Hi Folks,


It’s actually me doing my own Blog Post this time, so please excuse the bad grammer & spelling mistakes.

After years of building up a handy crew, I’ve been a bit lonely for the last few weeks. I’m not complaining because I’m lucky enough to still be employed in this pandemic period, but I think Baz & I are starting to get sick of hearing each other from opposite ends of the Workshop.

I have been able to catch up on a few things whilst there are no trains running, like the long overdue repairs to one of our 4 wheel tankers, some “A” exams on Goods vehicles & finally had time to give a good effort on K160’s new Ashpan. I’ll let our normal Blogger tell you about those jobs, as he writes a much better story than I can.

Last Friday I was able to grab our truck & take the Main Internal Steam Pipe with a brand new Cone Joint, & the J pipe down to Newport for K160. I checked K160’s progress, issued a few instructions, & came home with some old Steam Delivery Pipes to be dropped off at our local foundry, & the Whistle Stop Valve off K160’s boiler which needs to be serviced. Monday was drop off the pipes & some old brake blocks, check out a possible brake issue on the truck & clean up my own mess from last week. The next day, I arrived at work, checked for emails, then thought to myself “Right. It’s Tuesday. What will I do? I know, I’ll service 160’s valve & blog the process.”


First up was clean a work area on the bench & give the whole valve assembly a bit of a clean up with a wire brush to remove years of built up grime. Then start on the outside & disassemble my way in. The handle nut was easy, but the handle was stuck on the square drive of the spindle, so a wedge & hammer were used to gently lift the handle. The stuffing ring barrel union came easily with a 1″ Whitworth ring spanner, but the stuffing ring was stuck by dried Gland Packing that had oozed out between the clearances & it wouldn’t move. Lucky I’d already got that wedge out of the Tool Store.


The valve job was going easy, hard, easy, hard. Great, I thought. I now have to separate the main components & I’m up to easy. Wrong! Maybe even very wrong. The valve assembly had been left untouched for such a long time that is was frozen solid. Time to change to the metal bench & fire up the oxy. 5 minutes later after a thorough warming around the thread, the tap body & valve body separated with a loud crack & a lot of effort. Time for a morning coffee because now I had to let things cool down before I could carry on.


After coffee, all the components were separated so that I could inspect everything & assess what work was needed. I grabbed a tap & die nut to clean up the whistle mounting studs & nuts, with generous amounts of Rocol hand cutting compound. I used a file to clean up where the edges of the nuts had been slightly rounded. A sharp scraper was used to remove the old gasket material. Wood workers are crazy, they keep calling our sharp scraper a chisel, but what would they know. The old gland packing had gone rock hard inside the stuffing box, & put up a good fight till I used a small rotary wire brush in the battery drill.

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It was finally time for the important bits, the valve face & seat. When luck is on your side, a light lapping with 500 grit lapping paste will usually suffice, but I had found slight evidence of steam cutting on the seat & 2 small pit holes on the valve face, so machining was required. The valve cutter was used with light pressure to gently scrape the seat & re-create the correct seat angle, but I had to put the spindle in the lathe & take 3 fine cuts to remove the pitting. Whist doing lathe work, I also had to make a lapping guide for the spindle, as we didn’t have a small guide to suit the small spindle. This was a bit time consuming because first I had to cut a thread to screw the guide into the valve body, & the spindle thread was 0.008″ under 5/8″, so I had to drill the hole then use a tiny boring bar to make the hole the right size.

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Job done, it was back to the bench, & use the new guide to lap the newly machined faces together. First with 120 grit lapping paste, then finish off with 500 grit. We use Bearing Blue to check our contact faces because it will not hide any faults, & after the first check the Blue told me I still had some lapping to do. 20 minutes & several hand cramps later, the Blue showed me a beautifully consistant & clean sealing surface. That’s a win.


Full assembly was now the last task, so a brisk walk across to the Stores to collect the appropriate gland packing was followed by a trip to our Tool Store fridge to grab the Dixons, nickel anti seize & copper grease. The Valve Spindle thread was coated with the copper grease & screwed into its housing so that I could then cut & fit 3 new rings of gland packing. The spindle housing thread, Valve body thread, Stuffing ring & barrel union & the entire exposed Whistle mounting studs were all coated with the nickel anti seize. The sealing faces of the Valve body & Spindle Housing were then coated in Dixons, & the whole lot was screwed together. The final bit of attention was to clean & paint the valve wheel in the same sparkling Stove Bright paint that we apply to our Smokeboxes.

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Done. My father used to tell me to take pride in my work & I was very happy with this job, but I don’t know how long it will be before this Whistle Isolator Valve will be bolted back onto K160’s boiler, so I wrapped the whole job in plastic to keep it clean until it goes back to Melbourne for refitting, and that was pretty much Tuesday.


