End of year is Exam time!

Hello and welcome to another update of the Victorian Goldfield’s Railway Mechanical blog where we take a look at goings on in and around the workshops at Maldon. As we mentioned last time out Steam is off the menu for the time being due to fire restrictions so while freshly re-painted Y133 is out and about running services J549 has it’s annual boiler exam in February.

This year we celebrate 5 years of the J’s return to service after her full restoration and so this time the boiler inspection coincides with a scheduled ABC exam. A what you ask? So did your blogger and after a little research I came across a great old article in The Victorian Railway’s “Behind the Railway Scene” magazine that goes some way to explaining it.

Back in the day the VR used a strict schedule of exams in order to keep their steamers in good working order. An A examination was performed every 1500 miles with inspection of wheels, tyres, axles, engine frames, oiling of flange lubricators and intermediate buffers and Turbo Generators voltage and lamps.

Every 3000 miles and AB exam was done which as it’s name suggests was an A plus a comprehensive examination of the loco and a boiler examination by a boilermaker as well.

Every 12000 miles comes the ABC exam (seeing a pattern here?) and is far more comprehensive and takes around 4 days. Or in our case a couple of weeks or so as we don’t have a limitless supply of fitters on hand to do the job not to mention that our facilities hardly rival Newport Workshops in it’s heyday!

We will go into a bit more detail about what exams the VGR does and when in a later post but for now it is time for J549 to undergo an ABC and so away we go.

First cab off the rank was separating Loco and Tender, giving both a thorough clean and preparing for the boiler inspection. The C exam boiler inspection is more involved than the annual one and requires removal of more components for a more detailed inspection including EVERY valve in the loco, oil, air, steam and water.

In the photos below we see volunteer Keith trying not to get blown backwards from the 3000 psi water blast as he pressure washes the Tender while Pete argues with an injector which is stubbornly resisting removal.



The boiler inspection was completed early in the piece by our contractor and the J was given the tick of approval with just a couple of washout plugs requiring replacement. There was some concern expressed though about excessive use of the Safety Valve, which has been overheated & shown minor steam cutting from prolonged use. In the photo below we see the Safety Valve showing the deep blue of overheating…….



……. while in the shot above we see the Boiler stripped of fittings. Astute viewers will see both M3 valves missing from the brake pedistal.

The mechanical lubricator had to be completely stripped and had more gunk than expected, Mick had to use the pressure washer to get all the goop out of the main body. It required some new gaskets to be made from the thinnest paper available, to avoid altering its settings and then was re-assembled. Below we see it in a gazillion bits all over Mick’s bench.


During the work so far the team have done a boiler washout, serviced all boiler fittings, boiler inspection, lubrication system, removed, stripped & cleaned Injectors, found some internal issues to be sorted, checked all motion gear tolerances and are halfway through all brake components – 1 brake compensator needs repair from a failed bush. New material has also been prepped for Table Plate repairs in smoke box. Not a bad effort for a few weeks work, much of it in extreme heat. Below we see Mick removing safety valves in 40 degree heat; he actually burnt his knees on the nearly 70 degree black boiler cladding!


Well that’s just about it for this post. As I type I have been told that today Mick started jacking & removing suspension components so he can get to the wool pads under the axles. “It’s such a joy lifting 60 ton with mechanical screw jacks” he exclaimed. “NOT!”.

We leave you with a little distraction that happened during a recent work day – a branch fell from a tree near the yard and landed on one of the flood lights damaging it a little. Not the sort of sound you want to hear when you have a very valuable Steam Loco in a million bits around the workshop! Until next time, enjoy the summer and maybe even a trip on our railway. You can find booking details on the website at vgr.com.au


