Apart from the currently working Hunslet 0-4-2T (B/n 1187 of 1915), Pete’s Hobby Railway possesses two other steam locomotives, both non-operational and on static display at the front of the property behind Loftus station. These are a Fowler 0-6-0TT (B/n 8766 of 1900) and an 0-6-2T, built by Perry Engineering in South Australia in 1938, Works Order 6671. Since moving to Junee, I had considered the possible restoration to working order of one of these engines so as to provide a second operational steam locomotive, with the Perry being the preferred one. However, inquiries disclosed that the Perry locomotives required a far greater minimum radius curve to operate around than was available on Pete’s Hobby Railway and so attention “reluctantly” turned to the Fowler. More recently, an internal examination of the Perry’s firebox has disclosed that the locomotive had been involved in an “incident”, causing the fusible plug to be “dropped”, with the resultant warping of the top of the firebox. Doubtless, this had led to its immediate withdrawal from service. My problem has been resolved. Now, what problems were there with the Fowler?!
When inspecting the Hunslet last November for a renewal of its annual boiler ticket, the opportunity had been taken to have the Boiler Inspector cast a quick eye over the Fowler. This gave PHR an initial indication as to whether it was worth proceeding further, or just cosmetically restore the locomotive for static display. At the time, the Boiler Inspector expressed a couple of preliminary concerns, which if remedied, may allow a ticket at the full boiler pressure of 160 lbs per square inch to be issued. To be sure, he requested that the boiler would need to be removed from the frame, allowing for a more detailed examination of identified pitting and wastage.
Over the course of the following months, various alternatives to fund a possible commercial restoration were considered, including the sale of the Perry (this was before the boiler failure was known). While some interest in the Perry was shown, income from a sale would have gone nowhere towards a “snap” cost of the Fowler overhaul well in excess of $100,000. With the majority of my available funds already spent on the commercial restoration of the Hunslet and the Ruston diesel, along with the conversion of one of the four carriages to incorporate a hand brake and the construction of the railway to date, any other avenues had to be considered. This was not assisted by the growing costings for the rolling stock storage shed which would need to incorporate a servicing pit, for which the local Council required suitable plans prepared and signed off by a Structural Engineer (more cost!!!).
Reluctantly I have made the decision not to proceed with the building of a separate model railway shed (unless Oz-Lotto makes a substantial contribution, which despite the purchase of numerous tickets, it has failed to do so!), with these funds redirected to Pete’s Hobby Railway. Earlier this month, seed funding was allocated from the remaining reserves for both the Storage Shed construction (to be covered in a separate Progress Report) and for the preparation of the Fowler locomotive for a more detailed boiler inspection. Under Matt’s guidance, Ben and Rhys got to work!
A telephone inquiry with the Boiler Inspector in late July revealed that he would be in the area around the middle of next month (August) and if the boiler was ready for a closer inspection, he could do so. There was a lot of work to be one in a very short time! Works commenced in earnest on Wednesday, 1st August, to prepare the locomotive for a thorough internal boiler inspection. All motion (rods, etc.) were removed, preparatory to the separation of the boiler from the smokebox and frame. Each was carefully named and marked as to whether it was from the left or right side, etc. With the motion all removed, this would allow a crane to lift and place the boiler, then lift the frame off the wheels.
Late the following day, with the aid of a local hired-in heavy-lift crane, the boiler was removed from its frame and placed on a timber stand adjacent to the locomotive. This would allow the boiler to be fully prepared for an initial thorough inspection by our qualified Boiler Inspector. At the same time, the frame was lifted off the six driving wheels and placed off the ground nearby. The three driving axles and wheels were lifted on to a short section of track recovered from Loftus (Sydney), being my original inspection pit.
With the Boiler Inspector due in a week’s time, it was a case of “all hands to the wire brushes” in order to remove all paint, rust and what-ever from the externals of the boiler so that all evidence of pitting and corrosion could be closely examined.
Arrangements were made to hire in a compressor and a couple of sets of needle guns for a day… these would great speed up the removal of protective paint on the boiler barrel and other hard-to-get-at places. The compressor was basically brand new, with minimal hours on the clock. It had a few more added by the end of the day… $280 well spent, according to Matt who had to return the items to Wagga early the following morning.
Saturday, 12th August — the day of reckoning, with the Boiler Inspector due to carry out his initial detailed examination. Would the boiler be okay? Rhys had already lined-up one of his older brothers, a qualified pressure welder to come down from Brisbane to undertake pressure welding repairs if required. Meantime, Mario was on site for the day as his crane was required for track-lifting elsewhere on the railway, preparatory to the construction of the engine-cum-storage shed. Use was made of the crane to recover the old inspection pit, built using 30-lb/yard track laid on two RSJ metal girders … placing the three Fowler wheel-sets on it for easier cleaning and servicing.
Of course, as soon as the Boiler Inspector arrived, down came a heavy short shower. Luckily, the Boiler Inspector could work under the gazebo with minimal inconvenience. For the next hour, the boiler was closely examined, with particular attention being given to the thickness remaining where the pitting was evident.
The boiler appears to be in good condition, with the pitting not deep enough to require a pressure welder, however he would need to check his calculations. As there was a need to check the front and rear tubeplates for any flaws or fractures, all boiler tubes would have to be removed.
So far, things looked extremely promising. Accordingly, I made the decision that Matt, with Rhys as his “apprentice”, would work full time on the project for the next three months, with the aim of having the engine fully operational for the March 2019 Junee Rhythm n Rail Festival. This work commenced on Wednesday 15th August.
[TO BE CONTINUED]