Hi Folks,


It’s actually me doing my own Blog Post this time, so please excuse the bad grammer & spelling mistakes.

After years of building up a handy crew, I’ve been a bit lonely for the last few weeks. I’m not complaining because I’m lucky enough to still be employed in this pandemic period, but I think Baz & I are starting to get sick of hearing each other from opposite ends of the Workshop.

I have been able to catch up on a few things whilst there are no trains running, like the long overdue repairs to one of our 4 wheel tankers, some “A” exams on Goods vehicles & finally had time to give a good effort on K160’s new Ashpan. I’ll let our normal Blogger tell you about those jobs, as he writes a much better story than I can.

Last Friday I was able to grab our truck & take the Main Internal Steam Pipe with a brand new Cone Joint, & the J pipe down to Newport for K160. I checked K160’s progress, issued a few instructions, & came home with some old Steam Delivery Pipes to be dropped off at our local foundry, & the Whistle Stop Valve off K160’s boiler which needs to be serviced. Monday was drop off the pipes & some old brake blocks, check out a possible brake issue on the truck & clean up my own mess from last week. The next day, I arrived at work, checked for emails, then thought to myself “Right. It’s Tuesday. What will I do? I know, I’ll service 160’s valve & blog the process.”


First up was clean a work area on the bench & give the whole valve assembly a bit of a clean up with a wire brush to remove years of built up grime. Then start on the outside & disassemble my way in. The handle nut was easy, but the handle was stuck on the square drive of the spindle, so a wedge & hammer were used to gently lift the handle. The stuffing ring barrel union came easily with a 1″ Whitworth ring spanner, but the stuffing ring was stuck by dried Gland Packing that had oozed out between the clearances & it wouldn’t move. Lucky I’d already got that wedge out of the Tool Store.


The valve job was going easy, hard, easy, hard. Great, I thought. I now have to separate the main components & I’m up to easy. Wrong! Maybe even very wrong. The valve assembly had been left untouched for such a long time that is was frozen solid. Time to change to the metal bench & fire up the oxy. 5 minutes later after a thorough warming around the thread, the tap body & valve body separated with a loud crack & a lot of effort. Time for a morning coffee because now I had to let things cool down before I could carry on.


After coffee, all the components were separated so that I could inspect everything & assess what work was needed. I grabbed a tap & die nut to clean up the whistle mounting studs & nuts, with generous amounts of Rocol hand cutting compound. I used a file to clean up where the edges of the nuts had been slightly rounded. A sharp scraper was used to remove the old gasket material. Wood workers are crazy, they keep calling our sharp scraper a chisel, but what would they know. The old gland packing had gone rock hard inside the stuffing box, & put up a good fight till I used a small rotary wire brush in the battery drill.

1588037917654 1588039342685

It was finally time for the important bits, the valve face & seat. When luck is on your side, a light lapping with 500 grit lapping paste will usually suffice, but I had found slight evidence of steam cutting on the seat & 2 small pit holes on the valve face, so machining was required. The valve cutter was used with light pressure to gently scrape the seat & re-create the correct seat angle, but I had to put the spindle in the lathe & take 3 fine cuts to remove the pitting. Whist doing lathe work, I also had to make a lapping guide for the spindle, as we didn’t have a small guide to suit the small spindle. This was a bit time consuming because first I had to cut a thread to screw the guide into the valve body, & the spindle thread was 0.008″ under 5/8″, so I had to drill the hole then use a tiny boring bar to make the hole the right size.

1588039431316 1588039570985 1588056587281

Job done, it was back to the bench, & use the new guide to lap the newly machined faces together. First with 120 grit lapping paste, then finish off with 500 grit. We use Bearing Blue to check our contact faces because it will not hide any faults, & after the first check the Blue told me I still had some lapping to do. 20 minutes & several hand cramps later, the Blue showed me a beautifully consistant & clean sealing surface. That’s a win.