So next time you are talking to somebody who asks why it takes so long to overhaul a steam engine, just get them to read this.



Tubular Hells

Hello and welcome to another update from the Maldon workshop of the Victorian Goldfields Railway. Continuing on the musical them that we went with last time out we bring you Tubular Hells, a masterpiece of high voltage locomotive maintenance.

Each Summer our steam locomotives are rested due to fire restrictions. The VGR works very closely with the area CFA and it is they who decide when and what we can run. Steam locos in the hot, dry Victorian Summer are a definite no-no, so while our Heritage Diesel locos take over hauling our trains, the workshop takes the opportunity to attend to some of the work required after a long steam season.

J549 was withdrawn from service on January 6th after a stellar season and washed in preparation for her A exam. A few years back the railway decided to change the annual boiler inspection to January as it made far more sense doing it while the loco was not able to be run so a boiler washout was done on Jan 14th in preparation.We have posted previously about the way these exams and boiler inspections work so we won’t bore you with the details but suffice to say that the A exam is supposed to be pretty straight forward…….

Unfortunately there were no takers for Mick’s offer of a training day so the workshop crew did the boiler washout job ‘in house’. All prospective firemen and drivers should get involved in this training, as someone who has done one or two your blogger can attest to what a great addition it is to your boiler knowledge.

One of the 2″ tubes which was known to be a possible future problem was replaced before the inspection and the loco passed with flying colours on Feb 5th. Of course this required the removal of a whole bunch of super heater elements in order to achieve enough room to swing the tube expander – boiler tubes are expanded & welded in at the Firebox end but simply expanded at the smoke box end and this expansion needs to be very carefully done. It seems that every job on a steam loco requires removal of the super heater elements!

The shot of the front end below shows the new concrete floor in the Smoke box as well as the blast pipe (covered to prevent tools and other junk falling in) which shows no wear. Note that some of the super heater elements have been removed to provide working space for expanding the new 2″ tube. In addition the Table plate mounting rails have been removed for greater (& much safer) access.


The entire tube plate also needs to be needle gunned prior to the boiler inspection so that the inspector can get a good look at any potential problems – a loud and laborious task best left to experts!

Along with replacing the 2″ tube other issues that had been raised during the running season were attended to. Victoria Railways J and R class locos have separate Clack valves and these are prone to wear which causes cracking in the seat. Work was performed to get these back up to scratch but the long term plan is to source some spares which will be modified to take a screw in seat similar to those found on some starting valves. That way the worn seats can simply be replaced giving the valves a much longer service life.

Next up was a leaking stay which was situated behind the Driver’s side blow down valve. This necessitated removing the refractory from the firebox floor because the broken Stay was in the very bottom row, along with part of the brick arch to gain better access for expanding the new tube. As soon as removal of the arch began it became apparent that the whole lot would need to be replaced as brick after brick crumbled on removal. Oh well, in for a penny, in for a pound!

Below we see a (fairly ordinary) picture of a couple of stays removed from locos by Mick and the crew. The one on the left is from J549, the one on the right from a job done on K153 a while back – Note they’re not parallel but tapering off. This is the thinning or wasting that causes stays to fail.


After this it was back to the front (so to speak) where the table plate needed renewal. This area cops a real punishing with corrosion from steam, smoke and heat damage all combining to bend, buckle and wear away the steel sheet. The concrete floor in the smoke box was also beyond it’s use by date so it was removed which involved “heating the crap out of it” before chiselling it out ready for a new floor.


The photo above shows one of the modified Table plate mounts. Shown is the extended & milled section to allow rails to be bolted instead of welded to the smokebox which will save a lot of time and aggravation in the future when similar work is required.

While all this was going on the regulator valve also came in for attention. This has been a bit of an ongoing project with various fixes tried over the last year or so but crews were still not happy with it. A new main valve sleeve for the pilot valve ring was machined up along with a new valve ring and Baz also braised up and re-machined the pilot valve itself.

In the photo below we see Mick measuring the pin size with a Micrometer to check clearances


The Driver’s Side intermediate coupling rod bush required re-metalling, among other “small” jobs, but although this was only one bush, it meant removal of the Eccentric Rod, Eccentric Crank the Big End bearing, the Connecting Rod & both Leading & Trailing Clevis Pins just to access the Intermediate Coupling Rod. so a bit more than a couple of hours work.

Below we see the crew inspecting White metal damage to the thrust face. Oh how everyone loves the job of redoing the White metal bearings!


