that point.

Sam took a minute to describe how the machine was used to bore the three steam cylinders of the Diamond and Caldor No. 4 locomotive.

Once secured on the table, he moved the engines sideways to line each cylinder with the drill spindle. Since the table is set at a fixed height off the floor of the shop, Sam moved drill head vertically to match each cylinder's center line. Once he was ready to re-bore each cylinder, he set the table to gently feed the cylinder into the boring tool.

My quest to describe the inner workings the railroad soon came to a close for another week. As Sam cleaned the horizontal, Keith, Bill and I went vertical to make roof repairs that couldn't wait.

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