The Y, the YVG and the VGR

This post was supposed to be about our heritage diesel locomotive Y133 which is currently getting a bit of a makeover. However as the post started to roll onto the page it became apparent pretty quickly that a bit of explanation was going to be required. So here goes.

Y133 entered service in 1965 and was withdrawn in 1987. She is now owned by the people of Victoria under the VicTrack Heritage umbrella and after spending some time allocated to SRHC is now allocated to the VGR. For many years she has been a great servant on our railway doing anything from running regular services during Summer fire restrictions, hauling works trains, acting as yard pilot at Maldon to occasionally filling in at short notice for an ailing steam loco.

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However she is over 50 now and as you can see from the image above all this hard work has taken it’s toll and so it was decided that it was time to give Y133 a fresh coat of paint and maybe some other repairs as the project required. The mechanical work, welding etc where required would be done by the Workshop crew and the prep and painting would be handled by the YVG. Sorry, who?

The future of the VGR is in good hands

YVG stands for Young Volunteers Group and was the brainchild of young VGR member Fletcher who was spending pretty much every weekend hanging around the workshop at Maldon doing whatever job was sent his way (and probably some that weren’t. Your blogger put a few questions to him this week;

B – So Fletcher, how did the YVG come about?

F – “It was my idea and I got the ball rolling. Then it went to the board and it all formed from there.”

B – And who is eligible to join the group?

F – “The Young volunteers group welcomes anyone between the age of 16-35! We currently have about 10 regular volunteers. But that number is slowly rising as people gain interest in what we do.”

B – Before the Y class job what other jobs has the YVG tackled?

F – “We undertake big and small projects around the railway and reveal many talents the younger ones didn’t know they had! So far, the YVG have repainted J549, rebuilt the Maldon Gangers Shed and overhauled most of the trolley fleet. Earlier this year the BP oil tankers were restored to their former glory!”

Great stuff from the boys and girls of the YVG. That’s right folks, don’t be lulled into thinking this is a boys club – the Young Volunteers welcome both males and females with both genders active in group. In this bloggers opinion the future is looking very bright for our railway!

Off the rails

So now you know how this blog post went off the rails so quickly, a bit like the star of our show who got her feet a bit dirty a few years ago in the yard thanks to a pesky broken rail.

Y133

Back on track!

With the Fire bans lifted towards the end of April this year and the railway able to run steam once again the work begun in earnest. The biggest job was always going to be removing all the years of dirt, dust, surface rust and layers of old paint that had built up over the years. The YVG got straight into it using whatever means they could find (but mainly elbow grease – oh to by young, fit and enthusiastic again!). Engine covers, panels and doors were removed to be stripped, checked for signs of rotting due to rust and primed.

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Next she was rolled into the shed and the power tools came out to begin the sanding of the main body and other components. As she is to be spray painted everything needs to be super smooth before the jam goes on as any little imperfections will show up very clearly once the VR Blue hits them.

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Well that’s probably enough for one post, next time we get up close and personal with some of the work being done on the loco and see the progress being achieved by the YVG with help from Mick and the workshop gang.

But just in case you can’t wait here is a sneak preview, an arty shot that Fletcher himself took of our hero taking in the night air at Maldon in winter with priming well and truly underway. Brrrrr.

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What comes after J? K of course!

Musical Engines

With J549 back on the road after the most recent work in the firebox it was time to turn our attention to the K Class. Well a couple of K classes actually.

K190 needed a bit of TLC in the same area as the J got last week so it was shunted into the workshop to enable repairs to be done in a little more comfort than afforded outside during a cold Maldon winter. Now if you are thinking that the picture below looks familiar then you are correct – Darren’s back!

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Qualified pressure vessel welder (and all round top bloke) Darren was called back into service last week to do some work in the firebox of K190. This left Mick free to get to work on some other bits and bobs but as 190 was required back into service ASAP it took precedent so Mick got to work. Below you can see him weilding the Oxy Spanner trying to budge the Drivers Side Valve Chest drain pipe as he went searching for a leak.

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And after K comes……. K of course!

Much of the work on K160 is being done at our joint venture partner Steamrail’s workshop at Newport West Block. It was considered that the facilities there plus the easier trip for Melbourne based volunteers would mean the work would happen faster and so far so good! However some of the jobs such as the Ashpan that we have shown in a previous post are brought back to Maldon for Mick and the local volunteers to tackle. The latest such job is the Main Internal steam pipe and as it also requires some of Darren’s skills it was decided to tackle it while he was here.

