Travelling Back In Time

Hello and welcome to another update from the Victorian Goldfields Railway’s Maldon workshop. Being a heritage railway we are used to giving the appearance of time travel as our Ex Victorian Railways Heritage rolling stock plies it’s trade over our 1950s era branchline from Castlemaine to Maldon. This time however we are travelling all the way back to March 28th – the last time we posted an update!

The March / April period is always a busy one for our Railway as fire restrictions ease and the Steam season gets underway, This combined with some good old fashioned tech issues meant we have been a bit quiet. That’s right, we lost all the photos!

In the last post we covered J549’s return to service after her big exam. With the J now back on the ‘point’ of our trains and fire restrictions still meaning we were unable to run a coal burning loco attention turned to Steamrail’s K153 which has called the VGR home over the last few months. The K had been sitting in the Carriage Shed at Castlemaine since here boiler inspection late last year but as she was required to run a couple of Main Line trips to Echuca in May special permission was obtained from the CFA to run her back to Maldon.

The trip back to our workshop showed up a few issues, some due to her sitting around in the summer heat baking in a tin shed and others just the types of things that crop up when trying to maintain a heritage loco in regular service. Firstly the gland packing around the regulator needed attention. This was quickly attended to and we turned to other issues such as clack valve cap, isolator valve and steam valve leaks which were attended to. One of the Dump Grate shafts was seized where it passed through the frame and this needed attending to as well. There were a few other niggles as well, too many to cover in detail.


In the photo above left we see the Fireman’s Side Gauge Glass Boss replaced because the outlet thread was . . . . past its use by date, & would shower the crew! While on the right we see the turbo drain outlet which required repair (AGAIN!!!). This time Mick fitted an elbow to try to prevent further damage.

Next on the list was the compressor. Loco Crews had been reporting problems with the Westinghouse unit fitted to K153 for a while. Nothing that a quick knock or 2 with the hammer wouldn’t cure but as she was venturing beyond our tracks it was time to have a look inside. So off came the Fireman’s Side Elephant’s Ear and the crew got to work. The unit was found to me in need of more than a little repair. One of the heads from our own K160 was grabbed from Newport as a short term replacement for a worn out part but that was not all!

The shuttle valve that controls the movement of air in and out of the various parts of the compound compressor unit was well beyond it’s service limit. Workshop Manager Mick machined up some new rings for it, no easy job as they are made from Centrifically cast iron tubing which needed to be machined inside and out to obtain the correct size. Luckily some material was on hand to get the job done with more sourced to replenish our stocks. The compressor unit will get more attention later as it will need 3 new shuttle valve bores. These will need to be machined up, ports cut into them and then they will need to be shrink fitted into the unit. A big job.

Below we see the usual suspects removing the smoke deflector to enable access to the compressor.


With time rapidly running out before the twin trips to Echuca, firstly for Steamrail’s Echuca Overlander on May 11th and then for a private charter the following week, K153 was pressed into service on VGR services from May 4th with fire restrictions having been lifted at the start of the month. Your blogger was on hand to snap a shot of her on a test trip powering over Castlemaine’s Midland Highway crossing under leaden skies before the deflector was refitted making her look a bit ‘unbalanced’.


Well that is about all for this week. We are aiming to bring you a stream of updates over the next few weeks, time and technology permitting so please stay tuned. We will leave you with a couple of shots – on the left have a delivery of 30 tons or so of finest NSW black coal to power K153 to Echuca and on the right we see Mick after a hard day’s graft. When asked for a byline for the shots Mick shot back “Fresh black rock, fresh black me”. So there you have it! If you fancy coming down and getting dirty remember the workshop is always looking for volunteers to assist in their never ending endeavors – at least it’s warm inside the smoke box!






The Regulator, the Whistle and the Faces around the Workshop

While we keenly await Mick’s Magnum Opus about the recent ABC exam on J549 we’ll take the opportunity to describe in a bit more detail a couple of the more interesting jobs undertaken during the recent exam.

