At Last! A Weatherproof Engine House, Interior Next When Funding Available


Phase III of restoring the external envelope of the Silverton Northern engine house had these goals:

From the outside, stabilize and repair existing foundation and replace missing foundation.

Add wall insulation and subsheathing then repair and replace existing corrugated exterior wall covering.

Repair the roof deck and install new corrugated roof covering, sealing it from precipitation.

Restore and replace the windows so natural light would once again fill the interior.

Strengthen the interior roof structure so snow and ice loading would not collapse the building.

This a major project of the San Juan County Historical Society. Jerry Hoffer is the project leader, and Beverly Rich is the administrator. Durango Railroad Historical Society has a minor role, mainly moving stored material out of the engine house into the three railcar storage units and removing plywood covers from the windows. The Colorado State Historical Fund provided 75% of the funds.

During the 2018–19 winter we prepared a number of documents as a construction package for review by the Fund and the Town of Silverton building inspector, who assigned the engine house its first street address: 817 Cement Street.

In June and July last summer the two societies removed their respective stored items to other storage facilities (or the dump as deemed necessary). This cooperative effort took about six weeks. We thank the following people for their help: Tim Bristow, Dave Hibl, Doug Jones, Duane Danielson, Joe Weigman, the Thomas Family (Russell, Jenny, Charlie and Henry), Steve Rich, Zeke Zanoni, Ron Schlueter, Judy Schlueter, George Niederauer, and Jerry Hoffer.

Maisel Excavation cleared old dock timbers (dating from the 1940s) away from the southwest corner of the building and scraped away grass from along the foundation.

Hotter Construction removed the lower corrugated panels from the east, south, and west sides, so the sills and lower parts of studs and posts could be examined. Then Maisel Excavation dug a trench along the foundation to a few inches below the foundation, under the watchful eye of archeologist Mona Charles (a State Historical Fund requirement). She found only a few minor railroad and mining artifacts – and a small plastic toy jeep.

Scott Craig and his employees repointed the foundation, repaired a small section at the southeast corner, and built a whole new foundation under the west wall of the back room. Additionally portions of rotted sill were replaced as needed.

Once work on the foundation was completed, Maisel Excavation backfilled the trench and Hotter Construction removed the remaining panels, adding six-inch bats of insulation, and covering the wall with 7/l6-inch plywood sub-sheathing. At the same time they began removing the corrugated panels from the east roof carefully to save them for possible reuse in replacing bad wall panels. A few bad roof boards were replaced. They added ice and water shield over the sub-sheathing on the walls. Once the west foundation was completed, Maisel and Hotter went to work on that side.

The best salvaged corrugated panels from the walls were reinstalled along with the best salvaged old roofing panels. Attention to the original installation pattern on the back (south) wall was followed because this pattern conveys the sequence of original construction of the back room. The front wall of the engine house retained its original corrugated iron.

The Hotter roofing crew covered the roof with ice and water shield and installed new full length corrugated roofing panels. This new roof has no horizontal joints, therefore no place for ice dams to form and force water up under joints. Because of the completely sealed roof, a ridge vent system was employed to allow interior water vapor to escape through the roof.

Once the outside building shell was completed, Maisel Excavation came back and installed a “dry zone” around the building. This is basically earth sloped away from the building and covered with landscape cloth, then with gravel. This allows roof water to drain away from the foundation.

In the meantime Klinke & Lew Construction had been busy manufacturing new window sashes to match the dimensions of the original sash. By mid-October, the Klinke & Lew crew completed the fourteen window casings. All casings and windows were installed before the first snow fall on October 29.

Starting in mid-September, Martin Hotter and two employees installed the seven inch wide, 20 ft. long, 300# channels to strengthen the roof rafters above the main wall posts.

Weather closed down work for the 2019 season. Once construction is allowed to proceed in 2020, Hotter will install the remaining few metal plates and corner brackets, completing Phase III. Once adequate funding can be obtained the Society will proceed with Phase IV, interior restoration.

By Jerry Hoffer and George Niederauer