Full assembly was now the last task, so a brisk walk across to the Stores to collect the appropriate gland packing was followed by a trip to our Tool Store fridge to grab the Dixons, nickel anti seize & copper grease. The Valve Spindle thread was coated with the copper grease & screwed into its housing so that I could then cut & fit 3 new rings of gland packing. The spindle housing thread, Valve body thread, Stuffing ring & barrel union & the entire exposed Whistle mounting studs were all coated with the nickel anti seize. The sealing faces of the Valve body & Spindle Housing were then coated in Dixons, & the whole lot was screwed together. The final bit of attention was to clean & paint the valve wheel in the same sparkling Stove Bright paint that we apply to our Smokeboxes.

IMG_20200429_125915 IMG_20200429_132828

Done. My father used to tell me to take pride in my work & I was very happy with this job, but I don’t know how long it will be before this Whistle Isolator Valve will be bolted back onto K160’s boiler, so I wrapped the whole job in plastic to keep it clean until it goes back to Melbourne for refitting, and that was pretty much Tuesday.


So next time you are talking to somebody who asks why it takes so long to overhaul a steam engine, just get them to read this.



K160 Workshop Update 21/4/2020

Work on our workhorse, K160, has been picking up again over the last few weeks after a long break in works due to circumstances out of our control. We are also, like everyone, dealing with the restrictions placed on us due to COVID-19.

Over the past few weeks, these jobs have been completed by our workshop team at Newport Workshops:

-Frames and boiler needle gunned
-Frames painted
-Boiler Coated in Hi Temp paint
-Main reservoir tanks cleaned & painted
-Driving wheels and pony truck assembly heavily de-greased
-Driving wheels pressure washed
-Ash pan studs heated & removed
-Boiler fittings on top of firebox removed to check and/or replace studs
-Front tube plate works
-Cab tipped up so needle gun works can commence. This will allow the cab “interior” to be painted so ICE radio wiring and lighting etc can be roughed in and fitted
-Polishing parts of the motion gear

There is a lot more in the pipeline in the coming months which include:

-Axle box measuring and sizing to allow the boxes to be re-metalled -Smokebox parts cut and replaced with new rolled plate -Smoke Deflectors being needle gunned

Still a long way to go! But we are getting there! Don’t forget you can donate to the restoration of K160 here! http://www.vgr.com.au/k160appeal.php

Working bees are occurring at least once a week to accelerate the project. You can contact Fletcher (Mobile 0405 472 971 or Email- yvg@vgr.com.au)

COVID-19: Volunteers and Staff, we ask anyone who:
-May not be feeling well or is displaying any flu-like symptoms, fever and/or shortness of breath;
-Has been overseas in the previous 14 days or;
-Has been in recent contact with any high-risk persons,
To please refrain from attending Newport Workshops until they are feeling better, or have quarantined themselves for the prescribed amount of time.

At this stage we are still able to have volunteers on site at Newport, however there will need to be restrictions put in place on enclosed areas such as the lunch room, so we would ask everyone to spread out where possible remembering the social distancing restrictions. Please contact Fletcher if you plan on coming down so we can comply with the current restrictions that are in place.

Tubular Hells

Hello and welcome to another update from the Maldon workshop of the Victorian Goldfields Railway. Continuing on the musical them that we went with last time out we bring you Tubular Hells, a masterpiece of high voltage locomotive maintenance.

Each Summer our steam locomotives are rested due to fire restrictions. The VGR works very closely with the area CFA and it is they who decide when and what we can run. Steam locos in the hot, dry Victorian Summer are a definite no-no, so while our Heritage Diesel locos take over hauling our trains, the workshop takes the opportunity to attend to some of the work required after a long steam season.

J549 was withdrawn from service on January 6th after a stellar season and washed in preparation for her A exam. A few years back the railway decided to change the annual boiler inspection to January as it made far more sense doing it while the loco was not able to be run so a boiler washout was done on Jan 14th in preparation.We have posted previously about the way these exams and boiler inspections work so we won’t bore you with the details but suffice to say that the A exam is supposed to be pretty straight forward…….

Unfortunately there were no takers for Mick’s offer of a training day so the workshop crew did the boiler washout job ‘in house’. All prospective firemen and drivers should get involved in this training, as someone who has done one or two your blogger can attest to what a great addition it is to your boiler knowledge.

