While the primary plan for the week following the return of my Hunslet steam locomotive from Ainsworth Engineering at Goulburn on Friday 7th July was the track extension works, there was obviously a strong desire to steam the locomotive for further trials. Tuesday 11th July was set down for the initial steaming.
Meanwhile, as detailed in the previous Progress Report, track extension works were proceeding at a rapid pace across my driveway for the second time, then through my front house lawn, with the result that initial test runs with the Ruston diesel pushing the steam locomotive took place on Monday 10th July, 2017.
The opportunity was also taken on this day to return a third carriage to the tracks following minor repairs (one seat had collapsed!) and a cosmetic repaint by Rhys and myself. The opportunity was taken at this time to remarshal the carriage consist so that the brake car was adjacent to the Ruston diesel … this would allow for a single car operation at a later stage on movements such as a weed-spray train. A fourth carriage remains “off-line” awaiting more major restoration works including possible modification to a dining car. This would involve removal of the centre bench seat and its replacement with a specially constructed table.
Also on this day I was able to welcome a prospective new volunteer, Matt, who at the time resided in nearby Cootamundra but was about to relocate to Junee in order to be closer to his employment. Matt is also involved with the Lachlan Valley Railway Society and holds an LVR certification for the operation and maintenance of steam locomotives. Not only has he fired LVR’s 3237 and 5917, he also comes with practical steam maintenance expertise. Luckily (for me and PHR!) he liked what he saw and was only to keen to turn up at the crack of dawn the next day for the light-up and trials.
Naturally the early morning was cold and bleak, coupled with a heavy fog. Matt was obviously impressed with what he had seen on the previous day as, rugged up in his boiler suit and with safety boots on, he was here early, along with Ben and Rhys. Gluttons for punishment – I was more than happy to stay in bed a little longer until the sun cleared the foggy air – but Mario also wanted to continue with the trackwork! I had previously cut up a supply of old fence palings with the circular saw for use as light-up material, but without being asked, Matt immediately jumped in to swing the log splitter so as to build up a supply of fuel for the day’s activities.
Thanks to the early light-up by Matt, Ben and Rhys and despite the coldness of the day, we had steam up a little before 10:00am. The morning quickly cleared to a fine sunny day, allowing for some nice photos on the new extension.
While the weep in the firebox was no longer active, the throttle continued to be extremely stiff to operate. In addition, there was a major blow from the right-hand piston gland packing. Within minutes, Matt was into it, displaying his expertise in steam locomotive maintenance, dismantling the right stuffing box in order the check on the packing. (I could have done it, but not so easily owing to my age, physic and the confined spaces.) Surprise, surprise – no packing either side, so no wonder it was blowing! Luckily, I had some old (but still unused) smaller diameter packing in stock for the cover, along with some larger size packing previously supplied by Ainsworth Engineering, which fitted against the cylinder. The whole job was done in less than an hour, with the Hunslet still in steam. Further trial runs – not totally successful as still blowing and will need to be done when the engine is cold.
I was able to encourage Matt to prepare a more technical coverage of what transpired with this and the subsequent steamings… Matt who now explains in detail (and far better than I could) what transpired.
First steaming – Tuesday, 11th July
Report by Matt
The boiler of “Torpedo” had been filled the night before the proposed steaming. We progressed with steaming her the next day with the hope that it would free up under steam. I asked Ben what time we usually light the engine up, to which he replied “0700”. This was followed by much scoffing from Peter who thought that it would be nothing less than a miracle that the fellows would be out of bed by that time. The next morning I arrived at 0700 to find Mario sitting on the veranda sipping coffee before commencing track construction works (see Progress Report No. 33). He was surprised to see movement that early and laughed when I told him what Ben had said. Mario’s shock grew even larger when Ben himself arrived bright eyed and bushy-tailed moments later. We set to work lighting the fire and bringing the old girl to life.
Upon raising steam the first thing found was the caulking job done by Ainsworth Engineering was indeed successful. However, the gauge glass blow down cock was still stiff and the regulator terribly hard to move. We continued with the light engine testing. When “Torpedo” was able to move under its own steam, we found that the driver’s side piston gland was blowing severely. After some deliberation between myself and Dave (who had made a brief appearance), we decided to attempt a running repair on the gland. It wasn’t long before we had the stuffing box pulled apart, discovering that there was in fact no gland packing material in the gland at all – explaining the blow! I attempted to re-pack the gland whilst the locomotive was in steam… slightly burned hands were the result but we had the gland back together in double quick time.
Having made the running repair, the boys were instructed to pour steam oil into the gland as the engine was slowly moved forwards in order to work the oil into the gland. This was done, however the running repair was not completely effective as a blow from the gland was still evident. I decided to re-pack the gland when the engine was cold, making working conditions easier.
At the end of running, the boiler was stored full of water due to the fact that a further test would be carried out after the re-packing of the gland.
Second steaming – Wednesday, 19th July
A week later, once again at 0700 (much to the amusement of Peter), we again lit the fire in “Torpedo”. When a good fire was burning, but before steam was raised, the driver’s side gland packing was removed and replaced with three rings of Garloc graphite impregnated fibrous gland packing material.
The stuffing box was then re-assembled and tightened slowly with a regulation length spanner. It is very important to tighten evenly, otherwise the gland packing will squash and thus be useless. When steam was raised, Torpedo was moved under its own power once again but only for three revolutions of the driving wheels. The gland was further tightened, then oil was worked into it as before. With an army of observers on the driver’s side, steam was applied and… success! The blow was no longer present! A day of test running followed, mainly to see if the regulator would free up, but to no avail.
The only remedy would be to pull the dome cover off to look at the internals. We would take this opportunity to wash the boiler out on the same day.
Third steaming – Friday, 25th August
A month later we agreed to do another run with “Torpedo”. This would stir up the solids in the boiler prior to the washout as it had been a long time since the boiler had water in it and the sludge would have set.
We lit the engine up once again at 0700 (we haven’t stopped shocking Peter with these early morning starts) and did a day of running. I was assisted by Caleb, a new volunteer. The regulator was no better – it would thus be necessary to undertake an internal examination!
D Day (D for dome) – Saturday, 26th August
The day after the steaming we dropped the water from the boiler, then pulled the whistle and the dome cover off. Next, the 22 bolts around the dome were loosened and removed. The dome top was lifted by myself and Caleb with a lot of cursing and grunting (it was somewhat heavy), exposing the regulator body.
On first inspection no problem was evident so the regulator valve was disassembled. In the end we found that the fix was quite simple – the nuts securing the buckle holding the valve against the working face of the valve body were far too tight so when I put the valve back together they were done up slowly with both Peter and Ben in the cab giving an estimate on the tension on the buckle by opening and closing the regulator until it was satisfactory.
With this completed, the flange on the dome and dome top were cleaned and re-assembled with the same cursing and grunting from myself and Caleb ( it didn’t get any lighter!). The bolts were tightened in sequence to the correct tension while Peter and Rhys went to get lunch. After a most enjoyable hamburger, the boiler was washed out and the washout plugs cleaned by Caleb and Rhys. They were put back in and tightened. This marked the end of a very busy Saturday.
End of Matt’s Report
Thanks, Matt… far better than I could have explained!
The story continues in the next Progress Report.
Pete’s Hobby Railway