Back to Black

Hello and welcome to another Blog post. It has been a busy month or so on the Victorian Goldfields Railway and for our Mechanical crew. As usual for this time of the year lots of trains mean lots of work for the workshop as the VGR tries to ring as much out of the Steam locos as possible before the Summer hits with the inevitable fire bans and Diesel running mandated by the local CFA.

The past couple of weeks can probably be best summed up by the photo below;


Can’t see much eh? That’s because Mick and the rest of the team have spent much of the last couple of weeks inside the smokebox. Not one but 2 of the dark, dirty claustrophobic places. Firstly the K Class required a clean out and no sooner was that done than J549 needed some attention.

The weekend of the 27th and 28th of October was a biggie with Mucklefest, normal services plus a Steamrail Charter to Castlemaine for good measure. In the week leading up loco crews had been reporting poor steam performance on J549 and a Super Heater element was the suspected culprit. Mick was heading to Phillip Island for the Moto GP so a quick inspection was carried out and it was ruled fit for purpose considering the light duties it was to perform over the weekend. Once the fun had subsided and the loco had cooled down a bit it was time to take a deeper look.

In all 5 Superheater element Ball Ends were found to be in need of replacement and another 10 needed lapping and in order to do this 15 elements had to be unbolted and removed from the Smokebox. As we have said before this is a big job as the petticoat and baffle plates have to come out first and the fasteners are ALWAYS corroded to the point that many must be cut off. Once this is done the special VR forged spanner is used to undo the retaining nuts which requires the use of a big hammer in a small space.  Not easy or pleasant. Each element weights in at 45KG and pulling out 15 of them is certainly not a job for lightweights!



You can see in the first of the 2 photos above the damage wrought on the ball ends by the corrosive steam. When J549 was rebuilt a few years back before it’s return to service the VGR had a batch of new Ball Ends made. Recently many have needed to be replaced well ahead of schedule and poor material choice by the contractor is one possibility being examined. However until we can get more made we need to keep using up the stockpile that we have so this work was completed in pretty short time and our hero was ready to go in time for the next weekend’s services.

The keen eyed amongst you may have noticed the QR wagon lurking in the background. The steel work is now all done and workshop volunteer Pete has almost finished the wood work – if he doesn’t burn it first considering the cold mornings and all the trouble it has given him! With the brakes sorted it should be ready for use by the Civil crew very shortly.

Baz has also been busy using his wide variety of skills to great effect fixing the frame on one of the Hi Rail vehicles and shifting all of the hydraulic systems from under the car into one of the side tool boxes where it will be much better protected from the elements as well as stray ballast.


While this going on there was a PV exam to be done on 43 BPL, more work on the Y Class Diesel to get it ready for Summer running and a fair bit of work on K153 to prepare her for an upcoming boiler inspection late this month. We’ll cover that in a separate post next week.

In the meantime as the late, great Ms Winehouse would say it’s Back to Black for our hardworking crew. See you next week!


Onwards and Upwards!

Hello and welcome to another VGR Mechanical blog post. September saw a new record for our little blog, both in terms of total visitors and total page views so we must be doing something right. A big thank you to all of you for taking the time to read it.

It has been a busy few weeks for our Railway with School holidays, Seniors Week and and Ales train meaning lots of work for both J549 and K153. Last Wednesday’s train was a double header with the locos hauling 9 cars and north of 400 passengers on the 12.00 train out of Castlemaine. With all of this extra running comes extra work for the workshop crew and just to make things interesting having both of the rostered Steam locos running at the same time severely limits the time available for maintenance! Usually Mick and his team will perform inspections on one loco while the other is running the service – a bit hard to do with both of them on the pointy end of a train!

Still, the show must go on and first on the agenda was a general mechanical inspection of the K. The smoke box was opened up for a thorough clean out as the ash builds up in this area which has a detrimental effect on performance. The shot below shows the extent of the coverage we found.


Then it was into the pit to check underneath her where a couple of little things came to light and were quickly attended to including a loose keeper bolt on the tender. Working on these parts of the loco low down and covered in oil and road grime it is easy to get hurt so all care must be taken but it all needs to be inspected and fixed at regular intervals.


Work also continued on our bogie open wagon QR272 with some serious welding going on as Mick added some new metal to aid frame stiffness before it is returned to traffic. V/Line / VR cut off the truss bars at some point but more recently some well meaning character(s) cut out a lot of rusty metal without considering the stress diagram which weakened the structure. This job was supposed to be finished and the wagon back on the road by End September but the problems with Y133 took priority but with that work complete it is back to this job.