The regulator shaft was one of the components that Mick knew would need some serious attention. During last year’s annual exam some bad spots were noticed and the gland packing had required replacement 3 times during the year as the increasing damage to the shaft from corrosion tore at the packing. With the loco coming out of service for a few weeks it was time to take a look at it and assess what work was required.

Like a throttle on a motorcycle or accelerator on a car the regulator transfers the input from the driver to the engine but due to the high boiler pressures involved on a Steam Locomotive it needs to be in tip top shape to ensure good, safe performance. As you can see from the shot below the best days were well and truly behind this one!


The shaft itself is a long, unwieldy bit of kit that runs through the boiler connecting the regulator handle to the regulator valve in the steam dome. On a coal burner the shaft can be withdrawn out through the cab with the tender in place but on an Oil Burner like our J549 the oil tank is in the way so the tender needs to be disconnected from the locomotive. Lucky we were doing that anyway for the purpose of the C exam!

The shaft operates the regulator valve via an eccentric and this is a simple square fit on the shaft requiring no fastenings but of course you still need to get inside the dome to tap it out and support it once it starts to move. The dome lid needs to be removed for this purpose, not the pretty black shroud that you see when the loco is running but the lid underneath. This involves undoing the 30 or so nuts that hold the dome cover onto the boiler. Carefully. If not done properly you risk warping the dome cap and/or damaging the copper sealing ring.

Once out it was pretty obvious that some major work would be required and it was decided to cut the shaft in two (in the same spot that it had been cut previously) to allow it to be machined in the lathe. Baz’s expertise was ideal for this job and so he was um, er, seconded? Stolen? Let’s say borrowed from the Civil department for a few days. Firstly all of the corroded material was removed which showed up a lot of damage, in some parts it was almost half the original diameter. Next Baz welded new material in place running weld up and down the length while the shaft was mounted in the lathe and rotated by hand as new metal was added, a long and tedious task. Next it was machined back by Geoff and this process was repeated 3 times to ensure no imperfections which could wreck the gland packing again or worse lead to a failure. When the job was finished the shaft was welded back together ready for refitting. Below we see Baz in action and the shaft in the lathe being machined.



Another area which needed attention was the Whistle Valve and Seat. When removed there was obvious signs of wear caused by Steam leaking around the valve as shown in the first shot below. As we have mentioned before Steam is corrosive and once a leak starts it is very efficient at cutting through pretty much any material. In the second shot you can see the damage to the Whistle Valve Seat which probably created the leak in the first place. Once it began to leak the steam quickly damaged the valve itself.



In the shot below we see the valve in the lathe being machined with Mick doing the honours. He also had the pleasure of doing the seat which needs to be done by hand. Hours and hours of work goes into these types of jobs and if not done properly and to an exacting standard the leaks will just start again and the corrosion cycle will begin anew.


We’ll finish up this post with a few shot of volunteers doing various jobs around the workshop. The guys do a great job especially considering the limited resources at their disposal. If you think you have something to offer talk to Mick in the workshop, it is a friendly and welcoming environment and we are always looking for help!


Above Left Mick (not strictly a volunteer) and Pete with the rare opportunity of a bench each and Right Pete does battle with a starting valve!

Below Left, Geoff playing with an angle grinder and Right Brian washing parts. Geoff spent most of his working career as a fitter with a Brewery, just goes to show that you don’t need to be a rail worker to have skills we can use in the workshop!


Well that is about all we have time for this post. Today was a busy day with the Royal Train arriving from Seymour with our long lost T333 in tow along with a few VR bogie louvre vans which we seem to have adopted. The work just keeps on coming for our busy crew at the Victorian Goldfields Railway Maldon workshop.

Up, Up and Away!

Hi and welcome to another update from the Victorian Goldfields Railway’s Maldon workshop. The focus of most attention for the last month or so has been finishing the ABC exam on our oil burning steam loco J549. As detailed in our last post this is a major exam requiring a lot more than the “regular” A and AB exams and the biggest part of it is to jack the loco frame off of the wheels to get to the Woolpads in the axle boxes on the driving wheels. In order to do this there are many other parts that have to come off first.

