FEBT Restoration – Boiler House

The Boiler House is the building in the main shops complex that provided all the steam power for the railroad facilities in Rockhill. Notable for the twin stacks that emanate from its roof, it contains two Babcock & Wilcox water-tube boilers. The date the Boiler House was constructed is unknown, but it likely dates from the 1880’s and was expanded from one to two boilers in the 1910s. It is different from most of the other shops in that it has wood roof sheathing, rather than metal, and has brick components in its exterior walls.

Although it was in good condition into the early 1980s, accumulating roof problems started causing rapid deterioration in the late 1980s. The roof had to be propped up by cribbing resting on top of the boilers. Failed roofing material on the west side allowed leaks to rot out a large beam that support the west end of the Boiler House and the east end of the Machine Shop. So more cribbing was built atop the stationary steam engine to support the two roofs. On the east side, leaks allowed water into the frame and masonry east wall. The frame portions began to rot and the masonry sections began to disintegrate.

The adjacent Coal Bin had stored fuel for the boilers. Being a frame structure, it was susceptible to the sulfuric acid that coal generates when wet. The result was that all the posts in the bin were eaten away at their bases, and the entire structure sank about six inches and had to be propped up. By 2003 the situation was becoming critical and there was concern the masonry wall might collapse.

In 2003, an FEBT work crew began work on the east wall of the Boiler House. The first order of business was to perform temporary repairs to the roof the the building to protect the walls. Eaves were attached to the existing roof joists and rolled roofing applied to that. Holes in the roof were repaired with rolled roofing sealed with roofing tar. Next, the brickwork was addressed, with damaged brick removed and matching replacements installed. Mortar repair was done as well. In 2004, rotted sections of the upper portion of the east wall were removed and replaced. The window sashes were removed for rebuilding and later reinstalled.

In 2005, work moved to the north wall of the Boiler House. With this level of damage to the Coal Bin, the roof, east wall, and north wall had to be demolished and rebuilt. The Coal Bin reconstruction was completed in 2006, and work moved to the Boiler Shop wall above the Coal Bin, where the siding was completely replaced. The window sashes were removed for rebuilding.

In 2007 work moved to the adjoining Foundry, but returned to the Boiler House in 2008 to address serious structural issues where the west wall meets the Machine Shop. Reconstruction of the beam, upper walls and roof continued into 2011, with one quadrant being rebuilt at a time. By September of 2011 the roof work was finished.

Additionally, the bases of the twin stacks were found to be seriously deteriorated. They were thoroughly cleaned, primed, and painted. The interiors of the stack bases were filled with concrete up to the access hole, and then concrete was poured around the bases in forms. This effectively encapsulated the bases of the stacks to keep them stable. Work on the building was finished in 2012.