An ongoing project is monitoring flat spots on wheels, carriage wheels in particular. There are numerous flat spots, some need wheel turning, but some are just monitored to make sure they wear away, not tear away. These are on 41 BU.



On the Victorian Goldfields Railway one round trip Maldon > Castlemaine > Maldon is approximately 20 km powering & 20 on the brakes. Fitting new blocks & adjusting is a weekly thing and we probably average 6 blocks a week but all must be inspected – that’s a lot of blocks to check! Rolling stock inspections go deeper than just blocks though. Seeking out little faults before they become big ones is exactly why Mick gets dirty so we maintain a good safety record. On a recent 1 and a half hour inspection of just 4 carriages we found a half broken split cotter in the bogie swing link on Tambo and a loose bogie pivot plate bolt on 80BW. These are some of the weird things that show up and this is why we inspect the carriages twice a week.

Life is never boring in the workshops and a bit of a left fielder this month was the conversion of our new (old) sleeper changer from 2’6″ to 5’3″. This item is on loan from the good folks at Puffing Billy Railway for a tryout (apologies for not mentioning this in the original post). Below Banjo Baz poses with the finished product!


Well that is about all we have time for. Following some feedback a couple of weeks ago your blogger would just like to re-iterate that the sole purpose of this blog is to show both our Members and the Public some of the hard graft that goes into keeping trains running on the rails of the Victorian Goldfields Railway. It IS hard work, it DOES cost money and our crew led by Mick does a brilliant job with limited resources, limited materials and limited time. Money is never spent lightly and when it does need to be spent the crew goes to great lengths to make sure that our Railway gets the best possible value for money. Help is always welcome in both the manpower and financial departments and we hope that this insiders look at goings on in the workshops at Maldon might encourage a few of you, our readers, to dig deep!

And we end with a footnote – a long term issue with J549 was addressed recently. Members of the VGR may have already read this tale in the Fortnightly Notes but for those of you not privy to them here is Mick’s Turbo Charged commentary!

“On occasions, the “in your face plainly obvious” becomes totally forgotten, and this time I am referring to the performance of the headlight on J549. All crews (and some observant night-time passengers) know that the headlight is, at best, dismal. To rectify this issue we at the dirty end of the railway have checked the Turbo Generator, the wiring, the switches, the reflector, the focusing mechanism & the headlight bulb itself, all to no avail. Nothing we did seemed to help, leaving us scratching our heads & contemplating an expensive rebuild utilising the latest electronic technology. Apart from the expense, this would also generate a mountain of paperwork to allow a change of system to be used.

Well the bit that I had overlooked was the electrical load that was being asked of the Turbo Generator, and as the son of an electrician I feel a bit stupid for not remembering this earlier! J549 has thirteen light bulbs. The front & rear headlights are 150 & 100 watts, but only one is energised at a time. The other eleven globes are 40 watt globes, so 40 X 11 + 150 = 590. The Turbo has a maximum output of 500 watts. . . . . anybody else seeing a problem here?

To this end, with some huge help from Workshop regular volunteer Jacob, I have received & started testing two five-watt L.E.D. globes. Some may think we’ve had L.E.D. technology for years and it should be a simple change over, but the issue is that the power supply is low voltage AC and the current is variable, meaning standard bulbs are not suitable for this application.


I now know that relevant bulbs are available and they do handle the variable current. I still need to know if, they handle the heat and they don’t disintegrate from the vibration. So, there are two test bulbs fitted to the J, which saves 70 watts already, and after further testing, we intend to source more bulbs to allow the headlight to access 80% of the Turbo’s output current. I will be very happy if I start hearing comments that the headlight is too bright, but I doubt it. Onwards & upwards folks”

Onwards and Upwards indeed! Till next time we hope your headlight shines bright and illuminates the road ahead!

Getting Ahead

Well here we are after another hectic week (tomorrow is the Day Before Grand Final Day Public Holiday in Victoria) and it’s time for instalment 3 of this meandering tale of goings on in the Victorian Goldfields Railway’s Maldon workshop featuring our hero, Y133.

There has been plenty of action on the railway as it is school holidays with K153 hauling a packed 7 car train on Wednesday but that isn’t the half of it – we’re here to show you the bits that most people don’t see, the effort that goes on keeping things running smoothly on top of the rails. While our passengers have their fun in the sun work is continuing on the inside and outside of Y133, the QN wagon, the NN hopper and a bunch of other little tasks that combine to make the week fly by.