Then it was back to the Tender which was hosed out to remove a heap of old gunk that had built up. As seems always the case when you clean out a locomotive tender you discover the hard way that the only thing holding the H2O in is the gunk itself and sure enough a couple of holes revealed themselves and 4500 gallons of water poured out from under the drivers side locker! These holes had probably been weeping for a while but the act of removing the sealing layer of built up grime from the inside was too much and out it all came! Another job for the welder.

While we were in the front end your blogger took the opportunity to grab the photo below peering down the Blast Pipe which is looking really clean. This shows the quality of the Morris steam oil, as there is almost no carbon deposits inside the exhaust. We did not clean this pre photo! Clean pipes = less work for the workshop crew. Hurrah!


Come March and the local CFA had once again given permission for the oil burning J class to ride the rails and so just in time the workshop crew had her steamed up and tested before she was back to hauling our regular services on Sunday March 1st.

We hope that you enjoyed this post and that it gives you some insight into the effort that goes in to keeping the VGR trains running. Don’t forget we are always looking for help in the workshop, so if you think you have something to offer, drop by during the week and talk to Mick. Till next time.









The Carillon

Hello and welcome to another blog post from the Maldon Workshop at the Victorian Goldfields Railway. Way back in December when your blogger last posted I told you about a strange object that I had come across during a foray into the dark depths of the workshop. With no one around I was left to wonder what on earth was going on – was someone branching out into sculpture? Was it just a bored Friday Afternoon prank? A few days later when I asked one of the workshop regulars I got the answer – “it’s a Carillon”. A what now?


You may have noted the hammer in top of the above shot which is a clue – a Carillon is an ancient musical instrument played by striking. But a quick search reveals that a Carillon is normally housed in a bell tower and consists of at least 23 bells. Nice try, that ain’t no Carillon! But what is it?

Keen readers of this blog may recall that the rebuilding of the ashpan for the VGR’s coal burning steam locomotive K160 is one of the tasks being done at Maldon while most of the bigger stuff is being done at Newport Workshops. K160s ashpan was in very poor shape and to call it a rebuild is a bit of an understatement as almost none of the original item could be salvaged. The design of the ashpan on these types of locomotives is quite complex as it sits in between the driving wheels and takes all sorts of twists and turns to maximise it’s effectiveness in the confined space. One of the obstacles that needs to be overcome is axle of the real pair of driving wheels.


The image above may be a bit hard to make out but it shows the ashpan design of a Victorian Railways K Class steam locomotive. You can see 3 distinct hoppers with the front of the locomotive being on the left of the diagram. The large hump between the 2nd and 3rd hoppers is the relief for the rear driving wheel axle. And this is where our Carillon comes in. As you can see below far from being a musical instrument the subject of our blog is in fact a great example of workshop ingenuity. Faced with the task of bending a couple of pieces of angle steel into the semi hoop shape required for the ashpan Baz and Geoff came up with this.



In the top shot you can see that the piece of steel to be formed has been first held in place by a piece of scrap welded to the bench and then slowly bent around the makeshift forming tool which is also welded to the bench. In the lower shot you can see how other pieces of scrap have been carefully welded into place on the steel bench which was marked out beforehand using the plan featured above.

So there you go, mystery solved. We leave you with the full shot of workshop volunteer Geoff playing the “bells”. This is a great example of the sort of clever solutions that our workshop crew come up with in their ongoing efforts to keep our Railway running at full steam. For those of us lucky enough to see it up close it is a credit to all of them.


And that is a nice lead in to our next blog post which will will focus on work done over the Summer Fire Season to our Oil burning loco J549 while she is out of service. Tune in next time for Tubular Hells! Bye for now.

No Job Too Big (or small)!

