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!


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;


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!



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.


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!

Onwards and Upwards!

Hello and welcome to another VGR Mechanical blog post. September saw a new record for our little blog, both in terms of total visitors and total page views so we must be doing something right. A big thank you to all of you for taking the time to read it.

It has been a busy few weeks for our Railway with School holidays, Seniors Week and and Ales train meaning lots of work for both J549 and K153. Last Wednesday’s train was a double header with the locos hauling 9 cars and north of 400 passengers on the 12.00 train out of Castlemaine. With all of this extra running comes extra work for the workshop crew and just to make things interesting having both of the rostered Steam locos running at the same time severely limits the time available for maintenance! Usually Mick and his team will perform inspections on one loco while the other is running the service – a bit hard to do with both of them on the pointy end of a train!

Still, the show must go on and first on the agenda was a general mechanical inspection of the K. The smoke box was opened up for a thorough clean out as the ash builds up in this area which has a detrimental effect on performance. The shot below shows the extent of the coverage we found.


Then it was into the pit to check underneath her where a couple of little things came to light and were quickly attended to including a loose keeper bolt on the tender. Working on these parts of the loco low down and covered in oil and road grime it is easy to get hurt so all care must be taken but it all needs to be inspected and fixed at regular intervals.


Work also continued on our bogie open wagon QR272 with some serious welding going on as Mick added some new metal to aid frame stiffness before it is returned to traffic. V/Line / VR cut off the truss bars at some point but more recently some well meaning character(s) cut out a lot of rusty metal without considering the stress diagram which weakened the structure. This job was supposed to be finished and the wagon back on the road by End September but the problems with Y133 took priority but with that work complete it is back to this job.

An ongoing project is monitoring flat spots on wheels, carriage wheels in particular. There are numerous flat spots, some need wheel turning, but some are just monitored to make sure they wear away, not tear away. These are on 41 BU.



On the Victorian Goldfields Railway one round trip Maldon > Castlemaine > Maldon is approximately 20 km powering & 20 on the brakes. Fitting new blocks & adjusting is a weekly thing and we probably average 6 blocks a week but all must be inspected – that’s a lot of blocks to check! Rolling stock inspections go deeper than just blocks though. Seeking out little faults before they become big ones is exactly why Mick gets dirty so we maintain a good safety record. On a recent 1 and a half hour inspection of just 4 carriages we found a half broken split cotter in the bogie swing link on Tambo and a loose bogie pivot plate bolt on 80BW. These are some of the weird things that show up and this is why we inspect the carriages twice a week.

Life is never boring in the workshops and a bit of a left fielder this month was the conversion of our new (old) sleeper changer from 2’6″ to 5’3″. This item is on loan from the good folks at Puffing Billy Railway for a tryout (apologies for not mentioning this in the original post). Below Banjo Baz poses with the finished product!


Well that is about all we have time for. Following some feedback a couple of weeks ago your blogger would just like to re-iterate that the sole purpose of this blog is to show both our Members and the Public some of the hard graft that goes into keeping trains running on the rails of the Victorian Goldfields Railway. It IS hard work, it DOES cost money and our crew led by Mick does a brilliant job with limited resources, limited materials and limited time. Money is never spent lightly and when it does need to be spent the crew goes to great lengths to make sure that our Railway gets the best possible value for money. Help is always welcome in both the manpower and financial departments and we hope that this insiders look at goings on in the workshops at Maldon might encourage a few of you, our readers, to dig deep!

And we end with a footnote – a long term issue with J549 was addressed recently. Members of the VGR may have already read this tale in the Fortnightly Notes but for those of you not privy to them here is Mick’s Turbo Charged commentary!

“On occasions, the “in your face plainly obvious” becomes totally forgotten, and this time I am referring to the performance of the headlight on J549. All crews (and some observant night-time passengers) know that the headlight is, at best, dismal. To rectify this issue we at the dirty end of the railway have checked the Turbo Generator, the wiring, the switches, the reflector, the focusing mechanism & the headlight bulb itself, all to no avail. Nothing we did seemed to help, leaving us scratching our heads & contemplating an expensive rebuild utilising the latest electronic technology. Apart from the expense, this would also generate a mountain of paperwork to allow a change of system to be used.

Well the bit that I had overlooked was the electrical load that was being asked of the Turbo Generator, and as the son of an electrician I feel a bit stupid for not remembering this earlier! J549 has thirteen light bulbs. The front & rear headlights are 150 & 100 watts, but only one is energised at a time. The other eleven globes are 40 watt globes, so 40 X 11 + 150 = 590. The Turbo has a maximum output of 500 watts. . . . . anybody else seeing a problem here?

