Here To Stay

Hello again and welcome to another VGR Mechanical Blog update. As promised last time out we continue to look at K153 as we prepare for her annual boiler inspection. As we have said previously a Steam Locomotive boiler is a pressure vessel which requires annual certification by a certified boiler inspector. No ticket, no start! K153 was due and as she is currently on loan to the Victorian Goldfields Railway from our friends at Steamrail the inspection is being done at Maldon.

Stay tuned

Following on from last weeks post the leaking stay needed to be replaced before the inspection could take place. In the picture below Mick is in the process of drilling out the old stay.  It is almost done, 7 different drill bits were used starting with a pilot and gradually stepping up to ensure maximum removal of material with minimal chance of damage to the threads in the sheets.03121



Above is the view through the mudplug hole looking at the stay from the inside. This space is between the inner and outer firebox sheets, the fireman’s seat is on the other side of the back wall as we are looking at it. This is a small and inaccessible space and is too tight to get the oxy into so Mick invented a “slide chisel” to remove the large dag which would have prevented the stay from being screwed out.

Now to the new stay which is shown below. The standard size thread for a stay is 1″ but they were made in oversizes to fix problems with worn threads. This one has been made 1″ on one end and 1&1/32″ on the other due to one sheet having been oversized in the past. As it was not going to be possible to weld the outside of the stay due to it being only 1.5″ from the frame an old Railway fitters trick was employed – a tapered thread was used on that end of the stay and it was then screwed up tight to prevent leaks.


With the new stay fitted it was time to get on with the rest of the work for the boiler inspection. All boiler fittings need to be removed for inspection, all plugs removed, gauge glasses, basically anything that is to do with the boiler. Below we see some fittings that have been removed and placed on a trolley awaiting their check up.


Darren’s Back! (again)

Gun contract welder Darren was called back once more to do some of his great work. Again as we have said previously only a certified Boiler welder can do these critical jobs due to paperwork requirements.


Above we see Darren inside the Firebox welding a throat plate stay and below he is back outside under the barrel next to the blowdown valve on the front of the Throat Plate. This required the K to be parked over the pit so access could be gained from underneath. Not a pleasant place to work, cramped, dirty and a bit damp too!


Thanks for all you help!

Monday morning rolled around and the crew assembled ready for the boiler inspection. Warren and Tim made the drive up from Steamrail, Mick and workshop volunteer Pete were on hand along with a handful of others. The first thing that everyone noticed once the shed doors flew open was how tidy the shed looked. A bit too tidy……. Some helpful person had come in on the weekend and decided to “clean up”. Problem was they cleaned up junk, tools and even parts of the loco and piled them up outside for whatever fate awaited them. One of the missing parts was the Blowdown Valve operating link that was required that day for the inspection. It took 4 people (3 paid and 1 volunteer) 4 and a half hours to find the part. So 13.5 hours of PAID labour lost for nothing, It was frustrating to say the least.


Above we see the offending article and the pile it was discovered in and below Pete in the pit refitting it after the inspection was completed.


Built like a Brick……. Brick Arch?

As we saw last week the Brick Arch was found to be a bit wanting on the structural integrity front and it needed to be rebuilt. Below we see the new bricks being produced in special moulds onsite by our crew.


After all that hard graft the inspection was completed and the crew got stuck into re-fitting all of the removed components. K153 is now ready for another year of Steaming although not for a few months as CFA restrictions prevent the Railway from running the coal burner at this time of the year. With it being such a dry year in Central Victoria the restriction kicked in a bit early this year. We are still able to run J549 as she is an oil burner but this is done under strict conditions with a Fire Patrol following all trains.

Next week we will take a look at some of the other activities which were going on during the last couple of weeks. Thanks for tuning in.


All K-K-Class!

Well folks here we are with another update on goings on at the Victorian Goldfields Railway’s Maldon workshop. Last time out we did promise a quick follow on to the last post but due to circumstances beyond our control (ie work) it got delayed. In the time between then and now K153 has been in the shop for repairs after the “season” before she was stripped for her annual boiler inspection.

While this was going on there was work to be finished on QR272 and the Y class diesel to finish off but first we will take a look at the bruised, battered but not beaten K153.

The most important thing that needed to be tackled before the strip down was a weeping stay. Stays are a sort of stud which screws into the firebox inner sheet at one end and the outer sheet at the other and is then welded to prevent water leaking. The stays are vital to the integrity of the firebox and so are monitored very closely. The stays have a hollow centre at each end and if a crack occurs in a stay the crack makes it’s way to the hole where it stops (preventing it from cracking right through the stay) and a tell tale leak develops.


The photo above shows the leaking stay and the tell tale holes in the adjacent items. We will be covering the repairs on this in a bit more detail in the next post as it relates to the Boiler inspection work, for now we will focus on the other “running repairs” that relate directly to the normal wear and tear that goes with operating a Steam loco in service.


Next up was a look inside the firebox itself which revealed that the Brick Arch was failing. Nothing for it but to make some new bricks. Also on the agenda was patching over a burn hole at the edge of the ash pan door casting shown in the image below. Mick is very proud of this weld, he had to stretch it up from below and couldn’t actually see the Arc so it was welded by feel and lots of luck. You could see through the spokes OK to snap the picture but couldn’t reach in that way to weld it.



In the shot above we see a replacement Fire Grate taken from underneath inside the ash pan. The eagle eyed will notice that the rocker arm is shorter than the other(s) so the rocker link had to be removed and modified to suit.

Back to the front and the smoke box baffle doors were found to be thin and bowing. This was the cause of the table plate filling with Ash which had a detrimental effect on performance as well as making a heck of a mess. The stiffer 1/4″ patches in the photo below should do the trick and keep things in line.


Finally it was up top where vibration and age take their toll just like most parts of a Steam locomotive. The photos below show the steam inlet and drain of the Turbo Generator which sits atop K153’s boiler. The Turbo uses steam to generate electricity and this system replaced the various types of lamps used on early railways such as oil burning lamps. The inlet had blown out the sealant and the drain was well and truly gone!


While all of this work was taking place on K153 workshop volunteers with a little help from Mick continued work on QR272. Below we see the slag just falling off a decent weld, this was one that went right, a fair few more had to be done over as the 90 year old rust didn’t take too kindly to being brought back to life.


Well that’s a wrap for this post. All this happened a couple of weeks back and then last week it was Boiler Inspection time. We have an action packed post in the making for later this week showing all the action. In the meantime we leave you with workshop volunteer Keith in his bespoke VGR clogs getting “up to speed” with his tasks for the week. He was complaining that the vice was too high and had taken to standing on a couple of bits of 4 by 2 to gain those extra inches. The duct tape straps made all the difference!


Till next time keep steaming!