One of the 2″ tubes which was known to be a possible future problem was replaced before the inspection and the loco passed with flying colours on Feb 5th. Of course this required the removal of a whole bunch of super heater elements in order to achieve enough room to swing the tube expander – boiler tubes are expanded & welded in at the Firebox end but simply expanded at the smoke box end and this expansion needs to be very carefully done. It seems that every job on a steam loco requires removal of the super heater elements!

The shot of the front end below shows the new concrete floor in the Smoke box as well as the blast pipe (covered to prevent tools and other junk falling in) which shows no wear. Note that some of the super heater elements have been removed to provide working space for expanding the new 2″ tube. In addition the Table plate mounting rails have been removed for greater (& much safer) access.


The entire tube plate also needs to be needle gunned prior to the boiler inspection so that the inspector can get a good look at any potential problems – a loud and laborious task best left to experts!

Along with replacing the 2″ tube other issues that had been raised during the running season were attended to. Victoria Railways J and R class locos have separate Clack valves and these are prone to wear which causes cracking in the seat. Work was performed to get these back up to scratch but the long term plan is to source some spares which will be modified to take a screw in seat similar to those found on some starting valves. That way the worn seats can simply be replaced giving the valves a much longer service life.

Next up was a leaking stay which was situated behind the Driver’s side blow down valve. This necessitated removing the refractory from the firebox floor because the broken Stay was in the very bottom row, along with part of the brick arch to gain better access for expanding the new tube. As soon as removal of the arch began it became apparent that the whole lot would need to be replaced as brick after brick crumbled on removal. Oh well, in for a penny, in for a pound!

Below we see a (fairly ordinary) picture of a couple of stays removed from locos by Mick and the crew. The one on the left is from J549, the one on the right from a job done on K153 a while back – Note they’re not parallel but tapering off. This is the thinning or wasting that causes stays to fail.


After this it was back to the front (so to speak) where the table plate needed renewal. This area cops a real punishing with corrosion from steam, smoke and heat damage all combining to bend, buckle and wear away the steel sheet. The concrete floor in the smoke box was also beyond it’s use by date so it was removed which involved “heating the crap out of it” before chiselling it out ready for a new floor.


The photo above shows one of the modified Table plate mounts. Shown is the extended & milled section to allow rails to be bolted instead of welded to the smokebox which will save a lot of time and aggravation in the future when similar work is required.

While all this was going on the regulator valve also came in for attention. This has been a bit of an ongoing project with various fixes tried over the last year or so but crews were still not happy with it. A new main valve sleeve for the pilot valve ring was machined up along with a new valve ring and Baz also braised up and re-machined the pilot valve itself.

In the photo below we see Mick measuring the pin size with a Micrometer to check clearances


The Driver’s Side intermediate coupling rod bush required re-metalling, among other “small” jobs, but although this was only one bush, it meant removal of the Eccentric Rod, Eccentric Crank the Big End bearing, the Connecting Rod & both Leading & Trailing Clevis Pins just to access the Intermediate Coupling Rod. so a bit more than a couple of hours work.

Below we see the crew inspecting White metal damage to the thrust face. Oh how everyone loves the job of redoing the White metal bearings!


Then it was back to the Tender which was hosed out to remove a heap of old gunk that had built up. As seems always the case when you clean out a locomotive tender you discover the hard way that the only thing holding the H2O in is the gunk itself and sure enough a couple of holes revealed themselves and 4500 gallons of water poured out from under the drivers side locker! These holes had probably been weeping for a while but the act of removing the sealing layer of built up grime from the inside was too much and out it all came! Another job for the welder.

While we were in the front end your blogger took the opportunity to grab the photo below peering down the Blast Pipe which is looking really clean. This shows the quality of the Morris steam oil, as there is almost no carbon deposits inside the exhaust. We did not clean this pre photo! Clean pipes = less work for the workshop crew. Hurrah!


Come March and the local CFA had once again given permission for the oil burning J class to ride the rails and so just in time the workshop crew had her steamed up and tested before she was back to hauling our regular services on Sunday March 1st.

