Back to Black

Hello and welcome to another Blog post. It has been a busy month or so on the Victorian Goldfields Railway and for our Mechanical crew. As usual for this time of the year lots of trains mean lots of work for the workshop as the VGR tries to ring as much out of the Steam locos as possible before the Summer hits with the inevitable fire bans and Diesel running mandated by the local CFA.

The past couple of weeks can probably be best summed up by the photo below;

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Can’t see much eh? That’s because Mick and the rest of the team have spent much of the last couple of weeks inside the smokebox. Not one but 2 of the dark, dirty claustrophobic places. Firstly the K Class required a clean out and no sooner was that done than J549 needed some attention.

The weekend of the 27th and 28th of October was a biggie with Mucklefest, normal services plus a Steamrail Charter to Castlemaine for good measure. In the week leading up loco crews had been reporting poor steam performance on J549 and a Super Heater element was the suspected culprit. Mick was heading to Phillip Island for the Moto GP so a quick inspection was carried out and it was ruled fit for purpose considering the light duties it was to perform over the weekend. Once the fun had subsided and the loco had cooled down a bit it was time to take a deeper look.

In all 5 Superheater element Ball Ends were found to be in need of replacement and another 10 needed lapping and in order to do this 15 elements had to be unbolted and removed from the Smokebox. As we have said before this is a big job as the petticoat and baffle plates have to come out first and the fasteners are ALWAYS corroded to the point that many must be cut off. Once this is done the special VR forged spanner is used to undo the retaining nuts which requires the use of a big hammer in a small space.  Not easy or pleasant. Each element weights in at 45KG and pulling out 15 of them is certainly not a job for lightweights!

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You can see in the first of the 2 photos above the damage wrought on the ball ends by the corrosive steam. When J549 was rebuilt a few years back before it’s return to service the VGR had a batch of new Ball Ends made. Recently many have needed to be replaced well ahead of schedule and poor material choice by the contractor is one possibility being examined. However until we can get more made we need to keep using up the stockpile that we have so this work was completed in pretty short time and our hero was ready to go in time for the next weekend’s services.

The keen eyed amongst you may have noticed the QR wagon lurking in the background. The steel work is now all done and workshop volunteer Pete has almost finished the wood work – if he doesn’t burn it first considering the cold mornings and all the trouble it has given him! With the brakes sorted it should be ready for use by the Civil crew very shortly.

Baz has also been busy using his wide variety of skills to great effect fixing the frame on one of the Hi Rail vehicles and shifting all of the hydraulic systems from under the car into one of the side tool boxes where it will be much better protected from the elements as well as stray ballast.

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While this going on there was a PV exam to be done on 43 BPL, more work on the Y Class Diesel to get it ready for Summer running and a fair bit of work on K153 to prepare her for an upcoming boiler inspection late this month. We’ll cover that in a separate post next week.

In the meantime as the late, great Ms Winehouse would say it’s Back to Black for our hardworking crew. See you next week!

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