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

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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!

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