We hope that you enjoyed this post and that it gives you some insight into the effort that goes in to keeping the VGR trains running. Don’t forget we are always looking for help in the workshop, so if you think you have something to offer, drop by during the week and talk to Mick. Till next time.









The Carillon

Hello and welcome to another blog post from the Maldon Workshop at the Victorian Goldfields Railway. Way back in December when your blogger last posted I told you about a strange object that I had come across during a foray into the dark depths of the workshop. With no one around I was left to wonder what on earth was going on – was someone branching out into sculpture? Was it just a bored Friday Afternoon prank? A few days later when I asked one of the workshop regulars I got the answer – “it’s a Carillon”. A what now?


You may have noted the hammer in top of the above shot which is a clue – a Carillon is an ancient musical instrument played by striking. But a quick search reveals that a Carillon is normally housed in a bell tower and consists of at least 23 bells. Nice try, that ain’t no Carillon! But what is it?

Keen readers of this blog may recall that the rebuilding of the ashpan for the VGR’s coal burning steam locomotive K160 is one of the tasks being done at Maldon while most of the bigger stuff is being done at Newport Workshops. K160s ashpan was in very poor shape and to call it a rebuild is a bit of an understatement as almost none of the original item could be salvaged. The design of the ashpan on these types of locomotives is quite complex as it sits in between the driving wheels and takes all sorts of twists and turns to maximise it’s effectiveness in the confined space. One of the obstacles that needs to be overcome is axle of the real pair of driving wheels.


The image above may be a bit hard to make out but it shows the ashpan design of a Victorian Railways K Class steam locomotive. You can see 3 distinct hoppers with the front of the locomotive being on the left of the diagram. The large hump between the 2nd and 3rd hoppers is the relief for the rear driving wheel axle. And this is where our Carillon comes in. As you can see below far from being a musical instrument the subject of our blog is in fact a great example of workshop ingenuity. Faced with the task of bending a couple of pieces of angle steel into the semi hoop shape required for the ashpan Baz and Geoff came up with this.



In the top shot you can see that the piece of steel to be formed has been first held in place by a piece of scrap welded to the bench and then slowly bent around the makeshift forming tool which is also welded to the bench. In the lower shot you can see how other pieces of scrap have been carefully welded into place on the steel bench which was marked out beforehand using the plan featured above.

So there you go, mystery solved. We leave you with the full shot of workshop volunteer Geoff playing the “bells”. This is a great example of the sort of clever solutions that our workshop crew come up with in their ongoing efforts to keep our Railway running at full steam. For those of us lucky enough to see it up close it is a credit to all of them.


And that is a nice lead in to our next blog post which will will focus on work done over the Summer Fire Season to our Oil burning loco J549 while she is out of service. Tune in next time for Tubular Hells! Bye for now.

Steaming ahead – K160 style

It’s time to give you a bit of an update on our coal fired steam locomotive K160 which, as you know is undergoing a major overhaul at the Victorian Railways Newport workshops. With restoration of this locomotive now back in full swing a dedicated team of VGR volunteers have been putting a lot of effort in to getting this locomotive ready to “piece the jigsaw back together”.

There were a number of main reasons why the locomotive needed to go to Newport for its overhaul and one of these was so the loco could be lifted off its wheels, this was to enable the axle boxes to be re-metalled. The lifting process was successfully completed at the end of September after a number of working days to strip all relevant components to prepare for this task. Whilst the frame is off its wheels, we are taking the time to undertake any repairs required whilst access is easy – this includes giving the frame a full strip down and extensive drag box repairs as well.

The photos below show K160’s frames now up on stands and it’s axle boxes have now been delivered to Maldon for their overhaul and re-metalling.

The next significant step for K160’s restoration will be the Steamrail Open Weekend in March of 2020 where K160 will be on display for all to see. We welcome you to come along to the open days and see first-hand all the work that has been undertaken on K160 so far. She will look quite different by then compared to how she does right now.

The team will be having a bit of a break over Christmas but will be straight back into it in 2020 and we look forward to sharing all our progress through more regular updates with you as we return the VGR’s loco back to active traffic.

From the whole K160 team we wish you a very Merry Christmas.

