Onwards and Upwards!

Hello and welcome to another VGR Mechanical blog post. September saw a new record for our little blog, both in terms of total visitors and total page views so we must be doing something right. A big thank you to all of you for taking the time to read it.

It has been a busy few weeks for our Railway with School holidays, Seniors Week and and Ales train meaning lots of work for both J549 and K153. Last Wednesday’s train was a double header with the locos hauling 9 cars and north of 400 passengers on the 12.00 train out of Castlemaine. With all of this extra running comes extra work for the workshop crew and just to make things interesting having both of the rostered Steam locos running at the same time severely limits the time available for maintenance! Usually Mick and his team will perform inspections on one loco while the other is running the service – a bit hard to do with both of them on the pointy end of a train!

Still, the show must go on and first on the agenda was a general mechanical inspection of the K. The smoke box was opened up for a thorough clean out as the ash builds up in this area which has a detrimental effect on performance. The shot below shows the extent of the coverage we found.

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Then it was into the pit to check underneath her where a couple of little things came to light and were quickly attended to including a loose keeper bolt on the tender. Working on these parts of the loco low down and covered in oil and road grime it is easy to get hurt so all care must be taken but it all needs to be inspected and fixed at regular intervals.

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Work also continued on our bogie open wagon QR272 with some serious welding going on as Mick added some new metal to aid frame stiffness before it is returned to traffic. V/Line / VR cut off the truss bars at some point but more recently some well meaning character(s) cut out a lot of rusty metal without considering the stress diagram which weakened the structure. This job was supposed to be finished and the wagon back on the road by End September but the problems with Y133 took priority but with that work complete it is back to this job.

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An ongoing project is monitoring flat spots on wheels, carriage wheels in particular. There are numerous flat spots, some need wheel turning, but some are just monitored to make sure they wear away, not tear away. These are on 41 BU.

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On the Victorian Goldfields Railway one round trip Maldon > Castlemaine > Maldon is approximately 20 km powering & 20 on the brakes. Fitting new blocks & adjusting is a weekly thing and we probably average 6 blocks a week but all must be inspected – that’s a lot of blocks to check! Rolling stock inspections go deeper than just blocks though. Seeking out little faults before they become big ones is exactly why Mick gets dirty so we maintain a good safety record. On a recent 1 and a half hour inspection of just 4 carriages we found a half broken split cotter in the bogie swing link on Tambo and a loose bogie pivot plate bolt on 80BW. These are some of the weird things that show up and this is why we inspect the carriages twice a week.

Life is never boring in the workshops and a bit of a left fielder this month was the conversion of our new (old) sleeper changer from 2’6″ to 5’3″. This item is on loan from the good folks at Puffing Billy Railway for a tryout (apologies for not mentioning this in the original post). Below Banjo Baz poses with the finished product!

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Well that is about all we have time for. Following some feedback a couple of weeks ago your blogger would just like to re-iterate that the sole purpose of this blog is to show both our Members and the Public some of the hard graft that goes into keeping trains running on the rails of the Victorian Goldfields Railway. It IS hard work, it DOES cost money and our crew led by Mick does a brilliant job with limited resources, limited materials and limited time. Money is never spent lightly and when it does need to be spent the crew goes to great lengths to make sure that our Railway gets the best possible value for money. Help is always welcome in both the manpower and financial departments and we hope that this insiders look at goings on in the workshops at Maldon might encourage a few of you, our readers, to dig deep!

And we end with a footnote – a long term issue with J549 was addressed recently. Members of the VGR may have already read this tale in the Fortnightly Notes but for those of you not privy to them here is Mick’s Turbo Charged commentary!

“On occasions, the “in your face plainly obvious” becomes totally forgotten, and this time I am referring to the performance of the headlight on J549. All crews (and some observant night-time passengers) know that the headlight is, at best, dismal. To rectify this issue we at the dirty end of the railway have checked the Turbo Generator, the wiring, the switches, the reflector, the focusing mechanism & the headlight bulb itself, all to no avail. Nothing we did seemed to help, leaving us scratching our heads & contemplating an expensive rebuild utilising the latest electronic technology. Apart from the expense, this would also generate a mountain of paperwork to allow a change of system to be used.

Well the bit that I had overlooked was the electrical load that was being asked of the Turbo Generator, and as the son of an electrician I feel a bit stupid for not remembering this earlier! J549 has thirteen light bulbs. The front & rear headlights are 150 & 100 watts, but only one is energised at a time. The other eleven globes are 40 watt globes, so 40 X 11 + 150 = 590. The Turbo has a maximum output of 500 watts. . . . . anybody else seeing a problem here?

To this end, with some huge help from Workshop regular volunteer Jacob, I have received & started testing two five-watt L.E.D. globes. Some may think we’ve had L.E.D. technology for years and it should be a simple change over, but the issue is that the power supply is low voltage AC and the current is variable, meaning standard bulbs are not suitable for this application.

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I now know that relevant bulbs are available and they do handle the variable current. I still need to know if, they handle the heat and they don’t disintegrate from the vibration. So, there are two test bulbs fitted to the J, which saves 70 watts already, and after further testing, we intend to source more bulbs to allow the headlight to access 80% of the Turbo’s output current. I will be very happy if I start hearing comments that the headlight is too bright, but I doubt it. Onwards & upwards folks”

Onwards and Upwards indeed! Till next time we hope your headlight shines bright and illuminates the road ahead!

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