Hello and welcome to another belated update from the Maldon Workshop at the Victorian Goldfields Railway. Firstly an apology, yes, it has been a long time between blog posts. As usual a combination of circumstances has seen a lot of work to be done and not enough time to do it in! This tends to mean that the Blog gets put on the back burner.
Last time we checked in with out heroes they were celebrating one of their own with Pete’s Train being run to say thanks to a tireless workshop volunteer. As someone who spends a bit of time around these guys (while trying not to get my hands dirty) I think I can safely say that after transitioning to retirement 12 months or thereabouts back Pete is busier now than he ever was! That seems to be a bit of a common theme among volunteers on Heritage Railways like ours!
With Steamrail’s K class having returned to Newport in late August for Suburban Shuttle duties our own J549 has had to do most of the heavy lifting during the latter half of the Steam Season. I say most because the Railway has been so busy recently that we have had to run more than a couple of double headers with Heritage diesel Y133 providing valuable assistance. All this extra work for 549 brings with it the usual niggles, loose bits and bobs and worse for the workshop crew to deal with.
One of the jobs which needed attention was the Regulator which had been playing up for a while. While it was nothing serious Regulator issues can be a bit unnerving for loco crews and the quiet noises from tired footplate pairs were turning into rumbles so it was decided to take her out of service and repair take a look at it. Pulling out the regulator is a complex task which as well as the in cab work requires accessing the other end through the dome. So off came the handsome black cover which exposes the swag of nuts holding the dome cover on and once the jumbo rattle gun dispensed with them the cover comes off with a specially made lifting tool. It is a 2 person lift as it is HEAVY and once it is off there is the small matter of trying to find a place to rest it on top of the curved boiler! The Cab roof is normally the best bet.
Once that was done it was just a ‘simple’ matter of disconnecting the regulator and then Baz & Mick pulled the Reg out. Once removed from the loco Baz got to work machining the lift rod to recover our travel, while Mick lapped the main valve also finding and repairing a steam burn in the Pilot valve seat.
Once everything was deemed fit for purpose the re-assembly could get going but it was also decided that it was a good time to flush out the foundation while the loco was off the road. Just as well too as the photo below shows what came out, the scale buildup a result of a going a bit too heavy on the tannin in the boiler treatment. To add insult to injury the dome cover had to be done twice as the gasket didn’t seal correctly the first time. With a steam loco these types of things are often only discovered after 3 or 4 hours spent getting the boiler up to steam!
While the loco was in the shed it was also time to treat her to a new set of brake blocks. The shot above shows one of the (well) worn items on the left and it’s replacement on the right.
With J549 out-shopped and back in service it was time for a bit of work on ex Victorian Railways Heritage Diesel Y133. These top little locos were ordered by VR in the early 60s to dieselise shunting operations and replace steam locos on branch lines like ours which runs for around 18km from Castlemaine to Maldon. They soon became a favourite with crews and they were very well used during their service with Victorian Railways.
Our Y133 is no exception and although looking resplendent after being repainted last year by the VGR’s Young Volunteers Group the radiator had been in need of some work for quite a while. A leak had been discovered in one of the cores a couple of years back but as time and money didn’t allow for a replacement it was repaired as best as possible by Baz and crew. The Treasurer must have had his attention diverted elsewhere, I’m not sure, but somehow the gang got the circa $5K needed for the new unit. Below we see Baz  posing in the the big hole (or radiator compartment) ready to receive the unit while Mick plays the proud father.
While all of this work which is crucial for our operations is going on time also needs to be found for the ongoing work on K160. As we have mentioned before the new ashpan is being fabricated at Maldon before being transported to Newport for fitment. Progress has been slow due to the heavy workload but has been gathering pace recently. It must be morning smoko because we can see below that tools have been downed and the lads are taking a break from the mentally draining task of marking out the new backplate from old plans and drawings.
With all these big jobs (with apologies to Vyvyan and The Young Ones) going on it is easy to overlook the little tasks that are a constant feature of life in the workshop. Volunteers are often press ganged into these sorts of jobs and below we see a batch of T bolts for Super heater elements which have been cleaned up on the wire wheel. Not sure who got the job this time but your blogger has done this task once or twice on other locos and it is always rewarding to see the tubes going in and being secured with ease due to freshly cleaned threads.
And that is as good a note as any to finish on with a reminder that the workshop is always looking for new volunteers. There are usually a small mountain of tasks to do and you don’t need a Mechanical Engineering degree to do them. The sense of satisfaction is what keeps many of the stalwarts coming back so why not give it a go!
I hope to bring you a cheeky little post next week showing a real piece of ingenuity that I stumbled across in the workshop. Turns out it was for work on K160’s Ashpan but you wouldn’t know by looking at it. Till then keep it on the rails.

Pete’s Train

On Tuesday September 10th the VGR ran a special train. The idea was (of course) suggested by our Workshop Manager Mick and was conceived as a Driver Experience to say thank you to someone who has done a mountain of hours / days / weeks of volunteer work in the workshop over the last 7 or so years.

Mick is going to cover Pete’s contributions in more detail in an article for Branchline, the Victorian Goldfields Railway’s Member’s Newsletter so I won’t steal his thunder here. Suffice to say and as Mick himself said if it wasn’t for Pete we simply wouldn’t have been able to run some of the services that we have over that time. And as someone who knows Pete and has worked with him in the past at Maldon I can attest to the long hours and hard work he has put in.

Of course as anyone who knows Mick will attest he is no shrinking Violet. So how do you convince the powers that be to give away a Driver Experience? Well, you stand up at the Railway’s Annual General Meeting and suggest it to the Board of course! He had them over a (boiler) barrel we reckon!