Long Hot Summer Just Passed Me Y

Hello and welcome to our first post for 2019. A combination of holidays, extreme weather and other jobs have meant that the new year was first quiet then extremely busy for the staff and volunteers at the Victorian Goldfield’s Railway’s Maldon workshop. Unless of course you were a young volunteer that is!
Mick and the gang are currently busy with a C exam on J 549 as she has been back in service for 5 years now. We will be covering that in some detail in the coming weeks but first we need to cover off the final stages of the re-painting of heritage diesel locomotive Y133.
The summer months in Central Victoria bring many challenges to our railway due to extreme heat and fire danger. For this reason we don’t run steam at all in February and all running at this time of year is organised in consultation with the CFA to ensure that we help to keep our community safe. So with the J set to come out of service for the exam which neatly coincided with the diesel running period the Young Volunteers Group were racing against time and some pretty horrendous weather conditions to get job done on the Y class. I’ll let Fletcher take up the story.
“Saturday 15th Dec saw Y133 run it’s last train for the year which was a Driver Experience. This would also be it’s last time running around Grey and rusty!!
That afternoon saw lots of works happen, she was striped of all removable parts like doors, windows, lights, cab interior features etc etc and by mid afternoon she was nothing but a shell.
I then started bogging up the areas where new metal was welded in or other imperfections existed in the metal. This was all complete by that night. Sunday 16th saw us sanding the bogged areas and the entire body smooth, then applying the primer where it was required on the freshly bogged areas.
Between the 17th and 21st of December the entire under frame was de-greased and pressure washed clean ready for paint. This revealed a very, very thick layer of grease, brake block dust, mud and everything else you can think of that splashes up while a loco is out on the road.
Friday 21st saw the under frame sprayed black, this was a very quick task with the new spray pot. Once the black was dry, it was all covered up so work could start on getting the body ready for the blue and gold. This weekend also saw a group of young volunteers sanding all the nose doors smooth ready for colour.
Between the 21st and the 28th we all worked hard to get the body and cab ready for colour. Quite a few days temperatures were climbing into the 40s – way to hot to be in the workshop where there is no airflow so the Air Con in the meal room was well utilised!!!
Friday 28th December was the first day for colour. It was forecast to be a hot one that day, so we started at 6am mixing a batch of paint and spraying by 6:30am! By 9am the temperature was already at 27 degrees, cut off temperature for spraying so the rest of the day was used the continue polishing number plates and masking up!
By the 2nd of January the entire loco was coated in Blue so next came the important part – measuring and masking for the yellow line! All the doors were carefully placed back on to ensure we got a perfectly straight line. This took some time while we measured, stringing lines along the loco, masking templates for the radius on the nose, running masking tape around the entire loco and so on and so forth.
Steven Fiume from the Daylesford Railway (DSCR) came out to help us stick on the template for the wings – this was a 2 person job and with Steven having previous experience from doing Y159 he was called in. The perfect man for the job and in 3 hours both sets of wings were on and ready to go!
From then we covered every bit of blue and black there was as yellow is very unforgiving on dark colours. We then sprayed the yellow late one evening when everything had cooled off and then patiently waited for it to dry, to then see if all turned out well!
We started by peeling off the wing template… and revealed a very crisp yellow on Midnight blue!!! AMAZING!!! We spent most of the day uncovering everything and preparing to put the loco back together.
From then until 11th Jan, we all worked hard to reinstall windows (big thanks to O’Brien’s Bendigo and VGR window installer Baz!!!), hang number plates and builders plates, organise the cab seats to be reupholstered, cut and polish the colour and everything else that goes into finishing a restoration job.
In the shot below you can see most (but not all!!!) of the gang posing with Baz Oh Oh Oh O’Brien and the nearly finished loco. Thanks to Mick for the shot.
By Friday 11th Jan she was fuelled up, washed, polished and finally started at around 5pm. She then rolled out into the sunlight for the first time in 3 weeks ready for a test run before she re-entered traffic.
Saturday 12th Jan was the big unveiling with members, newspapers and even WIN news waiting on the platform, the Young Volunteers all scrambled to give the Y one last wash and polish before she faced her admirers. At the stroke of midday the crowd was greeted by Y 133 powering into the platform with everyone applauding! We then had a group photo with the loco and finally everyone could inspect the amazing work.”
Well I think we can all agree that it is an outstanding job and a real credit to the boys and girls of the YVG. The standard of work and the level of finish is outstanding. Little details like the reproduction Clyde builders plate show the love that has gone into this project. Your blogger was around the railway a few times near the end and can attest to the tireless work that went into the last few days with exhausted bodies being pushed to the limit to get the job done.
Y133 is currently hauling Sunday only services in February before we get back to normal timetable in March. Come down to Castlemaine to grab a look or better still buy a ticket and take a ride behind this wonderfully preserved loco. We’ll leave you with a shot of some of our volunteers clearly enjoying spending some quality time with our hero on a lovely sunny Central Victorian day. Thanks for visiting.