The Main Internal is a 6″ thick walled seamless tube which carries saturated steam from the dome (via the regulator and J pipe) to the Super Heater manifold (or header). Steam is corrosive and so this part comes under a lot of duress and suffers much wear and tear. The one in 160 was shot as was the cone that mounts it to the J pipe

Materials were sourced and Mick got to work machining up a new cone and below you can see the result with the old corroded one on the right and the shiny new one on the left ready to fit to the new tube. It was machined on the 4 jaw lathe in our workshop and then the final task of lapping it to the J pipe was done by hand, a process that took Mick straight to Cramp City!

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Once the cone was finished it was time for Darren to pick up the welder again and attatch the new cone to the pipe. Remember that anything to do with the boiler can only be welded by a qualified PV welder so no matter how good our guys are they aren’t allowed to do this work. And so below we see the result, the new unit complete and ready to go into K160’s boiler.

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For those who follow the Rail Preservation movement and marvel at the fantastic figures thrown around for restoration of Steam Locomotives or even just their boilers consider this – the 6″ pipe itself cost around $2500.00, material for the cone came in at $76.00 and once you add machining and welding you don’t get any change from $2800.00. And that is for just one small piece of the boiler jigsaw puzzle. Albeit a very important one.

Next time we will hopefully be taking a look at the ongoing work being done on Y133 by our Young Volunteers Group plus some unexpected work that was needed recently on her as well.

We hope to have some more updates on K160 soon as work begins to really ramp up. And don’t forget you can donate to her restoration via the website or by taking this link http://www.vgr.com.au/k160appeal.php

There are some pretty cool packages on offer for donors which include a ride behind the loco on her first load trail on the main line following the completion of the restoration.

J549 Firebox Work (and tractor repairs)

Firebox Welding and Tractor modifications, all in a weeks work!

With K190 pressed back into service on Wednesday last week it was time to do some work inside the firebox of J549. But before we get to that a couple of little jobs that you might not expect to see being performed at a Tourist Railway workshop.

First there was the tractor to attend to. One of the primary functions of this tractor which we bought last year to replace the previous old and rusty Yellow Peril version is to load coal from the bunker direct into the loco tender using the loading ramp. Some of the volunteers were getting a little eager with resulting scratches and dents appearing on K class tenders. With our joint venture partners at Steamrail being understandably protective about their 1940s locos, particularly the freshly painted K190 a solution was needed.

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Above we see the ingenious solution thought out by our workshop crew, a modified roller with 8mm of vulcanised rubber was mounted to specially fabricated plates and viola – we have our very own Dodgem Tractor! Warren and Tim can now rest easy knowing that the rubber will be much kinder to their loco and any other equipment such as utes and busses that the tractor may decide to take on.

Next up, some real work – a small weep in the rear tube plate had been noted around one of the 2″ tubes and it was thought better to attend to this sooner rather than wait until a few more popped up. Coupled with that the Boiler Inspector had noted in a previous inspection that he didn’t like the look of one of the other 2″ tube welds in the back plate so it was decided to tackle both at once.

Now some of you may not realise this but a Steam Locomotive Boiler is a Pressure Vessel and so not just anyone can hop in and go at it with a welder. Not even our own Mick who is a qualified Mechanical Engineer and welder can do the job. It needs to be done by a qualified Pressure Vessel welder. Enter Darren Turvey

JDarrenTurveyPressureWelder

Now you may be thinking that is a pretty ordinary picture but remember that this is INSIDE the firebox. Just getting in there in the first place requires the skills of a gymnast and the svelte physique to match as you have to slide through the firebox opening in the cab as that is the only way in or out. Anyone who has been in the cab of a steam loco may recall it is not a very big opening. And the black clothing is de rigueur as you get covered in grey ash and dust the minute you get in.

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A bit of fireworks inside the firebox as Darren goes at it with an angle grinder (above)

Not the sort of place you want to spend too much time, inside the firebox of J549 showing 2″ tubes and the larger ones for the super heater elements to sit inside (below). Funnily enough the weeping tube welded up just fine but the other one (the one that the Boiler Inspector had asked to be attended to) took forever to get right!