To this end, with some huge help from Workshop regular volunteer Jacob, I have received & started testing two five-watt L.E.D. globes. Some may think we’ve had L.E.D. technology for years and it should be a simple change over, but the issue is that the power supply is low voltage AC and the current is variable, meaning standard bulbs are not suitable for this application.


I now know that relevant bulbs are available and they do handle the variable current. I still need to know if, they handle the heat and they don’t disintegrate from the vibration. So, there are two test bulbs fitted to the J, which saves 70 watts already, and after further testing, we intend to source more bulbs to allow the headlight to access 80% of the Turbo’s output current. I will be very happy if I start hearing comments that the headlight is too bright, but I doubt it. Onwards & upwards folks”

Onwards and Upwards indeed! Till next time we hope your headlight shines bright and illuminates the road ahead!

Getting Ahead

Well here we are after another hectic week (tomorrow is the Day Before Grand Final Day Public Holiday in Victoria) and it’s time for instalment 3 of this meandering tale of goings on in the Victorian Goldfields Railway’s Maldon workshop featuring our hero, Y133.

There has been plenty of action on the railway as it is school holidays with K153 hauling a packed 7 car train on Wednesday but that isn’t the half of it – we’re here to show you the bits that most people don’t see, the effort that goes on keeping things running smoothly on top of the rails. While our passengers have their fun in the sun work is continuing on the inside and outside of Y133, the QN wagon, the NN hopper and a bunch of other little tasks that combine to make the week fly by.


The shot below is a bit of a refresher showcasing some of the rust and other damage on the nose of the loco.



In the shot above we can see volunteer Damien getting busy grinding the rusty parts of the nose out so some new steel can be welded in place. What no one was expecting was what he would uncover when he cut the bottom of the nose section out – the shot below shows the floor section in front of the radiator with the build up of gunk that Fletcher and the YVG punched out with the hammer. The radiator has had a number of issues over the last few years as we have covered previously and the leaks and build up of grime in this section have rusted out the chequer plate floor which will have to be replaced.



Meanwhile the Young Volunteers have been continuing their work preparing the body for paint, in the shot below Riley is hard at work with sandblaster in hand cleaning up some of the small parts of the body. For anyone who has never done this work it is an extremely dusty and boring job so kudos to Riley for his continuing enthusiasm for the task.


It’s out!

While all that was going on Mick and Banjo Baz continued to work removing the #3 cylinder head as they chased the coolant leak into the engine. After purchasing the correct tool to undo the Crab Nuts (a Torque Multiplier) for an eye-watering $900 they finally got the troublesome Crustaceans to budge. Throw in another $300 for a new torque wrench to do them up again (the ones we already had weren’t big enough) and it is becoming an expensive leak.


And there it is – Mick (R) and Baz (L) manhandle the circa 55kg head onto the running board. It is great to have Baz’s diesel fitting experience on hand for this job, his skills complement Mick’s really well and this is not a job you would want to entrust to just anyone – mistakes would be very costly here.

After inspecting the components it is hoped that the leak is simply a life expired gasket so after buying a new set (more $$$) and cleaning up it can be refitted and that should be another job done!

Grate Expectations

A couple of other jobs reared their heads while the crew were trying to attend to the Y class – K153 had a cracked firebox grate that needed to be seen to. These grates need to be replaced periodically due to the extreme heat that they endure however this one decided it didn’t need rescuing and jammed itself firmly in place requiring more time than usual to replace.


Not wanting to be left out J549 got in on the act as well with an inspection before running last Wednesday finding a Piston wedge had dropped in the crosshead as shown below. This required Mick to drop everything and build it up and re-profile it during the running day.


Tractor 1, Wheelbarrow Nil

The dulcet tones of the BBC’s Soccer score roundup of the 1970s sprang to mind as we checked the pulse of our long serving workshop wheelbarrow after it’s run in with the Green meanie. Should have been wearing a high viz!


Speaking of Green Meanies, your blogger took time out to speak to workshop volunteer Keith who was busy painting short sections of rail. You could say it was a doorstop interview!


Well after that terrible pun I think it is time to wrap this one up. We’ll be back soon with more fun and games. Your blogger hopes that these posts give you some idea of the hard graft that goes into keeping the VGR on track. The workshop is always looking for a helping hand so if you think you have something to offer please feel free to contact Mick. I’ll leave you with a snap of some of the new materials that just arrived for the QN wagon that we are overhauling for the Civil Branch. Gotta bolt!






One Step Forward and Two Steps Back

Hello all, as promised we have part 2 of this post about goings on in the Victorian Goldfields Railway’s Maldon workshop. In last weeks part 1 we focused on the efforts of the Young Volunteer work who are prepping our heritage diesel locomotive Y133 for it’s repaint.

However while that goes on it is business as usual (or unusual as the case may be) for Mick, our new “fitter” Banjo Baz and the team of volunteers who don’t mind getting their hands dirty.

