I thought that it is about time that I placed on record the story of the overhaul/restoration of my Hunslet steam locomotive.
But firstly, a very brief background history of the loco. It was built in 1915 by the Hunslet Engine Co. of Leeds, England, as works number 1187. It is of 2-ft gauge and of the 0-4-2 tank arrangement. The engine saw service at the Inkerman Sugar Mill (owned then by the Pioneer Sugar Mills P/L) at Carstairs, where it worked under the name of “Torpedo”. Displaced by dieselisation in the early 1960s, the loco was placed on static display on the waterfront at Wangaratta Park in Queens Beach, near Bowen.
I acquired the locomotive in a rather sorry condition from the local Council in January 1975 and it arrived at my Loftus residence four months later. A photo of it on display at Queens Beach appeared in my original Pete’s Hobby Railway eNewsletter. After several years in static storage, I decided to ascertain whether the locomotive could be returned to operational condition. Following a cold water hydrostatic test which evidenced that the boiler was usable, the necessary basic repairs were carried out. These included the replacement of all plumbing (none usable remained!), fitting of two replacement operational safety valves and water gauges, together with the manufacture and fitting of two new side tanks to hold both water and fuel, along with a new ash-pan. No mechanical repairs were undertaken, apart from the manufacture and fitting of new piston rings. The valves were also reset, but always operated slightly out of sync, sometimes requiring a little careful handling by the driver when the loco would not start.
The boiler was passed for use in August 1980, operating at a reduced pressure of 130 lbs psi. By early 2001, the boiler tubes, which had not been touched when the locomotive was put back into working condition, began to fail (one by one) and so later that year a total retube was undertaken using new steel tubes, after which the Hunslet was recertified for use. With the retirement of my regular boiler inspector, the boiler certificate was allowed to expire in October 2004.
Following the sale of my Loftus property and following the purchase of small acreage at Junee, residual funding became available for the Hunslet’s commercial overhaul and recertification to operating condition. I did not have the mechanical expertise, equipment or time to undertake the overhaul myself. Accordingly, a contract was let to K & H Ainsworth Engineering Pty Ltd of Goulburn, whose expertise extends to the overhaul of heritage steam machinery, including the manufacture of traction engine and locomotive boilers.
While I don’t have the full report of the overhaul carried out on the locomotive as yet (this has been requested for record purposes), or the final certificate from the boiler inspector, the attached photographs and comments should provide an appreciation of the extent of the works carried out. This coverage will extend over two Progress Reports and will be followed similarly for works undertaken on the Ruston diesel locomotive.
Setting the Scene – Departure from Loftus
2015-0111: The end came for the locomotives and rolling stock of the Weavering Light Railway (Loftus) on Thursday 15th January 2015 when they were loaded on to road transport, with the Hunslet loco being taken directly to Ainsworth Engineering at Goulburn. The Perry and Fowler had already been loaded, while the Ruston diesel (which had placed the Hunslet into position for loading) was the next to go. These three locos went into temporary storage with Australian Train and Railway Services at Mario’s depot in north-western Sydney.
First visit – Wednesday 18th February 2015
2015-0403: The first of my several visits to Ainsworth Engineering was undertaken as part of my relocation to Junee. The Hunslet had already been dismantled of all parts, leaving only the basic frame. Company owner Ken Ainsworth who facilitated my inspection, looks on. The initial Scope of Works required the locomotive to be dismantled and fully inspected so as to ascertain the works required to again be ticketed for operations.
2015-0409: The removed boiler stood on blocks nearby, awaiting the boiler inspector’s attention. It was obvious that the full overhaul could not be commenced until the boiler (which is the 1915 original!) was found to be re-usable. In those days, they were made to last!
2015-0412: The only concerns about the boiler were with these brackets on the sides of the firebox which attached the boiler to the frame of the locomotive and had become very corroded. They would need to be replaced.
Second Visit – Friday 15th May 2015
2015-1082: While some work on the dismantled parts had been undertaken, other parts were stored on shelving, including the dome cover. The overhaul was being undertaken as a spare time project, and was also dependent on the visit by the boiler inspector. As it was, he was more than happy with the overall condition of the boiler, subject to some minor repairs around the firebox external supports identified above and as shown in the previous illustration. I had given the okay for the overhaul to proceed.
2015-1083: Some of the cleaned and inspected parts had been reassembled and painted.
2015-1084: Meanwhile, the frame had been taken into the workshops and undercoated prior to assembly of the various bits and pieces.
2015-1087: One of the two admission valves, prior to final reassembly.
2015-1092: Meanwhile, some attention has been bestowed to the above plates on the side of the firebox. The boiler itself had been found to be in perfect condition and not in need of any other repair work, despite being a century old. Unfortunately however, a revision of boiler code standards means that the maximum operating pressure of the boiler is now limited to 120 lbs psi – no problem however, as this was the pressure at which the loco had been operating since being recommissioned in 1980, despite being certified for 10 lbs higher.
The next Progress Report will continue the story of the Hunslet overhaul.
Pete’s Hobby Railway