December 3, 2019
This Progress Report catches up on some of the other happenings of recent months on Pete’s Hobby Railway.
The Short Version
Delivery has been taken of a specifically constructed turntable along with a pallet load of new recycled plastic sleepers. Progress on the overhaul of the Fowler steam locomotive has slowed dramatically owing to delays in obtaining new boiler tube. The regular volunteers have enjoyed a BBQ and our yearly bonfire. Hunslet has a new steam turret waiting to be fitted. And finally, the story behind the demise of our “volunteer” Gnome.
The Unabridged Version!
PHR Takes Delivery of Newly Constructed Turntable
As part of the construction of the locomotive and rolling stock storage Shed, Pete’s Hobby Railway (PHR) has taken delivery of a 5-metre diameter turntable.
Built off-site using the expertise of two local business firms in Wagga Wagga and Junee, the turntable arrangement is the brainchild of Phil and Josh. It had been designed following extensive on-line studies of similar facilities built for use on narrow gauge preservation railways around the world, and was necessary owing to the limited access availability to PHR’s new storage shed.
PHR is currently waiting for the availability of a local contractor to dig the foundations area for the turntable, following which the surrounds will be constructed, including the ring on which it would turn, the turntable “dropped” into place and the access tracks linked up with the main line.
At this stage, it is likely that a direct connection by the inner part of the Main Line to the turntable will be constructed, as this will allow earlier access for the PHR motive power and rolling stock to the interior of the Shed.
Already, the hot summer sun is taking its toll on the paintwork of the locomotives and rolling stock, in particular to the red headstocks of the Hunslet steam loco, which have now faded to a shade of pink!
Later, it is planned to install a modified right-hand standard gauge point which has previously been rebuilt for 2-ft gauge operations. This would allow the Inner Main Line to be continued around the side and rear of the Shed, to form a balloon loop and eventually connect with the Outer Main Line, thus providing for continuous operations. Plan 3 attached to Progress Report No. 50 will give on-line followers of PHR progress a better idea of what is proposed in the vicinity of the new Shed.
Recycled Plastic Sleepers for PHR
As part of the turntable installation and laying of associated trackage leading to the newly completed loco and rolling stock storage shed, PHR on Saturday 30/11 took delivery of a pallet load of 55 recycled plastic sleepers.
Manufactured at Mildura on the Victorian/NSW border, these sleepers, each of 1200mm in length, 200mm width and 100mm in depth (approx. 4ft x 8-in. x 4-in) were first trialled on the local Redcliffs Historical Steam Railway (another 2-ft gauge volunteer-operated tourist operation) about four years ago and have proved to be so successful that the Society is gradually resleepering the whole of its 1.5km track over the next few years. The plastic sleepers have an anticipated service life in excess of 80 years in tourist railway use, compared with 10 years or so with (second-hand) timber sleepers. Larger size plastic sleepers are currently being trialled by Queensland Rail, V/Line and Metro Trains Melbourne.
Here’s a YouTube link to an ABC regional television news report on the Redcliffs Heritage Steam Railway sleepers trial.
Special rail fasteners and augers have also been purchased for attaching the rail to the sleepers.
Most of the new sleepers will be laid under the two tracks which will lead from the turntable into the storage shed, under the short section extending from the western end of the inspection pit road of the shed and under two external dead-end tracks to also radiate from the turntable. Although the two tracks leading to the storage shed will be laid with ballast etc over the sleepers to rail height for easier walking, any rain-water will not be able to soak into the sleepers and accelerate deterioration.
Fowler Overhaul and Return to Service Slows Dramatically
Previous Reports have covered the then rapid progress being made during the second half of 2018 with the overhaul of PHR’s 1900 vintage Fowler 0-6-0TT, along with the identification problems following the replacement of its original frame with that from another locomotive back in the 1930s.
Stripping down and reconditioning of the various parts were for all intents completed during this time, along with complete detubing of the Fowler’s replacement 1932 Belpaire-type boiler and its inspection by a qualified Boiler Inspector. Since then, progress had been delayed by the inability to obtain new boiler tubes. Originally “promised” for delivery last December, it was only in early November this year that 75 tubes of 3m length and 1 3/4-inch diameter were finally advised as being available for collection. As I write this Report, this delivery has to be arranged from Lithgow to Pete’s Hobby Railway at Junee.