Between the board agreeing to the train in August and the big day in September word spread among the regular workshop rats. Blokes who normally only come in on a Monday, a Wednesday running day or later in the week were suddenly available to come in on a Tuesday! And so the train became a mini celebration for a bunch of really hard working volunteers who spend a lot of time getting dirty but rarely if ever get to experience the fruits of their labour.

Posing for the photo below just prior to departure from Castlemaine we see Pete in the Driver’s seat with Mick to his right and some remarkably clean looking workshop volunteers in the front row.


Of course in order to run a Driver Experience for our motley crew of volunteers you need a train crew and Driver John and Fireman John on the footplate were ably assisted by Board Member Dave doing the Guard duties while fighting off the dreaded lurgy and VGR Young Volunteers Group member Adisson in the signal box. They were a great choice and the day was full of smiles and laughter so a big Thank You to you all.


Your blogger was called away from work to join in the fun and was able to catch J549 with Pete at the regulator as it crossed the Midland Highway on the Up with a good sized load above. Below we see Guard Dave watching the loco run around her train after being turned, his Hi Viz standing out against a Grey old Central Victorian day.



Above we have another shot of the loco running around while below Fireman John looks on as Pete eases the loco back to couple up to the train. And a very tidy job he made of it too!


After a break for lunch in the old VR Refreshment Room at Castlemaine it was back on board for the trip home to Maldon. I managed to get a quick shot of the train on the Down as the sun finally managed to show itself. As you can see from the earlier photo of the train on the Up she was pulling a decent load and Pete had her fair barking up the long grade out of Castlemaine after crossing the Winter’s Flat Trestle.


The first words out of Pete’s mouth after the first leg from Maldon to Castlemaine were “That is really hard work” and by the end of the day he was by his own admission exhausted so it was off home for a few celebratory beers followed by a very good nights sleep. Since then though he hasn’t stopped talking about his big day on the footplate. Don’t forget that you too can drive an ex Victorian Railways Locomotive, the VGR offers Driver Experience packages either Steam or Diesel on our branch line. See http://www.driveasteamtrain.com.au for details.

Well after a day of fun it’s back to work now for the volunteers. We’ll have an update of what they have been up to in the next couple of weeks. Until them remember that we are always looking for new volunteers in the workshop and you don’t need railway experience. We have volunteers from all walks of life and our latest recruit, a former motor mechanic, is finding heaps to do around the place. Get in touch with Mick or drop in for a chat, there are people around most weekdays.

She Caught the K Class (and left me a mule to ride)

The Workshop Blues

We all love Steam Engines right? But sometimes they do leave us wondering if the great Taj Mahal was really singing about his hard headed woman or the motive power itself in his 1968 Train Song made famous by a little ol’ film in the 1980s.

Hello and welcome to another post from the Mechanical Branch of the Victorian Goldfields Railway in Maldon, Central Victoria. In the last post we covered the efforts to get Steamrail’s K153 ready for the big Maldon Steam weekend. Many trains later and with the weekend done and dusted the VGR’s own oil burning Steam locomotive J549 hauled the last train back to Maldon. We’re not sure if she was already missing her shed mate who had just headed back to Newport to prepare for Steamrail’s Hurstbridge Shuttles or if it was just the knowledge that she would be doing the job solo for the rest of the steam season but the old girl decided to make her displeasure known.

Coming up the grade towards the Ganger’s shed at Maldon our hero was emitting a loud squeal. Luckily Blues Brother number 1 Banjo Baz was about the place and assisted the crew to gently coax the loco into the workshop compound leaving the Y class diesel to do the evening’s shunting work. The J was going nowhere in that state. Monday morning arrived cold and wet and Baz along with Blues Brother number 2, Guitar Mick, got to work.

Spring Sprung early

It was pretty obvious that the problem was with the front Pony Truck, an area which had caused it’s fair share of problems  on the K a while back. The leading wheels of a steam locomotive are carried on the Pony Truck and are used to help the locomotive negotiate curves and to support the front portion of the boiler. The truck pivots from a point behind the front wheels and is actually sprung to enable it to return to centre. This pony truck wasn’t steering much at all.

The hard working crew had only recently done some repairs to the same area on K153 but it would prove to be a far bigger job on the J class. The broken spring was pretty easy to spot but the large degree of movement of the axle due to the failure had in turn severely damaged the bearings. The J rides a little higher on the front then the K which was part of the problem but the bigger issue was where the spring had broken.