No Job Too Big (or small)!

Hello and welcome to another belated update from the Maldon Workshop at the Victorian Goldfields Railway. Firstly an apology, yes, it has been a long time between blog posts. As usual a combination of circumstances has seen a lot of work to be done and not enough time to do it in! This tends to mean that the Blog gets put on the back burner.
Last time we checked in with out heroes they were celebrating one of their own with Pete’s Train being run to say thanks to a tireless workshop volunteer. As someone who spends a bit of time around these guys (while trying not to get my hands dirty) I think I can safely say that after transitioning to retirement 12 months or thereabouts back Pete is busier now than he ever was! That seems to be a bit of a common theme among volunteers on Heritage Railways like ours!
With Steamrail’s K class having returned to Newport in late August for Suburban Shuttle duties our own J549 has had to do most of the heavy lifting during the latter half of the Steam Season. I say most because the Railway has been so busy recently that we have had to run more than a couple of double headers with Heritage diesel Y133 providing valuable assistance. All this extra work for 549 brings with it the usual niggles, loose bits and bobs and worse for the workshop crew to deal with.
One of the jobs which needed attention was the Regulator which had been playing up for a while. While it was nothing serious Regulator issues can be a bit unnerving for loco crews and the quiet noises from tired footplate pairs were turning into rumbles so it was decided to take her out of service and repair take a look at it. Pulling out the regulator is a complex task which as well as the in cab work requires accessing the other end through the dome. So off came the handsome black cover which exposes the swag of nuts holding the dome cover on and once the jumbo rattle gun dispensed with them the cover comes off with a specially made lifting tool. It is a 2 person lift as it is HEAVY and once it is off there is the small matter of trying to find a place to rest it on top of the curved boiler! The Cab roof is normally the best bet.
Once that was done it was just a ‘simple’ matter of disconnecting the regulator and then Baz & Mick pulled the Reg out. Once removed from the loco Baz got to work machining the lift rod to recover our travel, while Mick lapped the main valve also finding and repairing a steam burn in the Pilot valve seat.
Once everything was deemed fit for purpose the re-assembly could get going but it was also decided that it was a good time to flush out the foundation while the loco was off the road. Just as well too as the photo below shows what came out, the scale buildup a result of a going a bit too heavy on the tannin in the boiler treatment. To add insult to injury the dome cover had to be done twice as the gasket didn’t seal correctly the first time. With a steam loco these types of things are often only discovered after 3 or 4 hours spent getting the boiler up to steam!
While the loco was in the shed it was also time to treat her to a new set of brake blocks. The shot above shows one of the (well) worn items on the left and it’s replacement on the right.
With J549 out-shopped and back in service it was time for a bit of work on ex Victorian Railways Heritage Diesel Y133. These top little locos were ordered by VR in the early 60s to dieselise shunting operations and replace steam locos on branch lines like ours which runs for around 18km from Castlemaine to Maldon. They soon became a favourite with crews and they were very well used during their service with Victorian Railways.
Our Y133 is no exception and although looking resplendent after being repainted last year by the VGR’s Young Volunteers Group the radiator had been in need of some work for quite a while. A leak had been discovered in one of the cores a couple of years back but as time and money didn’t allow for a replacement it was repaired as best as possible by Baz and crew. The Treasurer must have had his attention diverted elsewhere, I’m not sure, but somehow the gang got the circa $5K needed for the new unit. Below we see Baz  posing in the the big hole (or radiator compartment) ready to receive the unit while Mick plays the proud father.
While all of this work which is crucial for our operations is going on time also needs to be found for the ongoing work on K160. As we have mentioned before the new ashpan is being fabricated at Maldon before being transported to Newport for fitment. Progress has been slow due to the heavy workload but has been gathering pace recently. It must be morning smoko because we can see below that tools have been downed and the lads are taking a break from the mentally draining task of marking out the new backplate from old plans and drawings.
With all these big jobs (with apologies to Vyvyan and The Young Ones) going on it is easy to overlook the little tasks that are a constant feature of life in the workshop. Volunteers are often press ganged into these sorts of jobs and below we see a batch of T bolts for Super heater elements which have been cleaned up on the wire wheel. Not sure who got the job this time but your blogger has done this task once or twice on other locos and it is always rewarding to see the tubes going in and being secured with ease due to freshly cleaned threads.
And that is as good a note as any to finish on with a reminder that the workshop is always looking for new volunteers. There are usually a small mountain of tasks to do and you don’t need a Mechanical Engineering degree to do them. The sense of satisfaction is what keeps many of the stalwarts coming back so why not give it a go!
I hope to bring you a cheeky little post next week showing a real piece of ingenuity that I stumbled across in the workshop. Turns out it was for work on K160’s Ashpan but you wouldn’t know by looking at it. Till then keep it on the rails.