The preparation for the lift had been going on for a few weeks with various parts being removed to allow the frame/boiler/cab to be hoisted free of the driving wheels and motion gear. All brake blocks and rigging had to come off plus the long rods had to come off as we found some worn bushes. Springs, keeper plates including those from the pony trucks, wedge adjusting bolts, wedge clamps and adjusting bolt clamps also had to come off. When all this was done the loco could be jacked up enough to access to the spring hanger pin lock bolts. Then the spring hangers could be removed finally allowing access to the cellars.

On the left we see the view from underneath as the loco is almost ready to hoist and at right we see Mick giving it his all as she begins to rise.



In the photo above left we see the wool pads as they came out. Clearly not enough material had been used last time around and you can see the metal of the Cellars where they should be covered by the wool. On the right we see them after a lot of work ready to go back in with a lot more material this time. Not exactly Vegan friendly these locomotives!

Another problem area was the wool trimmings which were extremely dirty. Much of this is a result of dirt and muck getting in when the oil cans are inserted to top up the oil. These are normally accessed through the spokes of the wheel, everything is very dirty and the nozzle of the can drags in muck from the wheel spokes and surrounds and mixes it in with the oil. Below we see some of the dirty trimmings and at right the detritus that was left behind after 3 hours of cleaning or so.


Other faults found during this work included worn brake bushes, suspension bushes, springs, spring buckles and 2 suspension legs which were seized so badly that they could not be moved even with a sledge hammer. Not good for ride quality! There was a lot more as well which we will cover in a later post.

Of course while all of this is going on there are still other duties to attend to as and when required. Our freshly painted heritage diesel loco Y133 has been on the point of all trains since the J came out of service in mid January and it needs attention from time to time to ensure reliable running for our passengers. In the photo at left below we see a leak in the engine protector which sprung up and had to be attended to by the workshop crew. In the other shot Keith is on duty cutting more door stops to be painted and sold at our shops both at Maldon and at Castlemaine.


Well that is about it for this time. As I type the pieces of the puzzle have been put back together and the loco was steamed on Friday ready for her return to service. In the coming weeks we hope to have an in depth post from Mick covering the more technical aspects of the exam for those among our viewers who have an interest in the more complicated aspects of keeping a heritage steam loco in service on our tourist railway. 10031

But remember it’s not all about hard graft – in a lull between jobs (and probably just before morning Smoko) the crew had a discussion about the chemical makeup of coffee which is a vital part of Mick’s day. And anyone who has worked in the big shed at Maldon for any length of time will know that meant a chemistry lesson! The workshop is always looking for more help so if you would like to lend a hand (or get a chemistry lesson) please contact us via the website at

Till next time, thanks for taking an interest in our blog, our workshop and our railway.


End of year is Exam time!

Hello and welcome to another update of the Victorian Goldfield’s Railway Mechanical blog where we take a look at goings on in and around the workshops at Maldon. As we mentioned last time out Steam is off the menu for the time being due to fire restrictions so while freshly re-painted Y133 is out and about running services J549 has it’s annual boiler exam in February.

This year we celebrate 5 years of the J’s return to service after her full restoration and so this time the boiler inspection coincides with a scheduled ABC exam. A what you ask? So did your blogger and after a little research I came across a great old article in The Victorian Railway’s “Behind the Railway Scene” magazine that goes some way to explaining it.

Back in the day the VR used a strict schedule of exams in order to keep their steamers in good working order. An A examination was performed every 1500 miles with inspection of wheels, tyres, axles, engine frames, oiling of flange lubricators and intermediate buffers and Turbo Generators voltage and lamps.

Every 3000 miles and AB exam was done which as it’s name suggests was an A plus a comprehensive examination of the loco and a boiler examination by a boilermaker as well.

Every 12000 miles comes the ABC exam (seeing a pattern here?) and is far more comprehensive and takes around 4 days. Or in our case a couple of weeks or so as we don’t have a limitless supply of fitters on hand to do the job not to mention that our facilities hardly rival Newport Workshops in it’s heyday!

