This Report covers recent progress with the overhaul and restoration back to operational condition of 2-ft gauge John Fowler 0-6-0TT B/n 8766 of 1900, one of the collection of Pete’s Hobby Railway.
As covered in my previous Progress Report 47 (dated 12/09/2018), I had decided to prepare a second steam locomotive in the Pete’s Hobby Railway collection, for boiler inspection so as to ascertain whether it could economically be returned to operational condition. On the occasion of this previous visit, the Boiler Inspector had been upbeat with this initial inspection, however expressed a desire to undertake an internal inspection and in particular, the front and rear tubeplates.
With much grunting, cursing and a more than a little swearing, Matt and Rhys, with some assistance from Ben, have managed to extract all 75 tubes from the Fowler’s boiler. Initially, because of the condition of the tubes extending into the front tubeplate, I had thought that these tubes were in usable condition, so I had been reluctant to have them removed. On removal of the top manhole cover however, it was found that water had penetrated, corroding several tubes and forming large rust holes. Naturally, the tubes were not keen to be extracted and had to be cut into pieces within the boiler barrel for final extraction. Collapsing of the tube ends within the front and rear tubeplates was, to say the least, a slow process.
It was proving too difficult to access the firebox interior with the boiler standing vertically, so the decision was made to turn the boiler on to its side. T-Line’s crane was brought in on Monday, 27/08 to gently roll the boiler on to its side, thus allowing easy access into the firebox for the rear tube extraction. Before rolling the boiler, it was necessary to remove the diamond-stack funnel, thus providing an opportunity to closely examine its inner workings. With the boiler supported on its side, a gazebo covering was erected, thus providing shade from the hot sun (and the very occasional shower of rain!).
[Matt comments – Once all the tubes were removed, the boiler was again washed out. As the boiler was full of dirt and scale, one wonders how the loco could have possibly raised steam! All that can be guessed is that “Perth” would have been a bit of a dog to work under a full loads of cane.]
As well as removing the boiler tubes, the past weeks have seen extensive preparatory works being undertaken on the various bearings –- very necessary as it became more and more obvious that the 1965 mill overhaul had left much to be desired. Removal of the sheeting covering the cylinders revealed a home for various not-so-nice spiders… interestingly, instead of asbestos packing as had been anticipated, timber strips had been used, now very much deteriorated. Rhys has undertaken most of the dirty work of cleaning the locomotive frame, rods, wheels, axle boxes and anything else that could get him covered in dirt, oil and grease.
[Matt comments: Other preparation works undertaken include;
- Reconditioning the axle boxes;
- Reconditioning the brasses in the side-rods and preparing them for remetaling;
- Cleaning all of the rods and valve gear linkages;
- Rubbing the frame back to bare metal in preparation for painting;
- Rubbing the wheels back to bare metal in preparation for painting;
- Measuring the journals and crank pins;
- Ordering white metal;
- Removal of loco springs for cleaning and painting;
- Drawings prepared in preparation for manufacturing new pins and bushes;
- Steam turret removed and sent to Wagga Iron Foundry for repairs; and
- Manufacturing of new big end wedge bolts. ]
It seems that the Fowler may have worked only one or two seasons following the 1965 overhaul. From an undated photo received, the Fowler had a head-on cornfield meet with a diesel loco, coming off second-best at the cab end and a premature withdrawal from service, leaving the 0-6-0 tender type Hudswell Clarkes as the remaining steam power on the CSR Victoria Mill fleet.
The Boiler Inspector made his welcome re-appearance on Thursday 25/10, mainly to undertake the ultrasound of the front and rear tubeplates. Thankfully, no cracks were found and at this stage, it appears that the boiler will be good for its original working pressure of 160-lbs psi. That is not to say that the locomotive will be operated at this pressure which would be in excess of the requirements of Pete’s Hobby Railway. Luckily, despite some pitting at various locations on the boiler barrel and around the firebox, sufficient metal thickness remains to allow for the full ticket. The Hunslet was also inspected and passed for a further year at the same time.
An order has been placed for new boiler tubes (about $5,000 worth, with an uncertain delivery date), while repairs are in hand at a local Wagga foundry on the steam turret. Replacement safety valves (mounted on the dome) have to be sourced, as does a standard stuffing box for the throttle rod to pass through the firebox. Although the Fowler’s wheels are a little hollow as it had operated on lighter poundage rails than the 60-lbs of PHR, re-profiling is an additional expense which I cannot afford. Similarly, although some of the volunteers would like to see the locomotive restored to its tender-tank configuration, at this stage it will return to service as a tank engine only. The bogie tender is in extremely poor condition (rusted through all-around), necessitating a total rebuild above the frame of the water and fuel-carrying areas. Examination of other similar Fowler tank locomotives of the 1900s period show a semi-circular floor extension bolted to the main frame, with suitable open fencing so as to protect the crew. New side tanks, with provision for a small coal bunker, were manufactured many years ago, dating back to the days of the Weavering Light Railway at Loftus. Admittedly, these Fowler locomotives were all fitted with the original round-top boiler, while this Fowler, 8766, was fitted with a new square-firebox boiler in the late 1930s. Should funding become available at a later date, there is nothing to stop the tender rebuild. Another contentious aspect is in regard to the brakes. At the moment, there is only a hand-brake, acting on four of the six driving wheels. A steam-operated brake would be appreciated by the engine crew! Then, there is the question of couplings! Replica builder’s plates are already held as John Fowler 8766.
And this is where another issue arises. As the main frame was taken back to bare metal, the number 8735 was found above each of the six horn-blocks, being identified as L1, L2 & L3, R1, R2 & R3. Assuming that 8735 is a builder’s number, this belongs to a 0-6-0T 2-ft gauge loco also built in 1900 for the (Queensland) Geraldton Divisional Council for use on the Council’s tramway at Innisfail. The Tramway was taken over by the Queensland Government in July 1914 when 8735 became No. 1 on the Innisfail Tramway roster. According to the book “The Innisfail Tramway” by John Armstrong and G. H. Verhoeven, published by the Light Railway Research Society of Australia (revised edition, 2000), 8735 was condemned and written off in October 1925. Possibly the frames were swapped during construction – one little mystery to which the answer may never be known!
The next step is for the remetaling of the various bearings, followed by the reassembly of the wheels into their axle-boxes on the main frame. Using the T-Line crane, the wheeled frame will be placed on the track and with the aid of the Ruston diesel, pushed and pulled along the line in order, hopefully, to confirm that there are no problems. As the locomotive had made rare sorties at Loftus through a 45-ft (13.7m) radius Y-point, I do not anticipate any problems with the curves on PHR, which at present come down to around 18m.
And of course, the perennial question of the final paint scheme. When I last saw the locomotive at CSR’s Victoria Mill back in 1965, the side tanks and tender were painted a light green, with a black underframe, boiler and smokebox. A stylised “PERTH” name was painted on the side tank below the open cab. At this stage, (as owner!!!) I am favouring gloss black all over, with red lining. I may be able to be “persuaded” into another colour scheme if suitable funds were forthcoming!
A request in the previous Progress Report for an explanation of the various identification numbers stamped into the rods, motion and wheels has gone unanswered. Surely someone must have THE answer!
That’s your lot for this Fowler overhaul Progress Report. Thanks to Matt for the additional detailed notes.