In the picture above we see the culprit. When the spring on the K class failed the break was much further along but this time with it breaking so close to the end it has also bent over the fingers below. The axle stayed level on the rails but the bearings stay with the axle boxes which are no longer supported by the spring and so the axle is at a severe angle to it’s support structure. The result is that approximately 4.5 tonnes which was supported on around 40 sq ” of bearing is now supported on around 8 sq”. This causes a massive increase in heat, the lubrication fails and the white metal begins to melt. Everywhere. The squealing which had announced the loco’s arrival to Baz was the sound of Axle on Brass. Not good.

The Pit Stop Blues

With the J being the only Steam Loco available for traffic time was of the essence but this was a big and important job so nothing would be left to chance. A plan was hatched with the turntable pit to be used as a wheel drop pit –  we have the equipment used in such a pit we don’t have the actual hole in the ground to fit it into!

First job was to position the loco on the turntable road not far from the pit. With running boards removed the front of the loco was jacked from under the buffer beam about 3 feet to enable 2″ steel blocks to be inserted above the axle boxes. A big RSJ was then placed across the front end and the pony truck wheels were chained up to that.


At left we see the wheels chained up and ready to go while at right YVG member Riley admires the handy work.

The next step was to grease the rails in front and underneath the loco and then diesel electric loco Y133 was used to very slowly push J549 (with hand brakes fully engaged) out into the void. The grease was to enable the braked loco to slide gently along the rails and some precise driving ensued as the J was inched far enough to allow the pony truck to be clear of the ground. Then after application of chocks and more checking of brakes the chain blocks were used to lower the wheels which caused the axle boxes to come out of the horn blocks so that the axle boxes could be lifted away from the axle.


In the shot above we see the “wheel drop pit” in action. Below we can see some of the damage caused to the axle box bearings.


There was plenty of work to do in cleaning up the mess, white metal had got everywhere including into the wool pads and the axle had even rubbed on the cellar causing more damage to be repaired and cleaned up. Items were cleaned, filed etc and then it was time to repair the bearing itself. New material was puddled in to replace the old and the assembly was then set up in the lathe and machined. Below we see a bit more of the action.


After the machining was done, checked and double checked it was time to fit the whole lot back together. Work had been going continuously since Monday morning and by Thurday it was done. We had missed Wednesday’s service which was hauled by the Y class but it was a fantastic effort by the hard working workshop gang to get the J back on the rails in such a short time after such a failure. Quick thinking, good planning and the requisite skills of the full time staff as well as the (tiny) army of workshop volunteers got the job done in great time.

Your blogger (more on that below) managed to get out and snap a shot of what was thought to be the test run after outshopping of the loco. It was only when the consist returned on the Down from Castlemaine with a load of passengers that I realised that this was actually a charter – for V/Line apparently – so it was a good thing that our hero was ready to go!


Jake! Elwood! The Blog Brothers!

Well this is where I normally sign off with a quick “that’s all for this time” but this time is a bit different. Shortly we will be welcoming a new blogger into the Mechanical Blog fold. I will continue to (try to) keep you up to date with goings on at Maldon but with the VGR’s old stalwart K160 currently undergoing a major overhaul at Newport Workshops the job will be split with a second blogger reporting on goings on from Steamrail HQ. So we’ll leave you with a shot of Guitar Mick cutting steel for K160’s Ashpan mounting frame before drilling it ready for assembly.  This work was done in Maldon but with parts and materials being  transported back and forth between Newport and Maldon to keep the K160 project moving there is never a dull moment eh!



Kaotic Scenes

Welcome to another post as we try to keep you up to date with goings on in the Victorian Goldfields Railway’s Maldon Workshops.

If you read the last post you would know that our crew had spent the last few months working around a rather large obstacle which was taking up a bit too much space in the loco shed. Meanwhile the work kept rolling in and in particular Steamrail’s K153 was in need of a bunch of attention. Much of this work had been deferred due to the XYZ set taking up the workshop road but now the K was required for the Maldon Weekender from August 16 to 18 before she was to return on the mainline back to Newport in time to run the Hurstbridge Shuttles so it was all hands on deck.

The K was shedded on the 1st of August & we got it out for a test run on the 15th, just in time for the big weekend. Crucial to this work was the loco passing it’s Rail Safety Accreditation which as we have mentioned before is like an RWC for trains. This is in addition to the annual boiler inspection – as one wag once noted “I don’t care what happens to the boiler but if it jumps off the rails I’ve got a big problem”. Hence springs, pins, clips and profiles get a thorough seeing to in this phase of work.

Overall there were 22 issues worked on to prepare the loco for her trip home as could be seen in the long list of log book entries for the repairs.