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After that is was time for some much needed fresh air so back to the Tractor where Mick needed to attend to some problems with the adaptor plates for the various fittings that the tractor can use. This unit should be able to take a 4 way bucket, large single bucket, fork or slasher when required however if you look at the adaptor plates below there is a bit of a problem. The hooks at the top hold the load while the brackets at the bottom are for the pins to make sure it doesn’t all fall off going over the tracks or other bumpy surface. Notice anything wrong?

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The adaptor plates as supplied are not the same and don’t work! So we sent them back to the supplier to be replaced right? Wrong! We modified them to make them fit and work just like bought ones! Now the tractor is ready to do much more than just load coal and will be used for mowing, offloading pallets of heavy oil drums from delivery trucks and who knows, maybe helping the Civil crew out on the track.

With J549 now back on the road and hauling Monday’s Driver Experience train the K is in the shop so next time we will have some more action shots showing the never ending tasks that go into keeping steam locomotives running regular passenger services and special trains 4,5 and even 6 days a week!

J549

Following all of the preliminary work detailed in the last post the faulty Super heater element was identified and removed to be assessed. It was pretty easy to spot, leaking steam leaves plenty of tell-tale marks and we quickly established that one of the ball ends was about to snap off due to extensive cracking.

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From here it was a pretty simple fix with a new ball end being welded onto the element, then a bit of a clean up of the Super Heater manifold where the element is mounted to ensure that there is no more leaking and back in she goes.

Sparks

A bit of action in the photo above, this is how rust reacts to being welded!

The finished product below showing the old part which has been removed (or more accurately removed itself) being held next to the new part which has now been fitted in it’s place

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Now after a couple of full days work the whole lot can be pieced back together and so below we see workshop volunteer Pete helping Mick to re-assemble the jigsaw ready for J549 to run on the weekend. As you can see it is a confined space and as already mentioned it is dirty work. The only consolation is when you have to jump in on a cold Monday or Tuesday after the train has run on the weekend, it is amazing how long the boiler holds heat for, on these occasions it is toasty warm and you wouldn’t want to be anywhere else!

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Tubes.

IMG_3934_previewThis cold and wet month will see work on the boiler tubes of both the J and K class locos.

J549 needs the tubes cleaned (again) to remove the carbon dust layer, which acts as a very good insulator and a damaged super heater element has been reported from some crews. You can both hear and feel when you have a damaged element, the noise of escaping steam echoes down the tube and into the cab via the firebox, you lose power and water consumption also increases noticeably.

K190 has several tubes blocked by cinders & ash, which creates a cool spot in the boiler tubes. This must be cleaned out to ensure an even heat distribution throughout the boiler.

Here we see Mick after preliminary work on the J has been completed. This is a bigger job than many may realise. After opening up the Smoke Box door (held by multiple nuts and clips on an oil burner) you are greeted by the sight of the spark arrester  which needs to be removed. This is a difficult and messy job due to the corrosive effect of the steam and smoke on the metals and the dust which is everywhere. A large hammer or mallet is a handy tool for this operation.

The petticoat is next to go and this is an awkward job which really requires 2 sets of hands. The three bolts and nuts which hold it in place are almost always corroded solid and often need to be ground off. The petticoat is heavy and cumbersome and once it is out the smoke box becomes a bit easier to move around in.

Of course before you attempt this a cover needs to be placed over the Blast Pipe to ensure rust, tools etc don’t make their way down into the cylinders. Just don’t forget to remove it again before you light her up as one of our volunteers discovered the hard way a couple of years ago!

The Smokebox baffle now needs to be go. This plate (or series of plates more correctly) ensures that the hot smoke and gasses from the fire have to pass through the spark arrester before going up the funnel. A heap more rusty and steam corroded nuts and studs to work with here and a great deal of care is required as some of the studs are mounted direct into the Super-heater manifold and you don’t want to break any of those off!

Now we can start to remove the super-heater elements, again cumbersome pieces of heavy metal held to the manifold by big rusty nuts and clamps with very little space around them to swing a hammer against the special VR spanner made for the purpose.

All of the above can be hours, even days of dirty work in a confined space before the elements can even be seen especially if the loco has done a full season without needing any work in the front end.

Next time we take a look at the elements themselves. Those with a keen eye may have already noticed that Mick has already had to do some work on this element.

K160 Ash Pan

This week, all the new steel for the ash pan has arrived in the workshop. Thanks go to the Civil boys for picking up the steel, & delivering it into the workshop with the Takeuchi excavator while I was inside J549 blowing out the flue tubes.

The old ash pan hump sits idly by, looking at its new replacement having a chat to a freshly inspected J549