The shot below is a bit of a refresher showcasing some of the rust and other damage on the nose of the loco.



In the shot above we can see volunteer Damien getting busy grinding the rusty parts of the nose out so some new steel can be welded in place. What no one was expecting was what he would uncover when he cut the bottom of the nose section out – the shot below shows the floor section in front of the radiator with the build up of gunk that Fletcher and the YVG punched out with the hammer. The radiator has had a number of issues over the last few years as we have covered previously and the leaks and build up of grime in this section have rusted out the chequer plate floor which will have to be replaced.



Meanwhile the Young Volunteers have been continuing their work preparing the body for paint, in the shot below Riley is hard at work with sandblaster in hand cleaning up some of the small parts of the body. For anyone who has never done this work it is an extremely dusty and boring job so kudos to Riley for his continuing enthusiasm for the task.


It’s out!

While all that was going on Mick and Banjo Baz continued to work removing the #3 cylinder head as they chased the coolant leak into the engine. After purchasing the correct tool to undo the Crab Nuts (a Torque Multiplier) for an eye-watering $900 they finally got the troublesome Crustaceans to budge. Throw in another $300 for a new torque wrench to do them up again (the ones we already had weren’t big enough) and it is becoming an expensive leak.


And there it is – Mick (R) and Baz (L) manhandle the circa 55kg head onto the running board. It is great to have Baz’s diesel fitting experience on hand for this job, his skills complement Mick’s really well and this is not a job you would want to entrust to just anyone – mistakes would be very costly here.

After inspecting the components it is hoped that the leak is simply a life expired gasket so after buying a new set (more $$$) and cleaning up it can be refitted and that should be another job done!

Grate Expectations

A couple of other jobs reared their heads while the crew were trying to attend to the Y class – K153 had a cracked firebox grate that needed to be seen to. These grates need to be replaced periodically due to the extreme heat that they endure however this one decided it didn’t need rescuing and jammed itself firmly in place requiring more time than usual to replace.


Not wanting to be left out J549 got in on the act as well with an inspection before running last Wednesday finding a Piston wedge had dropped in the crosshead as shown below. This required Mick to drop everything and build it up and re-profile it during the running day.


Tractor 1, Wheelbarrow Nil

The dulcet tones of the BBC’s Soccer score roundup of the 1970s sprang to mind as we checked the pulse of our long serving workshop wheelbarrow after it’s run in with the Green meanie. Should have been wearing a high viz!


Speaking of Green Meanies, your blogger took time out to speak to workshop volunteer Keith who was busy painting short sections of rail. You could say it was a doorstop interview!


Well after that terrible pun I think it is time to wrap this one up. We’ll be back soon with more fun and games. Your blogger hopes that these posts give you some idea of the hard graft that goes into keeping the VGR on track. The workshop is always looking for a helping hand so if you think you have something to offer please feel free to contact Mick. I’ll leave you with a snap of some of the new materials that just arrived for the QN wagon that we are overhauling for the Civil Branch. Gotta bolt!






One Step Forward and Two Steps Back

Hello all, as promised we have part 2 of this post about goings on in the Victorian Goldfields Railway’s Maldon workshop. In last weeks part 1 we focused on the efforts of the Young Volunteer work who are prepping our heritage diesel locomotive Y133 for it’s repaint.

However while that goes on it is business as usual (or unusual as the case may be) for Mick, our new “fitter” Banjo Baz and the team of volunteers who don’t mind getting their hands dirty.

The Never NN Ending Story

The last time we checked in with the workshop gang they had been sidetracked by a request for work on our QR wagon. Now we move forward two weeks and a couple of things happened at once, just the way you don’t want them to. First of all a request came in from on high for work on a long delayed project to be fast-forwarded – that being our ballast wagon NN 114.

NNs were built at Newport Workshops from the early 1900s in a couple of different body styles. They were re-classified VHWA in 1979 and some are still in service. The VGR has a few of these wagons, NN 40, NN 68 and NN 106 among their number, these last two were even hired out to John Holland Rail in 2004 for the Regional Fast Rail project. NN68 (VHWA 68-P) is shown below on the Main line at Castlemaine during these works which is pretty cool.


Enter the Banjo

This particular NN arrived on our railway a bit later than the others. It was the roughest of the lot requiring a fair bit of rusty metal plate to be cut out of it and some new steel welding into it’s place to ensure that the ballast drops out when it is required instead of at random spots on the line. This job was started more than 3 years ago but now the wagon is required in traffic so it needs to be finished. Yesterday. Long time VGR volunteer Banjo Baz was recently lured from his job in the mining industry to come to work full time at the railway and currently splits his time between Civil and Mechanical work and he was just the man for the job. Some of his handy work is shown below.



