The Eastern Track Extension
Progress Report No. 23 has covered the extension of the rail track from the street frontage in an easterly direction by a 90 degrees curve to parallel the eastern boundary fence towards the old fodder shed, culminating with the first tentative trials using the Ruston diesel loco (387892 of 1955) late on the afternoon of Friday, 4th November last.
The first light-up of the Hunslet steam locomotive, 0-4-2T Hunslet 1187/1915, on Wednesday, 23rd November was actually covered in an earlier (out-of-order) Progress Report, No. 21. Apart from some minor problems found with the locomotive, it became obvious that some regrading of the extension was desirable.
Gradient easing works commenced a couple of days later, on Saturday 26th November. The last three panels of track to the fodder shed were unbolted, lifted and placed to one side.
This allowed the top part of the gradient to be eased, with the first part of the formation between the two gum trees to be lowered about 300mm. The gradient was then continued about half way around the curve towards the back fence.
From load trials with the Ruston diesel (hauling two carriages, along with the “dead” Hunslet steam locomotive), it was apparent that our gradient difficulty had been overcome. This was confirmed when the Hunslet was steamed on Thursday 1st December, being able to push the two cars and the now-dead Ruston up the grade – thus confirming that it would be able to operate with all four passenger carriages.
Mario left us on Monday 5th December, returning just after the Christmas break, on Tuesday 27th December.
The Western Track Extension
Our attention was now transferred to extending the rail track from the station platform in a westerly direction, to get the track around a 180 degrees curve to head back in an eastern direction, to eventually pass in front of my house with a second level crossing over my driveway. The plan was to have as much of this constructed as was possible prior to my 75th birthday on Monday 6th February 2017, which would coincide the official “grand opening” of Pete’s Hobby Railway.
We were not sure how the track would curve and so it was decided to lay a trial section in the first instance – this would determine where the final formation would be located. Because of the gentle fall of the land from my house and driveway towards the western boundary, much of this line would need to be on an embankment. I also wanted the final location to be a little further away from the boundary fence, thus enabling me to easily manoeuvre a ride-on lawn mower through the area (and gum trees) to maintain a boundary fire-break. As an interim measure, the junction point that would take the final main line to the rear (southern) boundary and eventually link up with the eastern extension, would be omitted. This point, actually a standard NSWGR one, narrowed for 2-ft gauge use, is in kit-form and so needs to be reassembled prior to installation – seen as a time-consuming project.
With the final route selected, the temporary track was removed, thus allowing work on the permanent way to be commenced. As the proposed embankment would have the effect of creating a dam wall and prevent the free flow of heavy rain rain-off, a 150mm diameter pipe was installed under the formation … a low embankment would retain any water flow within my property until it reached my front boundary on the street drainage. We are allowed to burn off dead foliage and the like, but only during winter months – hence the growing pile on the centre-left of the next image, 2016.5192.
Construction of the embankment proceeded in the usual manner, with the soil being excavated from the back yard, which needed to be removed at some time in the future for the construction of the proposed storage shed. After being dumped by the truck-load, it was spread using the bulldozer then rolled flat and compacted with the road roller. Road base followed, being roughly spread and also compacted with the road roller. Additional soil was dumped on the inside of the curve and spread, extending the embankment batter and so protect it from any possible damage from heavy storms.
Rain over Christmas meant that the crane could not be used for heavy lifts such as with track construction, so our efforts turned elsewhere. Friday, 30th December was utilised for a general tidy-up of the railway equipment, moving the 58 class stoker motor and Worthington pumps off the stored Fowler locomotive side tanks and to a single location nearby. Built in 1944 for use on one of 5814-5825 which of course were never built, the steam-powered stoker motor was eventually sold to a railway enthusiast friend who later on-sold it to me for the grand sum of AU$100! Taken out of its original transport packing case, the stoker motor was still fully greased awaiting commissioning. Hopefully, at some future stage in can form part of a stationary steam engine display.