We will go into a bit more detail about what exams the VGR does and when in a later post but for now it is time for J549 to undergo an ABC and so away we go.

First cab off the rank was separating Loco and Tender, giving both a thorough clean and preparing for the boiler inspection. The C exam boiler inspection is more involved than the annual one and requires removal of more components for a more detailed inspection including EVERY valve in the loco, oil, air, steam and water.

In the photos below we see volunteer Keith trying not to get blown backwards from the 3000 psi water blast as he pressure washes the Tender while Pete argues with an injector which is stubbornly resisting removal.



The boiler inspection was completed early in the piece by our contractor and the J was given the tick of approval with just a couple of washout plugs requiring replacement. There was some concern expressed though about excessive use of the Safety Valve, which has been overheated & shown minor steam cutting from prolonged use. In the photo below we see the Safety Valve showing the deep blue of overheating…….



……. while in the shot above we see the Boiler stripped of fittings. Astute viewers will see both M3 valves missing from the brake pedistal.

The mechanical lubricator had to be completely stripped and had more gunk than expected, Mick had to use the pressure washer to get all the goop out of the main body. It required some new gaskets to be made from the thinnest paper available, to avoid altering its settings and then was re-assembled. Below we see it in a gazillion bits all over Mick’s bench.


During the work so far the team have done a boiler washout, serviced all boiler fittings, boiler inspection, lubrication system, removed, stripped & cleaned Injectors, found some internal issues to be sorted, checked all motion gear tolerances and are halfway through all brake components – 1 brake compensator needs repair from a failed bush. New material has also been prepped for Table Plate repairs in smoke box. Not a bad effort for a few weeks work, much of it in extreme heat. Below we see Mick removing safety valves in 40 degree heat; he actually burnt his knees on the nearly 70 degree black boiler cladding!


Well that’s just about it for this post. As I type I have been told that today Mick started jacking & removing suspension components so he can get to the wool pads under the axles. “It’s such a joy lifting 60 ton with mechanical screw jacks” he exclaimed. “NOT!”.

We leave you with a little distraction that happened during a recent work day – a branch fell from a tree near the yard and landed on one of the flood lights damaging it a little. Not the sort of sound you want to hear when you have a very valuable Steam Loco in a million bits around the workshop! Until next time, enjoy the summer and maybe even a trip on our railway. You can find booking details on the website at