Y Indeed…….

While all this was going on we got some bad news on the Y class front. Y133 as regular readers will know has still been running driver experiences and works trains while the paint preperation is underway. Radiator leaks have been plaguing her for a few years and they have been patched up a few times with the plan always being to remove the unit while the paint job was underway to get a proper look at it. Now it became apparent that coolant was getting into the #3 Cylinder so Mick and Baz stopped work on the NN and took a look. That is to say they took a look at the myriad nuts and bolts which hold the thing together as well as undoing the 90 or so holding the radiator in place! The radiator is now out and being attended to by Baz who is being unusually shy around the camera.


Getting to the source of the coolant leak into the cylinder on the other hand is proving to be a difficult ask. Hours of work trying to release the Crab Nuts was to no avail, these are done up to 1400 ft pounds and more on some EMD motors. A hydraulic crab nut torque wrench is pretty much a must have to tighten or loosen these bad boys so it was decided to get the correct tool for the job instead of wasting any more time.

In between all this major work there were ‘little’ jobs like Carriage Safety inspections to be done plus Mick has returned to school for his 3E Advanced welding ticket so he can weld stays & tubes on boilers. As well as saving money on outsourcing the work this will be a huge time saver for the workshop as we will not have to down tools and wait for a contractor to turn up and do the work. As we have discussed previously pressure vessel welders need certification and in the past we have had to wait days for our preferred bloke to turn up to maybe do 30 minutes work, all the time the loco sits idle in the workshop.

Well once again we seem to have too much material for one post so we will be back next week with another update. If you have made it this far then thanks for reading! See you next time.


Y, Y, Y Delilah?

Hello again, time for another update on happenings in the Victorian Goldfields Railway workshops at Maldon. Well actually not one but two updates as there is too much going on at the moment for just one post!

For Part 1 I am going to hand over the Fletcher Cole from the VGR’s Young Volunteers Group. As if they didn’t have enough to do prepping the Y class for painting Fletcher kindly took some time out to take a few snaps and even provided his own commentary for this one. Sure makes my job easier so over to you Fletch!

As we continued to work on the nose of the loco peeling off more bog revealed that is was all severely rusted out. The photo below is of the Fireman’s side of the nose.



Above is the “patch” that was welded in years ago…… shows what a job it’s done. Lots of little holes were opening up with just a screw driver. So we grabbed a hammer and a few whacks confirmed how bad the patch was… and ensured it couldn’t be used again!

Moving on we found some original paint behind the nose door. Even though the loco has been painted at least once since it was first out-shopped the nose door couldn’t be removed because of the “gutter” above the door.


We removed the gutter to allow the removal of the door and the photo above shows what was revealed! This will be really helpful in trying to make sure we get the colours right!

Finally after more days of hard work by the group the nose was finally stripped of all paint and ready for primer! Polished steel actually suits it!! Clear coat anyone??? Also in the shot below is YVG member Riley repairing a fitting on the sandblaster. Some people will do anything to be famous!


With the nose finally primed and the last of the doors also done and leaning on the workshop door (which is usually the job of one of the workshop Senior volunteers, Ed) all that is left to prime is the fuel tanks once a few leaks have been fixed.


Now it’s time for a rest! Well for Fletcher anyway, your blogger will be back soon with another update so stay tuned!


Huge thanks to Fletcher and the rest of the Young Volunteers Group for the pics and words for this post and of course for doing the work in the first place. Can’t wait for the next update.

Jumping the Q

Hello and welcome to another VGR Mechanical blog post updating recent activities in and around the workshops. Regular readers of this blog may recall that over the last few posts we have talking about being sidetracked. Well this post is yet another example of how things don’t always go to plan! While we have focused recently on the work being done by the Young Volunteers Group repainting Y133 there has been plenty for the workshop crew to do.

Back in early August Mick thought that K160s ashpan rebuild was going to be getting his undivided attention. New steel was ordered and rolled and the atmosphere around the project was one of getting it done. Then along came our Civil Branch manager with a small request – “Mick, can you get that QR wagon ready for traffic, we need it for infrastructure trains”. Now being a true gentleman the manager concerned would never add the words “and we need it yesterday” but the inference was certainly there. Oh well!