One of those was the nagging issue of the Clack Valve on the Driver’s Side Injector which had been playing up in one of those annoying on again, off again situations. In the photo below we see at left the view looking into the injector at the partially cut Clack Valve seat. Note the bottom half is flat & shiny as the cut slowly makes its way to the top of the seat, which had worn off square. Much lapping would form a good seat, but in service it would still leak because it was not aligning correctly.


In the middle we see that a quick facing of the clack valve shows how badly burnt it was, which is why the valve was replaced. On the right we see the 2 Clacks sitting on Mick’s desk. Note one is nearly flat (worn out) & the other has a high seat face.

Another issue requiring attention was the Fireman’s Side Gudgeon Pin which had a stripped thread. Here on the left we see the first test fit of the replacement sitting in the Crosshead. The Gap on the right shows how much allowance there was for lapping & Draw to pull into the Crosshead. On the right we see the old pin with it’s stripped thread watching over it’s newly fitted replacement


Little end Brasses also had to be removed & fitted to the replacement Gudgeon as seen in the shot below.

Acc Little end K153

3 of 4 Pony Trunion bolts had also managed to work loose (one had actually stretched) leaving just one to hold the plates together. Holding the load had caused wear on the bolt head as seen in the shot below left. The repaired suspension (spring buckle, leg bushes & pins) sitting beautifully where it should, lifting the loco & improving the ride and not to forget Banjo Baz (on secondment from the Civil Gang again) playing with springs


Below we see why Baz was playing with suspension. The spring buckle is just a bit worn!

Acc Worn Spring Buckle K153

Well that is about if for now. K153 made it out of the workshop alive after her accreditation and was last seen hauling the Wattle Festival shuttle to Hurstbridge. But this story would have a sequel – all this talk of Pony Trucks and springs would come back to haunt us. Tune in next time to see some interesting repair work and some exciting blog news. Until then may your sanding boxes provide traction during these cold, wintery running days.

In the (Alphabet) Soup

Yes, I know. We said we would have a bunch of content to share with all of our loyal readers out there but once again the service was cancelled. Track Fault? Signal Fault? Staff sickness? None of the above. The workshop has been dealing with what the Rev W would never have anticipated – not troublesome trucks but troublesome carriages!

The ABC of XYZ

As some of you may know the Victorian Goldfields Railway currently has custody of a very special set of carriages known as the XYZ set. This set of fixed wheel carriages date from the mid-late 1800s and are the oldest pieces of Victorian Railways rolling stock still running. First restored by VR in 1954 for their centenary celebrations the set otherwise known as The Veteran Train are only used on a few special trains each year currently billed as the Colonial Express. At other times this set needs to be kept under cover so they are stored in the Carriage Shed at Castlemaine.

The Royal Pain

Earlier this year it was announced that the VGR in conjunction with Seymour Rail Heritage Centre would be running another very special set of carriages known as the Royal Train from Castlemaine to Bendigo (and a couple of times to Maldon) over selected weekends to coincide with the Tudors to Windsors exhibition at the Bendigo Gallery starting in April and running through to July. This was a huge success as your blogger can attest to having worked on a couple of the trips however these special carriages also needed to live indoors at Castlemaine so it was decided to move the XYZ set to Maldon for the duration and house them in the Loco shed.

Crowded House

The XYZ set took up all the room in the loco shed and some which meant that all work normally undertaken in the shed such as servicing and repair of steam locos had to be done outside. In the dirt. In Winter. In Maldon. Accordingly things have been a bit hectic over the last few months with things taking longer than usual due to the extra running around and the need to try to keep warm against the bitter Central Victorian winter! To say the workshop crew was glad to see the back of them would be an understatement and a half!


While we are here…….

While the Veteran Train was in the house it was decided to give it a once over. This happened over a period of many weeks as the work was done in between other more pressing jobs. This was a pretty interesting side show for the gang because the brake equipment on these old carriages is not the same as we are used to – there are some pretty major differences in fact.

While in the shop 69YZ and 309Y had a full PV exam. The PV covered removal, cleaning, inspection and and refitting of the brake piston and valve, greasing and adjusting all brake rigging, tightening Buffer bolts and a leakage test which were both AOK.

40X got a PV exam (2 pistons, one cylinder which was interesting for all involved as most had not seen such a setup before), greasing and adjustment of all brake rigging, tightening buffers, spring mounts, body mounts, brake rigging mounts and replacing and tightening many other bolts. In the shot below we see a shot of the under frame and brake rigging. Note the lovely spoked wheels, this set would probably have had Krupp Cast Iron spoke wheels at one stage but most of those were removed MANY years ago due to their high failure rate.