Long Hot Summer Just Passed Me Y

Hello and welcome to our first post for 2019. A combination of holidays, extreme weather and other jobs have meant that the new year was first quiet then extremely busy for the staff and volunteers at the Victorian Goldfield’s Railway’s Maldon workshop. Unless of course you were a young volunteer that is!
Mick and the gang are currently busy with a C exam on J 549 as she has been back in service for 5 years now. We will be covering that in some detail in the coming weeks but first we need to cover off the final stages of the re-painting of heritage diesel locomotive Y133.
The summer months in Central Victoria bring many challenges to our railway due to extreme heat and fire danger. For this reason we don’t run steam at all in February and all running at this time of year is organised in consultation with the CFA to ensure that we help to keep our community safe. So with the J set to come out of service for the exam which neatly coincided with the diesel running period the Young Volunteers Group were racing against time and some pretty horrendous weather conditions to get job done on the Y class. I’ll let Fletcher take up the story.
“Saturday 15th Dec saw Y133 run it’s last train for the year which was a Driver Experience. This would also be it’s last time running around Grey and rusty!!
That afternoon saw lots of works happen, she was striped of all removable parts like doors, windows, lights, cab interior features etc etc and by mid afternoon she was nothing but a shell.
I then started bogging up the areas where new metal was welded in or other imperfections existed in the metal. This was all complete by that night. Sunday 16th saw us sanding the bogged areas and the entire body smooth, then applying the primer where it was required on the freshly bogged areas.
Between the 17th and 21st of December the entire under frame was de-greased and pressure washed clean ready for paint. This revealed a very, very thick layer of grease, brake block dust, mud and everything else you can think of that splashes up while a loco is out on the road.
Friday 21st saw the under frame sprayed black, this was a very quick task with the new spray pot. Once the black was dry, it was all covered up so work could start on getting the body ready for the blue and gold. This weekend also saw a group of young volunteers sanding all the nose doors smooth ready for colour.
Between the 21st and the 28th we all worked hard to get the body and cab ready for colour. Quite a few days temperatures were climbing into the 40s – way to hot to be in the workshop where there is no airflow so the Air Con in the meal room was well utilised!!!
Friday 28th December was the first day for colour. It was forecast to be a hot one that day, so we started at 6am mixing a batch of paint and spraying by 6:30am! By 9am the temperature was already at 27 degrees, cut off temperature for spraying so the rest of the day was used the continue polishing number plates and masking up!
By the 2nd of January the entire loco was coated in Blue so next came the important part – measuring and masking for the yellow line! All the doors were carefully placed back on to ensure we got a perfectly straight line. This took some time while we measured, stringing lines along the loco, masking templates for the radius on the nose, running masking tape around the entire loco and so on and so forth.
Steven Fiume from the Daylesford Railway (DSCR) came out to help us stick on the template for the wings – this was a 2 person job and with Steven having previous experience from doing Y159 he was called in. The perfect man for the job and in 3 hours both sets of wings were on and ready to go!
From then we covered every bit of blue and black there was as yellow is very unforgiving on dark colours. We then sprayed the yellow late one evening when everything had cooled off and then patiently waited for it to dry, to then see if all turned out well!
We started by peeling off the wing template… and revealed a very crisp yellow on Midnight blue!!! AMAZING!!! We spent most of the day uncovering everything and preparing to put the loco back together.
From then until 11th Jan, we all worked hard to reinstall windows (big thanks to O’Brien’s Bendigo and VGR window installer Baz!!!), hang number plates and builders plates, organise the cab seats to be reupholstered, cut and polish the colour and everything else that goes into finishing a restoration job.
In the shot below you can see most (but not all!!!) of the gang posing with Baz Oh Oh Oh O’Brien and the nearly finished loco. Thanks to Mick for the shot.
By Friday 11th Jan she was fuelled up, washed, polished and finally started at around 5pm. She then rolled out into the sunlight for the first time in 3 weeks ready for a test run before she re-entered traffic.
Saturday 12th Jan was the big unveiling with members, newspapers and even WIN news waiting on the platform, the Young Volunteers all scrambled to give the Y one last wash and polish before she faced her admirers. At the stroke of midday the crowd was greeted by Y 133 powering into the platform with everyone applauding! We then had a group photo with the loco and finally everyone could inspect the amazing work.”
Well I think we can all agree that it is an outstanding job and a real credit to the boys and girls of the YVG. The standard of work and the level of finish is outstanding. Little details like the reproduction Clyde builders plate show the love that has gone into this project. Your blogger was around the railway a few times near the end and can attest to the tireless work that went into the last few days with exhausted bodies being pushed to the limit to get the job done.
Y133 is currently hauling Sunday only services in February before we get back to normal timetable in March. Come down to Castlemaine to grab a look or better still buy a ticket and take a ride behind this wonderfully preserved loco. We’ll leave you with a shot of some of our volunteers clearly enjoying spending some quality time with our hero on a lovely sunny Central Victorian day. Thanks for visiting.

No rest for the YVG

Hello and welcome to a short first blog update for 2019. Firstly a Happy New Year to all of our readers, we had a really good last 6 months here at the VGR workshop blog and we look forward to a bigger and better 2019 (not 2018 as the Sydney Harbour Bridge tried to tell us a couple of days ago!).

With Mick on holidays and many of the volunteers away on “other duties” over the Christmas / New Year period you would think that there would be nothing much going on at the Victorian Goldfields Railway’s Maldon workshop. Well nothing could be further from the truth! A few staunch volunteers/staff have been sighted cleaning up the Shed and Workshop Compound area while The Young Volunteers Group decided that the holidays were a perfect time to get the VR Blue and Gold applied to our heritage diesel locomotive Y133.