Enter QR272

QR wagons are 26 to 31 ton capacity bogie open wagons with wooden drop sides, used for general goods and sleeper transport on the Victorian Railways. There were over 400 constructed between 1890 and 1930, most with 3 doors per side like 272 and the last 30 (approx) 4 door. After a long life as general service open wagons most were relegated to Departmental duties carrying sleepers and dirt. And this is exactly what QR272 is now required for!


Above we see a great photo from the State Library of Victoria of a QR in traffic with a load of potatoes from Garfield headed for Melbourne.

Opening a can of Wasps!

QR272 had been sitting idle for many years so getting it ready for traffic was never going to be easy.  So over a few long days in mid August Mick and the crew stripped cleaned & refurbished the brake piston, cylinder, auxiliary reservoir, triple valve, #1 end brake pipe cock & hose bag amongst other things. The aux res had a broken mount which was braized back together and it was found to be full of wasp nests because no triple valve had been fitted for many years. The brake cylinder also had 2 broken studs to replace. Some of that work is shown below.



So after all of that the QR has had a total brake system repair & overhaul including the new studs, gaskets and had the brake pipe removed to straighten a section bent by a wheel during a derailment from its past history. I wonder if it was the one in this photo of an unknown QR derailment taken from the brilliant website


But that’s not all…….

While all this was going on Mick had to jump into J549’s smoke box and blow out the 167 boiler tubes (don’t worry folks, he had an airgun, he wasn’t using a straw!) and as if there wasn’t already enough to do it was decided that every vehicle in the yard fitted with wool pads in the axle boxes needed to be Red oiled. There was also the small matter of adjusting K190’s brakes (both long and short rods) for her trip back to the Steamrail depot at Newport!

Somehow while all this was going on time was found to remove (cut out) most of the old rivets in K160’s ashpan door castings so they can be set up in the jig so the rebuild can get going again. The photo below gives some idea of the extent of work going on at the moment with K160’s ashpan parts in the foreground, the QR wagon taking centre stage and Y133 in the background.


There has been that much going on over the last month or so that it will take 1 or 2 more posts to get through it all so we’ll leave it there for now. Next time we will update some of the more serious surgery required on Y133 plus similar work on our ballast wagon NN114 which also required some rust cutting out and new sections welded in. And hopefully we’ll see some shots of K160 progress!

As usual the workshop staff and volunteers are run off their feet and help is always appreciated. If you think you have something to offer contact Mick via the website




Getting Bogged Down

Hello and welcome to another VGR Mechanical blog post. As your blogger has been busy with other projects (both Railway and non Railway) I thought I would ask the VGR’s Young Volunteers Group co-ordinater Fletcher for an update on Y133. As it turns out the youngsters have been hard at it and as with a lot of this kind of work the deeper you dig the worse it gets!

Stripping of paint has continued apace and as anyone who has ever restored a car, bike, house or pretty much anything else there is often a horror story or two hidden under all that jam. And this is certainly true for our ex Victorian Railways Y class diesel!



In the top photo you can see some lovely rust holes down near the floor on the car body. Pretty standard stuff which will need to be cut out and a new section welded in by Mick. The lower shot however is a whole lot more trouble. As the team got stuck in to it they found bog. And more bog. Far more bog than you would expect and once they got through it they found out why – it was being used to try to fade out the massive patch that had been welded over the top of some old rust! This lot will have to be all cut out and a new piece fabricated and welded in by the workshop team before progress can resume on this section.


Above we see progress on the nose a few weeks ago while below we see the replica Clyde builders plate that Fletcher has done up. This will be affixed in the original spot on the cab after it is painted. The location was discovered during earlier work shown in the previous Y class update post.


In the last week the YVG team has continued their hard work and it is really starting to show. Below we see a couple of shots taken while they were eagerly awaiting the arrival of the Cruise Express Charter last weekend. After more sand blasting on the nose it is almost ready for primer and in the lower shot we see progress on the Driver’s side of the main car body with 2 more doors to go. The group are trialling sand blasting these doors instead of the hand sanding that they have used on the others. It will be a big time saver but might be a bit harsh on the more fragile door components especially if they have fallen victim to rust.




Well that’s about it for this post, another great effort by the Young Volunteer’s Group and we look forward to another update soon. Thanks again to Fletcher for supplying photos and content for this post while your blogger was bogged down elsewhere! And as we like to do we finish with a shot of our hero in action, here she is today with a Driver Experience heading towards Midland Highway Crossing on the Down hauling “the ghost of the Shelbourne Goods” a lovely rake of 4 wheelers and a Guard’s van at each end. If you look carefully you can see some of the work detailed above.