This extended delay for the boiler tubes inhibited further real progress on the restoration during the current 2019 year, with the result that Matt (who had been engaged full time on the project) had to seek gainful employment elsewhere in the northern part of the State, as has his young assistant, Rhys. Further restoration works will be carried out where practical, as time (volunteers) and funds permit.
At the present time, I am not sure as to which come first – the chicken or the egg — PHR has received a proposal for the commercial retubing and fitting out of the boiler to be carried out at concessional rates by a specialised engineering firm in Lithgow. Alternatively, should I progress with completion of the frame overhaul (basically commercial grit-blasting of the loco frame in Wagga as the home-grown efforts were less than satisfactory) and reassembly of the wheels and motion under the frame? Both cannot be funded simultaneously, particularly as my currently available funds have to be directed towards the installation the turntable and tracks to provide access to the Storage Shed (and possibly completion of the Main Line balloon loop), quite part from covering the unexpected major repairs to the Hunslet.
And so, there lies a problem!
New Steam Turret for Hunslet
Earlier Progress Reports have covered the continuing problems being experience with the original steam turret on the 1915-vintage Hunslet steam locomotives when welding repairs of a hair-line crack proved to be unsuccessful. A replacement was manufactured in-house by Matt, with the finishing touches being undertaken by his dad, Bill, using larger machinery at Eagletech Engineering, Lithgow. Eagletech has also loaned a second safety valve to replace an inappropriate air valve fitted during the previous overhaul at Goulburn.
The Annual Mid-Year BBQ and Burn-Off of Accumulated Materials
We are fortunate here in Junee that, unlike our city brethren, our local Council still permits burning of rubbish, dead tree branches, etc., outside of the hot summer fire-ban months. This used to be the case at my previous abode at Loftus in suburban Sydney, where I would have a 30-minutes burn-off once a year. In more recent years, this was banned, and so there was the additional inconvenience, time and expense, of disposing of same at the local Tip.
Last year, on Saturday, June 30th, after the Official Opening of the Waiting Shed, we held our annual burn-off with a BBQ for volunteers, resulting in a number of personnel being available for “fire control” if necessary. The event was well-received amongst the PHR volunteers, so it was decided to repeat the event this year (sans an Offical Opening — we’ll have another one soon for another structure… so stay tuned), especially as the accumulated pile of material awaiting to the burnt was higher than last year!
This year, it was not until Monday, September 9th that it was possible to have the now-annual burn-off.
Construction of the Storage Shed had progressed sufficiently for the BBQ to be held within the new facility, making use of a larger (otherwise surplus) BBQ supplied by Phil and Josh.
With Regret…Finally, with sadness I have to advise of the passing of a relatively new volunteer to Pete’s Hobby Railway, Mr. G. Nome, as a result of strong winds overnight on Tuesday 19th November. His remains were found the following morning during my inspection of the Railway.
Mr (G) Nome — he never told me his given name, let’s say that it was Garret (similar to the Garratt steam locomotive!) who in Irish mythology was believed to have magical powers and was reputed to protect the environment. He had only emigrated from Wagga Wagga earlier this year ago to take up the new on-site position of Public Relations and Security Officer. Garret first took up duties under the shelter of one of the large Kurrajong trees next to the station level crossing, but in the following weeks could be seen anywhere around the Railway, even on one occasion gracing a Phil’s visiting vintage Ferguson tractor. His next location could not be pre-determined, so in this regard, he was an excellent Security Officer.
It would seem that Garret had climbed the portable stairway adjacent to Josh’s bus when he lost his balance, or was blown over, and crashed approximately two metres to the ground, shattering into many pieces.
I believe that he may have had a family or relatives in Wagga Wagga, but exact details are not known.
My sincere sympathies are passed on… I had enjoyed his misdemeanours while he was a resident volunteer of Pete’s Hobby Railway and trust that another of his kind may find its way to replace him.
Two images of Garret are attached. Gnome, but not forgotten.
Interment arrangements to be advised after discussion with the donors, Phil and Josh. A possibility is within the proposed garden immediately behind Loftus platform.
Okay, that’s all for this Report.