Pete’s Train

On Tuesday September 10th the VGR ran a special train. The idea was (of course) suggested by our Workshop Manager Mick and was conceived as a Driver Experience to say thank you to someone who has done a mountain of hours / days / weeks of volunteer work in the workshop over the last 7 or so years.

Mick is going to cover Pete’s contributions in more detail in an article for Branchline, the Victorian Goldfields Railway’s Member’s Newsletter so I won’t steal his thunder here. Suffice to say and as Mick himself said if it wasn’t for Pete we simply wouldn’t have been able to run some of the services that we have over that time. And as someone who knows Pete and has worked with him in the past at Maldon I can attest to the long hours and hard work he has put in.

Of course as anyone who knows Mick will attest he is no shrinking Violet. So how do you convince the powers that be to give away a Driver Experience? Well, you stand up at the Railway’s Annual General Meeting and suggest it to the Board of course! He had them over a (boiler) barrel we reckon!

Between the board agreeing to the train in August and the big day in September word spread among the regular workshop rats. Blokes who normally only come in on a Monday, a Wednesday running day or later in the week were suddenly available to come in on a Tuesday! And so the train became a mini celebration for a bunch of really hard working volunteers who spend a lot of time getting dirty but rarely if ever get to experience the fruits of their labour.

Posing for the photo below just prior to departure from Castlemaine we see Pete in the Driver’s seat with Mick to his right and some remarkably clean looking workshop volunteers in the front row.


Of course in order to run a Driver Experience for our motley crew of volunteers you need a train crew and Driver John and Fireman John on the footplate were ably assisted by Board Member Dave doing the Guard duties while fighting off the dreaded lurgy and VGR Young Volunteers Group member Adisson in the signal box. They were a great choice and the day was full of smiles and laughter so a big Thank You to you all.


Your blogger was called away from work to join in the fun and was able to catch J549 with Pete at the regulator as it crossed the Midland Highway on the Up with a good sized load above. Below we see Guard Dave watching the loco run around her train after being turned, his Hi Viz standing out against a Grey old Central Victorian day.



Above we have another shot of the loco running around while below Fireman John looks on as Pete eases the loco back to couple up to the train. And a very tidy job he made of it too!


After a break for lunch in the old VR Refreshment Room at Castlemaine it was back on board for the trip home to Maldon. I managed to get a quick shot of the train on the Down as the sun finally managed to show itself. As you can see from the earlier photo of the train on the Up she was pulling a decent load and Pete had her fair barking up the long grade out of Castlemaine after crossing the Winter’s Flat Trestle.


The first words out of Pete’s mouth after the first leg from Maldon to Castlemaine were “That is really hard work” and by the end of the day he was by his own admission exhausted so it was off home for a few celebratory beers followed by a very good nights sleep. Since then though he hasn’t stopped talking about his big day on the footplate. Don’t forget that you too can drive an ex Victorian Railways Locomotive, the VGR offers Driver Experience packages either Steam or Diesel on our branch line. See http://www.driveasteamtrain.com.au for details.

Well after a day of fun it’s back to work now for the volunteers. We’ll have an update of what they have been up to in the next couple of weeks. Until them remember that we are always looking for new volunteers in the workshop and you don’t need railway experience. We have volunteers from all walks of life and our latest recruit, a former motor mechanic, is finding heaps to do around the place. Get in touch with Mick or drop in for a chat, there are people around most weekdays.