The Never NN Ending Story

The last time we checked in with the workshop gang they had been sidetracked by a request for work on our QR wagon. Now we move forward two weeks and a couple of things happened at once, just the way you don’t want them to. First of all a request came in from on high for work on a long delayed project to be fast-forwarded – that being our ballast wagon NN 114.

NNs were built at Newport Workshops from the early 1900s in a couple of different body styles. They were re-classified VHWA in 1979 and some are still in service. The VGR has a few of these wagons, NN 40, NN 68 and NN 106 among their number, these last two were even hired out to John Holland Rail in 2004 for the Regional Fast Rail project. NN68 (VHWA 68-P) is shown below on the Main line at Castlemaine during these works which is pretty cool.


Enter the Banjo

This particular NN arrived on our railway a bit later than the others. It was the roughest of the lot requiring a fair bit of rusty metal plate to be cut out of it and some new steel welding into it’s place to ensure that the ballast drops out when it is required instead of at random spots on the line. This job was started more than 3 years ago but now the wagon is required in traffic so it needs to be finished. Yesterday. Long time VGR volunteer Banjo Baz was recently lured from his job in the mining industry to come to work full time at the railway and currently splits his time between Civil and Mechanical work and he was just the man for the job. Some of his handy work is shown below.



Y Indeed…….

While all this was going on we got some bad news on the Y class front. Y133 as regular readers will know has still been running driver experiences and works trains while the paint preperation is underway. Radiator leaks have been plaguing her for a few years and they have been patched up a few times with the plan always being to remove the unit while the paint job was underway to get a proper look at it. Now it became apparent that coolant was getting into the #3 Cylinder so Mick and Baz stopped work on the NN and took a look. That is to say they took a look at the myriad nuts and bolts which hold the thing together as well as undoing the 90 or so holding the radiator in place! The radiator is now out and being attended to by Baz who is being unusually shy around the camera.


Getting to the source of the coolant leak into the cylinder on the other hand is proving to be a difficult ask. Hours of work trying to release the Crab Nuts was to no avail, these are done up to 1400 ft pounds and more on some EMD motors. A hydraulic crab nut torque wrench is pretty much a must have to tighten or loosen these bad boys so it was decided to get the correct tool for the job instead of wasting any more time.

In between all this major work there were ‘little’ jobs like Carriage Safety inspections to be done plus Mick has returned to school for his 3E Advanced welding ticket so he can weld stays & tubes on boilers. As well as saving money on outsourcing the work this will be a huge time saver for the workshop as we will not have to down tools and wait for a contractor to turn up and do the work. As we have discussed previously pressure vessel welders need certification and in the past we have had to wait days for our preferred bloke to turn up to maybe do 30 minutes work, all the time the loco sits idle in the workshop.

Well once again we seem to have too much material for one post so we will be back next week with another update. If you have made it this far then thanks for reading! See you next time.


Y, Y, Y Delilah?

Hello again, time for another update on happenings in the Victorian Goldfields Railway workshops at Maldon. Well actually not one but two updates as there is too much going on at the moment for just one post!

For Part 1 I am going to hand over the Fletcher Cole from the VGR’s Young Volunteers Group. As if they didn’t have enough to do prepping the Y class for painting Fletcher kindly took some time out to take a few snaps and even provided his own commentary for this one. Sure makes my job easier so over to you Fletch!

As we continued to work on the nose of the loco peeling off more bog revealed that is was all severely rusted out. The photo below is of the Fireman’s side of the nose.



Above is the “patch” that was welded in years ago…… shows what a job it’s done. Lots of little holes were opening up with just a screw driver. So we grabbed a hammer and a few whacks confirmed how bad the patch was… and ensured it couldn’t be used again!

Moving on we found some original paint behind the nose door. Even though the loco has been painted at least once since it was first out-shopped the nose door couldn’t be removed because of the “gutter” above the door.


We removed the gutter to allow the removal of the door and the photo above shows what was revealed! This will be really helpful in trying to make sure we get the colours right!

Finally after more days of hard work by the group the nose was finally stripped of all paint and ready for primer! Polished steel actually suits it!! Clear coat anyone??? Also in the shot below is YVG member Riley repairing a fitting on the sandblaster. Some people will do anything to be famous!


With the nose finally primed and the last of the doors also done and leaning on the workshop door (which is usually the job of one of the workshop Senior volunteers, Ed) all that is left to prime is the fuel tanks once a few leaks have been fixed.


Now it’s time for a rest! Well for Fletcher anyway, your blogger will be back soon with another update so stay tuned!


Huge thanks to Fletcher and the rest of the Young Volunteers Group for the pics and words for this post and of course for doing the work in the first place. Can’t wait for the next update.