A recurring theme of ours recently has been how things don’t always go the way we plan it and this last week has been no exception. We were advised from “on high” last week that the VGR’s very own T Class locomotive T333 was to be subjected to a change of footwear and workshop staff were required to be on hand to witness (and as it turned out to help with) this monumental event. Your blogger was lucky enough to be able to join Mick as we headed for Seymour bright and early on Monday, me on the train and Mick on a long cross country road trip.
We arrived at SRHC bright and early to be greeted by none other than the President, David, who welcomed us warmly and took time out of his busy schedule to give us a quick tour of the impressive facilities including inside the Spirit Dining and Parlour cars, what a treat. We also got a look at the carefully planned running sheet for the 3 days of work which was to follow for the Seymour crew and I must say it was daunting to say the least. I was glad T333 was to be first cab off the rank!
Some of you may know that T333, a first series “flat top” T class locomotive built for Victorian Railways by Clyde Engineering in 1956, has been owned by the Victorian Goldfields Railway for many years now. She had been out on hire to a mainline rail operator earning good money for our railway but in 2013 this operator went spectacularly broke owing a heap of money and leaving our hero tired and stranded on Standard Gauge bogies at Seymour making it a bit difficult for a glorious return to our railway which is of course on Broad Gauge.
Now after a few years of sitting around it was time for a change back to the Broad Gauge and this was to be combined with a number of other “lifts” over a few days to offset the costs of the equipment required. On small scale railways like ours this type of lift is often done with the help of a couple of mobile cranes. This is both cumbersome and expensive. For this large project SRHC had secured a set of lifting jacks with a central control unit for the task an it was very impressive. The photo below shows the jacks on the driver’s side being prepared for action and the control unit near the RHS of the overhead crane.
Above – T333 sits off the turntable at Seymour with some of the other locos involved in the swaps positioned on other roads. It was a glorious sight and sound with 3 or more Diesels running and a sea of Blue and Gold all around.
After a couple of hours set up it was time for our girl to reach for the sky. The jacks all set, everyone stood well clear as the console operator hit the go button.
After a few nervous minutes (for me anyway) the loco was lifted clear and the SG bogies could be rolled out and a set of BG bogies could be rolled back in. I say a set because this is not the end of T333’s adventure – at the end of all of this swappo chango she will receive yet another set of Broad Gauge bogies before she begins the next stage of our journey. In the picture below we can see Mick inspecting the wheels and other vital parts of the bogies that the loco will be riding when she rolls out of Seymour.
With the swap successfully completed and T333 positioned on the inspection pit on the other side of the turntable we could finally get a good look at her. Members and followers of our railway may be aware of the rumours that had been floating around for a few years about this loco – that she had thrown a leg out of bed (put a conrod though the side of the block) but we could find no evidence of this. The rods, pistons, heads and other parts had been removed but the rest looked AOK. Strange but much better that what we had expected to find.
Later in the day we were fortunate to run into one of the old hands at the workshops who set us straight. Apparently around 3 weeks before the hirer went belly up a crew running a train had stopped near Seymour as T333 had been making some strange sounds. She was taken off the train and towed to the shop where she was stripped and found to be tired and worn out causing noisy running, loss of power and a potential for a big failure. Then the operator went bust and the money to fix her evaporated so there she sat gathering dust and rumours. With any luck a new set of power assemblies for the motor will see her back in action in no time. Fingers Crossed.
Before we left Mick had a quick look over a few bits and pieces that may be making their way to our railway over the next few months. The teaser above might give you some clues.
Before I sign off I would like to thank David and the whole crew at SRHC who made our visit such a pleasure. We were made to feel right at home right down to having our lunch provided for us (these guys could teach the VGR a thing or two here) and it was a real treat for us – yes, it was work but what a place to work, surrounded by VR rail history, the Spirit runs deep at Seymour if you’ll excuse the pun. Thanks guys.