As your blogger has also been AWOL over the holidays I have yet to see either in the flesh or via email the work as it stands but I am reliably informed that it is going very well indeed. Tomorrow will be a real scorcher, way too hot for spray painting as the paint will dry before it hits the metal causing a nasty Orange peel effect but with some cooler days coming up over the weekend the job will hopefully be completed very soon.

Until we get some more up to date pics we will have to settle for more of Riley’s great shots of the progress that was made on the metal work in the weeks leading up to Christmas.



Above we see some of the work completed in the radiator compartment. This area had seen a lot of water ingress in recent years and the water was trapped in the compartment leading to rust. After the dirt and scale was removed a drain hole was discovered – even old hands at the VGR claimed they had never seen it before!


More shots of the great work done on the nose. This was particularly difficult work as the front is not flat but has a transition, multiple small changes of angle to get the look. In a brilliant piece of lateral thinking Baz used the recently completed wooden deck of the QR wagon as a sheet metal bending and forming tool! The results speak for themselves.


As ex Overland carriage Tambo looks on we can see some of the work still to be done. The parts of the carbody which are covered by the doors are particularly susceptible to rust while the vibrations of the big 2 Stroke Diesel engine can cause cracks in other parts of the same parts as well as in the doors. This lot was all stripped back and repaired before the painting began.

Well we did say it would be short! Apologies for the last post which was supposed to go live on Dec 13th as a follow on from the Dec 8th post but for some reason doesn’t seem to have loaded. Also a big shout out to young Riley who apparently came off second best after trying to drop punt a Locomotice Brake Block, get well soon mate!

With J549 scheduled to run services for the next week or so there have been really good passenger numbers on our trains over the holidays with plenty of families enjoying today’s trip. Get over to to grab your seat or better still hang out until February and be part of history as the refurbished Y133 hits the rails.


Unfinished (and finished) Business

Well folks, another week has flown by and it is time for a further update on works at the Victorian Goldfields Railway’s Maldon workshops. Last time out we featured work on K153 in preparation for her annual boiler inspection. After the post went live we realised that we had made an omission which might have made it difficult for some to follow! We covered Mick drilling out and replacing one stay “between the sheets” and we also covered gun welder Darren working on a stay on the throat plate. Those with a bit of knowledge would have picked that they are not anywhere near each other! That’s right, we did more than one. In the image below we see the Throat Plate stay in the process of being removed. This one almost broke Mick’s hand while he was trying to drill it out – the stay had suffered much corrosion and was far thinner than anticipated and the drill bit jammed on the edge of the cavity created. As one wag commented “you’d be worn too after 78 years”!


Don’t leave on my account…….

While all of the work on K153 was happening there was still time for some other tasks to be done either by those not involved with the K or in the downtime waiting for welders or inspectors to arrive or for Bricks to set. There was light at the end of the shed for QR272 and with everyone heartily sick of the sight of it there were plenty of willing helpers to finish off the job. Below we see some of the crew applying a sump oil finish to the new deck to protect it, using enough for it to drip through to protect the new steel underneath as well.



Once that was done it was time for an active brake test before outshopping. VGR stalwart, tireless volunteer and ex President Paul was on hand to do the honours. After the successful result (which was a relief after the dozens of man hours spent on the brakes) the wagon was hauled out into the Maldon sunshine.  Described as the “greatest achievement of the last 3 months” by one workshop team member clearly happy to see the back of it! All that is left now is a quick coat of paint and stencilling and it can head out on duties with the Civil crew.


Getting there is half the fun

With that job done attention turned back to Y133. With the VGR’s Young Volunteers Group threatening to apply the Blue and Gold straight after Christmas there is no time to lose in finalising the structural repairs. Below we see Baz cutting some more rust out, first inside the car body and then outside.



With that done it was time to start welding in some new material. YVG member Riley was on hand to snap some shots of the work. Below we see the same part of the nose with the new material welded in.


Next time out we will feature a few more of Riley’s shots as the holes are filled with shiny new steel. Thanks to Riley and Mick for extra photos. Keep up the great work guys (and gals)! And remember that the workshop is always looking for active volunteers, if you think you have got something to offer contact Mick.