The Regulator, the Whistle and the Faces around the Workshop

While we keenly await Mick’s Magnum Opus about the recent ABC exam on J549 we’ll take the opportunity to describe in a bit more detail a couple of the more interesting jobs undertaken during the recent exam.

The regulator shaft was one of the components that Mick knew would need some serious attention. During last year’s annual exam some bad spots were noticed and the gland packing had required replacement 3 times during the year as the increasing damage to the shaft from corrosion tore at the packing. With the loco coming out of service for a few weeks it was time to take a look at it and assess what work was required.

Like a throttle on a motorcycle or accelerator on a car the regulator transfers the input from the driver to the engine but due to the high boiler pressures involved on a Steam Locomotive it needs to be in tip top shape to ensure good, safe performance. As you can see from the shot below the best days were well and truly behind this one!


The shaft itself is a long, unwieldy bit of kit that runs through the boiler connecting the regulator handle to the regulator valve in the steam dome. On a coal burner the shaft can be withdrawn out through the cab with the tender in place but on an Oil Burner like our J549 the oil tank is in the way so the tender needs to be disconnected from the locomotive. Lucky we were doing that anyway for the purpose of the C exam!

The shaft operates the regulator valve via an eccentric and this is a simple square fit on the shaft requiring no fastenings but of course you still need to get inside the dome to tap it out and support it once it starts to move. The dome lid needs to be removed for this purpose, not the pretty black shroud that you see when the loco is running but the lid underneath. This involves undoing the 30 or so nuts that hold the dome cover onto the boiler. Carefully. If not done properly you risk warping the dome cap and/or damaging the copper sealing ring.

Once out it was pretty obvious that some major work would be required and it was decided to cut the shaft in two (in the same spot that it had been cut previously) to allow it to be machined in the lathe. Baz’s expertise was ideal for this job and so he was um, er, seconded? Stolen? Let’s say borrowed from the Civil department for a few days. Firstly all of the corroded material was removed which showed up a lot of damage, in some parts it was almost half the original diameter. Next Baz welded new material in place running weld up and down the length while the shaft was mounted in the lathe and rotated by hand as new metal was added, a long and tedious task. Next it was machined back by Geoff and this process was repeated 3 times to ensure no imperfections which could wreck the gland packing again or worse lead to a failure. When the job was finished the shaft was welded back together ready for refitting. Below we see Baz in action and the shaft in the lathe being machined.



Another area which needed attention was the Whistle Valve and Seat. When removed there was obvious signs of wear caused by Steam leaking around the valve as shown in the first shot below. As we have mentioned before Steam is corrosive and once a leak starts it is very efficient at cutting through pretty much any material. In the second shot you can see the damage to the Whistle Valve Seat which probably created the leak in the first place. Once it began to leak the steam quickly damaged the valve itself.



In the shot below we see the valve in the lathe being machined with Mick doing the honours. He also had the pleasure of doing the seat which needs to be done by hand. Hours and hours of work goes into these types of jobs and if not done properly and to an exacting standard the leaks will just start again and the corrosion cycle will begin anew.


We’ll finish up this post with a few shot of volunteers doing various jobs around the workshop. The guys do a great job especially considering the limited resources at their disposal. If you think you have something to offer talk to Mick in the workshop, it is a friendly and welcoming environment and we are always looking for help!


Above Left Mick (not strictly a volunteer) and Pete with the rare opportunity of a bench each and Right Pete does battle with a starting valve!

Below Left, Geoff playing with an angle grinder and Right Brian washing parts. Geoff spent most of his working career as a fitter with a Brewery, just goes to show that you don’t need to be a rail worker to have skills we can use in the workshop!


Well that is about all we have time for this post. Today was a busy day with the Royal Train arriving from Seymour with our long lost T333 in tow along with a few VR bogie louvre vans which we seem to have adopted. The work just keeps on coming for our busy crew at the Victorian Goldfields Railway Maldon workshop.

Up, Up and Away!

Hi and welcome to another update from the Victorian Goldfields Railway’s Maldon workshop. The focus of most attention for the last month or so has been finishing the ABC exam on our oil burning steam loco J549. As detailed in our last post this is a major exam requiring a lot more than the “regular” A and AB exams and the biggest part of it is to jack the loco frame off of the wheels to get to the Woolpads in the axle boxes on the driving wheels. In order to do this there are many other parts that have to come off first.

The preparation for the lift had been going on for a few weeks with various parts being removed to allow the frame/boiler/cab to be hoisted free of the driving wheels and motion gear. All brake blocks and rigging had to come off plus the long rods had to come off as we found some worn bushes. Springs, keeper plates including those from the pony trucks, wedge adjusting bolts, wedge clamps and adjusting bolt clamps also had to come off. When all this was done the loco could be jacked up enough to access to the spring hanger pin lock bolts. Then the spring hangers could be removed finally allowing access to the cellars.

On the left we see the view from underneath as the loco is almost ready to hoist and at right we see Mick giving it his all as she begins to rise.



In the photo above left we see the wool pads as they came out. Clearly not enough material had been used last time around and you can see the metal of the Cellars where they should be covered by the wool. On the right we see them after a lot of work ready to go back in with a lot more material this time. Not exactly Vegan friendly these locomotives!

Another problem area was the wool trimmings which were extremely dirty. Much of this is a result of dirt and muck getting in when the oil cans are inserted to top up the oil. These are normally accessed through the spokes of the wheel, everything is very dirty and the nozzle of the can drags in muck from the wheel spokes and surrounds and mixes it in with the oil. Below we see some of the dirty trimmings and at right the detritus that was left behind after 3 hours of cleaning or so.


Other faults found during this work included worn brake bushes, suspension bushes, springs, spring buckles and 2 suspension legs which were seized so badly that they could not be moved even with a sledge hammer. Not good for ride quality! There was a lot more as well which we will cover in a later post.

Of course while all of this is going on there are still other duties to attend to as and when required. Our freshly painted heritage diesel loco Y133 has been on the point of all trains since the J came out of service in mid January and it needs attention from time to time to ensure reliable running for our passengers. In the photo at left below we see a leak in the engine protector which sprung up and had to be attended to by the workshop crew. In the other shot Keith is on duty cutting more door stops to be painted and sold at our shops both at Maldon and at Castlemaine.


Well that is about it for this time. As I type the pieces of the puzzle have been put back together and the loco was steamed on Friday ready for her return to service. In the coming weeks we hope to have an in depth post from Mick covering the more technical aspects of the exam for those among our viewers who have an interest in the more complicated aspects of keeping a heritage steam loco in service on our tourist railway. 10031

But remember it’s not all about hard graft – in a lull between jobs (and probably just before morning Smoko) the crew had a discussion about the chemical makeup of coffee which is a vital part of Mick’s day. And anyone who has worked in the big shed at Maldon for any length of time will know that meant a chemistry lesson! The workshop is always looking for more help so if you would like to lend a hand (or get a chemistry lesson) please contact us via the website at

Till next time, thanks for taking an interest in our blog, our workshop and our railway.