This allowed access to the sidetanks which were accordingly placed where they were intended – on the Fowler locomotive… along with the heavy dome-cover on top of the boiler – making the locomotive appear to be visually complete, although in fact a lot more work is still required. This project was covered in Progress Report No.22. The Perry locomotive’s dome was also reinstated at the same time.
The remains of the former Beaudesert Shire Tramway 3’6” (1067mm) gauge inspection vehicle (later sold for sugar tramway use and regauged to 2-ft (610mm) was relocated off a rails pile and placed near the main line (eastern terminus) – the wet ground, which could well have bogged the crane, meant that it could not be returned to the rails until the following week.
Ben, Nick and myself were absent for most of January, travelling to Perth (Western Australia) to join a replacement Princess Cruises cruise from Freemantle around the north of Australia to Darwin, the Barrier Reef and ending in Brisbane, not returning until Monday 23rd January. Mario remained for a few more days, constructing a level crossing to allow vehicular access to the old fodder (now fuel) shed and laying several more lengths of track before continuing 40+℃ heat brought these activities to an end. The eastern track was extended for several lengths parallel to the rear (southern) boundary, while the western track was carried out to just short of my driveway near the carport of my house.
Not really realising what was involved, Rhys talked Nick into a “small quick project” to give the second operational carriage a spruce-up in time for the Grand Opening in eleven days’ time. Works involved sanding back to side panels and seats, providing additional back and floor supports for the seats, then final painting. We couldn’t track down the exact shade of green in the limited time available, but the end result was most pleasing and a credit to them both. Time ran out, with the final touch-up painting being completed under floodlighting!
Several years ago, Ken McCawley (of the “Sheffield Conquest” fame) offered to construct a 2-ft (610mm) gauge Sheffield trike for use on Pete’s Hobby Railway. (The “Shefffield Conquest” dates back to Australia’s Bicentenary celebrations of 1988, when a four-wheeled Sheffield type fettler’s trike was hand-pumped all the way from Perth to Sydney – something which would not be allowed under today’s OH&S standards!) The origins of the bits and pieces used are lost in the annals of history – except to say that while the trike itself is new, the components are not! As my 75th birthday and the Grand Opening date rapidly was rapidly approaching, Ken had to call in assistance from other trike enthusiasts to have the project completed in time. I’ll mention a few names, but I’m sure to have omitted others, to whom I apologise! In no particular order – Stan Goodman (at 90, only a couple of years older than Ken!), Lenny, Albert and Claude. I arranged for Lenny and his dad Gordon to collect the trike from Ken’s place up on the Central Coast – finally arriving at Pete’s Hobby Railway on Tuesday, 31st January. Over the course of the next few hours, it was given a thorough workout by all present! A little surprise for me was the painted name on one side – TORPEDO 2, a take-off from the Hunslet’s name!!!! I now had to work it into the programme for the Grand Opening.
With the Grand Opening, there was much to be still done. Loftus station had to be completed – at least to a usable interim stage (including the erection of the nameboard), half the front fencing had to be replaced (having been dismantled to provide a “tradesman’s entry” for various trucks of PHR equipment, etc.), a heritage cast-iron level crossing sign to be securely installed – and not to forget all the items required for the Grand Opening… several gazebos (purchased and borrowed), seats for our guests, tables for lunch, etc… I’ll cover the completion of the station in a later Progress Report.
Not to forget the near panic when, during a light-up on Wednesday, 1st February, we had steam blowing out of a gauge glass, such that the fire had to be dropped. A phone call to the Wagga Historic Engine Club Inc. had Phil (an experienced steam traction engine enthusiast) on site within a couple of hours, just long enough for me to find my collection of gauge glasses and rubber packings. Yes, I had a broken gauge glass inside the mounting. Once replaced and steam was later raised, our problem had been solved. This particular gauge glass had always been a problem, possibly owing to the deteriorated rubbers holding it in place.
Whew, were we glad at the end on THAT day!