Things got really interesting after that as Mick and the crew had to replace a body mount bolt which was rusted through in the middle of the frame timber – the bottom of the bolt turned, the top didn’t! This can be a bit confusing for the novices among us until it dawns on you that the bloody thing has sheared halfway down it’s length! The experienced hands of course worked it out straight away. Next up was to raise & tighten underneath tank support straps. Finally onto the leakage test and the result was – FAIL! Unions, taps, Brake Pipe taps, release valve etc were attended to and 9 repairs later – Pass. Happy Days! Below we see the view through the timber to the broken bolt.


All received an A exam as well and all Screw Couplings were given a thorough greasing and going over.

Fast forward to the 16th of July and the XYZ set was attached to the back of a transfer train and hauled back to Castlemaine. Your blogger was on hand to capture the movement as it passed over the Midland Highway crossing under a leaden Winter sky.


With the workshop freed up once again there was plenty to get on with in preparation for Steamrail’s Maldon Steam Spectacular which took place last weekend. Hopefully we will cover some of this in an upcoming post but after the last few months we are not making any promises!

Travelling Back In Time

Hello and welcome to another update from the Victorian Goldfields Railway’s Maldon workshop. Being a heritage railway we are used to giving the appearance of time travel as our Ex Victorian Railways Heritage rolling stock plies it’s trade over our 1950s era branchline from Castlemaine to Maldon. This time however we are travelling all the way back to March 28th – the last time we posted an update!

The March / April period is always a busy one for our Railway as fire restrictions ease and the Steam season gets underway, This combined with some good old fashioned tech issues meant we have been a bit quiet. That’s right, we lost all the photos!

In the last post we covered J549’s return to service after her big exam. With the J now back on the ‘point’ of our trains and fire restrictions still meaning we were unable to run a coal burning loco attention turned to Steamrail’s K153 which has called the VGR home over the last few months. The K had been sitting in the Carriage Shed at Castlemaine since here boiler inspection late last year but as she was required to run a couple of Main Line trips to Echuca in May special permission was obtained from the CFA to run her back to Maldon.

The trip back to our workshop showed up a few issues, some due to her sitting around in the summer heat baking in a tin shed and others just the types of things that crop up when trying to maintain a heritage loco in regular service. Firstly the gland packing around the regulator needed attention. This was quickly attended to and we turned to other issues such as clack valve cap, isolator valve and steam valve leaks which were attended to. One of the Dump Grate shafts was seized where it passed through the frame and this needed attending to as well. There were a few other niggles as well, too many to cover in detail.


In the photo above left we see the Fireman’s Side Gauge Glass Boss replaced because the outlet thread was . . . . past its use by date, & would shower the crew! While on the right we see the turbo drain outlet which required repair (AGAIN!!!). This time Mick fitted an elbow to try to prevent further damage.

Next on the list was the compressor. Loco Crews had been reporting problems with the Westinghouse unit fitted to K153 for a while. Nothing that a quick knock or 2 with the hammer wouldn’t cure but as she was venturing beyond our tracks it was time to have a look inside. So off came the Fireman’s Side Elephant’s Ear and the crew got to work. The unit was found to me in need of more than a little repair. One of the heads from our own K160 was grabbed from Newport as a short term replacement for a worn out part but that was not all!

The shuttle valve that controls the movement of air in and out of the various parts of the compound compressor unit was well beyond it’s service limit. Workshop Manager Mick machined up some new rings for it, no easy job as they are made from Centrifically cast iron tubing which needed to be machined inside and out to obtain the correct size. Luckily some material was on hand to get the job done with more sourced to replenish our stocks. The compressor unit will get more attention later as it will need 3 new shuttle valve bores. These will need to be machined up, ports cut into them and then they will need to be shrink fitted into the unit. A big job.

Below we see the usual suspects removing the smoke deflector to enable access to the compressor.


With time rapidly running out before the twin trips to Echuca, firstly for Steamrail’s Echuca Overlander on May 11th and then for a private charter the following week, K153 was pressed into service on VGR services from May 4th with fire restrictions having been lifted at the start of the month. Your blogger was on hand to snap a shot of her on a test trip powering over Castlemaine’s Midland Highway crossing under leaden skies before the deflector was refitted making her look a bit ‘unbalanced’.


Well that is about all for this week. We are aiming to bring you a stream of updates over the next few weeks, time and technology permitting so please stay tuned. We will leave you with a couple of shots – on the left have a delivery of 30 tons or so of finest NSW black coal to power K153 to Echuca and on the right we see Mick after a hard day’s graft. When asked for a byline for the shots Mick shot back “Fresh black rock, fresh black me”. So there you have it! If you fancy coming down and getting dirty remember the workshop is always looking for volunteers to assist in their never ending endeavors – at least it’s warm inside the smoke box!





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.