Update – April 2022

There has been steady, though not necessarily visible, progress on K160 during April. We have also set about some planning for work in the next couple of months. The ashpan which is at the Maldon workshop is nearly finished. A big shout out to Keith and Wayne for their work on this and it now needs to be turned over so that the sliding panels at the bottom fit and once this is done it will be transported to Newport. As for progress at Newport the springs are still with the contractor for assessment and refurbishment as required. Steamrail are shortly to engage a contract fitter to speed the work on the loco. In the next week or so the boiler maker will be completing the smoke box. The boiler itself is virtually complete save for final installation of the internal steam pipe. Once this is done the boiler will be refitted to the frame. The main driving wheels will be turned once the boiler is fitted. Work on the cab and drag box continues. The donated steel sheet will be measured and used for the cab sides. We have turned our thoughts to the tender and this is being assessed for work needed but it is believed to be largely in good condition. We continue to need volunteers coming on a Saturday so if you want to come please contact John Hoy or Stuart Phemister. Warren Hall continues to oversee the project and in the latest Steamrail news there was mention of VGR’s arrangement with Steamrail on K160.

VGR Mechanical Update – March 2022

During March steady progress has been made on K160.  The cab area metal work has been attended to which is a slow and time-consuming job.  Other works have involved re-bushing of the compensation beam brackets attached to the frames.  These are being worked through and worn bushes replaced from the stock of spares on hand at Newport.  The pony wheel is being needle gunned to clean it down prior to repainting.  We continue to have good numbers of our volunteers at Saturday work days.  We will be engaging a contract boilermaker to start work on the smoke box and plans are afoot to complete and fit the internal steam pipe.  If you wish to attend as a volunteer for this project as previously advised, please contact Stuart Phemister John Hoy.

K160 Update – February 2022

Work on K160 during February has progressed well.  We have had good numbers at our Saturday work days.  The pictures with this blog show some of the progress on the locomotive.  The smoke box metal, rings, and piping is there.  The wheel springs have been sent to a contractor for refurbishment.  The ash pan which is at the workshop at Maldon is nearly finished.  Last Saturday’s work included attention to the pony truck and cab floor.  To generate momentum the K160 Facebook page has been cranked up and we now have approaching 200 members.  If you want to attend work days please contact John Hoy or Stuart Phemister.  We also believe we have received a generous donation of steel from a company which will be important to both us in this project and Steamrail generally.



Prior to Xmas the VGR Board made the decision to appoint former president Michael Vines manager of the project to restore steam locomotive K 160 which remains located at Newport Workshops. The task of restoration is being contracted out to Steamrail under the direction of Warren Hall who is well known in the heritage railway movement and particularly for the recent restoration and return to operation of steam locomotives K 183 and not long before that A2 986. Those previously involved in the work done on K 160 will continue to be utilised under Warren’s guidance along with VGR volunteers. The plan is to return K 160 to operation and capable of both branch and main line work within 18 months.. As we go along there will be monthly blogs on this site with photos starting late February. The VGR continues to be grateful for the generous donation it received some little time back which will fund the restoration of the locomotive and is excited at the prospect of the planned return to operation of K 160.

K160 Workshop Update 8/6/2020

Since our last update, works on K160 have been progressing at a good pace!

Some of the works have included;

– The Drag Box top plate being removed which revealed heavily corroded C channels all requiring replacement. With the top plate removed, we inspected the bottom plate and found it to be in good condition where it can remain in place.

-The new Main Internal Steam Pipe and J Pipe have arrived at Newport ready for installation as well as the driving wheel axle boxes ready for measuring and re-metalling.
-Works continued on all of K160’s number plates with the first coat of black being applied.

– The rivet heads on the C Channels have been ground off and now need to be punched out.
-The remaining ash pan studs have been drilled out and removed awaiting the newly machined studs to be fitted.
-Mounting studs on the boiler have been removed for replacement. Some of which include the Superheater header studs, safety valve studs, regulator stuffing box studs, shaker mount studs and the butterfly door studs.
-The driving wheels are continuing to be wire wheeled and needle gunned prior to paitning
– The remainder on the paint on the cab has been needle gunned and wire wheeled. This allowed us to prime the inside of the cab, and paint the Cumberland Stone top coat. With this completed, the wiring conduits can be refitted and wiring loom roughed in ready to be dropped into the loco at a later date.
-Commencing the overhaul of the Turbo Generator
-The mechanical lubricator has returned from Maldon and received a paint job and will very shortly be refitted to the running board.
-The pony truck axle boxes have been removed, which have revealed a few damages, but nothing too major.
-Cab mirror brackets made up ready to be welded to the cab
-Drivers side injector refitted

We are always looking for more donations to keep this project rolling and progressing quickly, if you have anything to spare, please donate!!
We estimate another $75-80k is required to get K160 back to her former glory.

Click the link below to donate:


Working bees are also held each Saturday and most weekdays/nights.
Contact: yvg@vgr.com.au or mechanical@vgr.com.au if you’re interested in helping out.


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.